When is a lake not a lake? Our Health Editor Moira takes a trip to the Leipzip region of Germany to find the answer
I’m sitting in the sunshine, sipping a cool drink, relaxing as I look out over a clear blue lake and wave to the occasional canoeist as they pass me on my island. It’s a lovely sunny day and I’m in eastern Germany – in the Leipzig region to be exact.
But nothing is quite as it seems. The island I’m sitting on is in the middle of Lake Störmthaler, but the lake has only been in existence since 2012. It is one of many lakes in the area that have been cleverly made from the land left behind after a mining process.
And the island I’m sitting on is not an island at all. It’s actually a floating artwork called the Vineta and it’s a tribute to all of the people whose lives were disrupted due to open-cast mining in the area. The platform I’m sitting on looks like the top of a flooded church, but it’s actually an events centre that can be hired out for business meetings or even weddings. Earlier I had looked inside at the display of photographs showing the area as it used to be and it’s quite astonishing to think that where I’m standing was once a huge coal mine.
Don’t think coal mining as we know it in Britain. This region specialises in open-cast mining, which is mining for coal that is only 60 metres or so below the surface. Giant excavators move the top soil to one side as the brown coal is mined and then move the soil back afterwards. It takes a lot of engineering know-how, but they then flood the area to make beautiful manmade lakes. The water is slowly diverted from nearby rivers and carefully treated to make sure that it is safe for swimming and water activities.
When I say giant excavators, I do mean giant. The F60 dwarfs the Eiffer Tower, coming in at 502 metres in length as compared to 320!
Lake Störmthaler is beautiful and water activities are going on all around me. Canoes, boats, swimming – everyone seems to be on or in the water and having lots of fun. I’ve done something I’ve never done before to get here today and that is being aboard a genuine WWII American landing craft that took part in D-day. How it made its way to the middle of Germany is a long story, but it was a lovely way to cross the lake and dip into history at the same time.
One of the more unusual watersports you’ll find on offer at Lake Störmthaler is the Vineta-Fly. I had a quick look as the demonstrator rose 10 feet in the air and decided that it was a bit too adventurous for me. I think I’ll stick to dipping my toes in the cool, clear water and strolling along the sandy beach!
Find out more about Lake Störmthaler and Leipzip
Check out more of Moira’s trip to Germany in our September 24 issue, on sale September 20.