With its 3,000 lakes and 18,600 miles of waterways, the German state of Brandenburg is the perfect place to explore by boat.
Last October, six of us did just that, making a 43-foot houseboat our home for a five-day journey on the lakes, locks and canals of this spectacular region.
Brandenburg, one of the 16 German federal-states, surrounds Berlin in eastern Germany. And while most tourists are familiar with the nation's capital, the same cannot be said of Brandenburg.
"I never expected the scenery to be so beautiful," said Heti Lutz, one of the passengers on our boat. "This was one of the best-kept secrets in Western Germany - the beautiful scenery in the East. ... It reminds me of Finland, Scandinavia."
Except when navigating locks - there were eight on our trip - days were leisurely: lounging on board, admiring the vistas, reading and chatting.
Getting through the locks required all hands on deck. With the captain at the helm, two "mates" rushed to grab the ropes for tying up. Others kept a careful watch at the bow and shouted directions to the captain as we entered a narrow, walled canal. Most of the locks had attendants, but a few were self-service, adding more demands to the task.
When no locks were on the horizon, the passengers were free to chill out. Our captain, Heti's husband Heinz, however, was always on duty. Occasionally someone else would take the helm, especially in open water where steering the boat was child's play.
Heinz, who has a German motor-boat license, was given a brief trial initiation from the company that rented us the boat, but he learned most on his own.
Read more at http://www.stripes.com/military-life/german-state-of-brandenburg-fine-waters-for-a-houseboat-holiday-1.151103