A mini-mountain hike at Naturpark Märkische Schweiz
This mythical nature park gives all the fairy-tale forest energy of farther-flung destinations in Germany but without the shlep. Just an hour or so outside the city, ‘little Switzerland’ is so named for its un-Berlinesque hilly landscape. For hills, deep valleys, moors, meadows and hidden lakes, take the circular route, which kicks off and ends in Buckow. Keep your eyes peeled for black storks, white-tailed eagles, beavers, otters and other wildlife as you amble.
Autumn is the best time to take in Märkische Schweiz, not just for the thick blanket of fall foliage that adds a pleasing rustle to your hike but also for the snacks you may find along the way. The colder season rewards hikers with chestnuts, beechnuts and edible mushrooms on the forest floor. Just be sure to check with an expert first before making your Pilz pasta.
Directions: From Ostkreuz, take the RB26 (also known as Oderlandbahn) headed towards Müncheberg, where you’ll alight and switch to the 928 bus to Buckow (or opt for the 20-minute cycle). The total journey takes around an hour and 20 minutes each way.
A spooky cycle to Beelitz-Heilstätten
Halloween may be over, but the eerie vibes of Beelitz-Heilstätten linger all season long. It started out as a lung sanatorium in the early 20th century, then became a Soviet hospital from the mid-1940s until 1995, when it was abandoned. There’s nothing quite so creepy as a gutted hospital – scores of photographers have passed through to take in the rusted hospital equipment, busted-out windows and graffiti that remain. These days you may not be able to get as up-close and personal with the site, but a treetop path will let you walk among the leaves as you check out the hospital from above.
While you can easily pop out to Beelitz on the train, a bike trip will let you make the most of the last sunny autumn days. Start in Potsdam, then follow the western shore of Lake Templin to Geltow. Pause on the Baumgarten Bridge for leafy river views, then continue on the path along Lake Schwielow, past Schloss Petzow and onto Europaradweg R1, which will take you right to the doorstep of your last supernatural stop.
Directions: Your cycle starts at Potsdam Hauptbahnhof, an easy and direct ride on the S7 from Hauptbahnhof (35 minutes), Alexanderplatz (45 minutes) or Ostkreuz (50 minutes). Once you reach Beelitz and explore the grounds, you can jump on the RB33 train to Wannsee and switch to the S7 to get back. The cycle is 28km in total.
A brisk dip at Teufelssee
Speaking of sinister-sounding destinations, the so-called Devil’s Lake is arguably nicer in autumn than in the summer. Typically heaving with day-trippers in the warmer months, the wide beach empties as the weather turns cold, creating the ideal spot for an autumnal picnic. Those arriving by bike can stop off in Charlottenburg for warm cardamom buns and heavenly apple-cinnamon rolls from artisan bakery Zeit für Brot or takeaway crispy dumplings from Lon Men Noodle House.
Ringed by thick forest on all sides, Teufelssee is a treat for brave swimmers. You’ll find yourself surrounded by red-orange-yellow trees as you strike out into the freezing water and when you emerge, you’ll be spared the windy weather common on larger, more exposed beaches. While you’re in the area, you can head off in pretty much any direction for a wander through Grunewald, or make your way up to the manmade hill, Teufelsberg, the defunct American ‘listening station’ from the Cold War.
Directions: Teufelssee is best approached by bike – from Westend or Messe Nord you can cycle a few kilometres west and then cut into Grunewald to reach the beach. It’s also possible to rely on public transport if you’re okay with a bit of a walk. Hop on the M49 from Messe Nord until you reach Scholzplatz, then walk the last 2.5km through the forest.
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