Berlin - Part Three (wonderful waterways)

When you think of "must do things" to experience in Berlin, I would guess that spending time on water is not too close to the top of many peoples list. Some may take the traditional tourist treat of cities all around the world, namely an hour or so cruising along the river that bisects your city of choice, whilst enjoying a mildly amusing comentary. In the case of Berlin there are plenty of options for this on the River Spree and very nice they are too.

Berlin though has a couple of lesser known (too us anyway) gems to the east and west of the city. Thankfully the wonderful public transport system in Berlin provides easy access to these delights. So even if it can take the best part of an hour to reach your destination, the journey won't break the bank and is easy to negotiate.

A new discovery for us on this trip was Müggelsee, the large lake and associated rivers that feed it. It situated way out on the east of the city, but thanks to the S3 S-Bhan line and then tram line 61 you can find yourself in Müggelwerderweg a small village at the eastern edge of the lake. Here you take a brief walk past a delightful array of houses with spacious gardens before the road ends at one one of the most lovely public transport stops that we have ever used. 

A small ferry service serves Müggelwerderweg and a handful of stops along that portion of the lake. Rather brilliantly this ferry service is within zone B of the Berlin transport network, so you can still use your S-Bhan / Tram ticket on the boat - we love you Berlin! On the day we used the services the weather was bright and hot. Luckily Eislounge Sonnenseite a small ice cream parlour in Müggelwerderweg provided us with some delicious ice cream (my black cherry cone was exceptional), to keep us cool when we walked to the small jetty. When we reached it the view over the lake was as stunning as it was peaceful.

Now it's our contention that the person captains this particular ferry boat must have one of the best jobs in the world. The route is relatively small and doesn't go anywhere particularly populated. There is very little water traffic to contend with and the scenery is majestic. Our cheerful captain gently admonished up for eating ice cream on the boat before he set off on the delightful little journey. He had a relaxed wave for all the locals who were sunbathing in their gardens and look of man who was in complete control of his world.

The route only takes 25 minutes to complete, but it gave a lovely view of the water and of the houses of those lucky enough to live on its banks. After a lazy wander around the inlets we got off at Neu Helgoland, the site of a hotel and from there we took a trip across the large lake to Friedrichagen. This was on a larger tourist boat supposedly a one hour round trip journey but we simply wanted to traverse the lake and this was the easiest way to do it. By now the sun was baking down, so after about twenty minutes in the open upper deck we decided to take cover in the shade of the enclosed area of the boat.

At Friedrichagen we took the walk from the ferry stop back to the S-Bhan station. This time we were just taking the train a couple of stops before stopping off in Köpenick. Once again the joys of our travel ticket allowed us to jump on the first tram that we saw that was heading towards the centre of town. Whilst on the tram, we witnessed our first bit of "tram rage" when our driver left his cab to remonstrate with a car driver who was trying to get past us. As a car driver myself, I don't think I'd ever try to pick a fight with a tram, there is only ever going to be one winner in that situation.

A few stops later we left the tram near Platz Des 23 April, a small park with a striking clenched fist sculpture in memory of the resistance to the in humanities of war. From there it's a short walk towards the old town, a small area, virtually encircled by water, as the rivers Spree, Dahme and Müggelspree converge. 

After enjoying an early evening sushi meal at Kikko, we noticed a nice looking small wooden bridge, which turned out to be the entrance to the Schloss Köpenick. As luck would have it there was a a very gentle music in the park event taking place for free in the grounds. We wandered in and rested on the beautiful lawns in the early evening sunshine as the smell of grilling bratwurst filled the air. A relaxed end to a splendid day.

To the west of the city on another day we had a different, more formal sort of experience when we visited Standband Wannsee, the largest inland beach in Europe. But before I talk about that, I must mention why we often find ourself in this area, south west of Berlin when we are in the area.

The city of Potsdam is probably most famous for the post war conference that saw Truman, Churchill and Stalin gather in 1945 to decide on a plan for post war Germany. However to us Potsdam is all about the wonderful Einsteinturm, an fantastic building where function and form produce a sculptured modernist architectural gem. It's located in a science park around  twenty minutes walk from the railway station. It's still a working building, so most of the year you can only view the exterior. But what a magnificent exterior it is.

After completing our pilgrimage we made our way back towards central Potsdam and then towards the newish development on the waterfront which feature a Fluxus museum, a theatre and a couple of restaurants and cafes, along with a sublime view over the large expanse of water that looks back towards Babelsberg park. There are some nice looking extended boat trips that you can take along the mass of waterways around here. Today though we had other things on our minds, we had unfinished business at Wannsee. 

The S7 line takes you to within twenty minutes or so walk of the restored 1920s bathing development of Strandband Wannsee. The last time we were in the area we assumed that access to a lake would be free, as it normally is in England. This meant that we strode purposefully passed the grand entrance building for the beach and baths, bulking at the idea of paying to look at water. This resulted in a couple of things, an unexpected and delightful sighting of a woodpecker and some frustration as we walked on and on before realising that it was a case of "no pay, no (Wann)see".

Well this time we knew the drill and we're ready to stump up our Euros for this strangest of attractions. The complex is huge, apparently attracting as many as 40,000 visitors on certain days. This wasn't one of those days!

I think we may have woken up the lady at the turnstile, she certainly seemed rather shocked that on this slightly overcast but not cold mid afternoon, two English visitors would wish to enter.  The manmade beach is wide and long, covered with beautiful, canopied beach seats, laid out in rigid formation and on this day virtually total devoid of people. There were us two, a handful of staff and maybe five other visitors, it was all rather surreal. 

We were still to stingy to pay for the use of one of the the beach chairs, so we sat on a bench near the food outlet for a while before wandering along the sand laughing at the beauty of giant willow tress gently caressing the sand. We walked along the length of the huge panoramic walkways which sit atop enormous changing rooms and toilet facilities. It was all deliciously daft and rather lovely. What it would be like with ten of thousands in attendance though, well I'm not too keen to find out.

On our way back to the train station we once again managed to see a woodpecker in the woods, always a delight. Although Potsdam is in Zone C of the transport network, Wannsee like Müggelsee 40km away is in Zone B showing again what great value you can get from a travel card in Berlin. There is also a Stranbad Müggelsee, should you decide that you wish to pay to sit next to a lake on an artificial beach.