Schools of fish, Renaissance towns, sandy beaches, and water mazes make Berlin's surroundings well worth a road trip, Solveig Steinhardt discovered.
Weekend getaways like Renaissance towns, sandy beaches, and maze-like canals.
If you still think the best aquariums are the ones with the strangest tropical fishes, you probably haven't been to the Ozeaneum in Stralsund (www.deutsches
meeresmuseum.de). At this huge ocean museum three hours north of Berlin on the
Autobahn, the attraction is not the biodiversity or the bright colors of the aquatic species. The museum focuses instead on the most common local fish, such as sardines, mackerel, flounder, or tuna, and presents them by the thousands in gigantic, scenic tanks. The result is truly breathtaking: Visitors have the impression of being underwater, with thousands of sea creatures passing above their heads. The Ozeaneum, housed inside a modern building overlooking the Stralsund harbor, is spread over three floors, with an entire level dedicated to Baltic Sea species and one for the North Sea habitats. Comprehensive exhibitions explain the different biota in great detail, from the coast down to the depths. On the ground floor, visitors can lie down and admire life-sized reproductions of the world's biggest whales and giant squids hanging from the ceiling, while sounds and voices depict the different species. The visit can easily last four to five hours, after which you can take a walk in the historic center of Stralsund, whose picturesque Renaissance buildings and city layout earned the city its status as a UNESCO world heritage site. Or pack your beach bag and drive north over the Strelasund bridge to explore the Baltic island of Rügen, whose cities Binz and Sellin have been popular beach destinations since the 1920s. But you don't have to travel far from Berlin to spend a day at the beach. Fifty kilometers south is Tropical Islands, a large lagoon-style pool surrounded by palm trees and white sand, all enclosed under a giant glass dome that used to be an aircraft hangar. It may look a bit cheesy at first, but it's a fun getaway for families and groups of friends. Last May, the indoor tropical bubble was expanded, and the brand-new tropical park, called Amazonia, now features 35,000 sq.m. (377,000 sq.ft.) of outdoor aquatic entertainment, including a whitewater river and a heated pool open year-round. Those who prefer a more idyllic getaway can drive down 100 km (62 mi) southeast to Spreewald, where dozens of interconnected canals make up a water maze surrounded by vegetation. Rent a boat, get a map of the canals, and enjoy getting lost in the rural surroudings.