One thousand lakes may not sound much to Canadians where Provinces like Manitoba boast 100,000 lakes on their licence plates, but it is still a lot of fresh water. We did not travel towards to Polish border but there were lots of lakes and rivers (like the Oder) that we had not considered exploring as we did not have time.
Time was now the enemy.
The famous Mecklenburg Lake area, north of Berlin, is an area of marshland, forests and shallow lakes connected by rivers (like the Havel) and canals to make a recreational paradise. Martin thought it was like cruising through a water colour looking at the variety of greens, the soft landscape and the puffy clouds in the sky. We still had hot weather in Berlin, so going off to a place where we could swim and play in the water was very attractive. Cruising north we ended up in a place called the Lehnitz See near Oranienburg and put down our anchor. About 3:00 pm we heard thunder, and saw the first of a number of storms come through Lakeland.
The weather had been quite warm and we had had some thunderstorms. About 4 storms came through before the big one hit. Martin said he saw sea-smoke, which means Force 10 winds about 50 – 60 miles per hour (100kph) and there were white caps on the lake, it felt like all hell broke loose and then the hail started – great big chunks of ice from the sky. We were at anchor and had drifted earlier in the day. The lakes are shallow, very clean but dark – mud and reeds under the shallow surface. The high winds and hail and waves cause us to be tossed around – it only lasted about 30 minutes but felt like hours and was quite frightening.
Martin wanted to keep the boat secure, so started the engine to aid the anchor– we lurched forward but remained in place. After the storm had passed over we went outside only to discover to our dismay that we had lost another one of our white IKEA chairs and a solar panel – both, plus a bunch of plants had been tossed by the violent storm into the lake never to be seen again. Paul and Martin went out in the dinghy to search in the dark water but to no avail. They spent about 2 hours trying to locate our lost items. After a while, it was now about 6:30 in the evening, we gave up and decided to move on. At the next lock the Water police told us that the nearest place we could spend the night was about 2 hours and one lock down the canal and we could not make it before the locks closed. The Water Police have been very helpful so we took their advice, and went back to the Oranienburg harbour and tied up for the night. Sirens wailed well into the night as land damage was attended to.
The next day we walked into town to pick up some groceries and do other errands. Oranienburg was famous for a few things including a Schloss and the first concentration camp – Sachsenhausen. I decided to skip both, but Martin and Paul took the bikes and took a tour of Sachsenhausen, along with many other groups of young people. When they came back to the boat both were quite silent as we made our way through the lakes to our next stop to Zehndenick – they must have been contemplating what they saw.
We decided to spend a day or so in a town called Templin and the local lakes.
Templin is noted for a couple of things; its continuous fully intact thirteenth century city wall that encircles the sleepy town, and for being the home of the current Federal German Chancellor – Dr Angela Merkel.
The ancient town was set on the side of the lake at the end of short canal. We had a couple of locks to negotiate before we came into the harbour – again it was like cruising through a water colour at 6 kph; the green hues of the reeds and trees, the blues of the sky, the bright sunlight that made everything shimmer and dark dark water together with the ancient church spires and city walls gave this tranquil place a heavenly feel.
Alas it was also the place we said goodbye to Paul he was returning to the UK. Martin and I decided to travel into Berlin with Paul, then we would go onto IKEA in Spandau to replace our white chair – again (there is always an Ikea when you need one it just takes a while to get to if you don’t have a car).
We put Paul on the train at Friedrichstrasse station and he flew back to England that day. We went back to Spandau to buy a replacement chair. In May 2012 we bought four white outdoor chairs for the back deck – one was stolen in Verdun last September. As it was seasonal furniture we could not replace it until April. Brigitte, bless her, bought me a new chair for my birthday and brought it to the boat in Strassbourg. So there was no choice but to get another one. Success – the chair was even on sale but it had cost us €40 to get there. We had a laugh coming back as Martin carried the chair onto the ‘S Bahn’ over ground train and sat on it in the train compartment .The people on the train were most amused. He also used it to sit on the station platform while we were waiting for the one of the trains on our 4 hour journey. I just kept smiling and saying to people ‘it is a long story’. So we are back to a full complement of 4 chairs on the back deck.
No such luck with the very new very expensive solar panel (but not expensive enough to qualify for an insurance claim though) so we are making do with one panel. We have not anchored out again so our power resources have not really been tested for any length of time but the next night we were without power. We have also lost access to British TV, which has been a constant wonderful source of entertainment for most of our time in Europe (even in Spain). We bought a small satellite dish and box in Holland last year for €70 and have enjoyed the BBC and ITV, weather and power permitting, for the last year. This stopped in July – apparently the Astra 2A satellite has been shut down, and we could not get a fix on the replacement Astra F satellite with UK or American programmes with the size of dish we have. So Martin, ever ready to meet the challenge, went out to find a bigger dish and had success at €10 but we have not tested it yet. Any time we want to watch TV we still have a bunch of movies to watch.
We left Templin with a lock keeper’s strike looming, which meant our schedule, such as it is, was under pressure. We left Templin and went back through the locks, sailed through the reeds and marshland to the Havel-Wasserstrasse through the water-colour landscape to a small port of Himmelpfort. We wanted to get to Müritz lake before the strike. Of course we were not the only ones with this idea and we got caught in a queue where we had to wait for 9 lock changes before we got into the lock – that took almost 4 hours. Then we scooted along to the next lock via a canal and a lake only to end up in another queue – this time we were out in the lake and not along a canal bank. We finally made it to the lock gates – only to find that the lock ahead of us was the last for the day so we had to use wait in the line overnight .
We had been travelling 8 hours and one lock with one more day before the strike.
Our last lock before Müritz was at a town called Mirow. We completed the lock, got off the boat to do some shopping. Mirow was an ancestral home of the Mecklenburg royals. This royal German household certainly knew how to find nice places to live – this Schloss was on a lovely lake with a great view and one of the buildings was for sale. This building was the home of Sophie Charlotte – who became wife of George III in 1761 then proceeded to have 18 children!!! Talk about populating Europe!!!
We entered Müritz Lake on a really windy day, the weather had turned cool which was shame as we were looking forward to swimming and playing in the water. It was a difficult mooring – lots of slapping and sloshing on the boat. The next morning we arrived at Waren – the popular resort town at the top of the lake. Again the weather was not that warm and the harbour was dirty so we didn’t get into the water.
The town was very sweet – lots of renewal – painting and decorating of the buildings, a little market and the feel of a resort town. We then discovered that Dr (of physics) Frau Angela Merkel herself, was to appear in the town. So we did some boat jobs and waited for the big event. Angela was on home territory and she was appearing to support her CDU party’s local candidate for the Sept 28 Federal election. Being from the old East Germany, she had a special place in the hearts of the local people. I was impressed by her lack of charisma. She was a short rather dowdy older lady wearing ill-fitting pant-suits. She spoke quite clearly (I could really understand her German), and I think she was very sincere in her comments about voting and Europe. As a German from the old East she was very clear that voting was a privilege not to missed, the opportunity to make a political choice was still a new experience in this part of Germany. She talked a lot about employment and Germany’s role in Europe and the importance of saving the Euro, but did not slag her opponents. There was no mention of the Edward Snowdon affair and the issue of NSA surveillance – a topic of great concern to East Germans who lived under the Stasi. I understood why Germans like Frau Merkel (although I am sure many Germans do not agree with her): she was very unpretentious and real, grounded, down to earth and for a politician – trustworthy. The election will tell it’s own story, although I will not be in Germany to see it.
The evening with Frau Angela Merkel was warm and sunny, but the next day the wind had come up and the days were distinctly cooler. We began our journey west across the Müritz Lake and through a series of connecting crowded water ways and a timed bridge to Plau Lake and the lovely resort town of Plau. Of course we wished we had more time to hang out in the lake and play in the town but we had to take the canal that took us to the Elbe River.
The Müritz-Elde Wasserstrasse was a 120 km long canal and canalized Elde (not Elbe) River which had 17 locks down the old border town of Domitz. It took us three days to cruise leisurely down this canal as the speed limit was only 6 km per hour. It was a narrow winding water way and the locks were in very good shape – some manned (actually mostly womanned) and others automatic. Our first stop was km 98 Lübz – a delightful little town where the historic tower and central square had been fully restored.
Driving the canal through the forests and fields was peaceful, and there was very little traffic on the canal, certainly nothing bigger than us. We drove past the turn off to the Schwerin Lake system which, many people had told us, should not be missed. However we did miss this extensive lake system and the beautiful castle and city on the Western shore. We spent our second night on the Elde canal at Neustadt-Glewe, we had hoped to get further but after 7 hours driving it was time to quit and Kerry had her legs crossed and needed to get off the boat. Again, this was a delightful little town that was being restored with a small marina and a store. We were still driving through the watercolour and were almost mesmerized by the soft rolling landscape, quiet water, huge variety of green hues and changing vegetation.
The locks kept us connected to reality as did the rain which started to come down on the third day. It started with a drizzle and became more intense as the day grew. We decided to drive inside the boat (we used the outside driving station as much as possible), as we hit 5 – 6 on my rainscale (See ‘Canadian Studies in the Rain’ blog). Coming through the last two locks around Domitz was painful as the rain was quite miserable, one of the locks very slow and we were tired. When we entered the Domitz marina there was a cloud burst – this time an hour plus of huge rain drops and high winds (just as we were docking). These few moments of docking felt like an hour as we finally secure Skookum to a dock in front of a large hotel complex and settled in for the night. Even Kerry did not want to stay out long. Martin had pulled his already tender back and I was exhausted.
The next day was a lovely sunny day so we spent the morning exploring Domitz. This was a very interesting town with an intact river fort used by the Mecklenburgs as border post. It was also a border town between the old East Germany and West as it on the east bank of the Elbe River. It was the last stop on the train, and the old bridge had been blown up (during the Second World War)and never replaced. Domitz still had the vestiges of the old East Germany – on the side streets, while other parts were either restored or band new. The sixteenth century fort was the star attraction, lots of elderly people and children on educational bus trips. Our marina was also the site of a beach club (very popular places to eat and drink in Germany).
We discovered on a trip down the Elbe that a large part of this area is a beach – but more about that next time. We moved Skookum out into the Elbe – a large wide but shallow river, expecting to see lots of traffic and were pleasantly surprised at how quiet the river was at Domitz . At this point the Elbe was 504 km in Germany (it originates in the Czech Republic), and we were travelling downstream but up north to Hamburg past the old watch towers along the east side of the river.