Postcard from the Edge of a Duck

This adventure centered on the area of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, about 80 km north of Berlin for week-long boating trip. We set off for the 770 km long drive at 5:45 a.m. and then again at 6:45 a.m. after returning to pick up that critical bag with passports, tickets and money.

The journey was uneventful, but we realized we may have packed a little too much when we arrived at the marina. There were about 12 crews vying to be the first on their boats and, as since most of us were boating virgins, we stood back to watch and wait.

Most groups made a single journey from car to boat, transporting all luggage with a small blue cart provided for this purpose. Making our 3rd journey, and filling the cart to bursting point, I had to wonder if we really needed all this paraphernalia. Other crews had a few garment bags and a lot – and I mean a lot – of alcohol. We, on the other hand, seemed to have put a greater emphasis on making the boat more homely as we unpacked the fruit bowl, downy pillows, table cloth, ships mascot (the stuffed cat Pilchard), comfy slippers, After Eight mints and bizarrely a turquoise feather boa (in case it got cold on deck). Still, we had booked the boat one size up so we could have a separate “morning room”, which proved useful for some extra storage.

After a rather too brief introduction to the boat and check of our driving licenses, we were handed the key, shown how to start the engine, the way the pump-action toilets worked and given an emergency telephone number if something went really wrong (which we only had to use once when bilge-pump went crazy). And with that we glided majestically out of the harbor.

Actually, “glided majestically” may be a bit of an over-statement. The boat was pretty big 12 meters long and 4 meters wide and not that easy to maneuver, as we quickly discovered. Getting out of our tight berth meant much hysterical shouting and running backwards and forwards to see if we had hit anything, but we finally made it to the waterway. This state of affairs repeated itself going under our first bridge and through our first lock.

From then on, if you pardon the pun, it was plain sailing. A roster was created so that everyone got a chance to play captain and we lazily cruised the area stopping off here and there for afternoon tea, to go for a swim or enjoy an afternoon snooze. The area is really popular with boats as it offers and idyllic mix of small lakes and canal ways, coupled with a plethora of wildlife.

Most of the wildlife was fascinating to look at, interesting ducks, herons, owls and other ornithological delights. Wildlife in the evening was a different matter. Anchoring the boat in a quite spot for the night, we would prepare good fare, and enjoy it on deck together with a swarm of little white flies, wasps or mosquitoes depending on our berth. These annoyances were quickly banished when the bats came out, streaking across the bright starry the sky – seemingly just inches from our heads.

During the day we would occasionally stop off at a small town to seek out provisions or check out the local attractions. This whole area used to part of the old communist East Germany so attractions are few and far between. This became abundantly clear when, in order to attract customers, a restaurant we passed had a big sign “Restaurant, with Television!” Other enticements included Europe’s longest batik wall-hanging in a church and the 2nd German home of Father Christmas in the town of Himmelspfort (heaven’s gate).

I was, however, moved visiting the ex-Ravensbrück concentration camp. This was the only concentration camp purely for women and 130,000 were imprisoned here, including 11 British POWs, making uniforms for the German army. Despite the ravage of years, the buildings left standing and the displayed life stories of many of the women were very touching.

Sadly the week drew to a close. The sunshine continued to beat down on us as we, now expertly, navigated through the final locks to return to the Wolfsbruch marina. We had used almost all of the paraphernalia we had bought, enjoyed excellent meals and harmony still reigned supreme on the boat.

If you have some good friends and want to spend a week on a really relaxing holiday, this is highly recommended – remember no internet, no newspapers, no e-mail. Checkout for more information.

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