Think Before You Paddle

When I was in 2nd grade, our English class teacher made us read so many stories, and we always discussed the moral afterward. I remember one about a frog jumping into a well and being unable to climb back out as it was too deep. Back then, it didn’t actually occur to me that this frog could die a slow death, alone, and a miserable prisoner in that well. Only that he was stuck there. The moral was to look before you leap.

File_000 (2).jpegYesterday, the weather in Warsaw was beautiful. Being the hipster Varsovian that I am, I decided to lounge around on a beach chair by the Vistula. A beer later, I decided it was, in fact, the perfect weather to go kayaking. So I dragged my friend and we rented a kayak at a shop right by the canal lock.

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So we started paddling, then went downstream, eventually managing to navigate to a sandbar that was separated from both shores and reachable only by boat or kayak. We sunbathed in our little private stretch of beach until the complete absence of shade made us leave.

We hopped back on our kayak and paddled. We paddled. And paddled. We’d make a bit of progress, only to have the Vistula undo it and send us even further away. But we weren’t going to let the current daunt us, so we came up with a plan. We’d paddle to the riverbank and navigate along the shore. We braved Vistula water splashing at us and paddled. And paddled. We managed to get back under the bridge, but never beyond it. People were looking at us curiously. Still, we thought, we were gonna get through this. We weren’t seasoned kayakers, but we thought we could beat the Vistula’s current.

When we accepted it wasn’t going to work, we went back to the sandbar, where, as we tried to navigate through a strait, the Vistula dragged my water bottle away. We managed to paddle to the other bank and dragged our kayak ashore. We were stranded on the wrong side of the Vistula with no water and just a bag of half-eaten chips. Everyone around us had beers, and there we were, trying to figure out how to get our little red problem back to where we signed up for it.

 

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Stranded on the wrong side of the Vistula

 

We talked to the rescue guys who wanted to charge us 40 euros for dragging it back on their jet ski. Being the stingy haggling Asian that I am, I remembered the water taxi I saw while lounging on my beach chair and contemplating the whole paddling on the Vistula affair. It had a mobile number printed on it. Lo and behold, we didn’t even need to make the call! Mr. Water Taxi had come ashore!

We convinced him that it was completely legal to get our kayak on his little wooden boat. Having never done it before, he didn’t even know how much to charge us. It was about a euro per person, and since, when in fear of prices, the safe answer is always “I’m a student”, we only had to pay 4 euros for that boat lift.

 

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One of Praga’s untamed beaches

 

It was such a relief to be on the water again with a boat with an engine cruising the Vistula. It only occurred to us then that nobody was ever expected to paddle against the Vistula, and that we had rented from the wrong place. There was a reason our boat rental place was at the canal – and that they didn’t offer pick-ups or another drop-off point.

The moral of this story: think before you paddle.

 

3 Escapes from the City

As the milder and longer days are coming, it is only befitting that my first list post be of the outdoors. The rising temperatures and the surplus of daylight also heralds the coming of the tourist crowds and the awakening of Berlin’s frantic pace.

At one point, it can all be too much.

The good thing is, in Berlin it is very possible to escape the city while staying in the city. Here are my three picks for when I need a breather:

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View of the Grunewald and the Berlin skyline from the Drachenberg

Grunewald

Yes, that’s right: Berlin has a number of forests, the largest of which is the Grunewald. Although the ‘Green Forest’ is really most impressive in autumn, it stays beautiful all year round.

Also situated in the Grunewald are the famous Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain), a rubble pile from WWII, and the Drachenberg, another hill just beside the Teufelsberg, which is usually packed with Berliners having picnics or flying kites on fine days. The views of Berlin from the Drachenberg is definitely worth the walk.

How to get there: S Bahnhof Grunewald is served by the lines S5 & S7.

 

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Tegeler See

Tegeler See

At the terminus of the U6 is Alt-Tegel, a rather quiet neighbourhood that gets sleepier the closer you get to the lake. This is a retirement neighbourhood so expect to see a lot of old people hanging around, soaking up the sunshine. The promenade is lovely. There are boat tours here and you can rent paddle boats as well.

What better way to spend an afternoon than walking along the lake and having Guinness at the Irish Pub right outside the U-Bahnhof on your way back to the city? Oh yes, ice cream before all that.

How to get there: U6 to Alt-Tegel

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Sunset over Wannsee

Wannsee

This is about the closest an island girl can get to a sea in landlocked Berlin. Sticking out of the map with its strange form (or formlessness), the Wannsee is popular with families when the sun is shining.

Locals flock to Kladow, another sleepy neighbourhood across the lake, but mostly just stay by the pier. There is plenty of room for solace if you walk along the lakeshore all the way up north. There are small beaches dotting the shores too.

How to get there: There are many ways to get to Kladow but I prefer to go there Berliner style. Take the S-Bahn to S Bahnhof Wannsee and the ferry across the lake. A typical Berlin AB ticket covers the ferry. Don’t let the line deter you. It can seem reallyyyyy long but you’ll get onboard.