Sunday, 19 October 2014

A little Fall detour, and a little fall...

Roland: every Saturday I go out for a breakfast hunt (Croissants, pretzels, buns), but this time we had the most beautiful fall morning, so I decided to grab Bella and do a short round through the neighborhood. Fog was about to be eaten up by early rays of the sun, the air was fresh and clean, and all colors looked like from a laundry detergent ad. Beautiful!

On my way back I noticed a beautiful cloud of fog over a field right next to the road, so I decided to ride up a little dirt track to get there for a photo. There was a little hill to climb first, and I gave throttle a little more than I usually would. Unfortunately the field behind the hill was still soaking wet from the rainfalls of the last few days, and the ground was slippery like soap. I knew right away that I had no chance: as soon a the wheels started to slip I knew that I would lay Bella down for the first time. Luckily she slipped on a lot of grass; unfortunately there must have been a little stone hidden somewhere in the grass. There is minor damage, but nothing that could not be covered by a little paint job that was on schedule for this winter anyway. Looks like my first sliding ended up quite lucky!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Mecklenburg Switzerland? Come again?

South of Stralsund the landscape is getting a little uneven, and up to about sixty meters elevation. It becomes high enough for the flatlanders to dub the area the 'Switzerland of Mecklenburg'. We are not kidding! Talk about nordic humour.

Given that we live in a highly populated country this area is relatively unspoilt and preserved as a National Park covered by lakes and woodlands.

We drove over hills and through tiny villages, visited another witness of the brick gothic former monastery and palace ruin in Dargun. Built and destroyed in the 12th century the monchs relocated to Eldena, the abbey ruin we had paid a visit two days before.

Some duke converted the ruin into a renaissance castle in the Middle Ages, it was destroyed by a fire during WWII.

The best part of the ruin is a little shop with ceramic artwork, liqueurs, vinegars, oils, jams, mustards, spices and soaps made by local farmers, artists and monks. We left with a plenty of tasty stuff.

We stopped for lunch in Waren, a picturesque small town located at the lake shore of Müritz. the food was nothing to write home about, however an ice cream parlour offered lactose free ice-cream and Sonja could't resist. It had been a long time, and the chocolate flavoured ice-cream was delish!

We felt it was time for some relaxation, and returned to Stralsund for an afternoon nap. The rest of the day was spent (window) shopping in town.

Today's trip was 240km on byways, part of it along the German Avenue Road.

We have seen a lot during our week at the Baltic Sea, and we were lucky with the weather, too (at least it stayed dry most of the time). Now it is time to say goodbye to Stralsund.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The white Cliffs of Rügen

Rügen is the biggest German island, and a popular tourist destination for domestic as well as international travellers (a.k.a. busloads of Asians...). From endless sandy beaches to white chalk cliffs, from ocean to lagoons, from bubbly seaside resorts to sleepy fishing villages, the island has a lot to offer.

Our first stop was Binz, a popular seaside resort. We walked along the beach and strolled through this lovely town with its intriguing resort architecture of the 19th and early 20th century.

A few clicks further North we were delivered a harsh contrast to the playful resort architecture and received another lesson in history. We entered Prora, a product of Nazi-German megalomania, built in the mid 30's to provide an affordable and organised leisure time for up to twenty-thousand holidaymakers, a.k.a Kraft durch Freude (Strength through joy).

A colossal architectural disaster with eight identical buildings over a stretch of 4.5km, a mere 150m away from a beautiful beach. Well built obviously and seemingly indestructible, it is not that it hadn't been tried before to blow up, and tear down this concrete cluster of ugliness.

Today some of the complexes are being renovated and reactivated, two buildings house a youth hostel, and an art center, but the builders couldn't change the shape. It will remain a sore spot in the midst of a beautiful landscape.

The by far best part of Rügen are the cliffs in the North East of the island. They aren't easily accessible, and hence a splendid destination for those seeking solitude. We parked our car in Lohme, a sleepy fisher town.

First we followed a steep and slippery trail downhills through the beech forest, mildly alarmed by the signs warning that it is a challenging trail. The signs were right. And the challenge didn't end at the beach. A small pebble beach provided just enough distance between the ocean and the cliff. On a windy day the beach would likely become impassable but the sea was calm today. And it wasn't easy either, as the traveler will need to balance over countless slippery rocks.

The hike might occasionally get interrupted by combing the beach and building pebble towers. Finally one arrives at the blindingly white chalk cliffs, and stands breathless (not only caused by the hike, but in awe), taking in the scenery and as many pictures as possible.

The white Cliffs of Rügen

The exercise however didn't end here. After an excessive photo session one still needs to climb up the cliff. A mere 412 steps of a slippery wooden staircase which has been there forever (and is being maintained and renewed regularly).

Given that we are not the fittest people under the sun, we felt that we actually did quite well during the ascent, and we can proudly report that we even overtook folks younger than we. On top it was only two miles back over a forest trail, a relaxed walk back to our parking spot in Lohme. And overall we'd say that despite the difficult terrain the hike was well worth the effort.

We travelled 170km today, and hiked about 12km.
Rügen Island - Source: Wikipedia

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Ruins, Rockets and Vikings

The day started out rainy and grey but we didn't mind, because ruins and historic buildings are at its best when the weather isn't. We visited the abbey ruins of Eldena close to Greifswald. The ruins became somewhat famous through the artwork of Caspar David Friedrich, a romantic painter of the 19th century.

The Abbey in the Oakwood (Wikipedia)

Our next stop would be a very dark chapter of German history: The Peenemünde Army Research Center. A fishermen's town was erased, its people removed, and a military zone and test site with restricted access established in 1937, built by slave labourers, inmates of a concentration camp and prisoners of war.

This location pretty much became the birthplace of rocket science and spaceflight. It was here, where the first guided missiles were developed to be used for maximum mass destruction. The majority of the rockets were aimed at London killing thousands of people.

Ironically its inventor, Wernher von Braun and select members of his team continued to work for the US government without ever being punished for their deeds, on contrary, von Braun received a medal for his accomplishments in the NASA space program.

Today the whole area is being kept as a museum and a reminder that these events must not ever happen again. The museum currently also hosts a special exhibitions about Operation Crossbow.

V2 cruise missile
Top Secret

After this nightmarish experience we needed to find something lighter, and visited a few more of the ever so present ocean resorts, also in quest for a cake and coffee.

The sea bridge of Ahlbeck

And since we were so close to the Polish border we thought, let's have a look at the other side. The last time we visited Poland was long before it belonged to the European Union. There were borders, and barriers and passports being controlled. Today... no customs control, you just drive through. Hello, Poland! There and back. From Nazi Germany and WWII to a world without frontiers in a united Europe. We have come a long way.

Today's trip into history wouldn't be complete without the early settlers of this area: Vikings. A mile away from Menzlin lies an old Viking camp. The site was close to the river Peene, and supposedly an important trading post in its time (the 9th century). The actual name of the site remains unknown but remnants of bridges and stone ships (grave yards), and other archeological findings had been discovered proving its regular use. 

Given that the day started dull and grey, it was rich of educational experience. We certainly learned a lot today about ancient and recent history.

Viking grave site

Today's trip was 260km.