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The Spree Forest: central Europe’s most beautiful inland delta. Rivers and streams flow slowly between tranquil villages, where Sorbs still practise their age-old customs and boatmen guide their wooden punts along the narrow waterways at a leisurely pace.
Only an hour’s drive south-east of Berlin lies an area with a very distinctive charm. After the last ice age, the Spree river was split into many branches forming a finely woven mesh of streams. Since the early Middle Ages, the landscape has been shaped by human hands, through forestry and farming. In the 18th century, farmers began to build canals, regulating the water level and creating a mosaic of fields, riverside woods, wetlands and waterways.
The best way to discover the Spree Forest is in traditional fashion – on the water. Boat trips in Spree Forest punts depart from all the larger villages. Take a specially arranged tour themed around the season, discover the history and tradition of the local Sorbian people, or find out about the forest’s flora and fauna from an expert guide. Or you can simply book a one- or two-hour round trip and enjoy some regional delicacies either on board or on dry land.
Mother Nature’s larder
The idea of the Spree Forest Biosphere Reserve, set up in 1990, was to promote traditional practices, and today around 70 per cent of the region’s farmland is organic. The gherkins, horseradish and spirits enjoy commercial success far beyond the region – but, of course, only authentic Spree Forest produce is marked with the protected designation of origin logo.
Learning from nature
Three visitor information centres offer families and groups of young people a fun way to learn more. ‘A Place for People & Nature’ in the historical quarter of Lübbenau reveals what the Spree Forest looked like in days gone by. In Burg, the ‘Applepearplumgherkinpumpkintree’ exhibition presents the Spree Forest’s diverse produce from the gherkin to the pike-perch. If you want to try cooking some of this local produce for yourself, the ‘tree’ has a selection of regional recipes for you to take home. The information centre in Schlepzig takes you under water without getting your feet wet. A Spree Forest punt glides overhead, aquatic plants float on the water’s surface and predatory fish such as pike, pike-perch and eels as well as roach, tench and common rudd appear all around.
Access for all
Over 90 accommodation and tourism providers in the Spree Forest offer facilities to meet the needs of people with restricted mobility. These include not only accessible hotels but also a place to hire handcycles. Even a traditional punt has been adapted to enable wheelchair users to enjoy an accompanied trip on the water in safety and comfort.