It's funny, I have already spent 10 years driving practically everyday. This is common as an American. It is not common in Berlin.
I loved driving when I started at 16, taking my Bronco II - named Charlie - too fast around turns. Some of my best teenage memories are just driving with Charlie. It was my first love affair. But eventually, Charlie had to be put down and driving just got old. I relied on Ian for driving once we lived together, but still had to commute to work, waiting for the Ballard bridge to come down and Seattle traffic to unjam. I was pleased to switch to U-Bahn, S-Bahn, tram, bus, bike, and leg in Berlin. I hardly miss the car.
BUT (of course there's a but) we have some amazing friends with a car. The best of both worlds! They suggested a camping trip in the Spreewald. Camping is one thing I do miss like mad and so we eagerly utilized Ian's German skills to call & see if any sites were available.
Ian: "Are there any camping spots available this weekend?"
Campsite: (laugh) "No."
Ian: "Are there any camping spots available in the coming weeks?"
Campsite: "No, there are no spots for the rest of the year!"
Oh. That's why I don't camp here. I guess it's not surprising, they're German after all. There's an old joke that Germans are first to the shaded chairs at the beach. Each day you get up earlier and they are already there, putting on their sunscreen and preparing for the sun to come up.
So - daytrip? Off we went to Lübbenau.
It does, however, have a bad ass forest with a canal system that would make Amsterdam jealous. We wanted to boat.
|The Engs - the friends with a car! (Not their only wonderful attribute) And Ian.|
...and immediately into the side of the canal. We were pretty tragic as we took off, bumper boating off of either side. I am pretty sure the boat rental regretted not getting a deposit. We had been outfitted with helpful maps of routes and had opted for the 2 hour path. Canals were clearly marked (there was literally a Suez Canal) and as we slowly got the paddle/rudder situation under control (no thanks to Ian - he was seriously sending us careening into other boats/reeds with his rudder work) we slowly made our way around.
It was truly beautiful. And tiring! After an hour we all agreed the boats could easily be improved with a tiny motor, just for the slow parts. It's a canal, not a river, so all motion is of your own. Although the canals were busy (passing was hazardous, especially with the big commercial boats) there were long stretches where it felt like we were decades from any kind of civilization.
Ian & Kirstie, our compatriots, told us the canals freeze in the winter and work as bike routes. Wahnsinn! I am torn between wanting to try it, and imagining my fall from bike onto ice in slow motion. Each boat cost us 11 euros for about 2 hours by canoe. Not bad!
The town is also famous for its pickles and we learned another peculiarity about the English.They don't eat pickles (they called them gherkin) by themselves. They said they had them on sandwiches and such, but never just bit into one. Maybe I've been outta the US for too long, but I swear that almost every sandwich comes with a big fatty side of dill pickle (ohhhh! Katz's Delicatessen in NYC). We sampled classic pickle, garlic pickle, and even a horseradish pickle. I also picked up some apple flavored horseradish.
A delightful trip on all fronts. There are many more pics of us being ridiculous, but sadly missed snapping the drunk teen passed out in a boat, or the middle aged couple that got dumped in the water trying to get out.
So, Ian and Kirstie- where to next?
If you prefer interesting facts, history and stories to my self-indulgent meanderings (who doesn't), check out Ian's blog, A Year in Berlin. These Manchester transplants have been in Berlin for well over a year now and have explored some of the more unusual sides of the city and beyond.