Opening of the Diving Season – Glienicker See

We’re a little slow on getting started, in fact I haven’t even put on the neoprene yet, but Saturday was the beginning of the SCUBA season for us.

The day started a little late, really around noon. Usually we are up and at ’em earlier… you know, to get the better parking spot, get there before the general population does, yadda yadda. But it was nice to get to the Glienicker Lake and see the kids already having a great time in the water.

It’s always a little strange to me. Almost everyone else around us is spreading out a towel or a beach blanket along with a few drinks and something to eat in a basket. Maybe they have some lotion or a pillow-like thing to put their head on as they plan to lie in the sun and maybe walk down to the lake once in a while to cool off. But here we come. First with a large plastic drop cloth, then a beach blanket alongside.
On top of the drop cloth goes the equipment for diving. Boxes filled with the normal stuff: mask, fins, air tank… but also the buoyancy jacket, lots of weights, and of course the neoprene… yes, the gloves, hood, and the body suit. Uh Huh… a load of crap!

Usually by now we are getting looks from the other sunbathers. We sit down for a few minutes to rest from carrying all of the heavy equipment and take in the scenery. The Germans love their lakes, and this lake is a nice one. The kids are playing in the water so we know that must be relatively warm, but once you don a suit and get down a few meters, the water gets cold quickly. On this day the surface temperature was 18 and at six meters it was 11. (surface temp 64f. 20 feet down it was 52f.) Just a bit cold for someone that wants to stay down a while and observe things.

N.’s dive buddy is an Open Water Scuba Instructor as well… in fact they went through the training together. So they of course have ALL the cool gear and love to chat about it. I on the other hand just want to see fish and really don’t get excited about their really cool new dive watch computers or the new ice-resistant air regulators. They talk for a bit but it is easy to see they are itching to get into the water, which they do in short time.

They have a nice dive and come back out of the water with huge smiles on their faces. When I ask the all-important question for me… “What kind of fish did you see?” They both shake their heads and one of them tells me that they saw only one fish. This may have more to do with the flurry of swimming activity all around than anything. But as I mentioned, they don’t do it for the fish. For them it is a sort of a zen thing I think, but I really can’t get into their heads for that kind of understanding.

The girls in the picture below are wearing dry suits which usually means that the water doesn’t get inside the suit. In cold temperatures this keeps you much warmer.

As they come out of the water there is always interest from the sunbathers and especially from the children. Usually they are gawking but good. Of course our little group of divers is not alone. There are two other dive groups going into and out of the water, and the German sunbathers are well accustomed to seeing the strange creatures in black emerge from the water dripping and staggering clumsily under the weight of the heavy (sometimes as much as 30kg – 66lbs). It is still rather impressive to see all of the strange and alien-like equipment we carry and people can’t help looking.

After the dive there is always the discussion of what was seen… because without special equipment there is no way to really talk underwater… so this must wait for after the dive. Then they talk about the missed signals from the other diver… “What did you mean when you were pointing at that tree branch?” Long time buddies have a whole language underwater but new buddies have to learn how to communicate.

Then there is the inevitable discussion about the equipment. On that day N.’s buddy was starting with a new dry suit… which didn’t manage to keep her 100% dry I’m sorry to say. Then they compare temperatures and depth numbers between stories on the things seen underwater. These items are entered in log books and buddies sign each other’s books creating a lasting memory (and a searchable reference) for years to come.

Hmm… I must admit that riding in the car filled with the smell of fresh neoprene was strangely nice. I really enjoy diving myself… I bet that I put on the suit myself in the next weeks. I dive in a wetsuit though, and my extremities get rather cold at these temperatures. Perhaps I’ll wait a few weeks. 🙂

See the whole set of pics on Flickr.

Wannsee in Flammen

Every year around this time a local lake named the Wannsee on the west side of Berlin celebrates the fall by having a special flotilla of tourist and private boats culminating in an awe-inspiring display of fireworks. It is named Wannsee in Flammen and means Wannsee (the name of the lake) in flames.

This year a few people from the company for which I work were invited to be guests of Berlin’s largest tourist and charter boat companies, Stern und Kreisschiffahrt. They were unable to go, so Beatrix and I took their place.

The nicest ship in their fleet is the Ms. La Paloma, and tonight we were on it! The celebration is a two night thing, and Saturday night is usually the BIG night, so this company invites a group of clients (somewhere around 700 people for this ship) and uses the opportunity to push themselves a little on the first night.

N. doesn’t really like fireworks, so I invited my Mother-in-Law. She’s a really cool lady that I enjoy spending time with, so it was just a natural! Beatrix brought a friend of hers, and the four of us shared a table. Personally I enjoyed the evening although I was left in the dust for understanding about 50% of the conversation. It is really hard for me to understand German when the people are speaking quickly, music is playing, and there is more ambient noise. But they seemed to get along very well, and the evening was for me delightful.

The buffet was quite nice, the wine lovely, and even the cappuccino was agreeable although I usually find German cappuccino unpalatable… not sweet enough for this American… it always needs two spoons of sugar. The wait staff was quick, efficient, and friendly. The company representatives on the ship were cordial and welcoming.

There were about 25 fully lit vessels traveling in a circle around the Wannsee. All night long we were trailed by Moby Dick which oddly enough resembled a whale, while we trailed the Havel Queen, a throwback to the Mississippi riverboat. As we floated along we were treated to running alongside brightly-lit party ships, some of them were even neon-colored. There were lots of smaller ships and sailboats moored along the side of the lake, many of them with people on deck or visible below deck… like I said, it is a pretty big event and lots of people braved the crappy weather to come out and enjoy it.

Our weather eventually turned out to be pretty decent. Not even one and a half hours before cast off we had a HUGE downpour which didn’t bode well for the evening. But as we were enjoying dinner in the comfort of the cabin Beatrix and I looked out at the water and saw the reflection of the moon! The clouds were parting and things were looking better!

About 10.00, as we were exploring the top deck of the ship, the fireworks started… talk about good timing!! The La Paloma had just completed her turn at the far end of the lake and was headed directly back toward the little island which was set up in the middle for the shooting of the fireworks. During the entire display we were moving either to port or to starboard to afford everyone the best view.

Eventually we came up right alongside where the fireworks were being shot off… this was the most spectacular view, unfortunately they were partially obscured by lingering smoke, but they were directly above us.

I guess that about 60% of what I enjoy most about fireworks is the big, deep booms… and there were plenty of them. Eardrum rattling, feel it in your chest kind of booms simply excite me, and I was not let down with this display at all. As we moved ever closer the noise seemed to surge across the water with an ever deepening sound… ah… what a great night!

Ms. La Paloma

Wolziger See for Sailing

Please forgive the way this post looks… I tried Blogger’s editing and found it lacking, but now I want to go to bed and don’t want to spend the time it will take to code it right.

Today I went sailing with N.’s family to a lovely lake southeast of Berlin named the Wolziger See

We’ve done this a few times, both N. and her father are qualified to sail, and it really is a lot of fun!

On this lake there is a wonderful water sports and more company named Blossin.

They have many different kinds of boats and wind surfing equipment for rent as well as arranging retreats with many kinds of sports and games including volleyball and climbing. You can camp right on the grounds, or stay in the hostels, but we just drive over for the day, have some wurst, and head home.

On our way we decided not to take the highway and saw some really pretty German countryside… well, the other people in the car did… I kinda took about a 10 minute nap.

When the car stopped suddenly I realized that we were outside of Der Turm in Funkerberg,
not too far from Waltersdorf for all of you IKEA lovers. They had a really cool little restaurant on the first floor up where we had coffee and cake. For one Euro each we got to go up to the top and take a look at the German countryside. The whole place was decorated very nicely with many different “cutsie” things, but the overall effect was very nice.

A very lovely day!