on my this year's cycling tour I came into the region called the biosphere reserve of the Schaal-Lake (to the East of Hamburg, between Zarrentin and Ratzeburg). I immediately fell for the place, so I had a day of resting from cycling and spent a day paddling on this beautiful lake. I hired a canoe - the Raven had to wait for me at home this time.
What is so nice about the place? I'll start with some remarks about the campsite in Groß-Zechern. Mostly younger families, some folks of retirement age and a very nice, relaxed atmosphere. It is a simple site but with adequate facilities for all you really need. And most important: The place is not covered with signs saying "This is verboten (forbidden)", "that is verboten" - "Don't do this" and "don't do that", and so forth, which - I regret to say, is something that occurs on many German campsites ..." (having said this, doggies are not allowed on the tiny beach, but that's ok with me - although I do like dogs generally).The guy who runs the place is a very friendly, helpful and cool character. However, if you want to do some shopping, you have to go to Zarrentin, a cute little town some 5 k away. As I said, a very relaxed atmosphere prevails on the campsite and it is easy to get in touch with people, if you want to.
Then, there is a number of small towns nearby, like Zarrentin, Ratzeburg, Moelln, quite pittoresque, mainly the typical Northern German red brick architecture, not spectacular maybe but certainly nice to see and have a look at.
Tourism is deliberately kept on a low scale, you have "minor" attraction like artisanal (is that the term?) or crafts' shops open for the public, so there is something to explore that might also delight the little ones, for example how cheese is made and goats are raised and so on. The countryside is beautiful, many tiny "rolling" hills, remnants of the last ice age.
But this is about paddling: The lake is part of the biosphere reserve. So there are only one or two campsites on its shores. The rest of the shore is wood and reeds and, frankly, while paddling around I wondered whether I am still in Germany or perhaps in Sweden or Canada (frankly, I have never been to Canada, but...). And it is very quiet. Apart from the birds... there are even sea (or fish???) eagles circling in the sky.
Also, when there is some wind, it is a good place to practice paddling on a lake. The lake tends to build up waves. I even "fought" some white caps in the afternoon. Of course there can be currents but the lake is not that big to be really dangerous. But you can gain experience in flat water paddling alright (I did in the afternoon, while it was nice and really flat water in the evening).
So, the gist of it is: It is a lovely region for a paddling holiday (there are more lakes, you can paddle up to Ratzeburg and further, if you want, and there are also more waterways and lakes to explore). It well suited if you travel with kids, too. And it is far from being overcrowded, even during holiday seasons. It's not total wilderness, but it comes relatively close to it given that it is Germany ;-).
I should add, there are rules for paddling: Parts of the lake are "verboten" for all crafts (nature reserve) and you have to pay a fee if you bring your own canoe. If you hire one, the fee is part of what you pay for the hiring.
If you want to have a look, here's a link to the website of the campsite: http://www.camping-schaalsee.de/
And another one to the official web site of the region (unfortunately, only in German): http://www.schaalsee.de/
I will now try to provide some pics I made while paddling. If it doesn't work out go to http://www.open-canoe-journal.de. Click on "Forum", then "Tourenberichte", then "Schaalsee".
Morning mist gently rising.
Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear, well, he eats you.