Potsdam, Berlin, Germany (Weltexpress). In mid-summer of 1878, the author Mark Twain voyaged down the river Neckar accompanied by the uncompleted manuscript of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”. He described this journey later in “A Tramp Abroad” and made his readers believe that he was on a raft. There is among scholars some dispute about this. Probably he went by boat. However, he got a good glimpse of the life on the rafts then trading along between Heilbronn and Heidelberg. Thus he was able to complete the book telling the Tale of Old Man River some say after his encounters on this not so grand a waterway.
His raft trip down the winding river took two days and covers six chapters in this travel memoir. To quote only one idyllic passage: “Germany, in the summer, is the perfection of the beautiful, but nobody has understood, and realized, and enjoyed the utmost possibilities of this soft and peaceful beauty unless he has voyaged down the Neckar on a raft.” Certainly the pace of life has changed since then and our nearby Havel and Spree might not be the same as far as rafting goes. But as the raft hire business ran under the name of “Huckleberrys Tour Floßstation”, we thought we might even experience a bit of Mississippi feeling. True enough, ours was made mainly of wood but not of of logs, carried a large cabin – and moved around by means of a diesel motor. So it wasn’t quite like the tale that Mark Twain told to his readers: “The motion of a raft is the needful motion; it is gentle and gliding, and smooth, and noiseless; it calms down all feverish activities, it soothes to sleep all nervous hurry and impatience; under its restful influence all the troubles and vexations and sorrows that harass the mind vanish away….”. But at least we managed to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and, switching off the motor as often as we allowed ourselves to do, found a secluded place to anchor and grasp what Mark Twain meant. And what Huck and Jim felt when they for instance talked in their slang: „We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.“
So did we, a group of colleagues – but all of very different nature. But that did not matter the least: „For what you want, above all things, on a raft, is for everybody to be satisfied, and feel right and kind towards others.“ Satisfied we were, with the food and drink self-made at home or bought in the supermarket with easy access from our vessel. Satisfied to combine sightseeing with swimming, admire the palaces and gardens of “Prussian Arcadia” as Voltaire mockingly called Potsdam, pass under famous Glienicker Brücke, the bridge of exchanging spies between East and West. Paid a visit to the Pfaueninsel. Went for a dip into the lakes, Jungfernsee and Wannsee, even stayed for a while on a rather remote sandy beach. But sorry to say did not live up to the expectations of Huck or Jim: „We… let her float wherever the current wanted her to go; then we lit the pipes, and dangled our legs in the water, and talked about all kind of things – we was always naked, day and night, whenever the mosquitoes would let us.“
Actually, we only went on a day trip, heading north-west instead of south-east, which takes you to lake Schwielowsee and Werder. Because of the secluded beach somebody had in mind. The guys at the “Floßstation” had supplied our raft with a barbecue grill and lots of plates, plus cups and cutlery. Then, after a sudden storm and torrential rainfall mid-summer, we prepared meat and vegs. All of us had a great time. Pity we were supposed to take the craft back to the raft station before sunset. Couldn`t we stay on? When night set, at full moon, surely we to would have some thoughts to talk about. Thanks, “Jim”! Soon, we hope to know it even better: „It’s lovely to live on a raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and discuss whether they was made or only just happened. Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they just happened; I judged it would have took to long to make so many. Jim said the moon could a laid them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so I didn’t say nothing against it…“
Quotations from “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “A Tramp Abroad” by Mark Twain-