“I am sailing, I am sailing, home again ‘cross the sea. I am sailing, stormy waters, to be near you, to be free.” Accompanied by Rod Stewart’s voice our boat floats along the Spree. The sun is shining, Katja is behind the steering wheel and I turn the music up a little more before climbing up on the boat’s roof. Passing captains wave at us, every now and then we get a smile from experienced sailors or other cruise rookies. By the time we play along the saxophone solo of “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty on our air-saxophones we are the biggest stars on the water.
Well to be honest, it’s not us drawing all the attention, but our “wheels” as we chartered a red wooden houseboat from Wasserkutsche in Berlin.

3 years ago the idea of rental electrical houseboats in Berlin was born by Jan Rademacher, after consulting with his friends about what kind of cool and original service Berlin still misses. So what’s the original thing about Wasserkutsche? 1. Jan has built his houseboats from scratch and by hand, and 2. as the boats run with an electric engine they are eco-friendly and noiseless.

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Originating in the business of restoring boats building his own ones was just one small step away for Jan. This little step is called design and was provided by the US-American naval architect Philip Thiel. Jan slightly adjusted the plans and got started. Today, three years later, Wasserkutsche has a fleet of four small and one big boat – all similar, but each with individual interior and distinguished by exterior color. Wasserkutsche’s dock and office is situated at the Spree right behind Oberbaumbrücke – a central starting point for a cruise on Berlin’s plentiful waterways. Getting away from the overcrowded urban lifestyle was only one of the intentions for Jan to start this business. If people would know what’s right outside the doorstep of Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain they would go there more often.

From the jetty at Oberbaumbrücke there are several ways to go. Unfortunately the inner parts of the Spree are closed to boats with such a small engine, but routes lead to the east towards Müggelsee and further, or through the channels of Kreuzberg and Neukölln all the way south to Wannsee.
We choose a tour which can easily be done in two days. Navigating was quite easy as no “driver’s license” is needed for a Wasserkutsche and the library in our boat provided good map of the lakes, rivers and channels of Berlin. We made our way down the Spree, turned right on Dahme, sailed past a rowing regatta training camp (well actually they were faster and row past us as we went with only about 4mph) and arrived at our destination for the night: Seddinsee. This beautiful lake’s edge is surrounded by forest and nature preserve areas, but there’s a marina in the village at the southeast end of the lake where you can recharge your engine over night. However as long as you don’t go too fast, your battery should last for the whole of the way and you can spend the night either in the middle of the lake or inside a small protected bay as we did: entertaining neighbors, a visit by a swan family, an amazing sunset over the water, a picnic on the roof and a bonfire at night included!

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On our way back to Berlin we stopped at Dämeritzsee for lunch at Kellings Schifferstube which also rents out canoes and paddle boats for only 6€ per hour. A quick look at Katja and we were settled with a canoe for two hours, ready to explore romantic Gosener Graben – a real adventure! Compared to the regulated Gosener Canal right next to it this creek’s shore is covered in wild nature, water lilies float on the surface and even if a sudden rain shower comes down there’s plenty of big trees providing shelter for the weary paddler.

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Before heading back to the crowded city we got one more glimpse at the hidden beauty of Berlin’s suburbs: New Venice, a residential area east of Müggelsee. Here the river Spree is separated into five channels which are lined up with beautiful weekend houses, impressive estates or simply luscious gardens. Every resident seems to own a yacht, a boat or a kayak. Suddenly we feel even further away from home, is this really still Berlin?

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Whenever you plan a trip to Berlin again decide on spending a day outside the city. The water-surrounded suburbs have so much to offer! Get in touch with Wasserkutsche (they have an online booking form), you can rent a boat for a single day or a whole week. The four regular boats sleep up to four people (bigger groups will have to bring tents) and are equipped with two gas cooking plates, cutlery and crockery, a fridge, an MP3/CD-Player (don’t forget a cable to connect your mp3-player with), lounge mats, a camping toilet and freshwater. As an extra you can buy additional drinking water and a picnic basket filled with food and drinks for your trip!
Sounds awesome? Let’s go!

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