The Federal State of Brandenburg surrounds Berlin. Until 1989, it was part of the socialist Eastern Germany.
With its numerous lakes, rivers and canals and its extensive forest lands Brandenburg is the ideal weekend retreat and vacation state for the city dwellers of Berlin. However, Brandenburg has a lot to offer for the international visitor as well.
The prime attraction of Brandenburg is its capital of Potsdam (pop. 130.000) which lies just 30 kilometres southwest of Berlin city centre. Potsdam became the royal seat and garrison town of the Kingdom of Prussia in the 18th century. Frederick the Great (Friedrich der Große) built several stunning palaces here the most famous one being “Schloss Sanssouci”, the “German Versailles”.
The “Spree Forest” lies southeast of Berlin city centre. It is a river landscape that is one of the most beautiful as well as one of the most unique nature preserves in Europe. The terms Spree (the river) and Wald (forest) embrace a rugged inland delta with a network of a hundred kilometres of branching water paths in a very small area. Where elsewhere people drive cars to go shopping, for their daily commute to work or for transporting larger objects, in the Spreewald interior, boats are traditionally used for this purpose. In 1991, the Spreewald was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Preserve. The incomparable natural environment of the Spreewald is a delicate system which requires special protection. About 6000 animal and plant species have been discovered here, many of which are on the red list of endangered species.