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A man reading on a self-drive boat
19 May 2016

A barge holiday in Germany: between lakes and open countryside in the heart of Mecklenburg

I’ve always admired intrepid travellers who aren’t afraid to brush up against nature in its raw state, virtually untouched by man. The exploits of David Henry Thoreau, Christopher McCandless and Sylvain Tesson have long been a source of fascination for me.

And taking time out from society for a contemplative experience can only be a good thing, in an age where everything moves so fast. Which is why, to everybody’s surprise, I decided to get away from it all for seven days on a boat in the Mecklenburg lake district. You may be wondering what this has to do with those heroes of mine that I mentioned earlier? Quite simply, the Mecklenburg lake district is very wild and you can go for days hardly meeting another living soul.

It all started on Friday 30 April 2016. After completing all the arrangements to ensure a hassle-free boat trip, we left Fürstenberg at 14:00, heading south to the lock at Regow. Locaboat’s sales team had recommended we go there to discover the Ziegenkäserei Capriolenhof farm. Excellent advice! So on the second day we ate our meal in this special place, untouched by time; probably one of our best memories. Here you can enjoy some superb goat’s cheeses, and legs of kid cooked over the owner’s wood fire.



With our spirits high and our bellies full, we set off again. We headed for Fürstenberg, to start going north from the Locaboat base. After sailing for about an hour, we stopped to spend the night in the middle of a lake and enjoy our first night cut off from the world. The following day, refreshed, we reached the Neustrelitz marina. To be honest, we didn’t fall for its charms; the great empty spaces and the architecture live up to the image you have in your mind of East Germany.  We didn’t stay long; we turned back and made for the middle of another lake as fast as possible.

The next day we lifted anchor at 8:30 and made for Rheinsberg. After several hours’ sailing we reached the marina when the sun was at its height. A far cry from the austerity of our previous stop, we were instantly captivated by the palace that stands proudly at the edge of the lake. We went into the town and decided to choose a restaurant at random for something to eat. After a generous meal we set off for the palace, and as we strolled along we discovered a wine shop and a butcher’s on Mühlenstrasse next to the palace. We stocked up on wine and würsts (sausages), the region’s second delicious speciality. German wine may not be spectacular, but it makes a good alternative to beer.



After the day’s excursion, we headed for the lake next to Lake Rheinsberg. We decided to moor up behind a little island to shelter from the wind. It wasn’t long before we were joined by a huge number of birds, and as the sun went down they gave us one of the most beautiful sights we saw on this holiday.



The rest of our cruise was fantastic: going through a storm at Mirow, gazing in wonder at the vastness of Lake Müritz, bathing at Canow (yes really, on Thursday 5 May, with temperatures close to 26 degrees). It was an unforgettable trip for the whole crew. All through the journey we took time to savour each minute as it slid by, because don’t forget, when you rent a self-drive boat, the journey is the destination.



ADVICE FOR THOSE PLANNING A TRIP

A few logistical and practical considerations. Sailing on lakes is slightly different from sailing on canals: it’s virtually impossible to stop along the bank. You have two options: to moor up using your anchor, or to use the nautical term, ‘drop anchor’, or to moor up at the pontoon of a marina. Also, the sheer number of lakes dotted around the Mecklenburg district makes it easy to get lost; so it’s absolutely essential to have the “guide fluvial” or navigation guide, provided by Locaboat. This will help you to stay on course, to correctly interpret the various markers (three different ones) that you’ll see on the lakes and to find the various marinas that are dotted along your route. Lastly, to avoid disappointment, be aware that very few shops and businesses accept non-German bank cards, so make sure you have cash, and very few people speak English, so don’t forget to take a little dictionary with you if you won’t have internet access abroad. To add to these few clarifications, here’s a more cheering one: don’t forget your swimsuit, even at the beginning of May, we were able to go for a swim. 

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