Germany Holidays: Mecklenburg’s live-aboard waterways

Bucolic, historic, clean and peaceful – that’s boating in Germany’s lake district

There’s a watery world of gentle adventure just north of Berlin which isn’t yet widely known internationally, but which deserves to be. The Mecklenburg Lake District, a region of over a hundred lakes and waterways, is pillowed in the soft woodland and rolling agricultural land of Mecklenburg-Vorpommen.

Mecklenburg’s living waterways, lined with boathouses on stilts, dotted with handsome water-facing towns, villages, and manor houses are the happy hunting ground of Kuhnle Tours, whose fleet based at Hafendorf Müritz is on the southern shore of Lake Müritz, the biggest lake that lies totally within Germany’s borders. KuhnleTours’s well-equipped self-drive cabin cruisers hum across the open water, tying up alongside quays in pretty lakeside towns to go shopping or sightseeing, and then setting off later in search of discreet reed-fringed overnight anchorages where only coots and moorhens disturb the peace.

Summer weather here is usually pleasingly warm, but not too hot. And the water is very clean, quite unlike the French canal system, meaning that most boat-hirers become regular lake-swimmers, too.

On the waterfront

The attraction of Kuhnle-Tours’s cabin-cruiser holidays is the relaxed, unhurried tempo, getting in tune with the rhythm of life on the water. But there’s lots to see on the land, too. To the south of Müritz there’s Mirow, with a castle-island which was once the birthplace of Queen Sophie-Charlotte, who married into the British royal family (and was later played by Helen Mirren in the Madness of King George). There is Zechlin, with its very pretty little gem of a village-surrounded lake, where vegetable gardens stretch down to the water’s edge. There is Rheinsberg, with its Schloss built by his father for Crown Prince Friedrich, who apparently ‘felt very little love for the female species’ but was forced to marry Elizabeth von Braunschweig and to live in this idyllic love-nest whilst hating every minute of it. And then there’s Ravensbrück, the sobering former concentration camp which is a monument to the lesser-known side of the Nazi era; for women were incarcerated, too.

Most towns and villages have landing stages and facilities provided for boat-based holidaymakers who want to come ashore to buy provisions. Many also have a waterside fish-smokery where you can buy char, eel and trout at very inexpensive prices. Some of it is caught by village fishermen, who work traditional stake net systems out in the lakes, and are still very much a part of this living landscape.

Kuhnle-Tours’s boats, which come in all sizes and budgets, offer access to all this and more, but without need for a specific boating license. And the company’s reach extends right across the region, well beyond Hafendorf Müritz, with another base to the west at the grand old city of Schwerin, allowing access to the lakes and waterways of the Müritz-Elde-Waterway, a bucolic backwater of a watery system that ultimately links Berlin with Hamburg. And from its third base at Zeuthen, on Berlin’s southeastern edge, Kuhnle-Tours also gives customers a rare opportunity: the experience of travelling around the German capital by boat.

Looking for more? See other destinations in Eastern Germany

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