This post is from a trip Katrin and I made to Usedom in February this year… another Baltic exploration:
The Europapromenade leads the walker or the cyclist, the jogger or the rollerblader, out from the town of Ahlbeck on the island of Usedom in a straight line between the trees. The surface is smooth, the path lined with benches to rest and public toilets and bike parks at the points along the route where there is access to the beach beyond the trees and the dunes. Ahlbeck is the last town in Germany, and the promenade is well-named, linking as it does the bathing resorts of Usedom on both sides of the German-Polish border.
Just around the headland, having left the small village of Tegelort behind to once again be walking between the woods and the water, we were halted on the path by the noise. It was an incredible racket, disturbing and otherworldly, of frogs impersonating birds or birds impersonating frogs. We gazed down from the path, into the reeds, but there was no sign of what type of life was making the sounds that seemed to be surrounding us. Later, I listened to sound files on the internet, trying to trace it to source. The Great Reed Warbler seemed to be the closest, and once more I marvelled; this time at footage of a small bird capable of such an uproar.
At the end of the Western Harbour breakwater we came to the abandoned lighthouse and climbed through a hole in the fence. The view back across the harbour was spectacular, to Leith and the Royal Yacht Britannia, and beyond the Arthur’s Seat, the castle, and the rest of the Edinburgh skyline. We picked our way cautiously through the broken stone and glass spreading out from the open doorways of the lighthouse. Graffiti and litter. Evidence of illicit parties. Few better places, on a clear day like this, looking across the Firth of Forth with a fly-by of eider ducks, exiting the harbour ahead of a Spanish warship.
Below us, on the slippery stones just above the waterline, a couple of fisherman discussed strategy. One was teaching the other, acting out the motions with empty hands as his friend gripped the rod intently. They both ignored the signs warning about eating shellfish from this particular shore.
The town of Meissen keeps a cautious distance from the river Elbe, as if it has taken one look at the water before shuffling a couple of steps back from the edge. As we walk through the streets of the lower town we come across a couple of plaques screwed high into the walls, beside shops and above from doors. A white line and a date. High water marks above our heads. No wonder most of the town clings to side of the hill, atop which perches the Albrechtsburg.
The Rubha nam Frangach, or the French Farland, can be found a few miles south of the town of Inveraray on the western shore of Loch Fyne. The name of the promontory, and also the cottage that was our home for a week over Easter, dates back to the eighteenth century and the height of the herring fishing industry on the loch. Back then, over 500 boats a day would be operating on Loch Fyne, and on the French Farland a small settlement of traders bought, cured and packed herrings from the local boats and took them back to France, returning with brandy, claret, silks and laces that they sold to the aristocracy of the region, including the Duke of Argyll in his castle a few miles up the road.
Regular readers of Under a Grey Sky will know that I have spent the past six months or so working with my good friend Julia and an increasing band of walkers, writers, photographers and illustrators on a new quarterly journal of place. Above you can see the digital-only, half-size ‘zero’ edition that we created as part of our crowdfunding campaign to give people a sense of what the journal will be like when the first print edition is released in June 2015. Please have a look and a read, and if you think that this is a project you think you would like to support then I would be extremely grateful if you could visit the crowdfunding campaign via the link below, pre-order issue 1, take out a subscription, or one of the many other options complete with exclusive goodies that we have put together. It is an exciting project, and I am really confident we can create a wonderful print journal that will showcase the work of some fantastic writers, musicians, artists, illustrators, photographers and more… but we need some help to get us to the start line, so anything you can do to get us there would be really appreciated.
The newsreaders on the breakfast radio swung between breathless excitement and dark warnings of incinerated retinas. Television crews headed to our daughter’s school where, an email assured us, all the kids would be supplied with the proper eyewear. Our Hausmeister patrolled the central reservation – normally reserved for doggy toilet runs and the rumbling trams – waiting for the moment. I went for a run.