I remember as a child cycling with my family and our friends the 21 kms from our home to this lake. Our little legs would pedal as fast as we could, as we couldn’t wait to get there, the return journey however, was another thing. I remember my Dad holding on to his handle bars with one hand, using the other to push us along, each of us pushing a sibling in turn.
Steinhuder Meer (Lake) is the largest lake in northwest Germany at 30 square kilometers. Despite its size, it is actually a very shallow lake, only 3m at its deepest point, with an average depth of 1.35m. We used to walk into the water for quite a distance before we got to a point where our toes would no longer touch the sandy lake bottom.
Steinhuder Meer has a man-made Badeinsel (Beach Island), which is extremely popular during the summer. The sandy beach was built in 1975 with sand retrieved from the lake. The island is more like a peninsula rather than a proper island.
The lake has another man-made island in its middle, Wilhelmstein, built between 1761 and 1765. Once the island was completed it was turned into a fortress and even served as a military school for a short period of time. In 1777 it became a state prison for 90 years.
These days it makes for a nice little trip across the lake via one of the scheduled little boats from the small town of Steinhude, after which the lake is named. I remember one particular time when we all took one of these boats across to the island. It was rather choppy out there on the lake and my younger brother was worried about falling out of the boat whilst our baby sister was looking very green indeed.
Steinhude’s income used to come from fishing and smoking eels, and whilst these activities still remain part of everyday life, it is tourism that is now the main source of income here. Despite the large numbers of visitors, this little village, with a population of 4,900, has kept is traditional look and feel.
One of our favourite things to do, aside from enjoying a stroll along the water, is to have a fischbroetchen, a bread roll with fish. All kinds of fish are available, salmon (seelachs), hering (matjes), smoked eel (geraeucherten aal) and my favourite (as I am not too keen on fish) is the fish cake (fischfrikadelle).
After all the years of visiting this lake during my childhood, it remains a favourite day out for me. I remember the first trip with my husband, who then was my boyfriend, almost 25 years ago, or when we took our daughter there for the first time. It was also the place we returned to as a family a day after my brother’s funeral two years ago.
Our last visit this summer, was as ever a great day out and reminded me of all the good times our family has had each time we visited. The fischbroetchen that have been consumed, the coffee and cake that is always part of a visit, the sweets that get bought from street vendors in the big square by the lake, the boats taken to the island, and the fun that was had on the beach.