Berlin by Water

Fun tour guide fact:

Berlin has more bridges than Venice. It’s true. Berlin has a huge network of canals dating back to the pre-train era when the easiest way to shift goods was by barge. Even Queen Sophie Charlotte preferred to take a private boat into Berlin from her summer palace in Charlottenburg rather than endure cobblestones in a carriage. Nd whilst there are many generic style boat cruises on offer in Berlin, a much better way for the adventurous is to hire a canoe and paddle yourself around. If you have the energy (and the armpower) you can actually paddle all the way to Potsdam.

It is a hot summer this year. The longest, hottest and driest on record so far. So what better way to while away a hot afternoon that on the water? My family and I drove west to where we could pick up our Canadian style family canoe. 5 mins later we were paddling through what is easily one of the most picturesque waterways on option in Berlin known as Kleine Venedig – Little Venice.

Tree branches dipped into the water as we wound our way through the tiny canals of one of Berlins most sought after Kleingarten Kolonien (small garden colonies). Living in apartments means most people don’t have access to their own garden, and so these allotment gardens are in high demand. And the Little Venice colony, having water access from almost all gardens is one of the most special you can find.

Looping around we then cut through to a larger waterway, where power boats raced past and the occasional barge drifted by like a large, man made whale. The canal opened into a river – the Havel which actually becomes the Wannsee lake – and the canoeing became more challenging in more open water. We paddled to a small beach and cooled off with a glorious swim before heading to the little restaurant near the beach where you can actually pull up and moor your canoe before climbing directly up to their terrace. Fortified with Flammkuchen (think German pizza) we headed past he moored motor-yachts and began the paddle back.

Driving back home we were all tired and smiling. If you visit Berlin in summer and you have a spare day, you should seriously consider getting out on the water in some way shape or form. You’ll never see Berlin the same way again.

Mauerpark on a lazy Sunday afternoon

A rare Sunday. A day off in summer, and all to myself without family or other obligations. The day stretched out ahead of me like an invitation. It was a glorious Berlin summers day, blue skies and warm air and staying at home on the couch seemed like a sin. So I got dressed in my favourite yellow summer dress and went out to wander.

Somehow I ended up at Mauer Park – an old strip of the former deathstrip of the Wall which has now become without a doubt the most popular fleamarket in Berlin. Some people complain that Mauerpark is not what it was.
It is big, yes – about twice the size it used to be – even a private tour guide like myself could get lost here! But that also means there is more variety than ever.

It is crowded, yes – but if you go early (around 11am) then it’s not too bad. And as long as you’re not rushing, but rather drifting to see what catches your eye then it can be really a pleasure. Yes, there are tourists, but I heard easily as much german as I did other languages. And I heard not just English but Spanish, Swedish, french and something slavic I couldn’t identify. I love the diversity here.

I love the mix of old and new. I love that next to the expat selling her handmade retro handbags you have a young turkish girl in a headscarf selling Gozleme, and that next to her is a Berliner speaking thick dialect while she tidies her second hand clothes she’s trying to sell. I love that you can get everything here from funky new design stuff to 50’s furniture, a belt made out of tire offcuts, a second hand wetsuit or a replacement handle for an old wardrobe.

I love the smell of fresh bratwurst being fried as a young guitarist plays a really good set while I lounge on a deck chair. I love that I found exactly what I wanted – a gorgeous old teapot to replace the one which broke last week. Smiling happily I drifted home past the crowds in my yellow dress thinking how much I love this city in summer.