At the end of the 19th century, the Brandenburg novelist and hiking enthusiast Theodor Fontane wrote extensively about the landscape in the heart of the Ruppiner Land region, and it has remained largely unchanged since then.
In northern Brandenburg, 60 kilometres from Berlin, the Stechlin-Ruppiner Land Nature Park is characterised by beech trees and clear-water lakes. Two thirds of the 680 square kilometre reserve is covered by forest, and the large areas of beech trees are especially beautiful, not to mention environmentally significant. In Germany as a whole, only 8 per cent of the original beech forests remain, but here that figure is closer to 25 per cent. There are more than 150 lakes here, including many of the rare clear-water lakes. In fact the park contains around half of all the low-nutrient clear-water lakes in Brandenburg. The Great Stechlin Lake – covering 425 hectares and up to 69 metres deep – is the largest and most important of these lakes in the whole of the North German Plain. Its name is Slavic in origin, deriving either from steklo, meaning glass (a reference to the clearness of the water) or from tek, meaning 'to flow'. A strong wind can create surprisingly high waves on the lake, which also lends its name to the title of Fontane's last work, Der Stechlin, and to Brandenburg's second largest conservation area. Nearly all the lakes allow fishing and swimming. For canoeing, the Havel and Rhin waterways and especially the Rheinsberg lakes are all suitable, while steamboat trips depart from places such as Rheinsberg, Fürstenberg/Havel and Neuruppin. Nearly all the lakes in the reserve can be walked around on foot, and the 250km Ruppiner Land Circular Trail is particularly recommended.
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