Amber, Waves of Grain, and Schwerin

Trip Start Jul 20, 2012
Trip End Jun 28, 2013

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Flag of Germany  , Mecklenburg-West Pomerania,
Saturday, August 11, 2012

This trip began with yet another early breakfast and a train into the German countryside, this time we had brought our bikes along. Two hours later on a packed train, we reached our stop. When we got off the train I was shocked. We were in what seemed like the middle of nowhere, the textbook definition of 'Middle-of -Nowhere' with the out of place train station and all. It was from here the first leg of our journey would begin. During the whole trip, I really did not have a huge idea where we were going. I am sure it was explained to me, but it is customary for exchange students to practice the 'smile and nod' technique. This technique, however confusing it can make things, does lead to a lot of adventures! So we began on our bikes in the direction of what I later found out was Neukloster. The way to Nuekloster is very interesting and long (aprox. 20 km.). The way is via logging trails, bike paths, and highways alike. After finding that our journey was taking us over every type of terrain imaginable, I began to wonder. "How much further can I go?" Then I realized I was following two septuagenarians. If they could make it, then I could too. Luckily we only had to cross two fields and a forest more. We stumbled upon a lake, a small one for recreational swimming and boating. I took a couple really nice pictures of this lake. Just though the woods from this lake was the town of Neukloster. Neukloster is a rather old town located in the former DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik or East Germany). Once in this town, we made our way to the church.  Churches are awesome. They are one of the best places to see art, architecture- and culture in general, from a wide variety of epochs. St. Mary's was built in 1236 A.D., and is a prime example of Mid-evil Gothic style. Also very interesting are the stained glass windows in this building. They were commissioned in the year 1250, soon after the church's inception. It is absolutely amazing we are still able to see these today after two world wars, revolution, and communism!  They have been restored twice and moved to the front of the church, but they are still spectacular. Currently they are regarded as the oldest stained glass windows in Northern Germany. Truly a sight to see! After the church, our journey carried on. We went through town and got lost here and there. Eventually we made it to the other side. Then in the outskirts of town we came upon a quarry (i.e. a large place to unearth stones). I thought there must have been some mistake. We came all this way to a quarry? That seems rather odd. I thought we were meeting some of my family's long-time friends. After circling the main house, we saw two cars parked alongside. Riding over there, we propped our bikes up next to the building. A man came walking from behind a large pile of stones and warmly greeted my host parents like they were old friends. I thought that this was a rather odd place to meet friends. Then we walked to the middle of the quarry, passing various piles of stones on all sides. Occasionally we would stop along the way and look at a pile and the man would explain to me what exactly we were looking for, in German of course. Again I did the 'smile and nod'. Then we came up to one pile of stones and rubbish. My host father bent down and picked up an orangish coloured rock and held it up to the light. "Bernstein." he proclaimed flatly. "Nein!" retorted his friend with shock in his voice. Apparently this 'bernstein' was rather special. Looking in this pile we found some other assorted stones, but none of this special rock. The man said not to worry, some people look a year and don't find any. After, we went to the center 'home base' where everyone's packs were. Then everyone marveled over this little rock my father had found. I then met this woman. She was middle aged and very free spirited, just as you would expect any rock-enthusiast to be. It was then time for lunch. There were seven of us. The man, the lady, two other women and us (me, host mom, and host dad). A picnic was spread out over a pure white sheet. On top of this sheet was every type of food imaginable; potato salad, potatoes, bread, cheese, meats, carrots, fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurts, dessert snacks, and much, much more. After lunch the lady showed me around, where to find good fossils and neat stones, but part of me wanted to find one of these elusive rocks my host father had previously found. So I make my way to this pile of stone and whatnot. I begin digging through the damp materials. I don't have a whole lot of hope for finding anything though. The I came upon a much smaller piece of what was previously found. Delighted, I kept on digging. I kept on finding more and more, but all small pieces. I wanted to find a big one! So I kept on looking and looking. Eventually I had a handful of these small pieces. I went back, and showed everyone what I had found. I have never heard 'unbelievable' so many times in German. They then called my the Bernstein Könning. So after this I went back and kept looking for some more. Would you believe it, the first stone I saw was a big (relatively) Bernstein. At days end I had a huge pile of Bernstein and I then found out that Bernstein is actually Amber. I guess the stuff is pretty valuable. All in all the day was a successful day rock hunting. Who knew it? Come to Germany and become a Rock Star! After our day rock hunting we began our journey to Liessow. Liessow is a two and a half hour bike ride from the quarry. Luckily there were nice bike paths to Liessow. This bike ride took us through beautiful landscapes from farmland to village. Every time we came to a crossroad there would be a sign telling us the number of kilometers to the village in that direction. Each time I wanted to go the way of the shortest distance, no matter what town it was toward. We stuck to our path despite my desires. I thought we were going to the place where we would be spending the night. So when we stopped at a nice little house, I thought this was our B&B. Then I saw the other people we had earlier been rock hunting with. We were going to have dinner at this place! Then my host mother asked if I would like to go swimming. Is The Pope Catholic?! (Needless to say this didn't translate the way I had hoped. I got the, 'Well yes, the Pope is Catholic.' and a few puzzled looks) After changing into my bathing suit I went to the lake. The way to the lake is only a few hundred meters through a huge field of wheat on rolling hills.  Pristine, just pristine. The water was unbelievably cold for a smaller lake, apparently it was rather deep. After swimming around for a bit, I returned to the house of my host parent's friends. At this place they were beginning to start a campfire, and I gladly helped. Then came the food. There were breads, party snacks, wurst, pork cutlets, baked salmon, pickles, and beverages- wines, beer and juices. All of this was for only 10 people, and everything was delicious. After a couple hours sitting by the fire my host parents signaled to me we were leaving. So I grabbed my things, we got on our bikes, and we were off (to who knows where). It was late and dark by now, so we rode with our lights on. It is amazing how little light a bike lamp provides. It is like a small candle trying to fight off the darkness. Just a couple minutes down the road we came to a house. This was the B&B. My room was the corner room in the upper level. It was very quaint. After this day of biking, any bed would have been welcomed warmly. In the morning we woke up rather early. I then found out that this was only a 'bed’ and not ‘bed and breakfast’. I was packed and ready to go. We got to our bikes and my host mother asked which I'd prefer; riding to the local U-bahn and taking that to Schwerin or going the entire way by bike. I was polite and said it didn't make any difference to me. "Oh good, I was hoping you'd say that. Then we go by bike! It is only 16 kilometers!“ I can do it. I can do it. I felt like the little train that could. In hindsight it wasn't that bad, and we did go through some breathtaking county. 16 Kilometers later we arrived in Schwerin. Schwerin is the capital city of Mecklenburg, a former East Germany state. It was here we had our breakfast in a gas station café. Interesting point; in Germany almost every store has its own café. Furniture stores (IKEA), gas stations, etc. Now when you think of a ‘gas station café’ images of deep-fried things and pizza come to mind, but this is not the case in Germany. Each café has an oven where every couple hours they make the most divine fresh bread. The menu items are pastries, breads, sandwiches, and other various things; not to mention tea, coffee, and juices. After our stop for breakfast we continued our journey onward. Our path took us to the middle of the city in front of the castle.  My host father explained some architectural and historical things. Then we went to the art museum. So amazing! They had one of the largest collections of Dutch works in Northern Germany, an entire exhibit for Michael Duchamp, and so many other paintings. Unfortunately, although they had many paintings, they didn’t have ‘the best’ according to my host father. I saw so many of the Dutch masters; Rubens, Rembrandt, Brueghel, also Picasso, Duchamp, and Gainsborough (jus to name a few). I felt so cultured! After this we ventured on to see the Schweriner Schleifmühle. This was mill had in its history quite a bit of change. Originally opened as a leather mill in 1705, it later became a stone-cutting mill in order to build the new castle in Schwerin.  This was quite the impressive machine, cutting through boulders just about a meter in diameter! Then it was lunchtime. I had a traditional coastal fish dish and it was quite delicious. After this we went to the church. This church was not only amazing inside, but the view from the top was spectacular! I received the chance to take quite a few good pictures. What is the only thing separating one from this view; 115 steps to the top! 
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Lynn Borke on

Brandon, I really enjoy your writing--please keep at it.

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