This summer’s disappointing weather has vacillated between pouring rain and all-consuming heat that leaves you dripping with sweat. Both ways, you end up wet. And not entirely happy.
Perhaps that is why I am casting my eyes outside of Berlin for some summer fun. Sometimes you’ve just got to get out of the city and into the Berlin countryside (or a little further afield). Here are several Berlin day trips with something for every breed of expat or traveler.
For the Nature Lover
Pfaueninsel – “Peacock Island” is a walkable island on a nature reserve in the River Havel. It couldn’t get more peaceful…except for the occasional shriek of a peacock. Yes – real peacocks live on the island! Once the summer escape for Frederick William II (and a haven for his mistress), this island had all the reminders of long-ago decadence. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has a shuttered castle, exotic birds and an air of elegance, all easily reachable by public transport and a very short ferry ride from Berlin.
Spreewald – The “green lung” of Brandenburg features criss-crossing waterways that may be self-navigated by rented canoe (oddly called Kanadier) or on one of the tour boats guided by a punter. If you prefer to make more than a day of the trip, there are several small towns (Lübbenau, Lübben, Burg) to base yourself. After you cruise the canals, don’t forget to pick up a world-famous Spreewälder Gurken.
Liepnitzsee (or the over 100 other lakes in Berlin) – Germans are always on the look-out for the mythical perfect lake. Luckily, the country is dotted with them so there are plenty to sample but Liepnitzsee certainly seems to fit the bill. Clear waters (up to 3 meters), plenty of shade with a few hours to sun and even a large island in the center, Großer Werder, for the athletic sort to swim for.
For the History Buff
Memorial Concentration Camp Sachsenhausen – Some people don’t feel right visiting Germany without seeing a concentration camp firsthand. The Sachsenhausen memorial provides that experience with stark clarity. Visitors may book a tour with companies that whisk you away from Berlin, or wander the grounds on their own.
Memorial Site Hohenschönhausen – Another necessary downer of a historical site, countless interrogations took place in this Stasi prison. Touring the place is downright eerie, like being an extra in The Lives of Others but those things actually happened here.
House of the Wannsee Conference – You would expect the site where the “Final Solution” was rolled out to look a lot more sinister. It looks like a graceful villa on the banks of Wannsee with hordes of happy-bathers along the shores. Now a museum space and officially called Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz Gedenk- und Bildungsstätte, the permanent exhibit traces the timeline of events leading up to the Nazi conference that happened here in 1933.
For the Consummate Traveler
Stettin/Szczecin, Poland – Somehow a Polish city has ended up on the inexpensive Brandenburg-Berlin train ticket. Its complicated history being traded between the two countries certainly has something to do with it, as well as its two names – Stettin in German and Szczecin in Polish. No matter the past, today’s visitors can enjoy the port town’s picturesque promenade, sip on cheap beers and even cheaper vodka and fill up on a hearty meal of pierogies.
Most of these sites are accessible by Berlin’s fabulous public transport system, BVG. Use their route planner to organize your journey.
Places a little further away, like Stettin, are still easy to visit by train. Deutsche Bahn offers a inexpensive Länder-Ticket starting at just 23 euros. This ticket allows up to 5 people to travel anywhere in that state. Seriously – what a deal! Another option is the Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket which again allows up to 5 people to travel anywhere in the county (within a day) for 40 euro. Buy the ticket, get out of the city and see how far you can go.
Clearly, I love a good day trip. Where are your favorite day trips?