Freitag, 27. Juni 2014

Boat tour around Wannsee

When the weather is good, Berlin has an impressive number of places to spend the long days of the summer. From forests and lakes, beaches and bars, you might need a long mild Mediterranean summer to enjoy them all. But it is only a dream, and with so many interesting options, I am faced very often with very difficult choices. As in the previous years I extensively did my share of hiking around the lakes, this time I want to see more of Berlin, and Potsdam, and possible, by sea. After exploring extensively Berlin by boat tour at the beginning of the spring, a couple of months later, I am at Wannsee, ready for a 2-hour sea trip around the lakes bordering the capital city.
We arrived at Wannsee, bought our ticket, with enough time in advance to explore a little bit the area around the small port. A two-hour trip usually costs 16 EUR., with the possibility to buy an open ticket, with stops in various attractions around, including the Peacock Island and Glienicke Palace in Potsdam.  
This green and peaceful part of Berlin was also affected by the separation during the Cold War, and you can follow the Berliner Mauerweg here too, as it used to separate the Western part of Berlin from the Soviet-occupied Potsdam. 
The area around is exclusively residential, with very elegant mansions and residences, often protected by walls of concrete and many cameras. It is not the usual hip Berlin we are used with.
Nearby, a jazz band is creating the ambiance at Loretta beer garden, where I complain enough about the heat for being offered an icecream. Our boat was supposed to arrive in 20 minutes, and we need to run to be sure that we have the best places. 
The big advantage of a boat tour on a very hot day is that in the middle of the sea, you can feel the breeze and mild wind. We took a place on the top of the boat and enjoyed the view, while trying to ignore the intensive smoking of some of our neighbours. 
The tour included mostly Stolpchensee, Kohlhasenbruecke, Glienicke, Moorsee, Teltow Canal, Griebnitzsee, Peacock Island. Together with the forests, the lakes are turning Berlin into one of the most green and clean air capital cities of Europe. The guide is explaining slowly details about the history and architecture of the places we are passing by, while dozen of boats of all sizes and types of comfort are trying to find a proper lane to continue the trip.
But there are also unharmed corners, without houses or too many people. It's not difficult to find your very secret place on the shore for a picnic, followed by a nap in the open air, and a swim after. And to keep up with this schedule as long as nothing bothers you - like an emergency job call or some crazy e-mails to answer. 
While we are running fast from a channel to another, we notice the differences of architecture: from the simple modernist lines of some new constructions, to the old style mansions and traditional half-timbered architecture. We pass near the former villa of Siemens family, the infamous residence where the Wannsee Conference was held or the house where president Trumann spent his time during the Potsdam Conference that put an end to WWII. It seemed that certain areas had clear social borders: here were living the intellectuals, on the other side the big business and tradesmen etc.
Teltow Channel, inaugurated in 1906, played an important role in helping the water transportation routes around Berlin. Nowadays it is used mostly for leisure and tourism, and it has a well preserved natural heritage.
In almost one hour, we are in Potsdam, at the famous Glienicke Brucke, or the spies' bridge, where during the Cold War the Soviet and the Allies used to do the exchange of spies or dissidents. Natan Sharansky, the Jewish Russian dissident saw here the light of freedom on this bridge, after more than 10 years of arrest and exile in Siberia. But times hopefully changed and leisure boats are nonchalantly exchanging welcoming hand waving while crossing under the bridge. 
Two hours of life in the middle of the sea might be almost nothing, compared to the exercise of living effectively by the sea. But there is a certain feeling of calm and happiness that it's impossible not to experience even after a couple of minutes. As much as I love the city life and the days spent hiking, I want to hope that from time to time, I can also appreciate the still life on water. To be continued. 
Check the two videos I made while on the boat tour: here and here.

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