So we took a local tour called “Chugging from Cathedral to Coast.” Our guide Gudron taught us the universal greeting for Mecklenberg, “moin, moin.” Just quote a whiny 2 year old.
We drove through Rostock, founded in 1280, which was the capital of Mecklenberg-Pomerania when it has a Duke. I’m sure you all know that what we call Germany and Poland, and a great deal else of Europe, was composed of duchies, counties, principalities, states, marches and question marks. Like in the US, people there feel more for their home state than for the whole nation, patriotism notwithstanding. And now we knew where those long-haired yappy little dog-monsters come from. [oooo, sorry if you own a Pom].
Rostock got horribly bombed in WWII, since important aircraft manufacturing facilities were situated in the city.
Outside the city is the kind of flat, fertile farmland that people fight and die for. During the Russian occupation [til 1986], the land was made into communal farms. I was enormously impressed that after reintegration, the government was able to track down the original owners and give them the land back. It is a brave new world where a government didn’t take advantage of the chaos to seize the land! Farmers in the area grow grains; sugar beets; canola [unfortunately called “rape” in Germany]; sweet corn for fodder; potatoes, and wild poppies in the hedgerows.
Rostock itself is the home of the fishing fleet and is prosperous enough that the ugly gray block-style commie apartment buildings are being dressed up and decorative features, such as tile or brickwork, added. Rostock was one of the Hanseatic League towns; Hansa was one of the international trading federations of the Middle Ages, dedicated to fighting pirates and making fortunes. Beer and bread were huge exports, and at one point, Rostock had 220 brewers.
We made our way out into the countryside, learning that “-hagen” at the end of a town name means “forest.” Beautiful thatched houses lined the country road, with decorative carving on the ends of the roof trees. I thought horse heads, but maybe they were dragons. People prefer the Roman style roof tiles now as there is less danger of fire.
We had an Aussie on the bus, who was one of those amusing hecklers, who tease and pun with the guide. He got real old, real fast, but he had a good question when Gudron told us the history of the minster church and that it had been burned with fire at one point. “How do you burn something without fire?” he asked. I thought of him as the Mecklenberg Heckler.
We arrived at the Cistercian Abbey church, called Minster Cathedral at Bad Doberan [or Bad Doberan Minster.] Muenster= minster.
and it made me wonder whether the cheese of that name used to be an abbey product. The Cistercians, as many religious orders, believed in hard work and hard prayer, so many abbeys had special dairy, farm or vine specialties.The church itself is brick Gothic, a thing I had never run across before. In the Baltic, there is little stone for building, but great deposits of clay. So, think of the typical Gothic church in France and translate it into red brick and you’ve got it. The monastery was closed in 1552, when the Mecklenberg dukes followed Martin Luther out of the Catholic Church. Fortunately, the minster church remained a church, with its 13th century, locally made stained glass. And fortunately, Luther was not an iconoclast, so the funerary monuments and wall paintings, altarpieces and choir stall are gorgeously intact.
We all paid €,20 to use the restroom, some of us borrowing from Gudron, since we didn’t know the custom.
Back on the bus, we made our way to Bad Doberan, which I kept reading as “Bad Doberman.” But “bad” means “bath” in the sense of health spa, in this case, where they would be rubbed with hot mud. Bad indeed.
Here we loaded onto the very front car of Molli, the narrow gauge railroad built in 1873 to link the Bad with the Sea. Ron and I, along with a true train foamer , who filmed to whole excursion, rode on the platform facing the engine, which was hooked up “backwards” so we got up close and personal with Molli. Ron and Carol like trains very much and love to ride them, but we are not foamers. We took dozens of photos and reveled in the idea that, tottering on the passenger car platform, with only a chain between us and eternity [and that, Ron had hooked himself] would never have been allowed in the US. Ron and Carol like trains very much and love to ride them, but we are not foamers. We flew along at about 30 mph, with cooled steam blowing on our faces and were worried that we were hogging the platform, but only 2 ladies wanted to come out, so we all took turns. Ron and Carol like trains very much and love to ride them, but we are not foamers.
The train dropped us off in tiny village of Heiligendamm where our bus was waiting for us. We drove thru Heiligendamm checking out the exclusive hotels.
We bowled down the B105 two-lane to the resort town of Kühlungsborn. This was also a Hanseatic town, later becoming a beach resort for the Russian czars, King and Queens of Prussia and Bavaria, and the rich and famous through history. In 2008 it played host to the G8 convention, and an extra large beach basket was built to hold all the world leaders. (These covered beach baskets are charming rattan love seats with slide-out foot rests that are for rent on the beach.) But, hurrah! The beaches are not privately owned!
Kühlungsborn also has the longest linden tree alley in the universe [or something like that] and we had delicious cake and coffee in one of the former mansions, now a B&B. Then, at last, we got to walk over to the beach. The sand is beautifully almost sugar-white and very fine. We tasted the Baltic and found it less salty that any sea we’ve tasted before. We learned that the Baltic has no tide to speak of.
One haunting Soviet-era watchtower reminded us all of the days when Germans could not enjoy this beach lest they try to escape. Some did; many died. The US and Finland used to patrol the shore ready to rescue anyone who could make it out 3 miles. [They were allowed to go to the beach at the Black Sea only].
Reveling in our freedom and that of modern Germans, we bussed back to the harbor, where we had an hour till our next excursion.