SSaturday afternoon, in a tributary of the Havel, somewhere in the jungle of the wetlands between Werder and the city of Brandenburg. The journey has come to an end, dock one last time, and then the passengers are back on solid ground.
A slight swaying can still be felt. Is that now due to the waves, which confused the sense of balance last week in the steady, gentle rocking of the stately motor yacht “Galathea”, 14 meters long, with three double cabins, saloon, pantry and two bathrooms? Or does it just show the pleasant confusion after a vacation in a strange world that is in a familiar area but looks like a kind of parallel universe in your own country?
After all, the view of things was different: it was the waterside perspective of the banks of those lakes, rivers, canals, towns and villages in the Margraviate of Brandenburg, southwest of Berlin, which one is actually very familiar with when cycling, jogging or hiking with a dog are.
How big does the Breitlingsee look when you sail on it, how colossal is the Glienicke Bridge, where Russians and Americans exchanged their agents during the Cold War, from below, how majestic and within reach is the Sacrow Church of the Savior on the banks of the Havel, a historical building Icon, inaccessible during the Walling Period, neither from the West nor the East.
But also the industrial areas, the ports for bulk and general cargo such as in Berlin-Spandau, with their huge rolling cranes, can be seen with different eyes from the houseboat. After work, when the crane operator finishes his work and climbs down and you tie up on the quay opposite, for a sundowner on the upper deck and then to sleep, this scenery only looks bizarre and fantastic, but by no means uncomfortable. And there is something special when the sun rises early in the morning while walking through the steel monster skeleton and the coffee smells on the flybridge.
In a boat across Germany’s lakes
Corona times make people look for alternatives when on vacation. The trend towards destinations in the area, in one’s own country, could last for years. Reason enough to get to know the neighborhood anew, to catch a different glimpse of it, to sail across the lakes, rivers and canals.
With the whole family or with friends; Many motor yachts have room for six, or eight adults if necessary, as well as a board dog. There is something for everyone, for holders of boating licenses as well as for newcomers, who after a short introduction are also allowed to drive spacious boats, with minor restrictions (see below).
The east offers the most rewarding inland waters in Germany for a week on a motor yacht or houseboat. The Mecklenburg Lake District is legendary, where nature is still wild and untouched here and there.
The heart of the lake district, the Müritz, is the largest inland lake in the Federal Republic of Germany with over 112 square kilometers – here those who enjoy driving can do a lot of distance. Likewise on the wide Brandenburg water course, the main areas of which are mainly to the west and south-east of Berlin. Mecklenburg, Brandenburg and Berlin together offer over 2000 kilometers of rivers and lakes, this is Germany’s largest networked water sports area.
If you are looking for pure deceleration instead of shoving around, you will be happy in Saxony-Anhalt: In the Central German Lakeland, which was and is still being built in the renatured areas of the former Goitzsche open-cast lignite mine, you will find a nice range of fixed “floating houses” on Geiseltalsee and Großem Goitzschesee . You can go on water excursions here by canoe or rubber dinghy.
Depending on the size of the houseboat, you can survive a week without mooring once: leave the fairway every evening and out with the anchor. Most charter companies have adapted their refrigerators over the decades to the growth of thirst and customer demands. The diesel supply is always generous, water and waste water tanks are also sufficient with economical consumption – swimming instead of showering.
First nature, then a shore excursion to the restaurant
Nature experiences are guaranteed. Once the engine is off, a giant catfish appears from below in a short arc. In the evening, geese move across the sky high up, water lilies bloom and – depending on the season – a frog croaks in the swamp at the back. At most, the show-offs cause excitement as they hit high waves in their speeding Poser yacht and sweep the wine glasses off the table in the bobbing houseboat.
Every now and then, with all the love for distance, you should moor at one of the countless marinas. The chat there with the neighbors is not only entertaining, useful tips are almost always given about the next stage or the best bakery that you can go to the next morning with the bike you brought with you as a precaution.
The thread of the conversation is already tied in the afternoon when mooring, when a helpful hand catches the thrown rope and routinely covers the cleat with a head blow, i.e. the line is secured against unintentional loosening with a kind of sailor’s knot. And if you have picked the right port from the area guide, the shore excursion will be sweetened with a good restaurant, provided you have reserved in time.
Because of Corona, the demand for yachts is high
In the summer of 2020, Corona ensured that the jetties at the charter companies were empty – and those in the marinas were correspondingly full. Anyone planning a boating holiday for the coming year should start looking for a suitable yacht in good time.
Large boats offer a lot of space inside – but cause space problems in the ports. For a boat about 14 meters long, jetties are rare. Anyone who probes by phone after 4 or 5 p.m. must expect rejections rather than promises. Maybe the headbridge is still free at the front. Or the steamboat landing – see you tomorrow morning at seven thirty. Hardly any harbor master wants to reserve.
Public quays are more likely to be found in the larger towns, and they are also often full in the high season. It is easier for nine or penalty yachts. There would also be room for a family there. Here and there sailing yachts are also on the move, but if you want to get to know several lakes, connected by canals and rivers with bridges, you would drive more under motor than under sail, with a horizontal mast.
It is important to plan the stages well
Good planning is everything. More than 30 kilometers a day is uncomfortable. Those who anchor in between, who want to walk through Potsdam’s center, Werder, Babelsberg or Brandenburg and avoid worrying about the evening berth, plan shorter stages from the outset.
Especially important for those who like to travel: At the end of the week you have to be back at the charter port – and very punctually, otherwise it will be expensive. If you only plan the return trip on the Friday before the boat is returned (usually Saturday 9 or 10 a.m.), you should think twice about it, given the time-consuming locks and any hectic pace.
Boats up to 15 HP do not require a license. These are either smaller specimens or houseboat rafts with a rectangular hull, which have become increasingly popular recently, even if some routes are closed to them and they are only making slow progress. Which is why the radius for weekly planning has to be set significantly smaller with them.
Most are booked for day trips because they only offer spartan sleeping places. Sometimes they are also equipped as party boats with booming bass loudspeakers and so make those seeking peace and quiet annoyed.
Locks can be a problem in a houseboat
But there are also real swimming bungalows for newcomers in every comfort and price class, inside with cabin suites, professional kitchens and, if necessary, even with a sauna and wood stove. The advantage of these houseboats: They only have a shallow draft, so they can hardly run aground. While the cabin cruiser captain has to feel his way around at walking pace with a fixed view of the echo sounder where the marker barrels tend to be missing in the shallow fairway, a bungalow like this can – carefully – almost advance to the shore.
The worlds then separate when it comes to the mooring maneuvers or, more clearly, in the locks, where the clumsy newcomer in the houseboat just before the crash has to listen to instructions over loudspeakers, more or less friendly and audible for everyone. So if you like it stress-free, choose a route without locks.
Experienced license holders may prefer a traditional yacht. Many things have become easier for those who may have made the appearance decades ago; bow and stern thrusters, for example, have long been standard. Which is why nowadays nobody can be admired from the jetty while “parking backwards” perfectly. With draft beer later in the harbor bar, there is still enough to talk about. By far, of course.
Tips and information
Houseboat provider: Brandenburg and Berlin: the small landlord mariTeam in Deetz near Werder offers good service, houseboats from 750 euros / week (dialog-charter.de). Kuhnle Tours is based on the Müritz, but also has locations in Berlin and Brandenburg, bungalow boats from 59 euros / night, houseboats from 511 euros / week (kuhnle-tours.de).
Mecklenburg Lake District: Yachtcharter Schulz in Waren an der Müritz has a wide range of houseboats, from 490 euros / week (bootsurlaub.de), as does Müritz Yacht Management, from 649 euros / week (mueritz-yacht.de).
Leipziger Seenland: Seeblick houseboat rental offers fixed houseboats and “floating houses”, for example on the Großer Goitzschesee and Geiseltalsee, from 120 euros / night (hausbootvermietung-seeblick.de).
Requirements: A boating license is often not necessary for many models and areas; more than 900 kilometers can be traveled in East Germany without such a document. Houseboats up to 15 HP are mostly free of license, classified “tourist waterways” are often navigable with boats over 15 HP without a license, a briefing (charter certificate) from the rental company is sufficient. Rules vary regionally and should be requested from the landlord.
Further information: deutschlands-seenland.de; reiseland-brandenburg.de; mecklenburgische-seenplatte.de; blaues-band.de (Central Germany)
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