This is a great day trip when you're tired of Berlin's eternal hipness and just want to go look at some red squirrels in the woods and take a swim in a lake. It's also dirt cheap if you get the timing right.
You get the S-Bahn to Wannsee - it's a suburb in the south-west of the city. Come out of Wannsee station and cross over to the ferry port. Here you'll see a load of tourist boats, but also the 'BVG-fähre' boat to Kladow, a workaday ferry which leaves on the hour. So if you're lucky your S-Bahn ticket will still be valid and you can just hop on.
The ferry journey lasts about 20mins and takes you past an intriguing resort called Strandbad Wannsee - all 1920s architecture and neat rows of sunshades. You can imagine the flappers of the Weimar era frolicking there in their droves.
On arriving at Kladow you could take a right and follow the path into the woods - we did, and spotted a vivid red squirrel within minutes, which put us nicely in the zone for the rest of the day.
Once you're in the woods, and the parks and lakes beyond, you can just idle about the place and you are bound to find something to capture your imagination - for us it was a quick swim in the lake (there are a few sandy shores here and there), coming across an old orchard of gnarly apples and finding a dilapidated house that was once home to the Mendelssohn family.
Back at the bar on the shore by the ferry you can order some potato soup, wash it down with some Weisse beer and let the ubiquitous sparrow population entertain you. Then you can wind you way back to the hipster capital of the world a little less world weary.
The travel for the whole day cost us less than €5 as I recall, which made the wanderings even more carefree.
I wanted to find a pretty German lake for a swim on a sunny day, and Wandlitz was the obvious answer. But however hard I looked online I couldn’t find the answers to any of my questions, or even find the train station on google maps, so here goes…
To swim in the lake get on a train from Berlin Karow and get off at Wandlitzsee, and almost opposite the train station is a lido in the lake. It costs about two Euro to get in and there’s grassy banks, the lido, but also access to swim in the whole lake, rowing boats, diving boards, food and drink and lots of German families.
If you don’t want to go to the main public part of the lake try heading to the right as you approach the lido and take the path round, every so often there are areas you can access the lake for a swim, have a picnic, or just enjoy the peace and quiet.
This is all within Berlin zone C so easy to get to, and only about 15mins from Karow. We took a picnic and asked the woman in the boat hire to look after our things while we went for a swim which she was more than happy to do, but most people just left their belongings and as with everywhere else I went in Berlin you never really got the feeling that anything would get stolen.
Apparently it takes about three hours to walk round the whole lake but it was far too hot to even consider attempting that. And apparently the town is quite pretty, but I was desperate for Kaffee und Kuchen and so bi-passed that and headed back to the city.
Highlights? Watching the many varied attempts of people falling head first, feet first, and far too often belly first off the diving boards into the lake; and just swimming in a huge, calm, clean (although not quite crystal clear) stretch of water.
One of Germany's most beautiful natural areas is only an hour and a half by train from Berlin's Hauptbahnhof. The Spree Forest is laced with lakes and canals channelled from the Spree River hundreds of years ago. There are barges with guides for a relaxing glide through the forest, or canoes for a more energetic exploration. The local dill, mustard and herb-flavoured gherkins taste good with locally smoked fish sandwiches. There are plenty of paths for walking and cycling, and there's hot-air ballooning if the weather is right. A glass of refreshing Lübbenauer Babbenbier is the traditional way to end the day before heading home.
I lived in a university guest house behind the scenes in the gardens a while back and spent hours each day wandering around. The most fascinating walk takes you through the northern hemisphere temperate zones, starting with swamp cypress from the south-eastern US through Japan and China and onwards, ending with a typical German beech wood near the northern exit.
It's a fantastic and beautiful lake in Berlin-Zehlendorf, 20 minutes from Charlottenburg. You can swim in it, and the cafe is a very trendy place that's popular with Berliners at the weekend.
U-station Schlachtensee, Am Schlachtensee, Zehlendorf, Berlin, 14163
Magical island near Wannsee, reachable only by ferry (€2). Gardens, fountains, fake ruins, peacocks … (in May big patches of Lily of the Valley). Afterwards (with your back to the water), go right up into the woods and have supper on the terrace of the Blockhaus Nikolskoe. Built in the style of a Russian Dacha, you can watch the sun set over the island. Alternatively, go left and down from the bus stop to a picturesque river beach with willow trees.
Pfaueninselchaussee 14109, Berlin-Zehlendorf; Tel: 80 58 68 30
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