Coming from the east coast of Australia, Annabelle Mallia was pleasantly surprised to discover water was still close to home.
Jump onboard a boat and discover Berlin's waterways – sea legs not required.
Nautical fans, rejoice! Though not on the coast, Berlin is undoubtedly a city on the water. It is said to have five times as many bridges as Venice and over 180km of navigable waterways, counting numerous lakes, rivers, and canals that eventually flow into the Baltic and North Seas. Historically serving as shipping channels and borders in a divided city, Berlin’s waterways have since been transformed into a hub for sightseers, and the best way to experience them is, of course, aboard a boat.
A river cruise is a great way to sit back and discover the city's historical and cultural riches. Boat tour companies Reederei Riedel (www.reederei-riedel.de), Reederei Bruno Winkler (www.reedereiwinkler.de), and Exclusiv Yachtcharter Berlin (www. exclusiv-yachtcharter.de) all offer similar routes as well as food and beverages. Hop on board for a one-hour tour of the city center along the Spree, cutting right through the modern government district and the architectural treasures of Museum Island. For more leisurely sightseers, the three-and-a-half-hour "Bridge Tour" is a good choice. It takes a wide loop on the through metropolitan Berlin and the colorful districts of Friedrichshain, Charlottenburg, Kreuzberg, and Neukölln on the Landwehr Canal. Along the way, the boat passes under 64 bridges, some so low that a warning signal tells passengers on the top deck when to duck their heads. Tours depart from numerous mooring points.
The "7 Lakes" tour with Stern und Kreis (www.sternundkreis.de) takes you along the chain of lakes between Berlin and Potsdam, alternating between stunning nature and historical monuments such as Prussian castles and the Glienicker Brücke bridge, where Russian and American spies were exchanged during the Cold War. Alternatively, you can catch the F10 ferry across the lake to Kladow, passing the secluded Peacock Island and requiring no more than a valid BVG transport ticket for boarding. When you get off, take a walk on the promenade and check out the resteaurant and playgrounds. There's even a swimming spot for the warmer days.
ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT
For more boating opportunities where you provide the muscle power, head to the greenery of Treptower Park. Walk along the Spree River to Insel der Jugend, soaking up the lively atmosphere along
the esplanade. Depending on your mood, you can rent a pedal boat, rowboat, or a motorboat and go exploring. Kids will have fun just circumnavigating the island, and you can dock for a refreshing drink at the island's beer garden. Alternatively, at pondside Café am Neuen See (www. cafeamneuensee.de) in the middle of Tiergarten you can fill up on wood-fired pizza and German beer, then rent one of their paddleboats for a splash about with the ducks in the sun. If you're looking for more adventure,
Berlin Kayak Tours (www.kajakberlintours. de) offers a range of options from night events to East and West tours. Or join the latest stand-up paddling craze from Hawaii at Stand Up Club Berlin (www. standupclub.de). Located centrally at Arena Berlin, their tour steers you past ruins of the Berlin Wall and the city’s clubbing scene, while yoga enthusiasts can take part in one of their floating yoga classes on the paddling board. Afterwards, simply relax on the beach at the Arena Badeschiff.
No need to dock onto dry land when the appetite builds. Restaurant ship Alte
Liebe (www.alte-liebe-berlin.de), located on the Havel River and surrounded by the Grunewald forest is a legendary spot for West Berliners on a first date. It dishes up an extensive range of hearty and maritime German-style cuisine options against a backdrop of boats sailing off into the sunset. Or, on a lovely section of the old Kreuzberg harbor, diners can climb aboard Van Loon (www.vanloon.de) into a surprisingly roomy boat hold, reconstructed with expansive windows to ensure great views of the water. The menu is suitably seafood-focused, including modern variations on the classic fish and chips.
But by far the most novel way to dine is with Grill-boot.de (www.grill-boot.de) or bbq-donut (www.bbq-donut-berlin. de). Shaped like big orange donuts with a barbeque in the middle and and umbrella overhead, these floating grill boats can be seen sailing on the Havel River and Tegeler See lake, both offering similar deals for up to ten hungry sailors.
Now that you’ve taken in all the city sights, it’s time to head a little further afield. Neu-Venedig (New Venice) in the far southeastern district of Rahnsdorf is renowned for its canals, reminiscent of the Italian namesake city. Rent a canoe and go exploring, passing small garden cottages and multi-story villas. The weeping willows and water lilies make it a truly idyllic spot, so peaceful that you'd never believe you're still in Berlin. A bit farther away, at an hour's drive from Berlin, the Spreewald UNESCO biosphere offers a spectacular maze of about 200 small canals totaling 1300km in length. The closest town, Lübbenau, which is also the hometown of the legendary pickles, is a great starting point for a traditional punting tour and for a nature observation expedition, but you can also rent a canoe and head off solo – just don’t lose the map.
Stand Up Club Berlin
Clockwise from this photo: Paddleboats on the Neuen See; tour ship from Stern und Kreis; The Van Loon restaurant ship; Boats on the Spree; The beer garden at Café am Neuen See; Yoga on paddleboards at Stand Up Club Berlin