With the paddle boat over cozy lakes, with the wheel ships look, on the traces of the Vikings at the Schlei walk and stroll along the canals of a beautiful city - four great ways to experience Schleswig-Holstein off the beaten path.

1

With the canoe through the Holstein Switzerland

Life is a long, quiet river - certainly not always, but definitely when you're canoeing in Holstein Switzerland. There are over 200 lakes in the region, and some of the most beautiful are connected by the Schwentine. If you want, you can paddle from one lake to the next, discovering the lightness of being and pondering whether you'll order a slice of cheesecake at the next stop or rather a large chocolate ice cream. You see sea eagles and kingfishers and how the light plays with the branches of the old deciduous trees. One becomes calm. You slow down. You get the desire for more. If you want to go on a big paddle tour, you can take the Schwentine water trail from the Redderkrug at the Großer Eutiner See to the Kieler Förde. That's 55 kilometers, but with the most beautiful views. At the finish, you may have sore muscles in your arms. But it's not so bad the next morning. For sure.
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2

By bike along the Kiel Canal

More than three hundred kilometers past three big letters: The bicycle route along the Kiel Canal (NOK) is a route of superlatives. Anyone traveling here in the hinterland of Schleswig-Holstein will see a hundred ships on their way from one sea to the other (the NOK is the busiest maritime shipping route in the world, with over 30,000 passages every year) - which is why the bike route is also affectionately known as the "Pötte-kieken" route. There are ten bridges, fourteen ferries (free for cyclists!), quite a few tunnels and more country estates and manor houses than there is room for on the memory card in the camera. But above all, there are the wonderful landscapes for which the state is famous, the meadows and pastures and forests. And because the land is flat and the bike path is almost completely level, at some point you glide along effortlessly. Like the ships on the canal next to you.
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3

The Schlei: A fjord and the Vikings

If actually someone should not know yet: The Schlei is an arm of the Baltic Sea that stretches more than forty kilometers into the country, north of Eckernförde and (a good bit) south of Flensburg. Strictly speaking and - attention: geomorphologically, the Schlei is not a fjord, but "Ostseefjord Schlei" sounds of course much too good not to call the region so. So, the Baltic Sea fjord Schlei: untouched landscapes, thousands of water birds, a lot of silence, a lot of sky and a wind that rustles quietly in the rushes on the shore. Sailboats, rare butterflies and bogs, outcrops reached by narrow accesses. Small villages, big fish and - close by - the remains of the legendary Viking settlement of Haithabu, abandoned for nine hundred years and now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. But, the Baltic Sea fjord Schlei is something very special. And so beautiful that really everyone should know it.
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And the Vikings?

4

The canals of Friedrichstadt

Amsterdam in miniature: Friedrichstadt, high up in the northwest of Schleswig-Holstein, is not as crowded, but at least as pretty and worth a visit. You can take a boat across narrow canals, pose for Instagram in front of old stepped gable houses, and have city guides in historic Dutch costume tell you why so much here is actually reminiscent of the Netherlands: When Duke Frederick III founded the city 400 years ago (and named it after himself, of course), he lured new citizens by promising them religious freedom. Dutch Remonstrants, who had been persecuted in their homeland and were now building a new home, promptly arrived. Later, Mennonites, Lutherans, Quakers and a few others followed, and because the duke also promoted art, architects, painters and goldsmiths were at their best. 400 years later, you can still see this: everywhere along the canals there are studios, galleries and small art workshops, and in between cafés and pubs and restaurants. Just like Amsterdam. Just a little smaller.

Cover image: © TA.SH / Sascha Egerland