East Germany: Tips for a holiday with a houseboat or yacht

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.

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Mecklenburg Lake District

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).

Lakes in Germany

Source: WORLD infographic

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.

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Source: WELT / Fanny Fee Werther

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.

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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.

Houseboat rafts are popular even if some routes are closed to them and they move slowly

Houseboat rafts are popular, even if some routes are closed to them and move slowly

Source: Getty Images / Westend61

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.

With over 112 square kilometers, the Müritz is the largest inland lake in Germany - recreational captains can do a lot here

With over 112 square kilometers, the Müritz is the largest inland lake in Germany – recreational captains can do a lot here

Source: FlickrVision / Ursula Sander

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)

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We are happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.

WELT AM SONNTAG from August 30, 2020



Pavel Fischer and Vaclav Havel, inspiration in politics

For Pavel Fischer, Vaclav Havel was first of all a “Idea” : that of“A freedom that dared to say its name, to face the system”, carried by a playwright and dissident whose texts, printed abroad, circulated only under the cloak. Then he became a “Voice”, when after his second stay in prison, the signatory of Charter 77, a vibrant manifesto in favor of human rights, resumed speaking on Radio Free Europe.

But it was not until the very end of 1989, amid the effervescence of the fall of the Berlin Wall and thanks to television, that Vaclav Havel appeared to the Czechoslovaks under “His physical existence”. That of a man “Neither very large nor very impressive”, remembers Pavel Fischer, almost “Shy”, able to gather around him the most diverse personalities, and especially gifted, when animated, with one “Great authority”. “Like theater people, he had the strength to speak. He knew how to calm conflicts. This is how he emerged as a key spokesperson for the “velvet revolution”, when crowds began chanting his name. “

→ THE BIG ENCOUNTERS. Catherine Chalier and Emmanuel Levinas, an intellectual friendship between Athens and Jerusalem

At that time, Pavel Fischer was 24 years old. He has just completed his studies in French civilization and Czech literature and is starting to teach. A convinced Catholic, passionate about the social doctrine of the Church, he reflects on the best way to “Engage in public space”. During the dark years, it was supported by visits from the Taizé brothers and prayer vigils organized by the Kaplan family, friends of the community and fervent defenders of religious freedom and conscience. And it was since the Taizé meeting in Wroclaw (Poland), in which he participated with thousands of young Europeans, that he learned, on December 29, 1989, of the election of Vaclav Havel as “Interim president” from Czechoslovakia …

An ever closer collaboration

“The interim lasted thirteen years”, used to joke the former tenant of Prague Castle, seat of the Czechoslovak then Czech presidency, until 2003. After a few detours, Pavel Fischer agrees to join him there, starting an ever closer collaboration: d ‘ initially responsible for communication, he quickly became deputy spokesperson and even head of political affairs, a sort of secretary general of the presidency. A position of trust if there is one.

Tomas Halik: “The Church must be there for everyone, not just for believers”

In these founding years for the very young Czech Republic, now separated from Slovakia, the young civil servant observed his “boss” anchoring his country ever more firmly in the West. The Czech Republic applied for entry into the European Union in January 1996 and became a member of NATO in 1999. He entered politics almost in spite of himself and “Still grateful not to have the training for this”, Vaclav Havel amazes his young collaborator with his constantly arousing curiosity, his ability to “Pick up items from a file and bring up a question you hadn’t thought of”.

“Vaclav Havel was someone who did not impose himself physically but intellectually, reflects Pavel Fischer. When we had heated discussions between us, he observed us, amused, as if we were inspiring him to the dialogues of his next piece. “ His obsession with not being locked into a suit that is too tight often gives his team a hard time: during each official trip, he must be found “The bistro or the inn” where he can soak up the local atmosphere and taste some specialties.

Depth and simplicity

Deeply independent, refusing all political and religious labels, Vaclav Havel wants to understand all the points of view involved, even the most opposed, not hesitating – on the eve of a session of the World Bank which promises to be stormy – to reunite “Bankers and anti-globalization activists” for an improbable evening of celebration at the castle … “How many times has he also impressed me with the depth and simplicity of language with which he dealt with spiritual matters?, recalls Pavel Fischer. In Hiroshima, where he visited in 1995, when Olga, his first wife, with cancer, was about to die, I was overwhelmed by his words about death, hope in the hereafter. “

→ PORTRAIT. Vaclav Havel, craftsman of a theater of consciousness

Eight years of daily and intense collaboration allow him to also discover its weaknesses. “Came to power without the support of any party or movement”, Vaclav Havel is forced to make alliances, “Sometimes difficult to maintain over time”. His remarriage to a young actress, shortly after the death of his first wife, is criticized, as are his efforts to recover his family’s assets looted by the Communist regime. “I don’t want to beatify him, the vagaries of his personal life are well known”, smooth Pavel Fischer. “He himself has always refused to have a statue erected. Every time we tried to build something symbolic, he systematically messed it up: I think it was basically unbearable for him. “

In 2003, when at the end of his second term, the playwright president gave way to his former head of government Vaclav Klaus, a fierce opponent of the world according to Havel, another adventure began. “The joy of having achieved something for the country, without a false note”, mingles with “Relief, to a feeling almost of deliverance”. “After so many years of sharing our views on the affairs of the country and the world, I felt that I had to find myself, that I feed on other influences”, recognizes Pavel Fischer. “And it took me a long time. “

The years of emancipation

What words to choose to describe this new link? After the years of“Osmosis”, those of “Emancipation”. The “Inventory right”, on the other hand, very little for him. “Critical and well-documented work would be necessary today to bring out the coherence in the work of Vaclav Havel”, he believes. But he leaves that to others. His project is more ambitious: “Remain faithful, and become autonomous again”.

While his former boss rediscovers the joys of writing, Pavel Fischer takes over the management of Paris, with his wife and their four children, the eldest of whom with multiple disabilities requires special care. He is ambassador there, a position which allows him to observe his country with hindsight and to feed his taste for music, literature, and to reflect on his own. “Political and social project”.

→ READ. Pavel Fischer, at the school of Vaclav Havel.

The old question of his vocation as a Christian in society, at the service of his country, is still there. Even more so when, a few years later, he decided to resign from the public service to support the end of his eldest son’s life. After overcoming this “Copernican upheaval” family life, the former counselor then clearly feels the desire to “To launch into politics” in turn. And to stand as a candidate for the Presidency of the Republic in the 2018 elections.

Explaining what separates his project from that of his former mentor is difficult for him. One thing is certain: it does not claim to be the“Heir”. “Vaclav Havel lived in a pivotal period: there is no point in reinventing what he created”, he emphasizes. “It is not a miraculous medal either. Rather a backdrop that helps and inspires me. “ On the other hand, he enjoys scrutinizing the way in which some claim it, not without ” false note “. He especially remembers his teasing towards him: “Ah, you will see, when Mr. Fischer is president …”


Pavel Fischer

1965. Born in Prague.

1983. Admitted in French Civilization and Czech Literature at Charles University, Prague.

1990. Studied the social doctrine of the Church in Geneva (Switzerland).

1991. Becomes private secretary to the auxiliary bishop of Prague, then joins the communication institute founded by Cardinal Vlk.

1995. Joined Vaclav Havel’s cabinet, first as communications officer, then as deputy spokesperson and finally as head of political affairs between 1999 and 2003.

2003. Ambassador to France.

2010. Political Director of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

2013. Resigns from the public service.

2018. Runs in the presidential elections (he obtains 10.23% of the vote) then senatorial. Elected senator from Prague, he chairs the committee on foreign affairs, defense and security.


Vaclav Havel

1936. Born in Prague.

1948. When the Communists came to power, his family – accused of having collaborated with the Nazis – was dispossessed of their property.

1951. Considered as a “class enemy”, he cannot enter university to study cinema.

1963. His first play, La Fête en plein air, is performed. But very quickly his works were censored.

1is January 1977. Co-signatory of the Charter 77 manifesto, asking the government to respect its democratic commitments.

Between 1977 and 1989. Spends three times in prison.

1989. Thanks to the “velvet revolution”, is elected interim president of Czechoslovakia.

1993. Elected President of the Czech Republic, re-elected in 1998.

2003. Leave power and start writing again.

2011. Dies in his country house in Hradecek.