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


  1. Funny you should post this, I will be in Rostock early September and plan on spending a little time on the sand with the Baltic lapping at my feet! I am sure hoping I can find some Schaschlik. That looks amazing.

  2. Hey, Debbie! If you get to Heringsdorf and Ahlbeck, the outdoor food stand where I ate this variation of Schaschlik is on the promenade about halfway between these two villages.

    Thanks for stopping by! Hope you have a great time in Rostock!

  3. Great post once again, I love seeing Germany through your eyes! This one was really interesting: what you can't know is how different the Baltic experience was for people in West Germany and East Germany. Many of the East German (GDR) beaches were not open to the public because they were reserved for the military. Plus, there was always the possibility somebody might use the open sea to escape: in some places it's not that hard to imagine yourself on the other side. As a boy, (even though I'm a Westerner) I spent many summers in GDR youth camps, usually near the Baltic: we did have a blast then and it seems to me the weather was better. But you're right, people don't come here because of the weather. The sea and the seaside have their own charms even without that much sun. Though objectively speaking, Rügen and Usedom have the most sunshine hours in all of Germany. However, it's never Florida. To come back to the East-West divide: the West had some of the Baltic and a lot of the North Sea. You don't know what windy is until you've been to the North Sea. If the eastern German Baltic is all beaches, the Western German North Sea is all islands with the merciless tide in between them, still killing foreigners. Germans on the whole are hardy lot. I don't think they'd really be happy if there was too much sun, too little rain and no wind to talk about.

  4. Ha, yes, I agree--but there is the type of German tourist who prefers the 17th Bundesland, "Mallorca".

    On our walk to the Polish border we passed a summer camp for young people. It's in the woods. Is this where you were? The people I was with talked the entire time about what Ahlbeck and Heringsdorf were like during the GDR.


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