Summer Lakes Special: Krumme Lanke
When the weather heats up, Berliners head to their local equivalent of the beach: The great Berlin lakes. Scattered around the city are a number of these fresh water lakes of varying sizes and proximity. Most are easily reached by S-Bahn or U-Bahn, although it can be a good idea to take a bicycle so you can get a little further around to the beaches away from the families and crowds.
From Wannsee in the west, to Müggelsee in the east, there are over 80 lakes to choose from around the Berlin and Brandenburg area. The trick is to find a balance between one with good quality water, while not being too long a train journey.
Krumme Lanke is one lake that strikes such a balance. Located in the Grunewald forest area south-west of the city, the lake sits just above the more popular Schlachtensee in Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Berlin. You can reach it easily by U-bahn line U3, where it is the last stop— but still within the Berlin 'AB' ticket-zone.
After a ten minute walk through the lush suburbs of the Krumme Lanke township, you enter the Grunewald forest. Following the wide cycle and jogger-friendly paths around to the right will take you to the main swimming and bathing areas, although these parts are off-limits for dogs. The dog-friendly areas are instead restricted to the North-West side of the lake, in order to reduce the effects of pollution on the swimming and water collection areas.
As one of Berlin's lakes with the highest quality water, Krumme Lanke is occasionally closed to allow the lake to be drained, in order to maintain the balance in the local ecology. The levels of bacteria are strictly monitored and the Berlin council website notes that there is a very low risk of microbial or algae toxicity, except in times of flooding or heavy rainfall.
Technical details aside, the nose and the eyes confirm that the water is clean and very fresh. The sandy areas are best for getting in and out, as some banks have been fenced off to prevent further destruction to the waterside areas by bathers. Sticking to the 'beach' areas is also a good way to avoid the zones where swimming is prevented. As a naturally occurring lake, the water quality is so good in Krumme Lanke that it is also used to supply homes in the surrounding Grunewald area.
Perhaps due to the strict monitoring of water quality, Krumme Lanke is free of most local species of fish, such as catfish, eels, perch, pike or carp. There is only one rather small variety of fish and a few ducks, so you can swim safely without fishing boats or greedy swans invading your peace.
And of course, no Berlin public bathing scene would be complete without the FKK or Freikörperkultur fans making an appearance. Literally meaning "free body culture", FKK are the originators of the German ( and perhaps global) naturalist movement. While it may seem odd to see children frollicking next to sunbathing naked old men, rest assured that there is nothing more normal for the german public. And fortunately it is also not a big deal for people to stare in this culture…
However, FKK is not so much about just being naked, but more focused on experiencing nature without boundaries (such as clothes). With such beautiful clear waters as those of Krumme Lanke, you can see how people get inspired to really get back to nature. So don't knock it until you try it!
Unlike many of the other Berlin lakes, such as neighbouring Schlachtensee, Krumme Lanke doesn't have it's own Biergarten, so it's best to come prepared. There is the odd sandwich or croissant vendor making the rounds, but it pays to stock up in the city if you want to take a picnic and enjoy the day there.
It is worth noting that "grillen" or barbecuing is not allowed in all parks, so you may want to check this is allowed at the lake you're heading toward, if you plan to grill "am See".
Sadly, although more people are flocking to the lakes, there are still limited provisions for rubbish disposal. While it may seem a nuisance, it is worthwhile to take your rubbish with you in order to prevent these beautiful spots from being spoiled by rats or wasps, as some more popular lakes have been. The usual bottle-collectors are not always willing to stray out of the city to the lakes, so be prepared to pick up your empties, and leave only your footprints behind.
Neal follows music, art, good food, bad food and great beer wherever it takes him. Currently he resides in the dreamworld of Berlin where he tries not to be too content or productive.