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Published On: Mon, Nov 13th, 2017

Escape: On a houseboat in Brandenburg

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About a week before we were leaving for the boat, I found myself researching the warmest thermals and writing a packing list including woolen blankets and hot-water bottles. I was so, so scared I’d be cold all of the time – a circumstance I didn’t really consider when booking a couple months prior. And I bet you’re thinking the same: spending time on a boat in November? Why would I ever do that? Because: it’s a Bunbo and it turned out to be the most cosy, relaxing, and utterly delightful thing I’ve done all year.

Brandenburg oak forest

I must’ve stumbled upon a picture of a Bunbo somewhere on Instagram, the colourful wooden little houses on top of a raft are prime social media content, for sure. Their open decks at bow and stern feature open barbecues, hammocks, ladders to get in or out of the water, and the little house just looks like that – a bungalow on a boat: it’s a Bunbo!

It’s a real boat, though – before leaving the harbour by the city of Brandenburg, I had to pass a short test to be allowed to navigate the 6 tons: not only traffic signs, knots, and buoy colours, but also a short navigation lesson including how to anchor and how to land. All in all way easier than I thought, especially since the Bunbos aren’t speed boats, and navigate very slowly. When this was done, we were off to the sea, or in our case the many kilometres of the Havel river, anchoring at quiet bays where I could easily row Nico, my dog, over to the shore whenever needed.

And that’s basically what we did: after a wholesome breakfast of hot oatmeal, we drove up the Havel, past holiday resorts, occasional industrial sites, fisheries, water skiing facilities, and forest after forest. Going that late in the season had one big benefit: we often had the river to ourselves (making navigating much easier), and while the idea of being able to just jump into the water and swim is definitely endearing (if there’ll ever be a summer warm enough to do that), the peace and quiet made up for that. Once, we rowed over to a little island that must be a busy camping ground in the summer, but on that day was just me and Nico, walking past winterised campers and deserted beaches. Another time, we discovered a sun flooded oak forest just by the river, where I spent most of my morning watching the many impressive bird migrations before returning to my friends on the boat. The nights mostly ended kinda early with a stew, card games and one or three bottles of wine. Since the light was gone around 5.30, the evenings felt much longer than in the city. And there’s often almost no cell phone reception. I read about three books in only five days.

Many asked me on social media already: how does this work? Where do you sleep? Is there a bathroom? How do you make food? And the answer is: a Bunbo is actually a fully equipped bungalow: we had two bedrooms, a bathroom including a hot shower, a small kitchen with a gas stove and fridge, a couch and a dining table. Electricity comes from a battery that is charged by solar panels on the roof and the motor of the boat, there’s a water tank, and enough gasoline and firewood for five days. It’s like a real house, just on the water.

So was I cold? Rarely, if ever. Sometimes, I was actually too hot – our boat had a wood fired oven in its very center, that produces a whole lot of heat. The hot water bottle I brought remained in my suitcase, but to bring a woollen blanket (and rubber boots and a rain jacket) was actually a good idea. And a thermos is already included in the very well selected boat equipment.

Bunbos are in high demand, though, if you wanna do a trip next summer, better book now: the season starts in March and goes till the beginning of November, prices start from 320 Euro for a smaller Bunbo for a weekend in the off-season (excl. gasoline & firewood), and there are four harbours surrounding Berlin (we used then one at Brandenburg/Plaue).

Transparency note: After discovering the Bunbo, I asked for a cooperation. Bunbo then offered me a five-day rent-free trip, excl. extra costs like gasoline, wood, bedding, and the little rowing boat to get Nico to shore. We were five people in the biggest boat on offer and all in all, we would’ve spent around 200 per person including rent, extra costs, all groceries, and travel to the harbour for a five day week in the off-season. And while five or even six people on the boat is definitely possible, four is probably the most comfortable. 

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