Buried in the watery, wooded Spreewald, from which the peaceful Spreewaldhof takes its name, in the town of Leipe there is no traffic and no streets. The lapping of river against boat and bank and the occasional creak of a bicycle are the main transport noises. Here, the River Spree, on its way from Berlin to Cottbus, filters through ancient swamplands, and its tributaries meander past patches of farmland drained by lakes and canals. There are bigger, posher and much pricier hotels than the unassuming Spreewaldhof in this precious Biosphere Reserve, but none so close to the river, which bends in a wide arc around it. Herr Buchan belongs to a family of local fisherfolk and two of their 200-year-old houses form this pension. In one is Christa Buchan's restaurant, where her husband's catch-fresh river fish are staples on the menu of typical Spreewald fare. Upstairs are five bedroms and there are five more in the house next door, all cosy, traditional and quiet. Guests sit out on the riverside terrace with a coffee or a beer, reading, chatting, watching the wildlife and the kids kayaking.
The Spreewaldhof is popular with native weekenders, and guests from low-lying watery foreign regions - the Netherlands, Eire, parts of Britain - feel at home here. They mess about on the water in hired punts and canoes, take river trips, cycle or explore the woods and waterways on foot.