Havelland’s starry nights
Havelland’s starry nights
This hiking and swimming hub gets even better after sunset
Havelland is an area known for its outdoor activities, lakes, parks, hiking routes and, of course, the eponymous Havel river, which has recently been restored as part of Europe’s largest river restoration project. However, our focus here will be on nocturnal matters in this region. Specifically, the Sternenpark (star park) Westhavelland.
The nature park in West Havelland is sparsely populated, which means it has very little artificial light, or in other words, it gets really dark here. This makes it something of a rarity – a naturally occurring nighttime landscape. The park is therefore perfect for curious stargazers, would-be astrologers and earnest astrophiles, as the lack of light pollution allows for maximum celestial satisfaction.
In 2014, the Sternpark was named the 1st official star park by the Dark Sky Association. Since then, the project has been run exclusively by the employees of the Westhavelland nature park. Learn the wheres, whys and how of this nighttime wonder, and discover tips for things to do in the daytime while you count down the hours till darkness, and the constellations come out to play.
Starstruck in Havelland
So…where is it?
The star park zone is spread throughout the WestHavelland Nature park. It’s open 24 hours a day and there is no entry free, as it’s not one designated place but rather a large wildlife area with many vantage points to experience the night skies.
There are 10 official observation points within this region. Our top 3 are:
The silo site south of Joachimsthal
This site can be easily reached by car, and provides premium conditions for star spotting: the skies are clear and there’s typically little to no fog, owing to the lack of water in the area. The visibility in all directions is very good, and there’s plenty of places to set up telescopes.
Coordinates: N52.813230, E12.263094
This is our favourite spot to spend the whole night under the stars. It’s a free camping area near a natural swimming lake. The trees offer some protection from the Berlin city lights at nighttime, and the residents of the local town of Klessen disconnect or keep the lights dim, to promote the natural darkness needed for prime celestial vision.
Coordinates: N52.734697, E12.480468
Friesack train station
This observation post is only 1km walk from the train station, perfect for non-drivers and pollution-averse stargazers. The view from here is unobstructed in all directions and there’s a large tree in the distance that makes for a killer, star-filled photo motif.
Coordinates: N52.755455, E12.582277
WHAT is happening
Every year, the nerdiest astrological event in the Brandenburg calendar takes place, the WHAT. That’s the West Havellander Astro Treff, where star-hobbyists meet and share their telescopic visions. Don’t miss the talks from guest astrophile lecturers at a camp site where people tend to sleep all day. By night, the camp is illuminated in red light, as this colour causes the least light pollution. Meanwhile, star enthusiasts start searching the skies, hopeful for optimal viewing conditions. Join the fun from 26-28 of August 2022 – registration opens in May.
Aside from the yearly convention, and some sporadic events at the observation posts, you can also book private tours with guides like Herr Becker and Frau Werner through the star park’s website. Join one of Frau Werner’s nocturnal hikes, where she can show you the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn and the Milky Way.
And in the daytime..?
Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until night falls to enjoy the constellations at the star park. Thankfully, there are more than a few things to keep you amused during the day in Havelland, aside from exploring the vast wilderness.
Kloster Lehnin was founded in 1180 as a Cistercian monastery. Today the preserved Gothic and Romanesque brick buildings serve as one of the most significant cultural monuments in Brandenburg. Join a guided tour to get a deep dive into the history of the place, or visit the museum and grounds unaccompanied. There’s a summer music festival running this year from early August to mid-September, if you fancy some evangelical sounds.
This place is slightly less sombre, and perhaps more family-friendly. The open-air theme park’s optical illusions and dazzling array of colours may confuse you – in a good way. You can take the kids on an optical illusion journey on a raft down the river Havel, or to the playgrounds, which feature mini racing buggies and a giant chess board.
A proper countryside place fit for long lunches by the fire in winter, and white wines with fish on the terrace in the summer. It’s been around since 1860, but the food is modern Provençal, and the menu changes seasonally.
What if I’m staying in Havelland for more than one day?
An ideal location for an overnight stay in Havelland near the star park is the Gasthof Milow. The hotel is located on an effortlessly good-looking, waterside bend of the river Havel. The hotel restaurant offers an exciting range of local fish and meat dishes. It’s all a bit extravagant, but that might be just the tonic after an intense night of star-searching in the wilderness.
This article featured in the Insider’s guide to Brandenburg, a magazine commissioned for the Brandenburg tourism board in spring 2022.
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