Wandering Worpswede, the artist community in Germany’s Lower Saxony

Some places have a special energy that draws a certain kind of person to them. Worpswede in Germany’s Lower Saxony is one such place, and in this case the people it draws in are artists.

When I told friends in Berlin I was going to Worpswede most of them admitted they had never been, despite the fact that it’s in their own country. Knowing there are lots of places in Australia that I’ve yet to visit I know how that can be, but it seems a shame more people don’t know this charming village.

Worpswede is only about half an hour’s drive from Bremen and is set amongst the Teufelsmoor, or Devil’s Moor. That sounds very spooky and like the sort of place you wouldn’t want to go walking at night, but it turns out it has nothing to do with the devil and is just a reference to the fact that the land wasn’t very good for growing crops on.

The Artists Colony Life of Worpswede

The town has been an artists colony for around 130 years, after five young painters moved into the farming area and founded an artists village back in 1889.

One of those artists was Paula Modersohn-Becker who is considered one of the most important early expressionists and is recognised for having influenced at least one of Picasso’s paintings.

Sadly Paula died from a postpartum embolism 19 days after the birth of her daughter Mathilde. The monument on her grave by sculptor Bernhard Hoetger shows Paula with her baby, and I’m told art lovers often come to pay their respects at Paula’s grave.

Paula Modersohn-Becker's grave monument by sculptor Bernhard Hoetger

There are around 80 known painters, artists, musicians and authors buried in the Worpswede Cemetery

There are around 80 known painters, artists, musicians and authors buried in the town’s graveyard, which is one of the prettiest I’ve visited.

I know some people may find it strange but I quite like visiting graveyards around the world, and have found you can get an extra insight into a place from the way they remember their dead and what is written on the tombstones.

As well as having some beautiful headstones this cemetery has a big painting on the wall of the church of people at a Sunday service in the moor, which is how some people used to attend a service when they couldn’t spare the time to go all the way into the town to church.

Exploring and Staying In Worpswede

After all of these years Worpswede is still attracting artists and around 140 live there today. As well as cute shops to visit there are of course art galleries, including the Worpsweder Kunsthalle which is a great spot to get a feel for both the history of the town and the art that has been created here. And to join those who have taken and shared a photo of Bernhard Hoetger’s Buddha.

Bernhard Hoetger's Buddha at the Worpsweder Kunsthalle

The Käseglocke, or circular house, Worpswede

The Käseglocke, or circular house, is also worth a visit. Built by Worpswede’s first tour guide, Edwin Koenemann (1883-1960) the house incorporates the designs of architect Bruno Taut. Now a listed building the Käseglocke has been a museum for local arts since 2001 and includes Worspwede arts and crafts.

When it comes to staying in Worspwede, I loved spending the night in the Hotel Buchenhof.

The home of one of the original artists, Hans am Ende, was turned into a guest house in 1998 and has lots of lovely nostalgic touches including the traditional wall and window decorations.

The Buchenhof also puts together  packages and tours for people coming to Worpswede and has a Finnish sauna, herbal sauna and relaxation room as well as their garden area for when you want to unwind.

Peat Tub Boat Trips

As well as exploring the town you can take a little trip on a Torfkahn or Peat tub, which are reconstructions of the old peat tub boats that were used in the 18th century to take peat from the moor to Bremen.

These long narrow black boats carry up to 16 people at a time, and after travelling along with a motor for a while the skipper then puts up the single brown sail and you get to feel what it was like to travel Torfkahn style back in the day.

Taking a Torfkahn or Peat tub boat for a ride at Worpswede, Lower Saxony

After our Peat Boat ride we dined in the local restaurant which first opened its doors more than 150 years ago.

As this is an area that doesn’t see many English speaking tourists you may want to have your translate app handy as all of the menus are in German. That said one of the English speaking waiters was also more than happy to help but it’s nice to save him the menu translation if you can, especially if the restaurant is busy.

As we did a walking tour of the town beforehand we had our English speaking guide join us for the Peat Boat ride and lunch, which is a good idea if you can’t speak German as he was then able to both explain the history of the Peat Boats and translate some of the things the man who took us out on his boat was saying.

After having spent so much time in Berlin where almost everyone speaks English I personally enjoyed being somewhere I could use some of the few German words I knew and also liked discovering new ones through the joys of Google translate.

In years to come as more people discover Worpswede those English menus may start to appear, but for now it feels like a bit of an undiscovered gem. One that will continue to draw in artists for years to come.

Amanda Woods travelled as a guest of Germany Tourism but as usual all opinions remain her own.

The 'Barkenhoff' in Worpswede is next door to the Buchenhof Hotel

 

About the Author

As a journalist who loves to travel and is fond of a chat I'm oh so happy when I'm sharing travel tales and tips through my blog and on my weekly travel segment on Sydney Radio 2UE. When I'm not travelling or writing about it I can be found out and about with friends, curled up at home with a good book or watching an addictive tv show promising I'll stop after one more episode. Amanda on Google +

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