Slow Travel in Germany
My first visit to Germany was all about cities. For a month Audrey and I rented an apartment in Berlin where we stayed a mere stone throw away from Mauer Park. In terms of side trips, we visited other large metropolitan areas such as Leipzig and Frankfurt. It was a solid introduction to Germany, however, this time around we wanted to focus on smaller locales with a specific focus on German culture and traditions. With this in mind our first destination was Spreewald, a quaint German town surrounded by forests and divided by canals.
The first thing I noticed upon our arrival was the slower pace of life. Highways and busy city streets were replaced by country roads. Outside of our hotel window we spotted more deer and insects than we did people. After shaking off our jet-lag it was time to delve into the cultural activities on offer. Our first stop was the Freilandmuseum Lehde, an open-air living museum that felt as though we were stepping back in time. Many of the well preserved homes from the 19th century (and earlier) offered a sobering reality as to what life was like centuries ago prior to modern amenities.
Featuring low ceilings functionally designed to preserve heat, I found myself having to duck at times in order to avoid banging my head. Families used to huddle up at night in close quarters with generations rubbing elbows together. It wasn’t uncommon for husband and wife to be sharing a bed with elderly parents or even a child. The concept of theme rooms simply didn’t exist. Bedroom, kitchen and living room were all combined into a room. Functionality and practicality over creative design. I couldn’t help but feel thankful for many of the modern conveniences we enjoy today.
As we continued to tour the premises one of my favorite sections were the outdoor games. Old familiar favorites, such as the potato sack race, were on display. Even as a cumbersome 30 something year old I enjoyed hopping around like a kid again. Things became somewhat more challenging when it came time to try stilt-walking. Trying to get both feet on the foot rests proved more difficult than I expected. After nearly twisting my ankle I finally gave up.
Overall, the visit to this cultural museum was an immersive experience that allowed us to step back in time for over an hour. I left with a greater appreciation of how times have changed rapidly in recent decades/centuries. I can only wonder, sometime in the not too distant future, when relics of my childhood may be on display in an open-air museum.
After wandering back to our hotel it was time to visit the Gurkenmuseum. Now I’ve been to several food museums over the years, however, I’ve yet to encounter anything quite as quirky as a museum dedicated solely to the production of pickles. One might think such a niche museum would be boring; it was anything but. On the walls were photos of ladies who had been championed ‘cucumber queen’ from years past. Each one of them vying for the top recipe of the year. The winner, was fortunate enough to have her recipe used and produced locally until the next champion was crowned. With several samples on offer we couldn’t wait to do a taste test. I naturally selected the winning recipe first and enjoyed the deliciously sweet taste of the pickles. My favorite one though was a more salty and sour mixture featuring mustard which made Audrey scrunch up her face.
On our second day we awoke to spot a deer outside of our lodge window. In many ways, it was an auspicious precursor to what would be an entire morning dedicated to exploring the plethora of canals by punt.
What exactly is punting you say?
A punt is a flat-bottomed boat featuring a square-cut bow, designed specifically for navigating shallow rivers. It is propelled by a pole, typically 4 to 5 meters long. As we sat down and relaxed taking in all of the wildlife, forests and isolated traditionally built German homes we passed on the canals, I couldn’t help but marvel at the technique and stamina of our punter guide. With graceful skill he pushed our boat down the shallow river bed. At one point in time these punts were used to transport animals, and today mail is delivered to homes on tiny islands. I was almost tempted to give it a try, however, my previous experiences doing such things as standup paddleboarding in Finland made me think twice given my lack of coordination on the water. Instead I gladly captured as many photos and video clips as possible.
When it came time to leave Spreewald I felt the urge to stay longer. The bustle of cities can be enticing but the lure of peace, quiet and nature seems to be calling my name more often these days.
Here are more photos from our time spent in Spreewald:
Gorgeous flowers we noticed at the open-air museum featuring German traditions and culture in Spreewald, Germany.
Traditional Germany pottery on a table in Spreewald, Germany.
A barrel of hay located in the Spree Forest, Germany
Delicious German schnitzel and mashed potatoes for dinner in Spreewald, Germany.
A pedestrian bridge we encountered while punting in Spreewald, Germany.
An alternative to punting is to go kayaking down the canals in the Spree Forest.
A delicious plate of wild game goulash, cranberries, whipped cream and mashed potatoes in Spreewald, Germany.
I visited Spreewald as part of the #JoinGermanTradition campaign organized by the German National Tourism Board.