Brandenburg, the Federal State which surrounds Berlin, offers a variety of sights which are easily accessible for a day trip. Its landscapes are flat, open and criss-crossed by rivers and canals. With the exception of the urban centres, Potsdam, Frankfurt(Oder) & Cottbus, the Mark (as Brandenburg was traditionally known) is sparsely populated - perfect for a getaway from city life.

Zinna Monastery
(Museum Kloster Zinna)

Am Kloster 6 , 14193 Kloster Zinna | Tel: 03372/ 43 95 05 , Fax: 03372/ 43 95 05 | Open Tues - Sun and holidays 10am - 5pm | Admission 5, 4 concs.
Take highway 101, a winding, tree-lined "Allee" common for the area surrounding Berlin, south out of the city in the direction of Luckenwalde. The road takes you through garden colonies and little towns, pine forests and big open fields. The streets in most of the towns are still the old cobbles, telephone lines are still above ground, and the towns themselves are in varying stages of repair and disrepair. It is interesting to note that every single village, no matter how small, seems to have a big monument in the town square dedicated to those who fell in WWI.

When you reach the town of Kloster Zinna, follow the signs to the actual Kloster (monastery). The museum has existed since 1956, and is housed in what was once an abbey, built in 1434. There are several rooms open to the public, with a lot of signs telling (in German) of the order and their life in the monastery. Upstairs you find a small gallery whose art exhibits change regularly. There is also a lot of information (also in German) on the village of Zinna, originally a town of hand-weavers on the border with Saxony, economically devastated by the Industrial Revolution.

Okay, so maybe the museum isn't so impressive, but admission to the museum includes a free shot of the home-brewed herbal schnapps "Zinnaer Kloster Bruder". There has been an official schnapps distillery here since 1759, and as soon as you walk in you smell the odd yet wonderful mixture of pharmacy and candy store. On display are old tools and machines used in schnapps production as well as the old spice containers, and you're faced with the difficult decision between cherry and traditional herb flavored. Never fear, both are delicious and leave you with a warm toasty sensation. Everyone in our party that day (none of whom are schnapps fans, by the way) left with a bottle of the yummy concoction ( 7 - 14).

Ship canal lift in Niederfinow
(Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow)

Hebewerkstraße , 16248 Niederfinow |
I found out about this place from a friend of mine who's a civil engineering student, and had been there on a university "field trip". But regardless if you're an engineer or not, it really is a rather impressive structure. This monstrous construction was finished in 1934, and is in the canal connecting the Havel and Oder rivers. It is still in use 24 hours a day, transporting everything from open-topped tourist boats to barges carrying building materials to Berlin. Not only can you watch this process from the base-level, but for a fee you can also walk up to the top of the 36m structure for a bird's eye view. From Berlin, take highway 11 north until you reach the Finowfurt exit, then take Bundesstraße east towards Bad Freienwalde, turning left in Hohenfinow. From here it's another 5 km, and the way is posted. Note: Kloster Chorin (Chorin Monastery) is just about half an hour away, and visiting both sites makes for a nice day out from the city.

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