Strausberg: Berlin’s easternmost advance guard, the county seat of Strausberg (at the end of the S-Bahn line No. 5, CharlottenburgStrausberg), stands on the southern edge of the recreational area known as the Markische Schweiz, which translates as the “Switzerland of the March.”

As early as 1200 the margraves of Brandenburg entertained an estate here, later developing it into a town. The name “Strutzberch” appears for the first time in the 1240 chronicle that was written by the bishop of Magdeburg. The name derives from the ancient Sorbian and originally meant “pod” or “hull,” referring to the form of the Straussee, on whose eastern shore the city spread. Originally, the city’s name had nothing to do with the Strauss (ostrich), depicted on Strausberg’s coat-of-arms.

Strausberg has an interesting and fairly well-known military history. The army, under the Weimar Republic, was stationed here. The sober and unadorned officers’ quarters in the proximity of the barracks grounds have seen several generations of army people already, including the Soviet military high command in the former GDR.

The ferry crossing the Straussee every thirty minutes is unique in the whole of Europe: it moves on electrical overhead wires supplying the power.

During a walk through Strausberg you will inevitably come across remnants of the town’s medieval fieldstone city walls, including a few guard houses and the remains of the two gates to the city.

The Pfarrkirche St. Marien, an early Gothic fieldstone church, underwent a number of changes but still exhibits lateGothic characteristics, particularly in the interior. Figure paintings from the 15th century, including a Christ as Judge of the World and a Coronation of Mary, decorate the vaults, and the precious lateGothic winged altar with Mary on the moon’s crescent and the carved altar depicting the Madonna with a radiant halo are treats for art-lovers.

In the Switzerland of the March

Strausberg lies on the periphery of the Barnim, an extensive ground moraine plate. Idyllic forest lakes have formed in deep-cut watercourses which provide wonderful places for swimming or fishing.

The Mdrkische Schweiz (Switzerland of the March) is a prime hiking area, especially in autumn or winter. The “Switzerland” epithet is an association with the beauties of the Swiss countryside. In the fall, extensive deciduous and mixed forests adorn its beautiful hills and dales in colorful dress. It’s the favorite season for long hikes through this paradise.

The 96 square miles (250 sq km) of the Naturpark Markische Schweiz is a natural gem with a starkly structured relief.

Mixed forests and lakes, the largest of which is the Scharmutzelsee, provide the backdrop for the pretty little town of Buckow, famous as the one-time home of Bertolt Brecht and the actress Helene Weigel. The bus covers the nine miles (15 km) from Strausberg to Buckow. Brecht’s and Weigel’s former home, where such plays as Coriolan and Turandot were written after 1952, is now open to the public.

Beech groves abound in the forests around Buckow, in fact, the town’s name derives directly from the Slavic word for beech, buk.

There are further natural wonders on the Wildbach Sophienfliess stream. A small parking lot opens up just beyond the turnoff from the Strausberger Chaussee toward Buckow.

If you come by bus, ask for the WurzelBchte (literally, the “root fir”) stop, starting point for a one-mile (1.6 km) stroll to the town. A few steps lead down into a small valley. A 64-foot (20-meter) tall, approximately 150-year-old fir tree grows on the other bank of the stream. Twenty people can crowd into the confusion of its washed out roots. The hiking trail, called the Poetensteig (Poets’ Path) for good reason, enchants every hiker with the romance of its wild, natural beauty. The Poetensteig climbs steeply past the Gasthaus Tirol restaurant up to the stately Jenas-Hohe (355 feet/111 meters). From here, the path leads through the Finkenherd and the Wolfsschlucht ravine, circumnavigates the little Tornowsee lake, bypasses the Giinterquelle, a spring with high iron-content, and finally goes back to the town. The path ends near the city park, which was designed by landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenne.

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