On the Baltic coast, Wustrow

A late springtime trip three hours north of Berlin…

We walk along the dune-top path towards Wustrow, occasionally moving to one side to allow lycra-clad cyclists to whizz past, some on their way to the next town – perhaps to grab the last available beach chair down on the sands – others stretching their legs on the Ostsee-Radweg, the Baltic bike path that hugs the German coastline between the Polish border and the Danish. At Wustrow the pier stretches out above the calm waters. All the benches are taken. Walkers and cyclists rest. Couples enjoy the view. An old man scratches the solution to crossword clues onto a folded paper.

Down on the sands tattooed sunworshippers are building their their little patch of territory around their striped, rented beach chair, but only their dogs are hardy enough to brave the chill of the May waters. A kindergarten class walks along in formation, and is surprisingly quiet, but the kids still receive a look of distaste from the angler on the pier who wishes he had the whole place to himself.

We leave the Baltic behind us and walk through the town. At this point, the Fischland-Darß-Zingst peninsula is at one of its narrowest points, a tiny strip of land between the open sea and the lagoon on the other side. The Bodden, as it is known, may not have the sandy beaches that draw the tourists, but throughout history it was much more the focus of activity for the locals, and all the village harbours are here.

That is where we are heading, for a lunch of smoked-fish down at the Wustrow harbour, but first we have to make our way through the picturesque thatched houses of the town itself, past the summer cinema and the kiosks piled high with plastic toys, inflatable toys, and row after row of sunglasses and suntan lotion. We have been coming here for years, and there are some changes taking place. Money is arriving, with new businesses opening to cater for the second-homers who have pitched up here, but it still manages to maintain the feeling of a town that is real and living, that still needs its kindergarten and its primary school, even if the old post office is now the tourist information centre.

We make it to the harbour, where yet more cyclists have parked their bikes to stop for a fish roll, a drink and an ice cream. The old burgundy-sailed fishing boats may spend more time taking tourists out for a ride than actually pulling in the fish, but much of the produce being smoked by the water’s edge is local. At the end of the harbour the wooden jetties poke out it the tall reeds that frame the inland sea, whilst out on the water white-sailed boats rush across the calm surface and a bird of prey hovers on the updraft.

Words: Paul Scraton
Pictures: Katrin Schönig

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