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Brandenburg

Brandenburg on the Havel is the capitol of the region of Brandenburg, southwest of Berlin by about 70 km. It was first settled by the Slavic Slavic tribe Stodoranie. In 929 King Henry the Fowler conquered the town. Its earliest written reference dates to 948. There was a Slavic uprising in 983, and remained under Slavic control for nearly two centuries. Circa 1157 under Albert I it became Germanic.

Probably because of its navigable river and business development it joined the Hnaseatic League in 1314. By the late 19th c it had significant industry. Bicycles became an important product as were toys. Toy trains were exported across Europe and the US until the beginning of WW1. The outbreak of hostilities did not end the demand for toy trains, thus Lionel was born.

This comparatively rosey past end with the Nazis. A concentration camp was established In 1933, one of the first. The old gaol was used for the Brandenburg Euthanasia Center. People with mental disorders were murdered, even children.

The Arado Aircraft Company began producing planes in 1935. This factory attracted heavy bombing. The Allies destroyed about 2/3 of the city. Enough remains to lend considerable charm, however.

The Altstädtisches Rathaus (Old Town Hall) is build in the late Gothic brick style with. Here you see a sandstone statue of Roland dating to 1474. The knight is a common feature in northern German towns, starting in the 12th century, then made of wood. The presence of the statue signified that the settlement has been granted town privileges, a coveted legal status that allowed for tax collection.

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Rathaus with Roland

There are four watchtowers: Steintorturm and Mühlentorturm (in the New Town), and Rathenower Torturm and Plauer Torturm (in the Old Town).

Steintorturm

We drove around on our bikes. Some of the old cobblestone streets make for rough going. The views along the river are very pleasant if not idyllic when the weather cooperates, which mostly it did.

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We biked to Cathedral Island, in the historic center of the town, under an occasional drizzle. There you see the Dom St. Peter und Paul (Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul), the oldest building. Construction began in 1166 in the Romanesque style. It became Gothic in style, however, by the time it was finished in the 14th century. The interior is magnificent. The pulpit is intricately carved. The skillfully painted altar piece is in excellent condition. The altar is on a second level, over a large crypt area. The Wagner organ (1725) towers above the main auditorium but at eye level with the high altar, the chorus one level below the organ.

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The ornate altar piece

I find this piece below fascinating. This is decoration on the seating for the privileged, close to the altar:

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I’d say this would be a neat place to live or at least stay in for a month or two, in summer anyway. It is small, just about 70,000 people, down from 90,000 when the wall fell, when, I figure, residents fled to the west. Although it is small, it is close to Potsdam and Berlin. There seems to be very good public transport.

By Gary Kirkpatrick

Artist and travel blogger.

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