Travel Germany - Eurasian Crane Safari in Linum

Berlin is exciting, it has got lots of museums, cafes, restaurants, galleries, theatres, monuments, bars and parks. The state of Brandenburg surrounds Berlin, and the good thing is that when one feels the need to get away from the town’s drama, to take a little break, abundant nature is in most cases only a short ride from the centre of town. I have driven down innumerable country roads and walked around lakes and through the fields to bring you the best of Brandenburg in every season. Read on to find tips for your Eurasian crane safari near Berlin. Find out where locals flock, where to best watch the cranes, how many cranes you can expect to be in the area, where to eat organic and locally grown delicacies, where cranes overwinter and what the crane watching etiquette is. 

Travel Germany - Tips for your Eurasian crane safari in Linum The Touristin

Every year from September to November, sometimes as early as August, nature lovers can watch Eurasian cranes (Grus grus) in one of Europe's largest crane resting places in Linum in the Havelland. Cranes from Central Europe, Scandinavia and, increasingly also from the Baltic States, Finland and Belarus are using the Western European route.

Where locals flock – Eurasian Cranes

Like all living creatures, cranes need two things: food and rest. It is best to crane watch in the Rhin-Havelluch bird refuge. Around Linum the cranes find many undisturbed lakes and corn fields which offer the cranes the optimal resting place on the way south to Spain and southern France. Cranes sleep and rest in knee-deep water, where they are safe from any enemies. In the 18th century peat gathers settled in Linum and peat was stung in the moors and pond areas, so that it could then be transported directly via a canal to Berlin, where it was burned. Nowadays, some ponds serve the cranes as a place to sleep. The water level is regulated by channels that run through the landscape so that cranes can rest comfortable. During the day, the cranes are predominantly found on agriculturally used fields, where they feed on harvest residues. The arrival and leaving of the cranes in Linum, in the early morning and at nightfall, is a real spectacle. The air is filled with the trumpeting sound of the flocks.

Grey cranes flying over canola fields and cranes grazing in a field.

The cranes start to arrive in September. Within weeks the number of arrivals skyrockets, at times, there can be around 200,000 of the large grey birds in the wider region. In favourable weather conditions, the cranes leave their resting places in the early morning hours. If you stay in the fields around the Linum area, you can observe heavenly flight formations. The cruising altitude of the cranes is between 50 and 2,000 meters above the sea level and is dependent on the wind conditions. In flight, the cranes form a V-shaped formation with the strong and experienced birds at the top where families with an average of two cubs follow suit. They support each other, so that the next bird in the formation flies in the lee of the front bird and can save energy.

The cranes don't fancy tumultuous weather conditions, like most of us humans. In smooth flight conditions, when there is for example no strong head wind, in theory, the birds could fly non-stop all the way to southern Europe, and that is about 2,500 kilometres. They often take a break and sometimes poor weather and fog keep them on the ground for days.

Overwintering – Eurasian Cranes

Figures from previous winters show that around 400,000 cranes are overwintering in Spain, France, Portugal, and North West Africa. The main region to overwinter is the Extremadura in western Spain. There, the birds find fruits of the stone- and cork oaks in the Mediterranean oak forests. Cranes can also be found in northern Germany in winter, more and more birds simply stay in the region when there is no grave cold, snow or frost.

Arrive early in the day, visit cafes, the crane museum, go for walks, watch birds… and wait for sunset. Watching the cranes during the day is a true delight, listening to them at sunset, is an especially beautiful experience.

While photo-hunting for cranes, I pass by a farmstall, there is pumpkins everywhere. I take a gazillion photos of the yummies, and soon realize they look like art. As I chat with the farmer, he tells me that he grows 150 pumpkin varieties, many of the seeds come from abroad, often friends bring them back home from their vacation. The guy admits that he has not tried every single variety this season. Yet. We both laugh. He surely is on a pumpkin mission. I hop into a local café, have cake and a coffee (at least that is as what they sell that hot drink). As I pay, the waitress gifts me a jute bag that has a print of a robin redbreast and the words: with using this bag you protect the birds from hazardous plastic. 


The clocktower, a green door and the main facade of a red brick gothic church.

A large variety of edible pumpkins harvested in late summer and autumn.

Back to the Cranes. Wait for sunset. Watching the cranes during the day is a true delight, listening to them at sunset, is an especially beautiful experience. Watch them they fly over the fields.  

Where to see cranes in and around Linum in Brandenburg?

-In Linum there is the village church on the main road (Nauener Strasse 49); walk through the meadow behind the church towards to the large fields to see whether cranes are resting here.

-From Linum follow the road “Kuhhorster Weg” to Kuhhorst, and look closely over the surrounding fields, just stop any place you see flocks of cranes. Respect and watch out for fellow road users to avoid accidents.

-Make your way to the Karolinenhof, a goat cheese maker, farmstall and café, and park and walk along the fields. A visit at the café is highly recommended, you get organic salads, sandwiches and coffee and cake. The café is only open on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and on public holidays and from mid-February to mid-November. Visit the website for hours and more info. In season, you can watch the cranes while feasting on homemade cakes. Karolinenhof, Karolinenhof 1, 16766 Kremmen.

A large flock of grey cranes flying over autumn/fall coloured fields.

Two garden chairs and a small wooden table in front of a red house with a facade partly covered in autumn/fall coloured leaves.

A flock of Cranes, in flight-formation on the horizon in a purple sunset.

Crane watching etiquette

Remember you share the area in the woods and around the ponds and fields not only with birds but also with fellow birders.

Stay away from the cranes, they are shy creatures and get disturbed easily, keep a great enough distance, and leave them in peace. Best to keep a distance 400 metres to the cranes. Bring binoculars.

Keep quiet (no shouting, no mobile phone sounds, no music).

It might be a great idea to wear clothes in muted colours, like grey, dark green, brown, black to draw less attention.

A narrow road lined by trees in fall/autumn foliage.

Acorns and leaves on a forest floor in autumn/fall.

How to get to Linum

By car it is roughly 60 kilometres from Alexanderplatz, in the very centre of Berlin. The trip takes one hour, depending on traffic.

Make your way to Nabu, Nauener Str. 54, 16833 Fehrbellin, there is an informative museum, and nearby you find three large parking spaces.

Travel inspiration –Day trips from Berlin

Some might tell you to visit Hamburg or Dresden or Leipzig or Bremen in a day from Berlin. I am not doing that. I love travel enthusiasts, but that recommendation sounds slightly over-enthusiastic. These towns are not suitable for a day trip from Berlin, not at all. They all have an amazing history, art scene, cafés and restaurants and are well worth a visit of a few days or even a week to get a first impression and to see what you would like to do next time you visit. Remember, it is all about the quality of time spent in a place and not about how one visited 20 places in 20 days. You might tell others you went to Hamburg or Dresden or Leipzig or Bremen for the day, but what do you remember about it? I recommend places near Berlin. Take it slow, enjoy the nature and the history. Check out these articles on The Touristin.

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From Berlin with love