For many years, I’ve made a pilgrimage every summer, out to Wannsee, buying a cone of delicious home made ice cream at Faustmann’s Kleines Café by the station, then sitting by the lake shore, taking the ferry across to Kladow, or walking in the woods. That was until I read that Faustmann’s Kleines Café was being forced out of its premises and so would be shutting up shop after 60 years. What would become of my summer tradition?
The answer led me onto the X69 bus from Köpenick S-Bahn station, heading out into the wilds of south-eastern Berlin. During the years of division, the Müggelsee was to East Berlin what Wannsee is to West Berlin.
A short climb from where the X69 stops at Rübezahl bus stop is the Müggelturm, an observation tower nestling in the woods on the Müggelberge hills. I am on familiar territory here, having visited back in 2010. The tower and restaurant building are still in the process of being modernised, but it offers great views over the area, and there’s a kiosk selling snacks and drinks, so it’s a great place to stop off if you fancy a walk in the woods. There's more information in German on its website if you're interested.
Further along the X69’s route, the bus winds its way through leafy village streets to its final stop at Odernheimer Straße. Carrying on down Neuhelgoländer Weg on foot leads to the terrace of the riverside pub Neu Helgoland. On the right-hand corner, surrounded by tranquil water dotted by lily pads is a tiny boat terminal, served by the F23 ferry.
Neu Helgoland is the mid-point on the ferry’s route; in one direction, it heads further along the river to Kruggasse in Rahnsdorf, but for now I’m more interested in the other direction, where it heads out across the mouth of the river on the Müggelsee, ending up at Müggelwerderweg. The ferry is run on behalf of the Berlin transport authority BVG, so you can travel using any valid public transport ticket (e.g. a Tageskarte - both stops are in zone B) - just show the ferryman your ticket as you get on, or buy one from him if you need one. If that doesn’t make it unusual enough, there’s also the fact that the F23 is a solar powered catamaran. Once cruising, the ferry glides almost silently through the water, and all without the stink of diesel fumes. It runs Tuesdays to Sundays, between Good Friday and October 31st.
The ferry cruises gently over the Kleiner Müggelsee and along the Müggelspree river, past reeds and tree-lined river banks with small cabins peeking from beyond the foliage. As it turns towards Müggelwerderweg, looking off the ferry’s port side gives you an expansive view along the length of the lake towards Köpenick, where sailing boats bob idyllically on the water. It’s possible to rent a wide variety of boats, including some which can be hired without a licence, from a number of places around the Müggelsee.
The ferry glides past more reeds into a small marina at Müggelwerderweg, where it’s roughly a fifteen minute walk to the number 61 tram terminus at Rahnsdorf Waldschänke.
While the ‘uferbahn’ segment of the number 68 route from Grünau to Schmöckwitz is more famous and covers a longer stretch, this stretch is just as pretty. When you’re used to looking out of a BVG tram window and seeing city streets, having green foliage speed by instead comes as something of a surprise and just adds to the fun feeling of having escaped the city without actually leaving it. The tram line was opened in 1929 and the stretch between here and Friedrichshagen came close to being shut down by BVG in 2014. It was given a reprieve after public outcry, but its future beyond 2020 is unclear, so it’s worth enjoying now while you can.
The first stop on the route is Strandbad Müggelsee, a bathing beach which is currently free to use. The beach is kept open by a local citizens’ group, as the beach has seen plans and investors come and go. Though the buildings are mostly empty save for a sauna, the neighbouring windsurfing and sailing school has a small ‘beach bistro’ which sells soups and stews, if you fancy something to eat.
Friedrichshagen was founded under Friedrich II in 1753 as a home to protestant spinners from Bohemia fleeing religious persecution. Its convenient transport connections, fresh air and lakeside location led to Friedrichshagen being designated as a ‘climatic spa’ in 1880. With its proliferation of older buildings, it still retains a strong spa town feel, and even if you’re not here on holiday, a stroll along the main street of Bölschestraße should leave you feeling like you are. Mulberry trees still grow along the way, a throwback to Friedrich II’s desire to farm silk worms here, though all but one of the trees (outside the wholefoods shop at 63) are modern re-plantings. The street is lined with cafés, bakeries, restaurants and other tempting shops, and seems like the perfect place to end the trip around the Müggelsee. I think it’s time for that ice cream…
Heading south towards where Bölschestraße meets Müggelseedamm, there’s a point where the street seems to suddenly fill with people sitting on steps, leaning against walls and generally standing around. What are they doing? Eating ice cream!
Inside the Da Dalt ice cream shop, 24 different flavours are laid out like an artist’s palette. I feel particularly drawn to the fruity flavours - like the tangy mandarin, zingy lemon and velvety blackberry - but there are all sorts, like ‘open sesame’ (Sesam öffne dich), dark chocolate or walnut and fig.
The shop was opened here at Bölschestraße 94 by Fabio da Dalt, who comes from what amounts to an ice cream dynasty. His uncle Luigi opened his first shop in West Berlin in 1966 and, though he is no longer in the business, there are still shops run by other family members in other parts of the city. Fabio has brought this great wealth of Italian ice cream tradition to his business in Friedrichshagen, with him and his wife starting work at 5 every morning to make the shop’s range of roughly 24 different flavours (the selection varies) from a wide array of ingredients, many of which they get from Italy.
A 15 minute walk to the end of Bölschestraße and off to the left down Josef-Nawrocki-Straße gets you to a small park on the edge of the lake where you can sit on a bench and look out over the water. There’s also a number of restaurants and bars nearby, including an open-air beach bar and a restaurant boat directly on the water. If you don’t feel like staying, the S3 line will take you from Friedrichshagen S-Bahn station back to Ostkreuz, where you can easily get back into central Berlin.