Spreewald: A trip to the lakes and forests
There's lots of fun to be had in the Spreewald. The area offers a whole host of activities for sports fans, recreation seekers, those interested in culture and nature lovers. A weekend trip allows you to get to know the countryside better – either on foot, by canoe or by bike.
by Jo Graff
About the region
The Spreewald is situated in the south-eastern part of the federal state of Brandenburg and is an expansive woodland region crisscrossed by the river Spree and its many branches. With its unspoilt countryside, numerous leisure activities and small towns and villages, the Spreewald is considered one of the most popular travel destinations in eastern Germany. The biggest town in the Spreewald is Lübben which has a population of around 14,000. The region is worth visiting at any time of year. The Spreewald is perhaps most famous for its pickled gherkins, but culinary specialities are not the only thing the region has to offer!
The Spreewald is just 100 kilometres from Berlin and Dresden. The region is well served by public transport, with trains running from Berlin to Lübbenau, for example, every 30 minutes. The journey takes just under an hour.
For nature lovers
For over 20 years, the Spreewald has been a UNESCO biosphere reserve with its rich plant and wildlife. Covering an area of 475 square kilometres with a 300-kilometre network of navigable waterways, the Spreewald is a wonderful place to explore. The best way for nature lovers to discover the region is via the many canals. Numerous boathouses and punting stations rent out kayaks and canoes for around 20 euros a day. It's best to start your trip early in the morning before it gets too hot.
In Lübbenau, you can take a leisurely stroll to the harbour and rent a boat from there. Get hold of a map and off you go on your tour of the canals. An ideal place to take a break after 3.5 kilometres is the adventure island Wotschofska, where trees are over 30 metres tall, or Lehde, the "Venice of the Spreewald" (after five kilometres). You'll need a whole day for this tour. It's best to go from Lübbenau via Lehde to Wotschofska. Depending on how fit you are, this takes between one and two hours.
The cheapest form of accommodation is camping. There's one campsite in Lübbenau where you can pitch a tent for five euros a night.
The next day, continue your journey by bike. With altogether 1,000 kilometres of flat cycle paths and hiking trails, there is something for recreational bikers and seasoned cyclists alike. Bikes can be hired for around seven euros a day. There are several rental firms in Lübbenau, one of them directly at the station.
The "Gurkenradweg" (literally: gherkin cycle path) is a good choice for a one-day tour. The full route is 260 kilometres long and passes right through the Spreewald. You always follow the gherkin signs. One 15-kilometre-long tour takes you to lake Briesensee where you can swim in the lake and relax in the sun. There are lots of beaches and bathing spots in the Spreewald. And maybe you'll strike lucky: in the summer, many towns and villages organise traditional town festivals and so-called "Schützenfeste", or shooting fairs. If you're in Lübbenau in the first week of July, for example, you'll witness all kinds of festivities and celebrations.
If you want to explore the Spreewald more extensively, you can cycle the entire length of the "Gurkenradweg". This takes between five and eight days. If it's action you're looking for, visit the student city of Cottbus with its pubs, cosy cafés and the PolkaBeats Festival. And another tip for food connoisseurs: Spreewald linseed oil, also known as liquid gold, is produced in the historical windmill in Straupitz (admission: 3.50 euro plus linseed oil tasting).
If you don't fancy paddling on your own, join one of the traditional Spreewald punting tours. Tours of different lengths are offered, from between one and eight hours. Watch out for special theme trips, such as night-time punting trips, summer concerts or winter trips, that are regularly organised.
Interview with Victor from Denmark
26-year-old Victor is a passionate canoeist. Familiar only with routes in Denmark and northern Germany, the student from Copenhagen has now explored the Spreewald.
What did you do on your day-trip in the Spreewald?
"I got up early to catch the train at half past seven from Berlin's Ostbahnhof to Lübbenau. I'd booked a paddle boat for me and my girlfriend the day before. We walked 15 minutes or so from the station to the water. We went along small and bigger canals, and at midday, we stopped off at the village of Leipe. There are a few restaurants there that aren't too expensive right next to the water. It can be quite tiring paddling all day, especially when it's over 30 degrees. That's why we stayed in the village until it cooled down a bit. We took a different route back to Lübbenau. In the evening, we explored the town a bit. It was a long day and we fell asleep during the train journey back to Berlin."
What did you particularly like about the Spreewald?
"Oh, there are lots of things. One thing I particularly liked is that you can get out of Berlin so easily and quickly. Within just an hour, you can escape the busy city and be here in the idyllic Spreewald – it's amazing. The countryside is really beautiful and as a passionate canoeist, it's great to be able to explore the area in a canoe. I also loved the many branches of the Spree. You can often leave the main river and head off into the woods along smaller canals. I also liked the different locks and tributaries. I haven't come across locks like that on canoe tours in my home country. Having to work was quite a novelty."
Do you have any advice for other students who want to spend a day here?
"In the summer, my only advice is: take some good insect repellent with you! Otherwise the trip can turn into a nightmare. Apart from that, I'd maybe recommend combining a canoe and bike or hiking tour. A whole day on the water can be pretty tiring for an inexperienced canoeist. If you're walking or cycling, it's easier to take a break and find a nice spot in the wood. There aren't many places where you can stop off with a canoe."