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Europe 2012 - Potsdam to Poland

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Potsdam to Poland

The car parks near Sanssouci Park were full when we arrived in the morning, and we were directed to the new car and coach park signposted Am Krongut, about one kilometre to the north of the park, where charges were €5 for first hour then €2/hour max €10 per day. We weren't sure if overnight parking of motorhomes was allowed. It was a rare scorching hot day as we walked around the park, with several palaces, mostly built during Frederick the Great's rule in the eighteenth century, surrounded by impressive gardens. Admission to the park was €2 (voluntary donation) and a day pass to all the palaces in Potsdam was €19.

Potsdam New Palace
Potsdam New Palace
Sanssouci Palace arbour
Sanssouci Palace arbour
Potsdam Orangery palace Orangery Palace

The main attraction were the terraced gardens below the ornate Sanssouci Palace, the Chinese House, and the massive New Palace at the western edge of the park. As we were flaking from the unaccustomed heat, we returned to the van and rather than visit the other parks and palaces in the area, we drove through heavy late afternoon traffic to Werder,  where we found a space at the busy stellplatz beside the Havel river.

Potsdam New Palace ornate lamp standard
New Palace lamp standard

Potsdam Chinese House detail
Chinese House close-up

We decided to head south east, initially through commuter towns for Berlin, with huge bike parks at their railway stations, then across flat wooded countryside to Lübben in Spreewald, an area of lakes and canals in the former region of Lusatia, where Sorbian, a Slavic language, is still spoken. There we found the large stellplatz outside the campsite and near to the town centre, which was quite touristy, offering trips in punts and shops selling the local speciality of pickled gherkins. We encountered a problem in this area using ATM's for cash withdrawals where use of Visa cards was limited to small amounts, up to €50, and high commission. Luckily we found a Commerzbank where a helpful assistant was able to override the No Visa cards sign on the ATM to draw out a sensible amount.

Continuing south east, we diverted to the new Excursio visitor centre at Welzow, in an area where extensive lignite (brown coal) open cast mining has been carried out for many years. The guide explained about the mines and showed us where the viewing platforms were. With my engineering background I couldn't resist going to look at the world's largest moving structure - the 500 metres long F60 overburden conveyor. I'm not convinced about the effect on the environment, or economics of the massive effort needed to extract a narrow seam of coal for the power stations situated nearby, followed by restoration of the sites, often providing new leisure lakes. Nearby another disused F60 is now a visitor attraction.

From there it was a short drive to the small spa town of Bad Muskau, on the border with Poland. After booking in at the small campsite at Pension Muhle, quite near the town, we walked to the centre and the impressive and recently restored "new" schloss, situated in the English style Fürst-Pückler Park, which spans the border with Poland. We decided to have a non driving day and walked to the park for a joint German - Polish Parkfest, with food stalls and displays by traditional Sorbian folk dancers. We walked over the bridge into Leknica, Poland to be met by a large selection of market stalls selling cigarettes, garden plants and ornaments, and many other cheap products; a popular destination judging by the crowds there. In the afternoon, for a rest we took a trip on the restored narrow gauge Waldeisenbahn steam railway to the town of Weißwasser and back.

Polish folk dancers at Puckler Parkfest
Polish folk dancers

Waldeisenbahn at Bad Muskau
Waldeisenbahn steam locomotive

The next day we visited the nearby town of Kromlau, famous for its rhododendron gardens, although they had mainly finished flowering at the end of May. However there was another event to tempt us, a display of Ault-timers - vintage vehicles with plenty of Wartburg, BMW and Trabant cars among the older tractors and an amazing hearse.

Basalt rock bridge at Kromlau
Basalt rock bridge at Kromlau

Sanssouci Palace Potsdam

Potsdam terrace garden
Sanssouci terrace garden

Chinese House Sanssouci Park
Sanssouci Chinese House

Lignite mine at Welzow  
Lignite mine at Welzow

  Bad Muskau new schloss 
Bad Muskau New Schloss
New schloss detail of roof
Bad Muskau New Schloss roof detail

Polish market
  Polish market at Leknica
Kromlau BMW oldtimer car  Wartburg and Trabant cars
BMW, Wartburg and Trabant Ault-timers

old hearse  old tractors
An old hearse and vintage tractors at Kromlau

In the end we only spent a couple of hours in Poland on this trip but we hope to return for a longer tour in the future.

A feature we came across in this part of Germany were the painted electricity sub-stations with attractive colourful murals. (link to their website here )

painted electricity box at Rappin on Rugen
Rappin on Rügen
Painted electricity box at Werder
Werder near Potsdam
another at Neuruppin