The Spreewald is a beautiful biosphere reserve in Brandenburg about 1 hour south-east of Berlin which was formed during the last ice age. Its speciality is a fine network of over 200 small canals adding up to about 1,300 km in total length which are just fantastic to paddle on – canoe or kayak at your preference. I have planned to make a trip there for a couple of years now but never managed to actually go. A short talk with a friend who told me about their plans to spend Easter in a vacation house in the Spreewald has been the last push to book a camping ground, a kayak and head off for three days and two nights to Burg with my girlfriend. Gladly the weather forecast supported our decision with 100% sun and warm but not hot during the day and the nights slightly above frost temperatures.
It was also the perfect first time to tryout my new tent before heading into more remote locations. Bridget had brought me the tent from the States in March. She went for a short trip to join her dad’s birthday and to her question “Hey, I can have one suitcase on the return flight, do you need anything?” my answer had been a tent, a Budlight and Sour Patch Kids.”
Yes, a tent. I have been excited about the light, smartly designed and practical tents of Six Moon Designs for quite a while and this was the chance to finally get one.
We packed all our stuff in our backpacks and went off with the great connectivity of public transport to our destination Burg-Kolonie and just 2 1/2 hours after leaving Berlin our tent was already setup and we were ready to explore.
“You know others look so happy when they come home after a camping trip and get into their apartment, fresh clothes and own bed. You look so happy when you put on these clothes. Like they’re home for you.”
The first day we spent with walking around, trying the specialties – pickles in all spices and sizes -, playing with our Copenhagen frisbee and reading the long list of campground rules. Yes, it was such a long list of rules the campground owner actually put them on the backside of the stall’s door in the restroom so you could take your time reading them…
“I’m excited for the Easter fires” I told Bridget and she seemed pretty unimpressed until we later on walked by the big pile of wood that was about to set on fire that night. “Wait, you mean a huge bonfire? You’re actually gonna set these piles on fire?” I guess that brought her attention back, the German Easter tradition of huge fires. And the guys here in Spreewald definitely put some effort in collecting enough branches and stumps to try and trump the neighbor’s fire right next to us.
Sunday we went kayaking for the full day and set out on our 6 hours paddling trip. “6 hours without breaks”, the lady in the kayak rental had told us when she showed us a possible route through the network of small canals. And yes, you can get lost easily in there and since they are often quite narrow it means you have to paddle backwards for a hundred meter to get your kayak back in the right canal. And we know this for sure as I struggled with the dimensions of the small map we got – bad excuse, I know.
If you get a chance to come to the Spreewald get your own canoe or kayak and set out for a long trip. The smooth and shallow flowing Spree is such a beautiful way to enjoy the nature around. And there are many good spots coming up where you can stop, park your kayak and have a cold drink.
“I would really like to see a Kingfisher (Eisvogel)” I had told Bridget during our kayak trip. We had beavers, fish, a swimming snake and lots of birds when we calmly drifted along the creeks. But we couldn’t spot one common kingfisher with its bright colors I knew well from tv and pictures and hadn’t seen yet for real.
We started with Bridget in front me in the back but figured out pretty soon that I was overwhelmed with the simultaneous tasks of
- paddling forward
- steering the sightly crooked double kayak
- navigating through the right canals and
- being a good sport.
Before Bridget could decide on weither to kick me out of the kayak or just leave me ashore we changed seats and tried our luck as double kayak partners once more. This reminded me a little of the kayak trip with Michael in Wanaka when I had to decide if I wanted to abandon or drown him.
It took us just a little over 5 hours to be finally in a good trot – especially since our kayak no matter what we did or corrected in our seating always drifted to the left. Bridget’s calmness to deal with my anger about the kayak – “I stop paddling now, I’m so annoyed, I don’t wanna do it anymore, I hate this…” – and a large beer helped us to finish the long 7 hours day on a boat and still be together.
The unplanned and spontaneous invitation of our friends to come over to their vacation house and stay for a free bbq and a couple of drinks was a perfectly unplanned end to the exhausting day. Our arms felt so heavy and we so exhausted that after we returned to the campsite just some minutes at the campfire and a sip of Bulleit Bourbon were enough to set us asleep around 10pm.
There’s nothing like waking up in the morning with the sun, going for a stretch to the small dock or the grass field and start preparing camp coffee and breakfast afterwards. Waiting for the water to boil on the little camping stove and watching the small dripping coffee is mediation itself.
This morning I got out of the tent around 6:30am and went to the dock. The mist was still on the waters, and I was glad about my extra layer as the air was still very chilled. I was impressed how warm our combination of sleeping pads with a fleece blanket as our ground protection and one opened up sleeping bag and a thin wool blanket as our top covers held us during the night. Thoughts went through my head while I started to bounce on my feet before going into the deep stretches I have started doing every morning before breakfast for 3 weeks now. Although it’s just 15 minutes it takes the stiffness and small pains away from the night and also the many thoughts I use to wake up to.
I breathed in and just when I did the first long stretch there he was. Silently gliding by along the canal and gone as fast as he had appeared between the trees. My first kingfisher. Vibrant blue and orange. It kept me smiling for the whole day.
After our breakfast we broke camp and decided to walk the 2 1/2 hours to the train station instead of waiting the next 3 hours for the bus to take us there in 10 minutes. The walk took us along more canals and through the light green trees of spring before we stopped at a pond for a short lunch break. Just 3 days out of the city made us feel anew. And you silently ask yourself why are we going back again?
There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.Henry David Thoreau