Ahoy from the Baltic Sea

The Easter Holidays saw me going to the Baltic Sea with (some of) my family, including three of the many dogs in the family. We rented a small house on the island Usedom and spent a little over a week there, exploring the area and the wonderful beaches. Consider this post a suggestion that you should totally go there. At least if you like beaches like this:

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The beach in Karlshagen

Germany is probably not the first country you think of when you hear white sand, strolls along the beach and sunshine. But that’s pretty much exactly what you get on Usedom (and also the next island over, Rügen, but which is much more expensive). But let me tell you one by one what I/we got to see. [Which wasn’t as much as I would have wanted it to be since I had to bring uni work with me.]

We stayed in a small town called Zinnowitz which practically consists only of holiday apartments and houses, a few shops and a cinema. But it is a very nice town. Our house was supposed to be directly at the Achterwasser lagoon but actually it was a few minutes’ walk away from it. Nevertheless it was a sweet house and quite a lot closer to any sea than you usually are in Austria, so that’s cool anyway.

I arrived a little later than the rest of my family and on my first day there we only went to the upside down house in Trassenheide – a small house that was built upside down and you can go inside and walk around the ceilings of it. It’s a very disorienting experience, particularly because it’s not only upside down but also lopsided.

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Dog Paradise

Afterwards we headed to Karlshagen, the next town over and took the dogs for a walk on the beach there. The entire area was really dog-friendly, by the way. And my parent’s labrador retrievers and my sister’s spaniel mix really enjoyed the beach and swimming there. (Until the main season starts, that is May 1st, the dogs can go on any part of the beach. Afterwards there are designated dog beaches.) For us humans, swimming was out of the question – it had between 10 and 20 degrees and the water was freezing.

The next day, a Monday, we went on a small trip to Ückeritz. There’s a huge camping area there, in the middle of the woods that go pretty much all the way to the beach. Other than that and a very nice restaurant with a great terrace (which we couldn’t use because we just managed to escape the rain there), there’s not much to see. After Ückeritz, I headed back to our house to do some work. Unfortunately.

But since I was so diligent on Monday, I could go to Ahlbeck/Heringsdorf/Bansin and Świnoujście [my first trip to Poland] on Tuesday.

Ahlbeck, Heringsdorf and Bansin used to be three disitinct towns, but they are practically grown together by now. It’s also a lot more touristy than everything we had visited so far. The most famous sight is the pier in Heringsdorf, which goes on just about forever. And it’s so windy that I didn’t walk all the way to the end. Otherwise I might have either been blown off or frozen. There’s also a nice pier in Ahlbeck which is not as long but has a big restaurant at the end.

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The pier in Ahlbeck

As I said, I had never been in Poland before so just for that, it was nice to go to Świnoujście. It was also interesting to cross the border. For one, the area just after the border was filled with shops where you could buy all kinds of things (like cigarettes and alcohol) that are way cheaper in Poland than in Germany. But even more interesting, it was fascinating to see how the architecture changed immediately as well. The landscape is still the same, but the houses are totally different and usually also in a worse state.

We went for a walk on the beach there, too – how could it be any different – and then we headed back.

On Wednesday, I had to sit things out at home to work, but on Thursday, we decided to drive to Rügen. It’s the next island, but it’s quite a drive. There, we visited Binz which is pretty much as you expect a seaside resort to look like. It’s really pretty.

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Villa Iduna in Binz

By chance we discovered that they also had a sand sculpture exhibition in Binz, so we decided to visit that, too. The topic of it was “German History” though a big part of it was focused on recent history and German pop culture. They also included some mythology. A lot of the sculptures were really impressive. It’s amazing what you can do with sand. Or any kind of material, really. If you can make anything look like anything else, I’m most impressed. But the exhibition was really cool.

From there we went to Prora. There’s nothing much in Prora but the remains of a huge resort the Nazis had planned. They wanted to make it possible for all German workers to go on holidays there, so they started building this huge-ass structure which was supposed to house 10.000 tourists and 2.000 staff permanently and which was also supposed to serve as an emergency hospital in the war. They never actually finished it and no tourists ever stayed, but about half of what was planned to be built was almost done and still remains. During the communist regime, they tried to use it for the same thing as the Nazis but also failed. Now there are a couple of museums there and a coffeeshop but they can’t really use it for anything much. It’s under heritage protection and they can’t really house 10.000 people there anyway as that part of the island would be destroyed with so many people living there. Fascinating stuff.

On our way back to “our” island, we stopped in Stralsund for dinner. We saw very little of it, only a bit of the center, but it looked very nice. It’s probably nice to return there sometime and look at it more closely.

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Beach chairs, one of the best things to ever stand on a beach

Friday was a work-day for me again, apart from a visit to the local cinema to watch The Centenarian Who Climbed Out a Window and Vanished (review follows tomorrow).

On Saturday, we drove to Greifswald where a big Easter Market dominated the town center – which looked really nice. It was generally very noticeable that more people were around everywhere over the Easter weekend than the weekend before. We walked a bit through the town and my parents (or rather my mom) did some shopping.

On our drive back again, we stopped in Netzelkow which consists of about five houses. There is really nothing there except for the most beautiful café/little inn where a woman sells fabulous hand-made, plus-sized clothes. That was a really nice surprise we stumbled on.

On Sunday, our last day on Usedom, we were extremely lucky with the weather so we decided to spend a day at the beach (after a successful Easter egg hunt for the kids) and make use of those awesome beach chairs (which keep away a lot of sand, and wind, give you somewhere comfortable to read and should be a thing on beaches everywhere). So we drove to Koserow, rented some chairs and spent the day reading. It was awesome.

IMG_3642It would have been easy to spend another week there. Or three. Maybe next time.

[All images in this post, apart from the first one, are photos my sister took. Please don’t use them anywhere else – they do not fall under the general Creative Commons licence of this blog. The first one is mine, you can use that.]

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