What a wonderful world

An unknown part of Germany

A river tour in two parts -   
. 2003 und 2005 on the River Peene from Lake Malchin to Usedom

It was getting near Whitsun and the time to get the boats in water again, to wash the dust and dirt from last year off them – finally – and to start the new boating season.

As usual, we started to look for somewhere to go. Again this year, the problem was not that we could not think of anywhere to go – but that there were far too many places.

We agreed on the Mecklenburg lake region, but first we wanted to get more information on the area. However, research in the Internet and in various forums showed that, at Whitsun, there was a genuine danger that one wouldn’t see the water for boats! As the Müritz was not one of the ‘larger lakes’ in any case, we decided to find another place in Mecklenburg. For us, this part of Germany was still an unknown land. ‘Terra incognita’ on the north-east edge of Germany.

Blick die Peene entlang                            Peene - Der Amazonas Deutschlands

We decided in favour of the River Peene. This river is also known as the ‘German Amazon’. In our opinion, this was a rather bold remark as Annette refuses to go on the ‘genuine’ Amazon in the canoes with me – because of the snakes and other ‘horrible’ creatures. We agreed on this although we also found reports on the Internet which also mentioned snakes in the area. However, in the reports, there was more mention of beavers than of snakes. These are one of the animals which we would really like to see from the kayaks. Our tour was to start at Dahmen on Lake Malchin. On the way to the Peene, we wanted to make a stop at Wittenberg. In addition to Luther’s town, we also wanted to see the school there, which was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Getting there proved not exactly simple. By making an early start, we avoided the traffic jams in the area around Stuttgart. But then we got caught in the evening rush hour traffic in East Germany. It was almost 8 pm. when we arrived at the youth hostel in Wittenberg Castle. After getting settled in our room, we started out on our first walk round the town. However, that evening, our walk ended in the first pub that appealed to us.

On Saturday morning, we could then take another look at the town, by daylight. A really beautiful old town. When one actually sees the Hundertwasser School, it looks much more attractive than it does in art magazines. We wonder whether, on an average, students at this school get as high marks as those at ‘conventional’ schools.

Hundertwasserschule in Wittenberg                                                Baum-Mieter

We particularly liked the idea of ‘tree tenants’ – where nature is literally rooted in human habitation and, at the same time, forms a connection between this and the light outside. Can there be anywhere better than such a school to show ecological connections.

In the afternoon, we had difficulty in reaching our actual destination, the camping ground, in Dahmen on Lake Malchin. For some reason, our route planner tried to direct us to a place with the same name but on another lake. Although we went a long way off our route, we finally reached the camping ground. After the long drive, Annette was genuinely tired and laid down as soon as we had set up the tent. While she was asleep, I put together our two folding kayaks.

On Sunday, we started on our way. First, we crossed Lake Malchin – which was rather rough for such a small lake. On arrival at the other end of the lake, the question was to find where one left the lake. Luckily, several canoes were coming from the opposite direction, so we quickly found the entrance to the Peene Canal, behind a wall of reeds.


We brought the day to a close in the grounds of the Malchin Canoe Club, where we could erect our tent, after paying a low fee. Later that evening, the thunderstorm – which had been threatening us for half the day – decided to break.

Actually, we had wanted to go on, across Lake Kummerow, the next day - but everyone warned us of the short, high waves on the lake, which had already proved fatal to a few boaters. We decided to heed the warning and stay in Malchin for an extra day.

On our short, Sunday-afternoon, boat trip to the moor-land farmers, we saw a kingfisher. This café, which is open only in summer, can be reached only by boat or by a small track through the belt of reeds. While we were sitting there, four eagles flew up into the sky, from the opposite bank. The farmer’s laconic comment: ‘You leave my hens alone’.

The next morning, when we passed the moor-land farmer’s place on our way to Lake Kummerow, there was a notice: ‘Eaten out of house and home – closed today’.  That sounds like a successful business!

Beim Moorbauern                            Annette auf der Peene
Today, Lake Kummerow was as smooth as a mirror – no sign of any waves. With a speed which was sometimes over 6 km/h, Annette was extremely fast. By 2 pm, we had already reached where the Peene River leaves Lake Kummerow. We decided to end our day’s paddling on the Verchen waterway rest place. There was a regular ferry service to the pub on the opposite bank, and we soon used this to go there for a cup of coffee.

By the way, we are in the process of eating the river empty. At the café yesterday, we had trout; today we are eating wells, and in Dahmen we had pike-perch.

I had thought that birds sleep at night. However, that night, some of them did not keep to this rule. In addition, there was a full-scale frog concert but, in spite of this, we did manage to get some sleep. Our trip continued along the Peene in the direction of Demin. This former Hanseatic town disappointed us – architecturally, gastronomically, and in other ways. The next rest area for boaters was Alt Plestin. On the way, I startled an eagle. It rose up in the air, protesting. Presumably, I was just as startled as it was.

While looking around Alt and Neu Plestin, a man (about 70 years of age) tried to explain the situation in the village and the entire area. The reason he tried to do this was because we were standing in front of a farm, where emus were bred. What had actually attracted our attention was a stork’s nest with two baby birds. Nevertheless, talking with the pensioner was a real history lesson for us ‘Westerners’.

Auf dem Wasserwanderrastplatz                                                        Reinold im Boot

The river here is already quite wide. We have been sitting on the bank for some time, and it looks as if the river flows backwards. We had hoped to see beavers or otters this evening – but now it is after dusk, and not one has appeared.

This time, we will only get as far as Anklam. Usedom will have to wait until next time.

The next time is two years later, again at Whitsun. This time, on our way to the Peene, we decided to take a break in Dessau – to look at the master works of the ‘Bauhaus’ architects.

Dessau - Meisterhäuser                            Dessau - Meisterhäuser

This time, we wanted to start our river tour on the beautiful rest place in Stolpe. But this time, I had to put the boats together in pouring rain. It was still raining the next day, so we took a trip to Anklam. In the afternoon, the rain gradually stopped. On the way back – in the dusk, we heard the slap of beavers’ tails on the water. We could see them, but it was too dark to take photos. We must have seen 15 beavers on our ten kilometre return trip. My favourite was a beaver who was busy towing a small birch tree. For a long time, he wondered whether he really should dive under the water – in the end, he decided not to trust me. Because of the beavers, we missed our evening meal. – by the time we got back, it was too late. We made up for it the next morning – when looking round the harbour, we had ordered breakfast. And this morning, the table was set in the middle of the harbour – with a tablecloth, flowers, cake, fresh rolls and really good coffee.

Stolpe                            Warten auf Futter

Back on the river, we decided to make a stop in Anklam on the way to Lassan. Anklam hadn’t changed very much since our first visit two years ago. The prime of Otto Lilienthal’s (German aviation pioneer) town seems to be long past – if it had ever had a prime.

From Anklam, we went on to the mouth of the Peene and the Achterwasser .

Until its mouth, the Peene meandered along quietly. After that, it became rather choppy. Not proper waves, only a restless swell. On the way, opposite Usedom, we found a place where we could land and stretch our legs. After that, we still had 10 km to go. Sometime on our way, the wind – which was coming from straight in front of us – became much stronger. The waves became higher, and paddling became hard work. At last, the Lassam church tower appeared. The landing place had obviously not been used for a long time. Duck droppings everywhere. Presumably, the ‘nature camping place’ was given its name because – apart from mowing the grass – very little had been done there.

Haus in Lasan                            Zentralbibliothek von Lasan5

When we loaded the boots the next morning, a frog was sitting on a blade of grass and watching, with interest, what we were doing. It didn’t even move when we got into the boats.

Our destination today was Wolgast.  Compared with yesterday evening, the water was smooth today – like a duck pond. However, this gave us the feeling that we were making no progress forward. The Peene Shipyard in Wolgast now belongs to the Hegemann Group, with its seat in Bremen. Going past this shipyard in a kayak was a great experience. Then at last, we reached the Wolgast bridge. Directly after this are the grounds of the Wolgast canoe club, where we could pitch our tent.

The next morning – after we had packed everything, packed the boats and launched them - as soon as we got into the wind, we saw that this would be a most uncomfortable day, with lots of hard work. For this reason, we decided to land in the next bay. Annette wanted to go off and fetch the car. However, we found that this bay couldn’t be reached by car. We had to carry the boats and all our equipment to the nearest parking area. As the way there went through an area with (kind of) allotment gardens, two folding boats being carried attracted notice. We completed the two kilometre way to the parking are amid teasing from the gardeners as to why our boats weren’t in the water. And then we had to repeat the performance with the second boot and the rest of our gear. 

After we had stowed the boats in the car, we drove off to find the camping place that we had originally wanted to reach by boat -  the Forest Camp in Freest.


After a leisurely shower this morning, we made our way to Peenemünde. My first impression of the museum was very disappointing. There was only various kinds of ‘military scrap’ – aircraft, helicopters, and missiles. But inside the buildings of the former power plant, it was much better. In my opinion, it gave the strong impression that those who worked here of their own free will were completely unconcerned about morals or ethics.

After that, we carried on to Heringsdorf and Ahlbeck. We managed to get a room in the youth hostel in Heringsdorf. Somewhere in Heinrich Mann’s book ‘Man of Straw’, there is a scene which takes place on the island of Usedom. In our travel diary, we have written ‘Read it again’ – but I still haven’t done this. Many of the old villas have been restored beautifully and now contain holiday apartments. But we doubt whether they can all be let during the main holiday period.

Auf Usedom                        Usedom

Thus ends our river tour, in the royal health resorts on Usedom – in not quite the right style. The Greifswalder Bodden (bay) and the way to Rügen are possible future places for us to go in this (for us) little-known part of Germany. The beautiful scenery and the friendliness of the people has made an impression on us.

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© Annette Baur and Reinhold Strecker , April 2007