I booked a 'Ferienwohnung' (holiday apartment), in the village of Lassan on the Acherwasser, close to the Isle of Usedom.
Our first stop was in Wismar, which is a very attractive town. It was the medieval capital of the region and is one of the best preserved medieval town centres and largest town squares in northern Germany. The square has a distinctive medieval water pumping station, built in Dutch renaissance style. The town has a Swedish flavour too, as the Swedes ran it from 1648 - 1803.
Part of the German film director Herzog's version of Dracula, Nosferatu:
The Vampire, takes place in Wismar. Dracula bought a house in Wismar
and set sail for his new home. The crew of the ship died mysteriously
during the journey. On docking in Wismar, thousands of rats ran off
the vessel and spread the plague. The ensuing death toll was good cover
for Dracula's activities.
It was an interesting city to wander around. There was a market in the town square and along the harbour. There were boats along the harbour smoking fish on board. Take-away rolls with fish filling were very popular. I could have stayed a lot longer in Wismar.
Rostock was the next port of call. Rostock is probably better know than Wismar but I preferred Wismar, which I found to be more charming and characterful than Rostock.
So far the journey had been on fast, toll-free motorways. A bit too fast for my liking as there was no speed limit on some sections. You had to be so alert as you would look in the mirror and see nothing and then a couple of seconds later a car would woosh past. According to my map, some parts of the A20 heading east had not been completed. The journey was so slow as soon as we left the motorway. We were due to arrive at our holiday home not later than 20.00, but when we were delayed due to an accident we wondered if we would make it. I think we arrived at 19.55!
Many of the streets in the old small towns and the older roads are still cobbled, which is very charming but not very practical. All roads were drove on were a single lane in each direction, pretty bendy and passed through a lot of villages, so progress was very slow.
The weather was not very kind to us for the first couple of days, cold and wet. However we were out and about. The region has beautiful forests and lots of cycle tracks. Cycling is really popular with all ages. Most of the paths are tarmac and on the level. There are picnic benches and toilets all along the routes. What struck me was how clean it was everywhere, with no litter in sight. We even observed a young man stopping in the rain to pick up his cigarette butt and put it in the bin, when he missed the bin on his first attempt.
The nearest town to our holiday house was Anklam, which is also a Hanseatic town. The day we visited there was a charity fête by the riverside. There were groups of children dancing and singing on stage. Most of the community appear to be involved in the event.
The Isle of Usedom is accessible by a bridge at either end. Be aware of the times the bridge closes to allow large boats to pass! I liked the town of Ahlbeck to the east. Ahlbeck is one of the three Kaiserbad on Usedom: the three imperial towns, where the Kasier spent his holidays. The pier is more than 100 years old. Many of the villas were built at the beginning of the 20th century in art noveau style, with towers, balustrades and bay windows supported by brackets. Ahlbeck is close to the Polish border town of Swinoujscie. Peenemunde in the West, is where rockets were made and developed during WWII. It certainly looked as you imagine East Germany: derelict drab concrete blocks. You can visit the former rocket factory, which is credited with being the birthplace of rockets for space travel. There is also a submarine you can board and look around. I just found the place to be a horrible reminder of war. Evidently the Nazis used a lot of slave-labour to build and man the factory, so that just makes the whole place even worse.
Although the area is geared to tourism, this is mainly domestic tourism. The tourist offices didn't appear to have anything in English, and the menus were all in German. I certainly don't claim to speak German but I can understand a basic smattering of the vocabulary. It would have been very difficult without this.
The Isle of Rugen is the largest island in Germany, with almost 580 kilometres of coast and dramatic chalk cliffs. Our fist stop in Putbus was a revelation. The first thing that I noticed was a large herd of deer grazing in a field close to the road. This is part of the so-called 'English park'. A local prince designed the town in the early 19th century. It has a cluster of white neo-classical buildings in a circular plaza. We only had time to visit the southern part of the island. The coastal towns Sellin, Gohren, Thiessow and Bins were attractive, if a bit similar.
I really liked Griefswald, an old university town. The university was founded in 1456, and is full of the characteristic Hanseatic style buidlings. Griefswald has the most helpful tourist office I have ever visited. We were offered a pen to write our postcards and a table and chair to sit at to write them. The tourist office sold special stamps for postcards with pictures of the Gothic brick architecture. As you can see in the picture, the new statues in the fountain blend in well with the older bulidings in the square. There is an outdoor boat museum along the harbour with a fair number of boats docked there, along with descriptions of the types of boat, and when and where they were built.
The day to Poland turned out as a bit of a disaster. We planned an anti-clockwise circular route across to Stettin and then back into Gemany at Ahlbeck, the Isle of Usedom. We only stopped in Stettin for a short time as there wasn't much to see there. I did notice how much more litter there was, however. We also saw many prostitutes plying their trade at the roadside. When we arrived at Swinoujscie, we discovered that you could not cross back into Germany there by car for it is only a pedestrian border crossing. We were only about 30 kms from our holiday home, we though we had done about 90% of the driving, and we now faced the prospect of driving back the way we had come. It was also a hot sunny day and it was unfortunate that we had spent most of it in the car.
Cutting ourt losses, we spent another day travelling south to the lake region. Neubrandenburg is known as the city of four gates. It has 2.5 kilmetres of walls around the old city, the best preserved medieval walls in Germany, with four Gothic style brick built gates intact. The town sits on a lake, the Tollensee, and there is a large park, the Kultur Park, between the old town and the lake. We also visited Neudtrelitz, in the middle of the Muritz National Park. Neustrelitz was founded in 1733 as the residence of the dukes of Mecklenburg Strelitz. The town sits on the smaller lake, Zieckersee, which has an attractive small harbour.
Would I recommend the Baltic coast of Mecklenburg-Vorpmmern as a holiday desination? Difficult to answer. As eve,r the problem with northern Europe is the unpredictable weather. I am not a fan of really hot weather but it was cold and wet for some of our trip although we did also have some sunny, warm days. The countryside and coast is very pretty and largely unspoilt. If you are a fish-lover you will really enjoy the food but you really need to know some German to visit the region. If you enjoy gentle cycling through beautiful countryside, this region is ideal. Many trains and buses are adapted to carry bicycles. There are miles of sandy beaches that would be good for a family holiday, if you were lucky with the weather. The Hanseatic towns are architecturally interesting. I suppose I would be more inclined to recommend the area if there was an international airport closer. Hiring a car does give you more flexibility but being a driver on either the motorways or the country roads is not very conducive to a relaxing holiday mood. The train network in Germany is very good.
We spent our last night in Lubeck as our flight left fairly early the next day. I would definitely recommend Lubeck for short break. The airport is close to the town. Lubeck is a wonderful example of a Hanseatic town, full of interesting buildings. It is a compact city surrounded by a river and canal, perfect for walking, with plenty of green spaces. If you feel like visiting the seaside, it is only a few kilometres away. Yet there you find litter, beggars and groups of rather undesirable characters drinking in the street. When I said we had spent 6 nights in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, a hotel receptionist commented, "it's 100 years behind". While this may have a grain of truth, there are sometimes downsides to progress (many of them recyclable!).
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