Balotii din Brandenburg

Luther, Ferropolis, bauhaus, english gardens and an artificial volcano

The titles is a short summary of a varied tour from the last weekend. It wasn’t extremely long, just around 120 kilometers (as excuses I could say that we did have head wind for a large part of the tour, and the hours spent turning the pedals weren’t so many), but it was really varied, at least from the sights we saw. It was surprising as the area was really close to Berlin, only around 100 kilometers away.

Regarding a less than perfect planning, I decided to change the bike chain on Friday evening, and I realized only after taking apart the old chain that the new chain was to short. And all this happened after washing the bike at a gas station near us, so I had to get back home with the bike without a chain which was a bit hilarious. Not checking the chain length before taking apart the old clearly wasn’t the smartest thing to do…

Now getting back to the the actual bike trip, we decide for the destination only Saturday morning, so we allow ourselves one extra hour of sleep. That means however that after getting a new chain and setting it up, we start pedaling only around 13:00, and after a couple of kilometers we reache the historic center of Wittenberg, a small town from Saxony which is linked with Martin Luther. This is the place where he preached for a large part of his life, and it’s also the place where he is buried.

We met his shadows in different parts of Germany, and I think that the history of Germany and of Europe has been shaped by the Protestantism. It’s interesting to see how the history you learn in school is more or less oriented on your country, and on your region at best. In Romania we probably had a couple of pages about the entire issue, and while bike touring through Germany we discovered that the events which were triggered by Luther’s teachings had a profound effect on European history for almost 300 years.

Even there is a lot of controversy about him, I think that almost all historians agree that he wasn’t necessarily a likable person. The best description would be that of charismatic man who knows really well hot to argue, extremely blunt and capable all the way for things he believes in.

He wasn’t the first reformer, Hus had similar ideas almost 100 years before, but he was the first one who wasn’t burned as a heretic, even though he was excommunicated by the catholic church. During his lifetime he was probably the most read author from Europe, taking advantage from the large scale use of the printing press, thus in only a few years his 95 theses were read throughout Europe.

He also caused one of the largest social movements before the french revolution, the peasant uprisings from southern Germany which ended in a bloodshed with the massacre of 100.000 peasants. He’s also blamed for the antisemitic trait of the Germans up to the second world war. And in his free time he also translated the bible, thus standardizing the German language.

But probably the climax of his life was during the Diet of Worms, when he was tried before the court made up from German princes and in front of the papal representative. He was asked to resent his theses, and even though the chances of being burned at the stake were high, he argued his case up to the end, ending with the famous quote “On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me”. He became so the symbol of a man ready to die for things he believes to be true. At the same time he was lucky enough to have a few German princes which shared his beliefs.

Now getting back to our tour, in Wittenberg we visited the church were Luther was buried with a free toured guide with one of the best guides I ever saw, and it was enough to trigger our curiosity. We also visit the church where he preached, and after the long break we finally start pedaling towards Dessau, through endless forests until we reach a place which seems a world away from the medieval Wittenberg.

To be more acurate, we reach a place called Ferropolis, the iron city which is actually an industrial open air museum near Graefenhanchen, on a peninsul which extends into an artificial lake, with huge cranes from an old socialist mining venture. And even though the nature started reclaiming the land, you can see the deep traces left there.

After the iron city the rain starts, so we end the cultural visits for today and we find a wild camping spot around Oranienbaum, just before entering a natural park around the Elbe river.

Sunday we wake up to a day with almost perfect weather, and we start the day with the Elbe natural park which includes one of the largest beaver reservation from Europe. It seems that around 2000 beavers live there, and that the overgrown rodents are know to reach up to 30 kilograms. But I think that Sunday was a day of for them, as we saw no beaver while riding through the reservation.

When we passed the reservation we found a couple of plum trees on the side of the road, and we found the plums to be just ripe. It’s brilliant that in Germany you find fruit treeson the side of the road, so this summer we really had from what to chose from during our bike tours. And in my humble opinion, nothing compares itself with the taste of a ripe fruit picked up directly from a  tree.

The kilometers flow under the wheels of the bicycles, and we reach Dessau, a city know for the Bauhaus movement, and for the English garden around the city. Both are on the UNESCO list.

Regarding Bauhaus I find it really interesting that even though today the buildings seem to be completely normal they were innovative for that period. And they seem normal because a lot of the concepts were used throughout the 20th century when designing buildings. Cubical forms, large spaces, a lot of glass, functions before form, architecture as  way of gathering several arts under a single roof.

We leave the bauhaus buildings behind and after a short ride through the English gardens we head towards Woerlitz, also know for the English gardens around the small town. I should say that during the 18th century a lot of german dukes and princes started setting up parks and gardens for relaxation. They are huge in comparison with the size of the cities, and back then they probably seemed even larger.

And in this part of Germany English gardens were really popular, parks which were designed to seem natural places, with endless green loans, old trees and small pavilions. And sometimes an artificial volcano.

I find it hard to imagine what was the price thinking, and how would it be to have an artificial volcano in your backyard. I can imagine, that after a sumptuous evening party one could invite your guests to watch the eruption of this artificial volcano. It seems that the trend didn’t catch on, as it’s the only artifical volcano from Europe. It was built by duke Leopold the third, which was so impresed by Vesuvius during a trip through Italy that he built his own version. Maybe the french revolution wasn’t so wrong in changing things…

After ending our cultural vists for the weekend, from Woerlits we rode the 20 kilometers back to Wittenberg, and thus we ended one of weirdest and most varied weekends from the last period.

From this point of view I really love Europe, with so much history per square mile that it’s difficult to go on a bike tour without stumbling upon it. Maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, as you could probably do tours through the middle of nowhere (at least in the northeastern part of Germany), but even so the amount of cultural sights can be really astonishing.

The door where Luther nailed his theses.

Luther, the thorn in the body of the catholic church.

Touring through wild forests.

Ferropolis, the iron city.

Looking for a camping spot.

Riding through the natural park.

The typical German bike paths, wilder than in other countries.

Through English garden from Dessau.

A typical example of a Bauhaus building.

And the building of the architecture school.


Back to English gardens

The Woerlitz castle.


The park church.

And the artificial volcano.


Autumn is knocking on the door.

Checking the SPDs.

The conqueror of the hay ballot.




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