I’ve been on the record as saying that what I’d miss most about living in Düsseldorf is access to the Rhineland. Düsseldorf is as flat as Berlin, but you can get some scenic elevation in Siebengebirge and the trails along the Rhine, Mosel, and Ahr rivers.
Not so much with Berlin and surrounding Brandenburg. There are cartoon characters underneath ACME anvils with more topography than Brandenburg. So my expectations for finding a good hike around here were about on par with getting a burrito dripping with Cholula in Minsk. Fortunately, as with most things in life, I was quickly proven wrong.
Enter, the Löcknitzer Forest.
“I really don’t give a damn”
The Löcknitzer Forest is part of Regionalpark Müggel-Spree southeast of Berlin with hiking trails, rivers, lakes, and bike paths stretching across the green plains. Using komoot, I found a hike combining a handful of different, continuous long-distance trails in the area.
We started at the Fangscheule train station, just thirty minutes outside of Alexanderplatz in Berlin on the regional train. It’s within the greater VBB train network, so a one-way ticket is no more than €3.60. Dogs larger than a house cat need a ticket as well, which we found out after a Deutsche Bahn employee scolded us.
“It’s never been a problem in four years of living in Germany,” I pleaded.
“Das interessiert mich überhaupt nicht!” she snorted back, which is basically, “I really don’t give a damn.”
“Then how should I pay for him?” I asked.
“Just pay for him next time,” she said. “Und sei nicht so bösartig!” or “And don’t be so nasty!”
It was the German customer service experience in a nutshell. You’ve done something wrong, even if the rule is arbitrary (who gets to determine if the animal is larger than a house cat? Deutsche Bahn!), and they scold you like a toddler so you know who has the power. We never experienced anything similar in three years of living in Düsseldorf, so perhaps the locals over there weren’t just spouting homeland propaganda when they said people are more relaxed than in other parts of Germany.
Anywho, the hike.
Sorry about the fascism
The Fangscheule train station sits in the middle of the forest with just one restaurant/Biergarten next door. You only get off here if you’re hiking or cycling.
The fourteen-kilometer trail we opted for traces the road for just under a kilometer before crossing the Löcknitzer River where you pick up the aptly named Löcknitztalweg in a small dirt parking lot with a stone monument to all of the victims of fascism and tyranny. You may have seen a similar monument in––oh, I don’t know––every German town across the country. Monuments to the victims of fascism are the statue equivalent of bratwursts. Every German town has their own preference, but every German town definitely has one.
Jokes aside, I really do appreciate the extensive memory culture in Germany and I always wonder how different the United States would be if such monuments weren’t reserved to museums and Washington D.C. Imagine if every city, big and large, acknowledged the Native American land they’re on in some way. Instead, history for most started on July 4, 1776 and that’s that.
All things trout
From the monument, it’s about five kilometers of hiking to Klein Wall through fairytale forest with tall trees and pillow-soft trails under your feet. We passed only a handful of hiking groups, no more than four at a time, leaving us feeling like we were truly alone in the forest, especially as we trudged deeper into the forest and could no longer hear passing trains or traffic.
Klein Wall markets itself as a Forelleanlage––trout facility. “Fishing, relaxation, and enjoyment” is their motto. Indeed, we saw children with, I hope, their parents appearing to learn their way around a fishing rod in small manmade pools of water. It felt like the kind of place kids might get shipped off to for summer camp. Or, I guess, to learn about all things… trout?
Passing by day drinkers
At Klein Wall, we picked up a trail that cut north like a beeline for about two kilometers to a buggy canal that led us to Lake Möllen with a designated camping space overlooking it. We tried to stay out of the camp, full of RVs that looked like they never moved once they were parked, but eventually it didn’t seem we could trace the coast any longer and we took the stairs up to camp to try and figure out where the trail continued.
“The trail is through the camp and on the right,” a woman sitting on her patio called out with a smile. We followed her instructions of the camp, passing some day drinkers and their kids on the way out before hopping back onto one of the various trails we were connecting. Throughout the day we had hopped on the Müggelspreeweg, the 66-Seen-Wanderweg, and Jakobsweg––all long-distance trails that happen to cut through this area.
The second half of the hike was admittedly less scenic than the first half along the Löcknitzer River. It seemed as if we mostly shuffled over tire tracks left by logging machines, which isn’t exactly what you want to see when taking in nature. It’d be like going kayaking and being surrounded by the Springfield Power Plant from The Simpsons.
We’ll probably skip that bit next time. Instead, I have it on my radar now to look up more on the various trails we jumped on and off and see how I can connect them for some point-to-point hikes. But for a much-needed respite in the woods, Löcknitzer Forest did the trick.
Looking for more Germany? Check out the Germany off the beaten path travel guide, my top things to do in Germany, the most important German travel phrases, and how to ride the German train system. Want something more literary? Read chapters from my upcoming memoir on moving to and living in Germany — There Must Be Order.