What I miss most is a cosy café

Bert Grabsch
If you don’t see Bert Grabsch in the city, it’s because he drives by so fast on his bike that he becomes a blur, disappearing in the blink of an eye. The 44-year-old is a world champion cyclist in the individual time trial. In 2017, he and his family moved from Switzerland to the city centre of Brandenburg an der Havel – on alternative routes.
Bert Grabsch zeigt auf ein Bild aus vergangenen Zeiten

Lesezeit: 5 Min.

Mr. Grabsch, having world champions in the city of Brandenburg is not a complete novelty to us, thanks to Birgit Fischer – but she was born here. You grew up in a small town near Lutherstadt Wittenberg. What led you here?

It was a coincidence, honestly. I had finished my career as a professional cyclist in 2013, completed my marketing studies and was looking for a bicycle shop that I could take over – to own one has always been my dream. An acquaintance knew that Ronald Bertz, the previous owner of my shop in Brielower Straße, was looking for a successor. So, I travelled to Brandenburg an der Havel and took a closer look.


What was your first impression of the city?

Waldmöpse – statues of pug dogs with influences of elk, based on sketches of the infamous comedian Loriot – immediately caught my eye – among other things (laughs). And of course, I saw water, lots of it. That was one of the reasons why we moved to the city. I always wanted to live close to water or near mountains – and here it was: Water. But I also like the cityscape with its church towers.

Bert Grabsch sitzend am Salhofufer in der Stadt Brandenburg
Mit dem Fahrrad durch die Innenstadt von Brandenburg
Logo Radsport Bert Brandenburg an der Havel
Radsport Bert Fahrradhandel in Brandenburg an der Havel
Waldmops Brandenburg an der Havel

Is there anything that surprised you?

That there is really something going on in the streets, there are many shops, everyday hustle and bustle – much more than in other East German cities of this size. We liked that.


You have lived in Switzerland for the past 14 years. What is different there?

People are more informal – on the street, among colleagues, talking to their bosses, even during a job interview. Nobody calls you Mr. or Mrs. It’s simply: Bert. That’s why I called my shop “Radsport Bert” and not “Radsport Grabsch”. People in Brandenburg an der Havel like to keep their distance, saying forenames does not come easily to them. But I like to be called Bert.

We liked the fact that there is really something going on in the streets here.

Ok, BERT. You moved to Brandenburg in 2017 with your wife and daughters, aged seven and 15. How was the process of arrival?

The girls settled quickly at school. Our older daughter rides a lot. Finding a suitable apartment wasn’t easy – it took us a while to find something that we all liked. And my wife continues to work in insurance in Switzerland for the time being.


Because she hasn’t found a job here?

Because her Swiss degree is not recognised in Germany. That’s why she commutes every week – she leaves on Monday evening and comes back on Thursday evening. She studies business administration here at the Brandenburg University of Technology part time. In the long run, we hope, of course, that she can work here in the city of Brandenburg – or Potsdam or Berlin. Fortunately, the train connections are really good.


Do you feel comfortable here?

Very much. The city is really beautiful in a great location – but in terms of cleanliness something must be done. It bothers me that some people just throw their garbage next to instead of into the trash bins, like it’s nothing. You wouldn’t dare to do that in Switzerland – or in Singapore, where it is already a criminal offence to spit chewing gum on the street. Graffiti is also an issue: You can see graffiti that is great art, but the city should move more aggressively against unsightly scrawls on walls. I would also like to see the city be made safer for cyclists. Brandenburg an der Havel is a town for cyclists – but there are no cycle paths on Steinstraße or Hauptstraße, for example. I think if the city is honest with itself, it knows that there is a need for improvement in some areas.


As a world champion and a public person, are you connected with city politics?

Not really. This is good insofar that we are out of the spotlight and live a peaceful life. On the other hand: A world champion (another one) – the city could well take advantage of that. But above all, I came here to build a new career.


You became a member of Brandenburger SC Süd 05. Do you still have ambitions in cycling?

No, I only support the club as a paying member. After my career ended, I vowed never to cycle in a race again. I am no longer fit enough, and I don’t have time. In addition, I don’t want to compete anymore. I put all my energy into the store. There is one exception, I participate in the Markgrafentour “Rund um Lehnin” but only for fun. Otherwise I prefer jogging in my spare time.


You have taken over the cycling business Bertz – today “Radsport Bert” – on January 1, 2018. How did your customers react?

I am satisfied. The Brandenburgers have now accepted me – even if the beginning was a bit shaky. We renovated the shop, made everything a little brighter, created a new logo and introduced a new name – people had to get used to it first.

The Brandenburgers have now accepted me – even if the beginning was a bit shaky.

On your website it says: “With his two daughters and his wife, he likes to take day trips in the outstanding landscape of Havelland”. What do you like about the area?

As I said: The water and, of course, and the cycle paths. For example, I like to ride the tour around Beetzsee, through Fläming or just along the Havel. On weekends we sometimes cycle towards Wilhelmsdorf and Kirchmöser, to Breitlingsee. Or towards Päwesin – there is a bakery with the best cake. I haven’t eaten such good cakes in ten years. Sometimes I just drive there by car (laughs).


But you like to spend your holiday in Südtirol. Do you miss something here?

Basically nothing. But on holiday I like to ride a mountain bike through mountains – I have lived in Switzerland for a long time, that has probably left its mark.


Where could we meet if not in your store?

Mostly near the water – at Jahrtausendbrücke, for example. I like to stroll along the Havel, drink coffee. By the way, I really miss a cosy café, one in which you can stay for hours and relax. Cafébar is very nice – but with only a few seats inside it is rather suited for when the weather is good.


How will Brandenburg an der Havel develop in the coming years?

I have a positive attitude: There are traditionally many large companies here, many people are moving here, bringing ideas and business acumen with them. However, this also means that with the demand on the market rents will rise – yet housing here is still significantly cheaper than in Berlin.


What would you recommend the city?

Keep going, let the city grow – but be more open to criticism!


If you had one wish for Brandenburg an der Havel, one that would come true immediately, what would it be?

A cleaning company that cleans the city from top to bottom every day. Or an even better wish: I would wish that everybody would pay attention and keep the city clean.



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