The federal state of Brandenburg, located in the Northeastern part of Germany, is divided into a number of unique regions, each with its own cultural identity. While the area immediately surrounding the federal capital of Berlin and the state capital Potsdam grows more and more urban, the state boasts three biosphere reserves with extended bodies of water and a National Park along the Oder river. This river also marks the border to neighboring Poland.
Brandenburg is organized into 14 administrative regions. In the Middle Ages, Brandenburg was one of the electoral states of the Roman Empire, later it became the main part of the Kingdom of Prussia. It ceased to exist as a unit under the rule of the GDR and was established as a federal state upon German reunification in 1990. In recent years, thanks to the extension of the European Union to include Poland and other former Eastern Bloc countries, the state received some new and much-needed economic impulses. Nevertheless, Brandenburg shares the fate of all other Eastern German states, which all have continuously lost population after the unification, mostly due to a lack of economic perspectives.
To this day, some regions of Brandenburg suffer from extremely high unemployment rates, while others, in particular the area around Potsdam, have reached the average German level. In this region, biotechnology and general research institutions have opened facilities in recent years and it is expected that this part of the state will gain further economic strength.
Brandenburg’s state capital is also its biggest city. A succession of Prussian kings bestowed several magnificent palaces and gardens on the historical residence and garrison town. Potsdam is also known as a hub of cinema and science because of the renowned Babelsberg film studios and the many institutes for research and higher learning.
Sanssouci Palace is Potsdam’s most famous palace. Prussian king Frederick II had it built from 1745 to 1747 to his design in rococo style. Sanssouci is French for “without a care”, and that’s what the king hoped his summer and leisure-time retreats there would be. The Sanssouci palaces and gardens are UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites.
In the Spreewald Biosphere Reserve, the River Spree branches out into hundreds of waterways. A total of some 1,000 km (621 miles) of canals can be explored by paddle boat or punt. The traditional Spreewald punt is still a principle means of transportation for many local residents. There was a time when, for some, it was the only one.
Fieldstone churches are built from boulders left behind by ice-age glaciers. They were collected from nearby fields and used hewn or rough. Many fieldstone churches can be found in Brandenburg’s towns and villages, such as this one in Herzberg in the Elbe-Elster District. The majority were built in the 13th century.
Passing through Frankfurt (Oder) is the Oder-Neisse Bike Trail. It starts at the source of the Neisse in the Czech Republic and follows the German-Polish border some 630 km to Ahlbeck on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom.
The former Chorin Cistercian Abbey is one of the finest examples of early Brick Gothic architecture in Brandenburg. Every year since 1964, classical concerts are held in the church’s nave. Many listeners bring picnic baskets and blankets and listen to the music, clearly audible outside the abbey on the grass.
Brandenburg is popular with Berliners for day trips. It offers unlimited natural beauty within easy reach of the German capital. Canoeing is only one of the things to do on Brandenburg’s more than 3,000 lakes – so many that even in summer, with a bit of luck, you might find yourself all alone in nature. The Schwielowsee, seen here, is one of the biggest lakes along the Havel.