travel: Swimming in Berlin Lakes
If you're in Berlin during the summer season, one nice thing to do is to swim in a few different lakes over different days. This gives a small sense of adventure and is rewarding in that the lakes have quite different characters. The three chosen here are all reachable by public transport plus half an hour or so of walking. They are also all in the "C" transport zone, making the tickets relatively inexpensive.
Wandlitz and Wandlitzsee
Take U2 out to Pankow, get a train to Karow, and change there to a small train that will take you to Wandlitz.
At Wandlitz, at the end of the platform is a road. Go right, and walk through suburban houses set amidst gardens and trees until you see a park on your left. Go into it and straight on until you meet a major path crossing it and turn left and a little way down you will see the lake on your right and a path going closer. The nice spot right here is on a little peninsula right across from you. It has wide lawns and a cute little beach with a jetty, and a food place. Everything is nice and low key. This place used to be the dacha of the East German head, one Herr Ulbricht.
The water here is beautiful and clear and you can see little fishies swimming around at your feet, and the smell of trees and water is wonderful as well. The locals might even be friendly if you ask a question or two. Looking around, there are hardly any buildings to be seen and so you get the feeling of being in the deepest countryside.
A nice thing to do after your swim and sunbathe is to walk to Wandlitsee for your dinner. Best to ask the way as the unmarked paths are hard to describe. You walk through a lovely little wood and past small picturebook farms for maybe 25 minutes or so, and then you're in the town of Wandlitsee. On the lake, on your right, opposite the train station, is an Italian restaurant and there's a balcony right on the lake where you can guzzle some wine and eat the likes of calamari, and admire the sunset. The food is passable but the combination is really very nice and you will have worked up a good appetite with your swim and walks.
After dinner, walk 2 minutes to the train station and go back to Berlin!
Potsdam is about 20 minutes or so from Berlin Hauptbanhof. Once at Potsdam grab a tourist map to orientate yourself and either set off on foot across the bridge and through town and then to your right, or try and figure out the impossibly badly signed and tourist-unfriendly bus and tram station behind the rail station.
Once at the lake, walk around towards the far end - that's the official swimming spot though you can see lots of people swimming in the places marked with 'no swimming' signs. You'll go past the Marmorpalais which was built by Frederik William II of Prussia as a summer house and you have a nice view of this from the swimming spot which is at the end of the lake.
The first thing you'll find is a lot of people with no clothes. If this isn't your thing, then just go a little further around. The water here isn't as nice as Wandlitzsee but the lovely view makes up for it.
Nearby is the house built for Crown Prince Wilhelm and Crown Princess Cecilie. It was the last palace built by the Hohenzollerns and was built between 1912 and 1917. It is a great rambling mock-tudor structure which has a great deal of charm. There's a hotel in there as well but book early as the place is frequently full. Relexa Hotels
Looking for dinner after your swim, the best (well, only) bet is to head into town and in the Dutch Quarter you'll find a lot of small restaurants and cafes. Lapis Lazuli is not too expensive and the food reputed to be OK.
And then back to Postdam Hauptbanhof and back to Berlin.
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This is the simplest to get to and just involves getting on an S-Bahn train going east to Friedrichshagen (S3). Turn right when you get out of the station and walk right through what obviously looks like the center of the town. The town is quite picturesque and has been a favored summer watering spot for quite some years.
Once you get to the end of the street, the lake is just over the top of the buildings at the end so wiggle your way around to your left and you'll find yourself lakeside. There is a tunnel there and you can go under the river to the other side. There are a variety of spots just around there for a swim. We went to the right and had a swim off a tiny beach in what was technically the Spree river. Sailing and tourist boats were going past and it was very nice, but again, Wandlitz won in terms of water quality and nice smells.
There is a long smooth path around the lake from here which is good for bikes and inline skates. In the summer it is mostly shaded by the thick woods which might be nice on a hot day but which is frustrating if you're actually seeking the sun. About 2 or so kilometres around there looks to be a nice beach that catches the late afternoon sun but we didn't get that far.
For dinner afterwards, there are some over-priced places about so you're best off heading back into Berlin which is 20 or so minutes away.
There are many more possibilities for day swims by train and with a car hugely more. The next on the list might for example be Wannsee, which is close to Potsdam and is close to the train line.
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