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Another Chance for Usedom

Recently, I dissed the Baltic Sea. I called it a 'make-do' sort of vacation spot. I pooh-poohed the smoked and pickled fish thing. I did. I haven't become a fan of smoked and/or pickled fish, but I have warmed up to Usedom.

But maybe it was because Usedom warmed up too. We had mostly excellent weather. And we were with good friends. On the first evening in Heringsdorf, we went back to the outdoor grill where we ate schlaslik (skewered and grilled pork, peppers and onions) and baked potatoes last year. What a treat it was to find Elli and Peet playing. These guys are entertaining in the most delightfully quirky ways. They play lots of oldies and country songs, have a good following and emanate goodness. They made our trip to Heringsdorf (on Usedom) worth it . . . times ten.

The second day on Usedom, we rented bikes for 5 euros each--for the whole day--and rode from Heringsdorf to Swinemünde in Poland. It was an active, fun and warm day. That said, there are too many bikes along the promenade. Thousands of bikes. Millions. It's like Beijing during rush hour, except that you occasionally smell smoked fish.

There are bike lanes and pedestrian walkways, but people tend to ignore these divisions. Little children are wandering around parentless on the bike path, and cyclists are whipping among pedestrians like it's an obstacle course on the pedestrian walkways. It's chaos. And this is Germany where Ordnung is spelled with a capital letter. OK, all German nouns are spelled with a capital letter, but still.

When the weather is good, as it was when we were there, the entire population of northern Germany and Poland throng to the beaches--because they know this thing called THE SUN won't last very long.

From holidaycheck.de

On our third day we visited Zinnowitz, known for its café that rises three storeys and charges too much for the luxury of height. The town also boasts unjustifiably a Tauchgondel, a container large enough to hold maybe twenty gullible people that lowers into the Baltic Sea...four measly meters. And actually, in the end you're only about one meter under the surface of the water--the murky alga-green water.

That's right. You're in this container, thinking you're going to see fish like in the aquarium in Singapore maybe. You are deluded: you're not going to find Nemo here.

As the container sinks beneath the water, the windows begin to glow green and the guide informs you that seeing sea life is rare in this tourist trap. He doesn't do a mwah-hah-hah laugh or anything, but you do feel a bit trapped. You feel even more trapped when the guide starts to pull up the blinds on the windows and tells you to put on your 3-D glasses . . . to watch a movie.

"Excuse me," you don't say. "Couldn't we have watched this movie, um, on dry land?"

"But this is much more fun, isn't it?" the guide doesn't say.

"No," you don't say, but you do shut up and watch the movie. The kid next to you keeps trying to touch the 3-D fish. This is cute.

Of course we lie when we rise back out of the murky sea. We say we had a splendid time in 'the depths'. We saw dolphins . . . and a merman. No, no. Not a mermaid, we say. That would be too cliché and common. We saw a merman. It was so worth the money. And they served ice cream with sprinkles in the shapes of fish . . . for free.

"How far did the Tauchgondel go down?" someone asks.

"Did you see that Jules Verne movie?"

"You went to the center of the Earth?!"

"The other movie."

"Oh," the person sighs, "Only 20,000 leagues?"

"We saw a merman."

She gets in the queue for the disappointment of her life. Seriously, don't pay for this. Don't pay for this even if your children are screaming and crying because they just have to do it. They really don't.

To continue with I Must Be Off! A-Z, go to V is for Vancouver.

I must be off,


Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Fiction, Pure Slush, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. He is the managing editor of the daily litzine Metazen. Recently, Allen--along with editors Michelle Elvy and Linda Simoni-Wastila--hosted Flash Mob 2013 in celebration of International Flash Fiction Day.

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