MS Dr. Ingrid Wengler

Aug 5, 20162 comments

Bureaucracy-bound barge: Love-stuck on troubled waters

She only floats in her dreams. The river laps inquisitively at her sides. Is everything alright? No, no it’s not. She longs to be free but she’s anchored, trapped, snared, riveted in some cruel way to the river bottom. Grounded in water, she doesn’t budge with the swell, can’t dance with the currents, is unable to reciprocate the tender caress of the river passing by.

The barge is literally stuck in the Spree, not living, just killing time. Oh how she’d love to break free! To partake in the wonderful voyage, the excursion to the sea – for every boat knows that all rivers eventually go to the sea. The magnificent sea, everlasting expanse, limitless, portal to history-changing voyages, other worlds, new shores, astounding otherness, everywhere free. Unlike the Spree.

Bureaucracy is to blame, literally, for the grounding of this ship. She’s called the MS Dr. Ingrid Wengler after the owner’s true love, a surgeon at the Dreifaltigkeits-Hospital in Lippstadt.

She was killed in a motorcar accident on the Autobahn between Lippstadt and Berlin near Burg on Oct. 10, 1979.

“She left a hole that never closed,” barge owner Franz Günther van de Lücht says of his loss.

Now the ship that bears her name leaves another one, as if she’s gone again.




















It was a fine boat, built by the Sander brothers in Delfzijl, Groningen, the Netherlands in 1959. Initially it was used for shipping cargo around Dutch coastal waters and also Dutch and German inland waterways.

One hundred and eighty tons, it was converted to a passenger ship in Nuremberg in the early 1980s and approved for use on the Müritz, the biggest lake entirely in Germany, and Lake Schwerin, not far away in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

It had three decks, with engine, store and crew cabins below, the captain’s cabin, galley, bar and deck saloon just above (of course the captain would have to be close to the bar), and then the third upper deck.

There were eight double en-suite cabins for guests on the lower deck, and a so-called owner’s cabin on the middle deck.

According to the Berliner Morgenpost, van de Lücht bought the boat in 1975. A lot of other stuff they say doesn’t correspond with what he says, so these facts should be handled with caution.

“Shipping and van de Lüchts are inseparable,” he is quoted as saying.

It was he that converted the ship for passenger comfort, with a mahogany bar, a maple captain’s table, and furniture made of light oak. It was ready for action in 1984, its home port Höchst, Frankfurt-am-Main.

Van de Lücht offered trips to France by the Rhine and Moselle, to Nancy and Strasbourg. Then Mauerfall opened the DDR waterways and van de Lücht realized a dream.

“I always had an inner yearning for Mecklenburg,” Morgenpost says he said. The first trip in the new world took place in June 1990, leaving from Palast der Republik to the Müritz. It must have been magnificent!

Two years later, however, the waters became troubled on account of a strike that included lock-keepers. No cruises were possible and guests wanted their money back.

Further problems contributed to van de Lücht declaring bankruptcy in 1992. The ship was seized and anchored to the Stralau peninsula in Berlin. But he didn’t give up. He lived on the boat and kept his dreams alive.

Then came October 1996. Van de Lücht had an appointment with the Berlin Senate’s office for business and investment. It was apparently an encouraging discussion but when Van de Lücht got back to his boat he found it was gone. His home, his clothes, belongings, all gone. The fucking Berlin Waterway and Shipping Authority had towed the boat away!

They said the ship had been moored for years at Stralau without permission for commercial shipping, that they’d asked van de Lücht to remove it but he’d declined to do so.

He said he’d appealed within the deadline, but to no avail.

The boat had been brought to its current location between the Molecule Man sculpture and Badeschiff. It hadn’t been proofed against winter. Pipes froze and burst; it deteriorated.

Van de Lücht brought a case against the Waterway and Shipping Authority but lost. More than 20 years later, the boat’s still there, stuck in the Spree, dying to be free.





















  • What: MS Dr. Ingrid Wengler, an abandoned boat, stuck in the Spree, denied her true calling since Oct. 17. 1996.
  • Where: Well, the Spree River. There’s no postal address as its still in the river, right between the Molecule Man and Badeschiff. Treptower Park is the nearest S-Bahn station. Here it is on a map for wannabe pirates.
  • How to get there: It’s not quite so easy. You’ll need to hire some sort of boat, either a pedal boat or a canoe, around Insel der Jugend, very close to Spreepark, and pedal or row from there. Head back toward the Fernsehturm until you see the Molecule Man looming above you. Touch it, say hello, marvel at the mice that were able to eat chunks out of the aluminum.  The boat is just a little bit further. Depending on how fit you are it should take 30/40 minutes to get there. Make sure you get a boat with a rope so you can tie it to the ship and your escape route doesn’t drift away. Of course, if you’re a lunatic, you can always just jump into the river from the shore and swim over. Best to leave your camera behind if you’re going to do that.
  • Getting in: Tie your boat to the metal boat-fastener or whatever they’re called (I’m not a pirate) and go in.
  • When to go: Daytime if you enjoy boating and splashing about in water. Nighttime (though it may be harder to rent a boat) if you want a party.
  • Difficulty rating: 7/10. Getting here is the only difficulty. There’s a bit of rowing/pedaling/swimming involved.
  • Who to bring: Bring someone you like.
  • What to bring: Bier auf jeden Fall! Bring lots of beer, a barbeque, some stuff to cook, good friends (not that I’m suggesting you cook them) if you’re not bringing your lover, and maybe some sort of music-playing contraption to get the party going.
  • Dangers: Drowning. Do be careful! River-Polizei. For once you don’t have to worry about nosy neighbors. Let them shout their indignation from the shore. You’re grand on a boat.

A huge thanks to the ridiculously overworked Mark Rodden for proofreading when he should be on a holiday, and thanks as well to Rodrigo and Elissa of Canal Alemanizando for the tip!

Also going nowhere anymore



West Berlin’s lifeline during the Soviet Blockade, Tempelhof Airport has since become the city’s biggest park. Berliners will fight to keep it that way.

Flugplatz Schönwalde

Flugplatz Schönwalde

Germany’s Luftwaffe used Flugplatz Schönwalde for the war. The Soviets took over afterward and left their traces after abandoning the airfield in 1992.

Flugplatz Brand

Flugplatz Brand

Flugplatz Brand was strategically important for the Soviet Air Force. Thankfully its battalions of flying fighters remained on ice for the duration of the Cold War.


  1. alex-aroundtheworld

    Funny, was there just yesterday and wished someone would hire with me a paddling boat. Wanna go on the boat.

  2. JustExplore211

    I boarded the ship last weekend with a few friends. There is a ladder into the water right next to it on the shore. If that’s too complicated, there are a few places on the other side of the river where you can launch a boat.
    Unfortunately, after about an hour, a police boat came by and we were kindly asked to leave the Ingrid. I am not sure if there are regular patrols, as there was a boat demonstration that day.
    Be careful when swimming! The water around the ship is not very deep and the bottom is full of junk. My buddy and I both managed to cut our feet 🙁 


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