Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A Strandkorb on the Baltic Sea

Usedom -- Strandkörbe
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For years and years and years, I've heard how the Germans love to go to the Baltic Sea on holiday. The pictures--windswept beaches with shivering vacationers bundled up in jackets and scarves and blankets and parkas--have never screamed "Come hither!" to me. But have just come back from thither.

From Usedom--my first foray into the world of north German holiday destinations. The welcome we received left lots of room for improvement. We stopped at a rest area-slash-imbiss because, after the three-hour drive from Berlin, we needed a bathroom. When the owner of this run-down snack shack discovered we were ordering food only because we needed to go to the John--Horst the Polish wild asparagus farmer made the mistake of making a joke about this--he refused to serve us and asked us to leave the premises. Heh? Why am I always being thrown out of places? It can't be me this time. I'd only opened my mouth to order Pommes (french fries).

With this bump behind us, we drove a few kilometers down the road to the island of Usedom, where each villa is grander than the next--almost all of these villas are now Ferienwohnungen (holiday apartments--and each Strandkorb is more of a mystery than the one behind it. What is this fascination with the Strandkorb? I'm guessing this contraption was invented to shield sunbathers from the wind and the sand--like an igloo is meant to protect from the wind and the snow. But--and please don't take this as a criticism, Usedom--don't people go to the beach to lie in the sun?

Would I be wrong to say the Baltic Sea wouldn't have become a popular beach destination if it hadn't been the only beach for the former GDR? It's not Mallorca or Grand Canaria. It's cold most of the year and windy I think all of the year. What attracts so many tourists?

I'll tell you: It's beautiful and interesting because of the architecture. It's not contaminated with a zillion pizzerias like Mallorca, and it has very few tall modern buildings (only two actually). It's quaint. It has character. You can Google "Ferienwohnung Heringsdorf Ahlbeck" yourself to get a feel for the place, but here's one that also has English. It has bicycles to rent, and rent them people do. The bike trail along the promenade between the dunes and the villas, buzzes with bikes all day long. Abd you can bike, or walk as we did, to Poland! Now I can finally say I've been to Poland. An interesting new fact for me: Niemcy means Germany in Polish. Who knew?

Me leaning into Poland -- Sexy Sexy

A Typical holiday villa in Heringsdorf, Usedom (Baltic Sea)

Sunset from the Heringsdorfer Seebrücke (pier)

Schaschlik -- Good and Gluten-free

And I ate Schaschlik, pork wrapped in bacon with peppers and onion skewered and grilled and then simmered in a tomato sauce for hours. It's gluten-free, tender and very tasty. Since I'm not really the smoked fish or pickled herring type of guy, Schaschlik was right up my street.

Usedom, between Ahlbeck and Heringsdorf

Will I return to Usedom and the Baltic Sea? Yes, I will. Will I rent a Strandkorb? Probably not. Or maybe when I'm ninety. This place will only get better as I get older.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of the absurdist satire Conversations with S. Teri O'Type