Family Weekend in and around Berlin

We started October with a long weekend here in Germany, one that also happens to be my dear mum’s birthday weekend, so the family (all coming from the 6-hour-drive-away, North-Rhine Westphalia) decided to spend it here in our dear city.

TV-Tower

We, too, as fairly new Berliners, have used this chance to see the places we should have already seen by then. One no-brainer is of course our city’s TV-Tower (Fernsehturm) in Alexanderplatz. It’s hard to miss this famous landmark and even the rest of the family has been to Alexanderplatz many times before but none of us had ever actually made it up the tower. Unfortunately, we have just about picked out the worst weather to go up because it was really foggy and we barely saw anything other than the cloud we were stuck in. I’m not even going to bother with pictures. 🙂

Entrance to TV Tower: 14€ per person

Park Sanssouci – Potsdam

The next day, the sky has cleared up nicely so we went to Sanssouci Park in Potsdam. This one’s a real treat and there’s no entrance fee for the park itself, and it’s HUGE. There are individual fees for each site if you wish to enter them but we just walked around and looked at them from outside.

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We really were in luck with the weather

Himmelspagode – Hohen Neuendorf, Brandenburg

And for more of mum’s birthday celebration, we had a nice feast in Himmelspagode, this enormous Chinese restaurant built in a very unlikely location, in Hohen Neuendorf, Brandenburg.

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Spreewald Kayaking

Having lived for four years so close to this wonderful UNESCO biosphere reserve, the Spreewald, we have come to adapt to some of the traditions of the lower Lusatian people, one of which is the yearly kayaking tour, where it is to be expected to paddle away for hours on end. This year’s excursion was extra special, as we have gathered the family to go out and challenge our upper bodies and, not to mention, our patience in this very exhausting but totally fun activity.

The Spreewald

Lit. Spree Forest – located about 100km outside of Berlin (south-east), it consists of countless small channels that makes kayaking so popular in this area.

Renting your boat

The are plenty of boat rentals in the town of Burg (Spreewald) and its neighbouring villages to choose from. It might be smart, though, to get a reservation especially if you’re in a group and you’d each like a boat of your own. Otherwise, it’s also possible to get one that can accommodate more people, from two up to five. Our rental place of choice was Spreewaldhafen Waldschlößchen. Online booking was easy and the boats were in good shape. We were a group of seven people (including one child), and we got three boats – two duos, one trio. Each boat came with a map of your possible routes with an estimated travel time. The boat handlers were also very helpful in giving tips where it’s best to eat and on how to  plan your tour.

Kayaks (day-rates): 1 trio 30,-€; 2 duos 25,-€ each

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If you even only slightly love nature and are able to stay composed when the occasional spider or dragonfly or whatever jumps on you, then you would definitely survive this place. I mean, it’s not like you can have much of an escape plan anyway if you’re stuck on a boat in the middle of the forest, right? Jumping out will only cause you much more trouble because these waters are not made for swimming – they’re muddy!

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Of course, you get to have a break. There are a few restaurants you may go to for big hearty meals, or even just a cold glass of beer. Pohlenz Schänke has been our go-to place for years. Quick tip: manage your time –  from 14:30 to 18:00, they are serving pancakes! Around here, they are called Hefeplins, a traditional Sorbian dish. They are much like your regular pancakes but they’re made with yeast, so they are thick and chewy and give you just the energy you need for a few more hours of kayaking. We got there a little too early so, instead, we ordered big plates of lunch and searched for another place along the way that serves these pancakes as well.

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Another tip: More like a warning; given the place’s history, these people have been living a pretty simple life and they do not want to see food go to waste! So finish your plate to keep the peace. Trust me, we’ve learned the hard way. 🙂

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I’m sure this is something we will still be doing in the coming years, even after leaving our humble town. It’s a fun activity with friends and family that will leave your muscles aching for days but it’s nonetheless a very relaxing getaway from the busy city. 🙂

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A few more tips for your trip:

  • Zip-lock those gadgets – or pretty much anything you wouldn’t want to get wet! Water splashing on you is simply inevitable.
  • Bring a light jacket – you’ll probably choose a perfectly sunny day for your trip, sure, but it still might get chilly out there, considering you’re on water, in the middle of a forest.
  • Anti-mosquito lotion – for obvious reasons
  • Wear something light, especially for your bottom – sitting in tight jeans might not be very comfortable after a few hours…
  • Your puppy is your best friend? Bring them! – You’re allowed to bring dogs onto your boat, just make sure they are not too scared of water and/or of other dogs that might come their way! You wouldn’t want them to rock the boat so much to the point that it flips!