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Nine of the best day trips from Berlin with the €9 ticket

With the €9 monthly travel card now on sale, get ready to explore some new destinations on a day trip from the German capital.

A boy jumps from a tower at the lido in Buckow into the water of Schermützelsee.
A boy jumps from a tower at the lido in Buckow into the water of Schermützelsee. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Patrick Pleul

The €9 monthly travel card will enable travellers to explore Germany via its regional trains for a fraction of the usual price and you may be amazed how far you can go with a regional train.

Here are our top nine destinations which you can reach with the travel card on a day trip from Berlin (though there are many, many more!). Keep in mind that you can’t use long-distance services (like the ICE) with the ticket. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s €9 ticket goes on sale nationwide

Wittenberg (Lutherstadt)

View of the town hall and the town church of Lutherstadt Wittenberg.

View of the town hall and the town church of Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Peter Endig

Take the regional RE3 train from Berlin Central Station and, in less than an hour and a half, you’ll find yourself in the world-famous city of Wittenberg in Saxony-Anhalt.

The so-called Lutherstadt was the home of reformist priest Martin Luther for over 40 years and is home to the Stadtkirche where legend has it, he posted his 95 theses in 1517.

The city has many very well-preserved historical landmarks, including the Luther House and the Castle Church, which are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The city is also full of medieval alleyways and open streams, making it a perfect destination to explore on a summer’s day. 

READ ALSO: €9 for 90: Everything you need to know about Germany’s cheap travel deal

Stralsund

An aerial view of the historic city of Stralsund.

An aerial view of the historic city of Stralsund. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Stefan Sauer

Amazingly, the €9 monthly ticket will even get you all the way to Stralsund on Germany’s northern coast. If you take the RE3 from Berlin Central Station in the morning, you will get there in just over three hours and have time to explore the city in a day before hopping on the same train back in the evening.

The Hanseatic city on the Baltic coast is full of treasures, including its UNESCO World Heritage Old Town, the 17th century St. Mary’s Church, and its futuristic Ozeaneum Natural History Museum.

Cottbus

Branitz Palace in Cottbus.

Branitz Palace in Cottbus. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

From Berlin Ostkreuz you can take the RE2 and in just over an hour you’ll be in the eastern city of Cottbus.

With a historic old town, medieval city walls, towers, and gates, the second-largest city in Brandenburg is a perfect destination for a summer day trip.

A particular highlight is the Baroque Branitz Palace, built in the 18th century and nestled in the grounds of the English-style Branitzer park.

Beelitz-Heilstätten

View of the tree-top walk on the grounds of the Beelitz Heilstätten in Beelitz.

View of the tree-top walk on the grounds of the Beelitz Heilstätten in Beelitz. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

For an alternative kind of day trip, take the RE7 in the direction of Dessau and get off at the station Beelitz – Heilstätten. After a five-minute walk, you will reach the entrance to a unique tourist attraction.

The old sanatorium in Beelitz-Heilstätten consists of 60 listed buildings that were abandoned for years. Now, the area has been adapted for tourism and, as well as being able to wander around the spooky buildings, visitors can take a 320-meter-long treetop path 20 metres above the forest floor.

Amid the unusual architecture and decay of the sanatoriums, you may recognise some locations of famous films, including The Pianist and Operation Valkyrie.

READ ALSO: Weekend Wanderlust: How to travel the world without leaving Germany

Waren (Müritz)

The harbour of Waren an der Müritz in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

The harbour of Waren an der Müritz in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

Taking the RE5 from Berlin central station, you will arrive at the city of Waren (Müritz) in the heart of the Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania lake district in an hour and forty-five minutes.

In the historic town centre, there are plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars, and several shopping streets, and the harbour offers lovely views over the water in the summer.

The city’s Müritzeum is also worth a visit, as it features the largest freshwater aquarium for native fish in Germany, as well as an interactive, multimedia exhibition on the nature of the Müritz region.

The city is on the doorstep of the Müritz National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which, with its 1,117 interconnected lakes, is the largest water sports area in Europe.

READ ALSO: Weekend Wanderlust: Finding woodland and witches in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Chorin Monastery

Aerial view of Chorin Monastery in Brandenburg.

Aerial view of Chorin Monastery in Brandenburg. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Patrick Pleul

In the middle of the Schorfheide-Chorin Reserve north of Eberswalde, lies the historic Chorin Monastery, an old Cistercian monastery. The architecture is amazing and the fantastic surroundings full of lakes and forests make it a popular destination for a day trip from Berlin. It also hosts regular cultural events, such as theatre performances or concerts.

You’ll need just under an hour and a half to get there, taking the RB24 from Berlin Lichtenberg, followed by the RB63 from Eberswalde Hauptbahnhof, and then the 912 bus from Britz.

Pfaueninsel (Peacock Island)

Peacock Island Palace on the eponymous Peacock Island in the Havel River.

Peacock Island Palace on the eponymous Peacock Island in the Havel River. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Settnik

From Berlin Central Station, take the RE1 and a short bus ride to Pfaueninsel and, in just over half an hour, you’ll find yourself on the fairytale Peacock Island.  The island, which is about 1.5 kilometres long and half a kilometre wide, gets its name from its free-ranging peacocks on the island.

The island’s castle was built from 1794 to 1797 and was the former summer residence of the German royal family.

Lübbenau Spreewald

A house in the Spreewald is reflected in the water of a stream.

A house in the Spreewald is reflected in the water of a stream. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

The Spreewald in southeastern Brandenburg is a classic destination for excursions from Berlin. The RE2 from Ostkreuz station will get you to the town of Lübbenau in just under an hour.

The dense green region is a cultural historic landscape and is full of forks of the Spree River which can be explored by canoe. Don’t forget to try the original Spreewald gherkins while you’re there!

Buckow

The Schermützelsee in Buckow.

The Schermützelsee in Buckow. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Patrick Pleul

Surrounded by deep valleys, gorges and turquoise lakes is the town of Buckow in the Märkische Schweiz Nature Park.

The lakes are very inviting, especially in the summer, but there are plenty of cultural and sporting activities on offer too. Also worth a visit is the summer house of playwright Bertolt Brecht.

You’ll need just over an hour to get there, taking the RB26 from Berlin Lichtenberg, followed by the 928 bus from Müncheberg.

Don’t forget: The €9 travel card is only valid on regional trains, so make sure you stick to those with an RE or RB prefix!

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‘Double processing time’: Austria and Germany fear non-EU travellers face border delays

Germany, Austria and another of other countries in Europe's Schengen area admit they fear delays and insufficient time to test the process ahead of new, more rigorous EU border checks that will be introduced next year, a new document reveals.

'Double processing time': Austria and Germany fear non-EU travellers face border delays

Schengen countries are tightening up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens in May 2023.

The EES will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. It will register the person’s name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. The data will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that is re-set at each entry. 

What the EES is intended to do is increase border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors. EU citizens and third-country nationals who reside in a country of the Schengen area will not be subject to such checks.

READ ALSO: Foreigners living in EU not covered by new EES border checks

But given its scale, the entry into operation of the system has been raising concerns on many fronts, including the readiness of the physical and digital infrastructure, and the time required for border checks, which could subsequently cause massive queues at borders.

A document on the state of preparations was distributed last week by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties.

The paper contains the responses from 21 member states to a questionnaire about potential impacts on passenger flows, the infrastructure put in place and the possibility of a gradual introduction of the new system over a number of months.

This is what certain the countries have responded. Responses from Denmark, Spain and Sweden do not appear in the report but the answers from other countries will be relevant for readers in those countries.

READ ALSO: What the EU’s new EES border check system means for travel

‘Double processing time’

Austria and Germany are the most vocal in warning that passport processing times will increase when the EES will become operational.

“The additional tasks resulting from the EES regulation will lead to a sharp increase in process times”, which are expected to “double compared to the current situation,” Austrian authorities say. “This will also affect the waiting times at border crossing points (in Austria, the six international airports),” the document continues.

“Furthermore, border control will become more complicated since in addition to the distinction between visa-exempt and visa-required persons, we will also have to differentiate between EES-required and EES-exempt TCN [third country nationals], as well as between registered and unregistered TCN in EES,” Austrian officials note.

Based on an analysis of passenger traffic carried out with the aviation industry, German authorities estimate that checking times will “increase significantly”.

France expects to be ready for the introduction of the EES “in terms of passenger routes, training and national systems,” but admits that “fluidity remains a concern” and “discussions are continuing… to make progress on this point”.

Italy is also “adapting the border operational processes… in order to contain the increased process time and ensure both safety and security”.

“Despite many arguments for the introduction of automated border control systems based on the need for efficiency, the document makes clear that the EES will substantially increase border crossing times,” Statewatch argues.

‘Stable service unlikely by May 2023’

The border infrastructure is also being adapted for collecting and recording the data, with several countries planning for automated checks. So what will change in practice?

Austria intends to install self-service kiosks at the airports of Vienna and Salzburg “in the course of 2023”. Later these will be linked to existing e-gates enabling a “fully automated border crossing”. Austrian authorities also explain that airport operators are seeking to provide more space for kiosks and queues, but works will not be completed before the system is operational.

Germany also plans to install self-service kiosks at the airports to “pre-capture” biometric data before border checks. But given the little time for testing the full process, German authorities say “a stable working EES system seems to be unlikely in May 2023.”

France will set up self-service kiosks in airports, where third-country nationals can pre-register their biometric data and personal information before being directed to the booth for verification with the border guard. The same approach will be adopted for visitors arriving by bus, while tablet devices such as iPads will be used for the registration of car passengers at land and sea borders.

Italy is increasing the “equipment of automated gates in all the main  airport” and plans to install, at least in the first EES phase, about 600 self-service kiosks at the airports of Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Venice and in those with “significant volumes of extra-Schengen traffic,” such as Bergamo, Naples, Bologna and Turin.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, is also installing self-service kiosks to facilitate the collection of data. Norway, instead, will have “automated camera solutions operated by the border guards”, but will consider self-service options only after the EES is in operation.

Gradual introduction?

One of the possibilities still in consideration is the gradual introduction of the new system. The European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months.

According to the responses, Italy is the only country favourable to this option. For Austria and France this “could result in more confusion for border guards and travellers”. French officials also argue that a lack of biometric data will “present a risk for the security of the Schengen area”.

France suggested to mitigate with “flexibility” the EES impacts in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, France calls for the possibility to not create EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later.

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” French authorities said.

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