German people, and Berliners especially, are such lake snobs, I think. Tell a German friend you're going to Schlachtensee and their eyes fill up with a strange mixture of pity, contempt and fear. They talk about a day out in Schlachtensee like it's the Gaza Strip or something.
"We're going to Schlachtensee," I tell a German friend I bump into on the U7. We're all weighed down with all the different lakey-type things we need for a fun day out - we even have an inflatable shark and everything. We literally thought that the inflatable shark was a dolphin for about a year. Then my son noticed the pointy triangle thing on his head, and we realized it was just a smiley shark. It was quite a shock, to be honest. It was as much of a shock as it was to discover that our bunny, Black Ears, was actually a girl. We'd always thought Black Ears was a boy and Tiny was a girl but in fact they'd just been having a very passionate lesbian affair right under our noses and we only found out when Black Ears got mauled half to death by a city-dwelling fox. Actually, I've just realized how depressing this story is. Tragic, really. Sorry.
So, the German friend on the U-Bahn winces and shakes his head at me pityingly. There's so much pity in his eyes, man. I once saw a Motzverkäufer dude being yanked off the U-Bahn by a load of Kontrolleure. He had no shoes on, he just stood there, barefoot, weeping bitterly. He wasn't howling with rage, he was just weeping bitterly. He was really exhausted and empty, he was done in, plus he didn't have any shoes on. I think I felt about the same level of pity for him as my German friend on the U-Bahn does for me.
"Schlachtensee," he says, sighing mournfully. "Well, I suppose you don't have a car, do you."
"I actually quite like Schlachtensee," I say, in exactly the same tone of voice people use when they say they actually quite like Mario Barth or poo sex or BDSM or Facebook.
"Well," he says.
"It's my favourite lake!"
"Hmmmm," he says.
"I don't just like it because it's easy to get to," I say. "Although that is an advantage. But I actually quite like it there. I think it's one of my favourite places to go to in Berlin. I like the Fischerhütte, and I like finding a tiny scrap of soil to sit on, half-private, and I like sitting on the tiny beach bit with everyone-else. I also like not having to pay to go swimming. And it always feels cool there, because of the tall trees. They're almost oppressive. So I feel kind of calm and at one whenever I go there. I like it there. I like it much more than Wannsee, for example."
"Oh, no, Wannsee's like torture," says my German friend. "Müggelsee is really very nice."
"I really wish you Germans would stop going on and on and on about Müggelsee!" I say crossly. "Schlachtensee is more than good enough for me. When I go to Schlachtensee, I feel happy. Okay?"
"Okay," he says. "If you say so." But I can tell from the look in his eyes that he doesn't really believe me. These people are lake snobs. The only lake near me when I was growing up was an artificial one they'd made out of a disused quarry. It was nice enough. There was nothing wrong with it. It was perfectly fine. But if German people went there! I don't even think they'd consider it a lake at all. Just a load of water in a hole in the ground. That's the kind of lake snobs they are.