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The International Writers Magazine: Daytrips In Germany

Spreewald. Germany
• Norman Wolfer
We had traveled to Berlin on a Continental flight, which although getting more expensive every year, was a relatively inexpensive mode of transportation for a month long stay we were planning in Germany. 

We landed in Tegel Airport (TXL), in the early afternoon, and took a taxi to our lodging.  We had the use of a studio condo that was less than $50 per day and included all utilities.  It was inexpensive, primarily because, even though it was furnished, it didn’t have TV, phone, or internet available.  That was an easily resolved problem.  In a trip to MediaMart, a local electronics department store, we discovered a “surf stick” which was a wireless USB interenet access provider, which only cost us about $40 for a whole month of use, throughout Germany.  Using that and Skype (and on occasion Skype-out), we were able to stay in top of the news, make on-line telephone calls, and even watch movies, in the evenings.  It was also a great way to research the activities we were interested in doing and find the most economical ways of doing them.

Public transportation was great, in Berlin.  It is actually great in most of Europe, but in Berlin, there was the U-Bahn (Subway), the S-Bahn (City Train), and the Bus system, all of which were pretty economical when comparing it to renting a car and paying for gas at over $8 per gallon.  As long as one avoided the inevitable commuters' congestion, it was even pretty relaxing.  The graffiti and diamond scratched window of the system could be intimidating, but really didn’t impose any problems.

Although Europe has many historical and ecological points of interest, we never cease to be amazed at just how the Berlin/Brandenburg area excels in providing these historically significant and contemporary points of interest, within easy one day outings.  The changes we have seen, from just the last twenty years, many of which were the result of the Wall between the east and the west coming down, have opened up places and events to the tourist that were not imaginable or even able to be appreciated under the communist rule.  Our destination, today, was in the Southeast portion of the Brandenburger area. 

My wife, Evelyn, and I climbed aboard the Deutsche Bahn train in Lichtenrade, Berlin, at 10:44 on Monday morning.  We were in the last station in Berlin, before crossing over the city limits; the station that marked the end of the line when the wall that separated West Berlin from East Germany was still in place.

Boatride We were headed for the German equivalent in Venice, differing only in the type of community and housing one finds there.  The only streets in this historic water world are shallow and intricate networks of the Spree River water ways that flowed through the community.  Noteworthy was the fact that not only delivery of all the construction materials that were used in the housing, but all transport, postal service, and access to shopping was by means of boat.  Most of these boats were a particular style of boat that had been constructed for hundreds of years, specifically for that purpose.

We embarked from S-Bahn Lichtenrade, located on Bahnhofstrasse, under bright, sunny skies filtered through the huge deciduous trees that marked most all the forests of Berlin.  It would be a trip of nearly an hour and a half to get to Lübbenau train station, which turned out to be only about a 15 to 20 minute walk to the point where we would go on one of the boats used to ferry the tourists on a picturesque tour of the lush community.  Each boat held from about 15 to 25 people and was piloted by one of the native Spreewälder inhabitants.  The people in this community were friendly, talkative, and the pilots would carry on a lively and informative narrative of the history and demographics of their unique community.  While floating through the community, we were told of the different activities, from farming, hay harvesting, pickling of the various cucumber types (Spreewälder Gurken are particularly sought after pickles around the Brandenburger area), and the various house-building styles, including the infamous reed or thatched roofs. 

Along the way, we stopped at a wooden dock that was a landing for a restaurant where the pilot had to wait for the congestion of boats to clear out in order to get out of the boat.  We found the restaurant to be an artistically historic and culturally original, farm style eatery and treated ourselves to a traditional dish of Blood sausage and potatoes.  Although that may sound like a peculiar dish, it is very tasty and it is getting more difficult, every year to find authentic German cuisine.  We felt quite fortunate to find something that was traditional, here.  As before, the wait staff was extremely friendly and helpful and the fellow travelers were all very polite and comfortable to be with.  It is not uncommon to share a table, in Germany, with complete strangers.  They were all so accustomed to the idea, no one would ever take offense to either joining someone or having someone join them.

As we departed the dock with full stomachs, we encountered what appeared to be a burial ground for sunken boats.  The pilot noticed our attention to the underwater graveyard and explained that was the manner in which they stored their boats, when not in use.  Apparently, they are less susceptible to drying, cracking, and dry rot, if they are submerged.  We were continually lulled and intrigued by the almost musical dialect of the captain of the boat.  It was not quite Berliner, but very similar.  Lübbenau, the town to which this Venice of Germany was most associated with, was first mentioned in the 1300s as a picturesque and entertaining place to visit.  The water ways were painstakingly excavated and the banks reinforced over many years with creosote soaked planks.  The area, as a result of the harmony it has with nature, has become a protected biosphere over the past several decades.

The boat ride lasted a total of about 2 ½ to 3 hours.  We made an additional stop, at another wood deck that served as a dock, but most of us did not step out of the boat.  This stop was so we could get some free samples of the famous pickles.  If we found a sort we particularly liked, we had the option of either purchasing one or more jars from the costumed ladies who presented the samples, or getting out and purchasing from the little structure that served as a store front for their products.  We chose to remain in the boat and were satisfied to just taste their wares.

verall, the boat ride was restful, educational, imaginative, and created a lasting memory.  This was not our first visit to Spreewald/Lübbenau and it will not be our last.  Our hour and a half return leg of the trip to Lübbenau was relaxing and restful.  It allowed us to discuss the things we had noticed, this time, that we had not seen last time we were there.  Traveling through the formerly East German countryside by train afforded us the freedom to enjoy its extremely groomed and green fields and villages. 

The shops in the small ort of Lichtenrade, which lined Bahnhof Strasse, were already closed down, except for the everpresent Kneipen (bars), when we arrived.  We were staying in a studio condo on Alt Lichtenrade Str. And it was only a short 20-30 minute walk to get there.  We went to bed, that night, wondering what nice, inexpensive, outing we could make the next day.  In Berlin it is best to be very spontaneous and take it day-by-day.

© Norman Wolfer April 2012

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