Berlin. Life in the capitol is always speeding up, but right at the outskirts of the city, nature
awaits. The region around Berlin is verdant green and criss-crossed by lakes and rivers. In
the small city of Brandenburg an der Havel, a man name Bern Helmers has turned his
hobby into a career: an engineer by training, Helmers restores wooden boats and charters
them to visitors. He still has a few secret tips.
Bernd Helmers, restored and chartered boats:
"People know about the river. What’s less well-known is how well-suited it is for boat
exploration -- or how the water system is all interconnected.”
And that’s why there’s so much space on the river. Boats like the Merry are allowed to
rented and driven without a license. And water tourism is growing all around Berlin.
Bernd Helmers:
"Motorboat tourism has been growing steadily. But in the last few years, there’s been a
burgeoning interest in canoe tours, especially because there’s also a growing
infrastructure to support it. There are camping places, guest houses and other kinds of
lodges all along the water that can also accommodate larger groups.”
The numbers are impressive: there are 150,000 spots to moor boats and 4,000 canoes
available for rent. There are more than 1,000 yachts for charter, as well as hundreds of
rafts and even house boats. These days Bernd Helmers, can make a living from his hobby.
But even though he does well every summer, the rivers and lakes around Berlin never get
very full. The region is simply too big and branched-out for that. Thanks to the intricate
waterways, Brandenburg an der Havel is a veritable gateway to the world.
Bernd Helmers:
"You could theoretically reach the entire world from here in Brandenburg an der Havel –
taking the Elbe to Hamburg or via the Oder-Havel-canal to the Oder and the Szczein
Lagoon, or of course the Havel towards Mecklenburg-Vorpommen. It’s basically an
unlimited water system.“
To the North Sea and Baltic Sea, or across Europe to the Black Sea. It’s all possible. Of
course, Bern Helmers would have liked it the other way around: to have the world as his
guest on the water.
Bernd Helmers:
"I think that for foreigners it’s actually unimaginable. Many people are per