Like many big cities, the best way to deal with Berlin is by treating it as a series of smaller towns and neighbourhoods. And the city is surrounded by a series of interlocking canals, rivers and lakes. Which gives the locals plenty of messing about on the water, and the tourist industry plenty of money making opportunities.
I’ve opted for one of the longer boat cruises today – Around The Muggelberge – which sounds like it might be a village just down the road from Balamory. At five hours, it’s a long journey to take in, especially on the open sun deck in the company of a generally older clientele. The first hour or so weaves through some of Berlin’s industrial heartland – and although it looks a bit grim, I learn some useful German phrases. “Zement werks” being just one.
But then, just beyond Kopenik the water opens wide into a network of lakes. And all manner of transport is using them today.
That’s the back end of a seaplane in the middle, with a barge to the left and a kayak to the right. After a circuit of a couple of the lakes (Der Muggelsee – not exactly creative) it’s up a canal flanked by impossibly beautiful waterside homes.
Kreuzberg is one of Berlin’s most diverse communities. Street carts dish out curry wurst and falafals, while Italian and Turkish influences are everywhere to be seen. And then there’s Yorcksclosshen, where tonight there’s just a little bit of New Orleans.
Well, the music may be from the Big Easy, but guitarist Michael Hardie is from Houston, Texas. Yet he plays and songs the blues as good as anyone in Louisiana. He’s been doing it for years, and although his set list is rooted in the Deep South, he tells me it was the Beatles’ Rubber Soul that first made him want to play.
Fifty years on, he’s still playing.