TRAVEL: Life on the lakes in Germany

The Wustrau (centre) at Stendenitz
The Wustrau (centre) at Stendenitz
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Ever dreamed of setting sail on holiday – but felt like a cruise isn’t your thing? The thought of spending a fortnight, cooped up with a cast of hundreds in a luxury liner, fills me with cabin fever.

However, I do enjoy being on the water and when Nicols boat hire offered the chance to captain my own vessel, I dived right in.

Berlin bar

Berlin bar

The company offers a range of modern, well-kitted out boats which allow you to cruise at your leisure on the pretty waterways of France, Germany or Portugal.

My previous sailing experience extends only as far as hiring a canal boat and bobbing around Adlington for the day with a small group of friends.

So I was a bit apprehensive about manning one with my partner Ben for a whole week when we signed up for a trip to Brandenburg in Germany.

Perusing the suggested routes suitable for sailors without a boat licence, I gulped when I saw there were locks involved.

“Are you sure this will be okay?” I asked our helpful Nicols rep. “I don’t really have a clue what I’m doing…”

“It’s fine,” he replied. “They have lock-keepers in Germany to help with the locks, don’t worry.”

And so we found ourselves a few weeks’ later on a jetty in Neuruppin, an easy 1½ hour train journey from Berlin, getting to grips with the basics of sailing.

There was a lot to take in on the short briefing we had from a friendly chap at the Neuruppin Boothaus base, but fortunately Ben got to grips with the steering and manoeuvring pretty quickly – leaving me to be the cabin girl who scurried along the side of the boat to tie it up when mooring.

The actual sailing part was straightforward enough, with the wide, quiet lakes in Brandenburg affording plenty of space for leisure travellers to amble along comfortably and take in the views.

Mooring the boat safely took somewhat more practice, especially in the busier marinas, but we got better at this as the week went on – and if I can do it, surely anybody can!

And as promised, the friendly lock-keepers helped us get through the locks with minimal fuss.

Our favourite spot that we moored up at was the Campingplatz Stendenitz. This lovely campsite welcomed boats, tents and caravans and was in a quiet, rural spot off the beaten track, surrounded by forests. We whiled away time wandering the forest paths, renting canoes, and spotting amazing wildlife, from soaring birds of prey to dragonflies.

It was a bargain at 10 Euros a night and also has an eco-centre and a beautiful restaurant with excellent local seafood and hearty venison ghoulash.

We ended up extending our stay at Stendenitz a couple of days longer than planned, due to the weather. A local told us we’d experienced the worst rain in 60 years, despite it being June – we felt a bit like Noah’s ark amid the thunderstorms!

This was the one downside to holidaying on a boat – we didn’t feel like we were experienced enough to sail onwards in such unpredictable weather, so we were glad we’d found a nice spot to stay put. Helpfully, the boat itself was also a real home from home.

Ours was surprisingly spacious and well-designed, with a modern kitchen/living area, small bathroom with shower, and a really comfortable double bed in the separate sleeping area.

All the kitchen equipment and bed linen was provided, and the boats are pet-friendly if you’d rather drive than fly to Germany,

We were able to incorporate a mini city break into the end of our trip too.

After returning the boat, we stopped off in Berlin for two nights to soak up its lively atmosphere, fascinating history and excellent museums.

My favourites were The Wall Asisi, a panoramic recreation of the infamous Berlin wall, and the DDR Museum, which recreates ordinary life in the former East Berlin in an engaging interactive exhibition.

Germany is vibrant country with lots to offer visitors, and heading just a short trip out of Berlin to its lovely lakes is a great way to discover another side to it.

- Jenny Simpson travelled onboard a Nicols 900 DP boat from the Nicols base at Neuruppin in Germany. Boat hire prices for the Nicols 900 DP which sleeps four people start from 700 Euros for a two-night short break or 1399 Euros for a one week trip. Early booking discounts are available on 2018 trips booked by November 30, 2017.

Nicols offers river and canal holidays onboard a range of self-drive cruisers suitable for parties of between 2-12 people and no previous boating experience is required. Boat hire prices start from 330 Euros for a two-night short break or 659 Euros for a one week trip.

Nicols also offers boating holidays in France from 18 different bases. For more information visit www.boat-renting-nicols.co.uk or contact 02392 401320 or nicols@nicols.com.