I’m standing on the platform at Gesundbrunnen, my hair blowing into my face as trains speed past the platform. It’s Friday at 5 pm and my train to Waren is due to arrive any minute. I’m weighed down with my bike and a weekend bag filled with the basics, and my tummy full of butterflies - is there a better feeling than finishing work early to go on an adventure?
The platform is packed with people set for a weekend at the beach in Rostock, and I peer around them as I search for my partner who promised to meet me on the platform. But Rostock isn’t our destination, we’re spending the next 48 hours at one of my favourite mini-break spots: the Müritz, the biggest lake in Germany (the Bodensee is larger, but isn’t all in Germany), which is at the heart of the Mecklenburger Seenplatte. The amazingly bio-diverse Müritz National Park is known as the ‘Land of a Thousand Lakes’, and our base for exploring it is the medieval spa town of Waren.
Waren is the perfect base from which to explore: it's easily accessible from Berlin, there are lots of great restaurants serving fresh fish, and there is kilometre after kilometre of unspoilt nature directly on your doorstep, from forest to lakes. It’s perfect in every season, spring sees the landscape in full bloom, while in autumn the leaves glow golden brown.
One of the most perfect things about the Müritz is that you feel as if you’re in another world, and the longer you stay, the more stress you feel slip off your body. The lack of manmade noise means I sleep deeper, I can gaze at the stars without excessive light pollution, and I always have an unspoiled section of lakeside beaches on which to laze.
As our train pulls in, my partner arrives with Wegbier in hand and we hop onto the train, which - in just over an hour - will deliver us directly to Waren station. All we can do is stare out the window and excitedly discuss how we’ll spend our mini-break at the Müritz.
Run by a co-operative, formed over 10 years ago with the aim of preserving crumbling buildings of historical significance, the Müritz Water Tower is a striking, 120-year-old water tower boasting 4 industrial-chic apartments. It stands atop a small hill and overlooks both Binnenmüritz and Feisnecksee. We love it due to its originality, modern apartments and a colourful garden.
Our first stop, after pulling into the train station, is WeinTango, a small wine store in the old town. The owner is really passionate about wine and can recommend a grape for whatever your mood. Enjoy a glass of wine inside or on their terrace, and if you’re feeling adventurous you can request a small wine tasting. They also serve small antipasti-style plates and chocolate, which make for a great accompaniment.
After a cup of strong coffee, I love nothing more than to start the day with a swim in the sun. Badestelle Feisnecksee looks as if it’s straight from a Wes Anderson movie, thanks to its colourful lifeguard lookout that stands atop a small sandy cove and is backed by pine trees. Take a blanket and a book, and alternate between swimming in the cool water and lazing on the beach.
We didn’t bring out bikes on the train for nothing! There is kilometre after kilometre of smooth bike trails that snake through the National Park’s dense forest. While you can cycle around the entire Müritz, we like to follow the paths south of Waren, on the right side of the lake, as they are quieter and you can ride through forests past smaller lakes and adjacent to meadows full of wildflowers. We love just following paths that look interesting, taking our time and breathing in the beauty of the forest.
On our bike ride, we stop at the Landschaftspflegehof Müritzhof, a 100-year-old farm with over 300 hectares of land near Rederangsee. As well as having Gotland sheep, Fjäll cattle and Shetland ponies, there’s a small cafe serving a mouth-watering mix of delicious local dishes. It’s always such a pleasure to sit on the outdoor terrace, surrounded by oak trees, overlooking the meadow as you eat.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can cycle down to Neustrelitz Palace Gardens (a 2-hour bike ride through the forest from Waren). The vast gardens are stunning whatever the weather, and are a great example of 18th and 19th-century garden art. It was originally laid out between 1726 and 1732, before being redesigned according to the Versailles model a few years later. Sadly the castle itself was destroyed in 1945, but the gardens are expansive and feature an English garden, a memorial hall to Prussian queen Louise, a neo-Gothic castle church and a classicist orangery. In summer, they also host operettas and plays in the grounds.
Once back in Waren, it’s time to stop for tea (I am British after all), and our go-to teahouse is Tête À Tee & Cafe, a cosy tea store tucked away at the edge of Waren’s old town. Inside are shelves full of tea tins and brightly coloured armchairs that you can slump into. Tea is served with a sand timer and strict instructions of how long to brew the leaves for so you can enjoy the perfect cup.
The Müritz covers a bigger surface area than Paris does, and watching the sun sink below the waves, as you float on its surface is mesmeric: it’s just you and a never-ending expanse of water. The best place to soak up this atmosphere is Binnenmüritz. I normally get into the water at Kuhtränke, a small section of the Müritz by Waren, as the water is a bit warmer than in the rest of the lake and there are fewer boats passing.
At the heart of Waren’s old town is Altes Reusenhus, which is a very kitsch fisherman-themed restaurant. The courtyard in the back has a wonderfully relaxed energy. They, of course, serve a range of locally-caught, seasonal, fresh fish, cooked in a traditional way, such as a matjes fillet served with bratkartoffeln.
On the way back to our apartment, we grab a beer and sit in Waren’s harbour to watch the dozens and dozens of boats and yachts bobbing on the water. There’s something so relaxing about gazing at the stars in the sky with gently rippling water in front of you. There are numerous benches around the harbour front, and we always try to grab one away from the hustle and bustle. Alternatively, get a digestive from Restaurant & Café Leddermann and sip it on their water-front terrace.
There’s nothing like a long, lazy brunch, especially when you can sit on a terrace overlooking the water. We like to go to OhJulia, which is directly on the waterfront, as on Sunday’s there’s an impressive brunch buffet. The menu is a little eclectic - think wood-fired pizza, bowls and pasta - but the food is fresh and delicious. Make sure you reserve a table as it can get busy.
After filling up for the day, it’s time for a culture hit. The Müritzeum is a fun, interactive museum, that features a huge aquarium that is home to many of the fish species found in the surrounding lakes. You can also learn about the nature, forest and wildlife of the region. A highlight is the “night room”, where you navigate the exhibition by torchlight. You can see which animals explore the forest at night and can hear what they sound like.
Being on holiday means embracing local traditions, and, in Germany, that means Sunday-afternoon Kaffee und Kuchen. Dat Tortenhus is the best place in town for the full experience. We always struggle to choose which slice of epic cake to buy and then spend the next hour eating our way through the impressive slice while relaxing in the armchairs with a cup of locally roasted coffee to wash everything down.
In an attempt to burn off some of the cake calories, we normally take a long walk around Tiefwarensee, the lake just north of the Müritz. There’s an easy circular loop that is easy to follow, and often we stop at Seebalkon Amsee, which is at the halfway mark. Keep your eyes open for the wood carving of ‘Der Fischer und seine Frau’, a reference to the Brother Grimm story of the same name.
We can’t leave without enjoying a Fisch-Brötchen (ask for whatever is freshest!) from the Fischerhof Waren, the stand at the edge of the harbour that is an institution. Warm bread rolls, smoked fish and tangy pickles: it’s the perfect taste to have in your mouth as you leave the Müritz and head back home.