The mysterious water forest: Spreewald in Germany

In my previous post about Augustusburg and Falkenlust Palace I mentioned, that there is far more to see in Germany than the typical tourist destinations. In this post I would like to introduce the second destination: Spreewald.

Spreewald can be translated as Spree Woods. The Spree is a river in the eastern part of Germany, originating close to the Czech border and flowing northwards to Cottbus and Berlin, where the Spree joins the Havel. Between Cottbus and Berlin the river developes a unique wetland landscape. The main river splits into many smaller river arms which have been artificially extended into smaller canals, so-called Fließe. There are more than 200 of these canals and the total length of the river system is 1575 km. Besides the unique landscape and nature, the area is also famous as unique cultural landscape.

In the Spreewald area people of the ethnic group Sorbs are living. They are descendants of a Slavic tribe, and have preserved the traditional language, customs and clothing until today. When you are in the area, you will notice that everything is written in two languages: German and Sorbian. Also the way of living is quite special. Large parts of the Spreewald are only accessible by boat. There are only a few streets and most of the daily life has to be managed by using the canals. Nearly everything is transported by boat. Even the postman brings the mail with a boat, or the trash is collected with a boat. It can be compared a little bit to Venice in Italy. But Spreewald is the calm and natural version.

From a culinary perspective, this place is well-known for its so-called Spreewald gherkins. The soil and climate in this area gives the gherkins a special taste. Also the way of processing by fermentation in large barrels and adding herbs and spices, gives them a distinct taste.

To me the best thing to do is a boat tour, either with the big boats or by yourself in a canoe. Exploring the villages and the forest is like entering another world: quiet, peaceful, and sometimes magic. I hope that my photos can give an impression of this place. Of course the best is, to go there for one day and experience the place.

Our boat is getting ready. These are the typical boats used for a tour in the Spreewald.

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One of the typical houses in the Spreewald. Many of them can be rented as summer cottage.

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Having a break with the typical Spreewald gherkins. The light green, almost whitish, gherkin had a sweet taste and was of soft consistency. The big one was very sour and also of soft consistency. And the smaller one behind the big sour gherkin was crispy and fresh. A bit similar to the small cucumbers in mixed pickles.
The boat at the river bank is not broken. New tar was applied and it has to be kept under water for some time to seal the wood.
Lehde main street 😉 Not really, there is also a real road to reach the village.
This is a garbage truck ..em… garbage boat.
Another boat in the peaceful Spreewald.

One of the less frequented and wilder canals.

Best time to go

The main season for the boat tours is from April until end of October. The boats depart every hour and a tour takes usually 2 to 3 hours. Special tours can be even longer. If possible come during a weekday early in the morning. We visited Lübbenau in the beginning of the season, in the morning of a weekday. At that time not many boats were going on the canals. It was empty and calm, which was enhancing the special atmosphere of this place.

During the winter season from November until March boats depart only from a few places, e.g. from Burg and Lübbenau. A speciality for the winter boat tour is, that Glühwein (hot red wine with spices) will be served to keep the passengers warm.

Besides the typical boat tour, you can also explore the rivers in the Spreewald on your own with a canoe.

More information can be found on the webpage Lübbenau here, or on the webpage of the tourism bureau here.

Location and how to reach

The Spreewald area is located about 100 km south of Berlin. There are different towns and villages to visit. Probably the most convenient places to reach are Lübben and Lübbenau. By car you can drive on freeway A13 (E36) and follow the road signs to Lübben or Lübbenau. Or you go by train. There are several local trains going to Lübben or Lübbenau.

Besides Lübben and Lübbenau, you can also go to Burg, Lehde, Raddusch or Schlepzig. From all of these places you can start a boat tour.

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