For a landlocked city, Berlin’s got an awful lot of water, whether it’s the Spree, the Havel or one of countless lakes. How will you take advantage of all that liquid bounty this summer?
Rowboat ferry: Down on the Müggelspree there’s a man with a little boat, waiting to row you across the river – just don’t forget your Fahrschein. It’ll take you 28 minutes on the S-Bahn, 15 stops on a bus, about a 15-minute walk through the woods, and then a four-minute ferry ride on the F23 before you get to the pick-up stop for BVG LINE F24 at the old fishing village of Rahnsdorf. Have your ticket out and ready when Captain Ronald Kebelmann rows up to the dock. Kebelmann has been at the helm of the Paule III since 2003 – he’s one of a series of captains – and he’s glad to be back aboard. The line, which has connected the small villages of Rahnsdorf and Spreewiesen since 1911, took a hiatus in 2013 due to high costs of operation and general lack of interest, but it’s back by popular demand as of May 1 – albeit more as a tourist attraction than a practical means of transport. Kebelmann gets his passengers across the river in less than three minutes. He estimates he’s ferried 2000 people since the line’s reopening. That’s a lot, if you consider that it only runs between 11am and 7pm on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Paule III can hold up to eight passengers at a time, or four passengers and four bikes. It’s a bit of a hike from the bus stop to the F23 stop, then even longer from Spreewiesen back to the bus, but there are a handful of paths throughout the woods – and two wheels would make the outing twice as charming.
BVG line F24 | Zur Fähre, Köpenick, S-Bhf Rahnsdorf
Spree party: For a spontaneous overnight holiday on the river, grab three friends and rent a houseboat from WASSERKUTSCHE. Since 2010, Jan-Niklas Rademacher’s fleet of hand-crafted electric-powered wooden shanty boats have been brightening up Berlin’s waterways with their colourful exteriors and flat-pack interiors: a compact staircase, fold-up tables, tuckaway cabin beds. Rent one of four “family sleepers” (with room for up to four) or a larger party boat for 10, all of which come with a Beatbarrel, a portable battery-powered sound system made by a Berlin-based company that reuses old beer kegs. Not a sailor? The boats are easy to maneuver and do not require a licence or previous seafaring experience. Prices start from €190 for the first day and then a further €150 each day after that – if you opt for an extended trip, the fifth and eighth days are free. The most popular routes are all recommended online and on the onboard map. Travel east up the Spree to Köpenick, or through the Landwehrkanal to the urban docks of Kreuzberg, or further west to Potsdamer Havel or Große Wannsee and Pfaueninsel in six hours. At 6x2m, the boats are a bit snug, but with canals and banks every few kilometres the biergartens and public beaches invite you onto dry land. You can also just anchor up, climb up onto the sundeck and enjoy life as a sailor. Book in advance!
Wasserkutsche | Schlesische Str. 28, Kreuzberg, U-Bhf Schlesisches Tor
A day at the beach: There’s no need to leave Berlin to try out sailing, waterskiing and windsurfing – these and countless other water sports are on offer at our very own WANNSEE, the massive 2.7km lake that’s just an S-Bahn ride away. Wannsee has one of Europe’s largest inland beaches; over a kilometre long, it’s used as an open-air lido as well as a water-sport haven. On the east side of the lake, waterskiing and wakeboarding courses will kick off your summer. Der Wasserskiclub Berlin mainly focuses on training kids aged 6-16 on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and Sunday mornings, but of course everyone is welcome to give it a go. If you’re feeling adventurous, rent or take courses in sailing, windsurfing or canoeing from Wassersportcenter Berlin. On Wednesdays and Saturdays at 10am or Fridays at 4pm, windsurfing ‘try-out’ classes for beginners can be booked online for €45 for 90 minutes. Otherwise, sign up to the weekly or monthly courses to really nail the balancing techniques. Impromptu trips on four-man canoes or individual kayaks can be hired from the station from €10/hour. Intimidated? Take out a human- powered paddle boat into the middle of the lake. At €12/hour it’s a great hassle-free activity between friends. Sailing, on the other hand, is a sport that requires more dedication and skill. Beginner courses at the water sports centre offer sailing licence preparation: 25 hours of training over three weekends will make you test-ready. The multi-lingual instructors offer courses in German, English, French and Italian, so if you want to know your port from your starboard, book a class online and don’t miss out this summer.
Wasserskiclub and Wassersportcenter | S-Bhf Wannsee or Nikolassee, Zehlendorf
Floating bungalow: For a more luxurious staycation that requires a bit of advance planning, head to Kirchmöser, Brandenburg and rent one of BUNBO’s bungalow boats. From April through October, you can charter a spacious, 35-45sqm houseboat that sleeps up to six (bring dogs along for €25) and includes heating, a gas stove, fridge and boiler and electricity. You can also rent and attach canoes, kayaks or small dinghies to make side trips away from “home”. The sturdy wooden structure floats along Brandenburg’s 160km of waterways at a maximum speed of 8kph – but you’ll still need a licence to drive one of these bungalows. If you don’t already have one, Bunbo offers charter licence training (it takes 2-3 hours) for an extra €30. You’ll need at least two adults onboard to share the responsibility of mooring and look out for oncoming boats. And don’t forget to bring a German: the pre-trip video, rental legalities and water safety signs don’t come in English. If you’ve got the bureaucracy sorted out and have made it to the front of the two-month-long waiting list, the bungalows are great for yoga retreats, fishing trips (licence required!), family vacations or even overnight corporate parties – several boats can be hired out at once to cruise along in unison. Prices range from €300 for a weekend to €1340 for a week in peak season, when only full-week bookings are accepted (June through early September), minus gas, engine fuel and firewood.
Bunbo | Große Mühlenstr. 10, Kirchmöser, Brandenburg
Get up, stand up: Want to indulge your inner adventurer and discover Berlin from a different perspective? Steer your way through historical landmarks, modern architecture and the city’s club scene on top of a stand-up paddle boat. Don’t worry; it’s easier to balance than it sounds. STAND UP CLUB BERLIN, opened earlier this year, is accessible through Badeschiff and offers various German, English, French, Spanish and Italian-language tours around Berlin’s waterways to paddlers age 18-plus. The Osthafen tour (€28) takes you around the old structural ruins of the Berlin Wall near Ostbahnhof, under the massive new Mediaspree buildings, past the now-covered Blu murals by Oberbaumbrücke and through a leg of the giant Molecule Man sculpture before looping back around. Are you feeling limber? The club also offers Stand Up yoga classes (€25) for 90 minutes of toning, balancing and relaxation on the water. If all you really want to do is hang out with like-minded paddlers, head down the Landwehrkanal on Fridays at 7pm for the club’s sunset meet-up group (€12 to rent a board). All paddle tours and classes will teach you techniques on the board, but will mostly encourage you to chill on the water and enjoy the beauty surrounding you.
Stand Up Club Berlin | Eichenstr. 4, Treptow, S-Bhf Treptower Park
Originally published in issue #140, July/August 2015.