On Saturday morning I walk out of the house and follow the paved path alongside the harbour to where it opens out into the lake. Behind me the resort village is quiet… houses empty or the occupants sleeping. The cleaning crew move amongst the houses on a cart that is so silent it can only be electric, and their voices carry clearly over to where I stand, a conversation full of Friday night gossip and small town exploits. I look out onto the lake – the Müritz – the largest such body of water to be completely contained within the German borders. Lake Constance is bigger, but the Germans must share it with the Swiss and the Austrians, and anyway right now it does not matter whether the Müritz is the biggest, or the second biggest, because there is a mist swirling all around us and visibility is down to about thirty metres. The electric cart moves off and is soon swallowed, but the voices continue to carry across the empty resort plaza to the water’s edge.
By lunchtime we have walked in the woods, spying bears through the trees at a sanctuary devoted to animals rescued from the circus and other mistreatments, and the mist has been burned away, leaving us with blue skies and unseasonal warmth. We are in Röbel now, a quaint town at the bottom corner of the lake, complete with red brick churches, a chocolate box town hall, and a harbour of squat, wooden boathouses on stilts and a collection of cafes and ice cream stalls doing roaring trade with the Saturday afternoon strollers, cyclists and motorbike riders. We join the motley collection of visitors enjoying the sunshine, the sound of the gulls and the proximity of the water.
Back at the resort I sit on a bench by the sandy beach. There is a volleyball court and a football pitch, but there are no players today, just couples strolling arm in arm and kids pedalling their go karts furiously on a Grand Prix track of their own imagination in amongst the wooden houses. On the water tour boats crisscross the lake whilst sailing dinghies search for a breath of wind and kayakers hug the shoreline hoping for a patch of shade. As evening approaches the first barbecues are lit out on the concrete terraces, and we sit out in the still warm sun with our books and our beers. The day has felt like a bonus – a fleeting return to summer that emerged through the morning mist. Tomorrow it will rain again, and we will travel back to Berlin in decidedly autumnal weather. But for now we toast our luck as the sun falls between the masts gathered in the harbour and reflect on the simple beauty of these lakes only a couple of hours from home.
Words: Paul Scraton
Pictures: Katrin Schönig