Berlin H2O East
The time to travel to the German capital is now! After enduring a long and icy winter, Berlin comes to life with temperatures rising above 20°C (68°F). My timing is perfect as I arrive in the first days of summer. The rise in temperature creates the biggest outdoor party in Europe. As soon as the sun comes out, the festivities start on and around the many waterways and idyllic lakes of Berlin.
I decide to get my feet wet in the East part of the German capital. My first stop is in Oberschoenweide. Hidden behind a modern Aral gas station, you’ll have to look hard to find a small marina that houses about 10 people, all living on various boats and in vacation cottages. After getting 20 liters of petrol, we set out on a friend’s wooden boat, floating along the banks of the river Spree toward the center of Berlin. With the sun above us and the wind blowing in our faces, living on a small 2×7 meter boat sounds really romantic. After hearing about the icy temperatures of the past winter, I am not so sure if that is really the way to go year round. Our guide, Captain Matse (maddias @ yahoo.de) points out a homemade heating device that would scare almost anybody I know.
Within minutes we arrive at the Kranhaus Cafe, housed in a structure from communist Germany that had been abandoned after the collapse of the wall. The structure is a steel crane sitting on top of a 3-story building, all of which has been beautifully restored by its current owner. It is easy to find by boat, but hidden from the main roads. They offer great German food and will barbecue on weekends after 3pm, if weather permits.
Near the small but exclusive peninsula of Stralau I see something very familiar to me:
It’s a boat named after the marina. I have not seen the gorgeous Swiss-made boat, Stralau, since my wedding day last September, when I got married on board. I could write an entire article about our special day, but will save that report for later. The Stralau offers space for up to 80 people and has a great modern feel to it. For smaller and greener events check out their very stylish solar-powered boat the “Solon C60”. It runs on solar energy alone. Learn more at schiffskontor.de.
Just around the corner and next to the small Island of Berlin-Treptow, a red airplane catches my attention, since it’s floating nicely near other boats. Turns out, it’s the take-off and return point for private flights that can be booked on air-service-berlin.de.
They use the river as their runway and their short flights offer a spectacular bird’s eye views of Berlin while passengers are invited to enjoy a luxurious bottle of champagne. Trips can include a lunch drop off by plane at Castle Hubertushoehe. Unfortunately, we don’t have time go airborne but continue on towards the city’s center. Still in the east part of town, we enjoy a spectacular view of the Berlin’s skyline: The “Alex” (the tall TV tower and most prominent symbol of the Berlin skyline) appearing behind the famous “Oberbaum Bruecke”—Yes, that is where red haired “Lola” runs across the double-decker bridge that used to divide East and West Berlin.
Just before we arrive at the overpass, the boat makes a swift turn to the left. I can’t believe my eyes! We have reached the Badeschiff— Berlin’s most unusual swimming pool. It’s created from a recycled river cargo container and now floats on the river Spree. The small 32m by 8m pool is kept at a comfortable 24°C (75°F). We try to get in close, but are reminded to keep off the alluring, turquoise container, or pay the cover charge. For only Euro 4 you can enjoy a healthy swim, or lean back and relax in one of their many lounge chairs.
The Badeschiff is located next to the Arena and the MS Hoppetosse. We ignore the “Do not Enter” signs for boats and head straight down a small branch of the river. Berlin’s coolest outdoor lounge and restaurant is ahead of us. It’s the Freischwimmer, with an ever expanding deck. Across the river you’ll find the “Club der Visionaire”. You must sample the tasty menu at the Freischwimmer, which includes american-asian-european fusion food. Just a quick walk across the channel on “Puschkin Allee” you’ll reach Club der Visionaere. Here you can relax riverside on a large outdoor area that includes floats in the summer. You can also snack on Italian-style pizza while listening to DJ Ritchie Hawtin or Ricardo Villalobos.
After turning the boat around, we head further towards the city center and West Berlin. After passing the iconic Oberbaumbruecke, the largest, still-standing segment of the Berlin Wall is to our right (eastsidegallery.com). It is a 1.3km-long section of the wall near the center of Berlin. Approximately 106 paintings by artists from all over the world cover this memorial for freedom and make it the largest open-air gallery in the world.
Within minutes we arrive at a cluster of man-made beach bars and night clubs. First we try the Osttrand Bar followed by Bar 25 and we recognize Kiki Blofeld across the river. All these wonderful beach clubs in the center of Berlin are temporary—sand is brought in from outside the city to create each beach. Some people describe them as “summertime neverlands” where Berlin’s vibrant culture still exists. Eventually the day will come when those clubs with Spreeside dancefloors, crazy circus tents and swings strung from trees will close for good, to make room for more office buildings and hotels.
This is where “bar-hopping” takes on a whole other meaning. Matse tells me that there are many people who strip down, put their party outfits in plastic bags, and swim across the roughly 100m (300 yards) to check out another party’s vibe.
Get yourself to Berlin quickly, because summer has arrived! Don’t forget to pack your swim trunks and a zip lock bag for your nightly commute around Berlin’s unique bars.