Holidays in the south-west of Mecklenburg: between Schaalsee and the Elbe Valley

southwest of Mecklenburg. Shortly after the Probst Jesar forest pool, the smartphone’s battery fails. And with that the voice of the digital tour guide, who had just explained something unremarkable: The “Jesar”, pond in Slavonic, owes its existence to a collapsed salt dome.

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In earlier centuries, it was the undoing of some travelers when they watered their horses on the steep bank, lost their footing and sank 40 feet below the surface. Today, a forest pool works here from May to September. The lake itself is harmless, but the water level has now dropped.

Opposite Schildfeld, the small river Schilde of the same name is dammed. © dpa-tmn

We are on our way in the southwest of Mecklenburg on the Lübtheener Gutshaustour, a 45-kilometre circular cycle route, and we follow the information provided by the “EntdeckerRouten” app. In addition to the route, it provides valuable image and sound information at various waypoints.

“An app that costs nothing and doesn’t track,” promises Susan Müller-Wusterwitz, owner of Digitour, which produces electronic audio guides for museums and regions. You can download the desired route in advance, so you no longer need a mobile Internet connection while traveling.

Of course, the smartphone still needs electricity – it’s probably a typical beginner’s mistake not to have a power bank with you on such a long bike tour. And it’s a bit of digital cheating to rely entirely on navigation aids. After all, there is also much to discover beyond the suggested routes.

For example along the European Cistercian Way. In the Mecklenburg area, it connects the biosphere reserve around Schaalsee with the Elbe River landscape in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania over a distance of about one hundred kilometers.

The Schaalsee is the namesake and the center of a UNESCO biosphere reserve. © Jens Büttner/dpa-Zentralbild/dpa-tmn

After a tour through the heart of Zarrentin at Schaalsee with bathing area, boathouses and the brick monastery enthroned above, we continue along Schaale. This is the name of a lake outflow, which is fed by numerous tributaries.

It is hard to imagine that the Schaalfahrt was an important economic factor at the time of the Lüneburg salt production: barges brought salt and firewood to the Baltic Sea via the Elbe, Sude and Schaale canals. Today the small river is a nature reserve and is reserved mainly for dragonflies, waterfowl and fish.

Those who leave the Cistercian path at Kogel and follow the cycle tributary Kleine Schaale directly from Mecklenburg’s past into the future. At least that is what the comrades-in-arms of the cooperative “We are building the future” in Nieklitz promise.

On the way you will also pass the former inner German border, today an innocent natural idyll. © Deike Uhtenwoldt/dpa-tmn

“I deal a lot with utopias and this is the right place for that,” says Lino Zeddies. Barefoot, in a hoodie and jeans, the tall organizational consultant stands in front of a honeycomb-shaped building that houses offices, a cafeteria and seminar rooms. Around ten hectares of wildly covered land, vegetable cultivation, bathing pond. “Since I’ve been here, I can work much better because I’m inspired all the time,” says Zeddies. Environmentalist and environmental politician Berndt Heydemann wanted to create such an inspirational place when he founded a future center on former farmland not far from the A24 motorway after reunification. However, the unwieldy name Human-Nature-Technology-Science attracted very few visitors despite being awarded the German Environmental Prize, and the adventure park went bankrupt.

For many years, nature was left to its own devices, and theft and vandalism plagued the buildings. Until the cooperative acquired the property and converted it, coworking spaces can be booked here, as well as workshop and seminar rooms, there are various accommodation options, as well as nature camps.

For the way to the workshop area, where the buses are converted and the “Tiny Houses” are built, Zeddies gets on one of the cooperative bicycles and recommends the shortcut through the Nieklitzer Holz to continue in the direction of the Tüschow mansion. However, the forest road is very sandy and you wish you had a bike with wider tires.

The Mecklenburg-Schwerin Tourism Association says there are more cycle tourists and a growing demand for cultural, historical and natural history tours. However, on this day only a young couple with a pram and a terrifyingly noisy quad bike are on their way on the Cistercian road between Tüschow and Schildfeld.

Perhaps it is also the “suspension roads” that deter cyclists: one slab road to the right, another to the left, in the middle of the dirt, on which you roll with less vibration than on slabs. The stop at Schildfeld is even more welcome: the Schilde mill has been restored and now supplies electricity, the ranger produces venison, and the Schilde River has beautiful fishing spots.

If you miss paved roads, you should say goodbye to the Cistercian path and continue pedaling to Vellahn. A mighty brick church points the way from afar: it stands on a hill, surrounded by trees and a wall of field stones.

One might wonder how such a masterpiece gets to such a sleepy place, but all doors are locked and only open on request: Pastor Christian Lange has two other churches in the community to care for.

For relaxation, the parish priest recommends forest bathing in two ways: Vellahn also has a public swimming pool in the middle of the forest area, and is very close to the Mecklenburg Elbe Valley Nature Park.

From now on, the descent is steady, you can reach Lindenstadt Lübtheen much faster than expected and there is still enough time for a city tour with the “EntdeckerRouten” app, at least as long as the battery lasts.

And so we are back at the starting point of this story, the Probst Jesar forest pond. No smartphone guide. The next stop on the route is the old Jessenitz mine, but what awaits you there? Kind neighbors tell me what information the app can no longer give, and even more: they tell me that the mine is now a cosmetics bottling plant.

And that the numerous mine warning signs everywhere are more insurance relics than signs of real danger. With this information, you can enjoy the rest of the way through the moors with peace of mind.

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