Susi and Austin's

Travelling the Rivers and

Canals of Europe


Potsdam to Müritz

Monday 3 July 2023 7:25 PM

Will we or will we not get a mooring, that’s the daily question, especially approaching Berlin! There are plenty of marinas on 33000 km of waterways and 3000 lakes in the state of Brandenburg but also a huge number of boats! We chose the Yachhafen Potsdam as our next destination and getting there nice and early, were lucky to get the last space on the guest pontoon. We also managed to make a 3- week booking for later this month when we'll fly to Scotland.

Only stopping for one night, we had a quick cycle to the center and ended up at the old market and Potsdam’s highest building, the Nikolai Church. The entrance of the church and its Corinthian columns reminds of a greek temple. The inside is plain but majestic. Sportive as we are, we would have liked to climb to the north tower viewing platform, but the afternoon was too cloudy, and so we decided to leave this and further sight- seeing for later this month.

For now, we are keen to get to the Mecklenburger Lake District before the school holidays commence and the water levels decrease.

The next day we crossed the summer playground of Berliners, the  “Wannsee”. There were sailing boats galore and beautiful villas on the shore! We arrived in Spandau at 2pm, just time enough for a visit to the Spandau Citadel. Built by italian master builders mid- 16th century, it offered refuge to several of Berlins earls.

The inner courtyard of the citadel has become a popular concert venue. An archeological window reveals underground remains of an older fortification. In one part of the casemates lives a protected bat colony. These European bats, other than the tropical bats, breed only once a year. Apparently the poor males have to hold onto their semen to bursting point and loose significant weight during the whole mating process. There is some justice in nature after all!!!

In 1935, the Nazis employed 300 scientists and technicians, who worked on chemical weapons, nerve gas among others, and performed animal and human testing in the Spandau citadel. It also was a stronghold of the SS. 

Nowadays the citadel’s baracks and upper buildings house multiple art studios and museums. In the provisions depot there are 100 original statues/monuments of Berlin’s past political figures. Even the head of the former 19 metre high Lenin statue, which was dismantled shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall, is on display. Some interesting questions are posed to visitors who are encouraged to put their views on paper: What should a monument stand for, and should controversial monuments be preserved? I guess the same question could apply to historic and fictional literature.

To ponder these questions, we stopped off at  the marina café, so Austin could try his first “Berliner Weisse”.

This traditional drink consists of a slightly sour local wheat beer laced with raspberry syrup. However, nowadays it is served in many variations, with juniper berry-, passionfruit-, peach- syrup etc. Or one can opt for the green variety being made with a cloudy apple or “Waldmeister” flavour. We had to try a couple - to be sure- and both agreed, that the Maracuja (passionfruit) one was the nicest.

On our way to the Mecklenburger Lakes we stopped next at Oranienburg. Unfortunately it was a Monday when the castle was closed. But we visited the “Schloßgarten” and could see some of the " Rooms” created by the previous years National Garden Show. The local Nikolai church, although plain like most of the protestant churches, had some wonderful expressive, wooden sculptures by the artist Wilhelm Groß.

We turned off the Oder-Havel-Kanal which flows towards Poland and headed north to the Upper Havel. The waterways narrow here and we came upon the first small, self- service locks. Such a fun to do the locks again! Via an old lift bridge and a lock we arrived in Zehdenik. This small town has several marinas, two of them inside the town harbour.

As we hovered to decide where to moor, a petite lady in pink waved us closer and directed us to an outer pontoon, which suited us just fine.

 Well, this was Brigitte, a super energetic 80 year old, managing the marina where in the past she also ran a restaurant. Hanging over the edge of a pontoon, waving boats towards her "Little Marina", proved to be a good way to direct boats away from the slightly larger and newer competition next door. With Brigitte you get your money’s worth: whether it is the history of the town or of her family, the best baker, market hours or life coaching, it’s all included. Our neighbours in the next berth, Roselinde and Uwe, from Jena and Potsdam respectively, were just lovely! I think, they were a little relieved to have someone else taking Brigitte’s attention. Roselinde gave me an inside of how it felt for East Germans when the wall came down. It must have been utter chaos and sadly, as companies and factories closed down, many people lost their jobs from one day to the next. I have to say, we met so many beautiful people from the East of Germany who call themselves “Ossies” and I love hearing some of their accents! There was a little confusion when Austin introduced himself as “Aussie”!

Zehdenik is very clean and tidy and one can feel the pride of it’s citizens. We did follow Brigitte’s advise and got some delicious smoked eel and salmon from the Wednesday market stall before we left. No cooking that night as our dinner consisted of smoked fish, salad and crusty bread.

On advise from Austin’s friend Nick, and to our amazement, there is a Linssen service centre, at “Zehdenik Marina” in the north end of town. Having a re-occuring problem with our water pump, we called in and were promptly and expertly attended too.

It is getting busier along the Upper Havel. School holidays in Berlin/Brandenburg have started and there were waiting times to enter the locks. This gave us time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings of pine forest, waving reeds and carpets of searoses.

When the first lock opened, it did not look like there was enough room for the seven boats in front of us and we were astonished when they waved us in too. We were apprehensive as we ended up very close to the boat in front and, being used to the wild locks in France, this could spell disaster! But to our relief, the water flows into the locks so slowly and gently, that we hardly moved. So we relaxed at the next ones and had a good chat with the other boaties. 

That night, we were very excited about anchoring for our first time on the Stolpsee, one of the 1000 or so magnificent lakes. “The Serenity”!!! After spending a peaceful night anchored under a story sky, we stopped at Priepert, a small community of 100, on the Ellbogensee. Even near the harbour the water was crystal clear. I tested the water, and ouch - it was a lot colder than expected but felt great after a minute or so! The marina restaurant had Pfifferlinge (chanterelles) on the menu and we couldn’t resist. These type of mushrooms are not available in Sydney and they are particularly delicious!

We never thought we would make it that far, but a bit of rain and cooler weather has helped the water levels, and so we decided to carry on towards the crown of the Mecklenburger Lakes, the large Müritzsee.

The next few locks were all manned and we marvelled at how the lock-keepers expertly crammed the boats in with centimetres to spare. By late afternoon we reached the "Little Müritz", and decided to anchor there for the night. We were joined by another 12 boats or so and soon you heard the splashes as everyone tried to cool off after a hot day. Austin and I followed suit. While Austin busied himself on the bottom of the hull with a scrubbing brush, I just enjoyed my swim and watching a man at work.

As we were scraping the barrel with our supplies, left-over pizza was on the menu. Not having an oven, I perfected the art of making a "pan-pizza” using a tortilla topped with a spiced tomato paste, fried onions, mushrooms, pepperoni, capsicum and finished off with a bit of cheese, cooked covered over low heat - and voila- maybe not the healthiest meal but did it’s job after the swim!

Later that night the wind picked up causing all boats to move this way and that. It was like a boat ballet. As the gusts got stronger, we weren’t the only ones getting a bit worried and checking our anchors, but we stayed put.

Today we reached the ultimate destination of our travels, Waren on the Müritz. The Müritz is with 117 square kilometres Germanys largest inland lake. On a wind- still, 30 degree day it’s surface sparkled like a pane of glass in the sunlight. Crossing the lake too about 2 hours and 20 minutes to Waren in the North with Austin taking it easy letting his auto-pilot do the work! Arriving at the town harbour, the harbour master came already towards us in a tender and guided us to one of the 150 berths of the town harbour. 

No wonder Waren is such a popular holiday destination! The old town is lovingly restored and is surrounded by National Park with many options for biking, hiking and boating and a rich wildlife. Of course there are ice cream parlours and

restaurants galore with anything “fish” being the main fare. You couldn’t get it any fresher, and so think the many gulls, sea eagles and ospreys too.

The impressive “Müritzeum” displays everything nature has to offer in the Lake District, from the enchanted forests to life in the water and from the tiniest insects, birds and fish to the deer, hogs and bisons. Not only is the building of this museum an amazing piece of architecture but it also captures the interest of children and adults alike. From the structure of bird feathers and aerodynamic of their wings, to the time it takes for the diverse dead wood to decompose and the flight paths of migrating birds, one can’t help but being in awe. I learned that storks fly from here in August all the way to the Southeast of Africa, that oak takes 100 years to decompose compared to 10-30 years for other tree species and that a beech tree produces 58 litre of oxygen in 10 minutes which is approximately the oxygen requirement for 12 people.

A lot of respect must be given to the citizens of this Northern German town, who just before the wall came down staged their own peaceful protest, and immediately after the fall of the wall started to restore and beautify their town. As early as 1999 Waren was declared a Health and Spa Resort.

We met up again with East Germans, Roselinde and Uwe, who have been enjoying themselves here for days, that is - except of their fraught bike trip through the National Park. Their story of a lost bike key and a long walk carrying a locked electric bike through mozzie infested swampland added to a fun afternoon on the Lodi.

After a day of thunderstorm and rain, we decided to slowly make our way back towards Berlin, grateful that we got here with enough water under our keel and plenty of sunshine too.

To photograph the beauty of the lakes is impossible but we will attempt to make a little video of our trip, ready for the next blog.

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