Usedom in the Winter 7.-12.1.96


At first I did not plan to write about this short winter-week on the island of Usedom, but finally our dog Ajax convinced me of writing about it. After we got to be friends to Bärbel and Christian in our summer holiday 1991 we have phonecalls from time to time. They have told us, that they had a wonderful time around New Year's eve there. So we get interested too and it is no problem to get the apartement at Anke and Achim (the fisher's family) during January. And the dog Ajax is welcome too.

There was a long frost period during the last weeks and for some days a pretty sunshine. The weather forecast announces a warm front with rain from the west. We don't bother about that. At Sunday morning we get off after breakfast. We switch the radio on and at the first kilometers on the Autobahn we wonder why the drivers are so cautious and only ride up to 80 km/h. Then we see the lorries with grit to prevent the sleekness on the road. Eventually we hear in the radio that behind us around Hannover all traffic is interupted by ice rain. At a fuel station a bus has milled down the petrol pumps and thereafter crashed against the pillar of the roof. which in consequence broke down.

In the moment we are just riding before the weather front and this will reach us when we are not fast enough. So we cannot choose more picturesque rout (esp. Lake Region Mecklenburg) but must stay to the Autobahn to run away from the ice rain. And soon we success and have a dry road. Since then nothing interesting will happen, we ride around Berlin and then north on the Stettin-Autbahn and the last stretchpast Prenzlau is Bundesstraße. We reach our destination in the early afternoon after 480 km in 5 1/2 hours.

The first village at Usedom is the village Usedom. There we stop and go out with Ajax who didn't enjoy to sit in the car. There is a huge brickstone church and low houses cower around it. It is an icy wind as we go down to the harbour. Some children stroll around on the ice and the boats are freezed at the pier. Ajax sniffs around as if there would be plenties of other dogs. At last we absolve the last kilometers and hobble over the rough concrete panels to the Teufelsberg. As we get out of the car a group of sweaty ice hockey actors comes along. And there is our Achim already with a "Happy New Year". I also would like to skate at once but we have much time yet (later the thaw - Tauwetter - came and the lake was too wet). Anke comes up at the balcony and soon we sit in the warm living room with a coffee.

In the evening we go out for a meal and take Ajax with us. We absolve the matter in the "Cafe am See". About 8 pm we have finished and then look for a phone box. Heidi enters the first one but immediately jumps out again. "There is smoke in it" she says pale with fright. We go away a certain distance and wate for a detonation. But nothing happens, no molotowcocktail or Suisse clacker will blast the box up to the sky. But we decide to prefer the phone of Anke. As we arrive the call just comes from the other direction. Our daughter is quite excited and asks if we had arrived without problems. Yes we did, but the rest of the country was mere chaos. Thereafter we are all happy together and consume the last cognac from New Year's eve.


We have one bicycle with us and this is mine. So I am condemned to buy the rolls in the morning. There are two differences to the summertime: there is no queue in front of the shop and in contrast to the summer we now can ride on the lake. Achim cannot go for fishing in the moment because there is ice everywhere. So he shares the brekfast with us and we need no newspaper to hear tales of the region.

So there was a big storm tide last autumn, the most serious since 40 years. A Northwest storm had pressed masses of water from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea. So the tide level was so high that the outer parts of the sand-cliffs broke down. Just after breakfast we make an inspection walk with Ajax. There is a house just left on the top of a sand heap, the owners must be very happy that it was not plashed away. At this place the Baltic Sea nearly had reached the Kölpinsee. The cliff is covered with trunks of fallen trees, mighty old oak and beech trees. This is a paradise for Ajax who can stroll among the crowns of the trees which would be difficult otherwise.

Of course there is something to see at the seaside as well and that is: not much. The sea fades away in the haze. An ti is totally silent bedause there is no rush of the waves (they are frozen). It looks like a huge surface of ice and at some places there are walls of  ice-sheets shining in green and blue colours. So one can walk for hours, as we return we have been out for two hours.

As we think about what to do the rest of the day we remember the fine fish-shop at Zinnowitz. But the fish-shop is closed on monday. At Zinnowitz they renew the pavement of the oedestrian area and the promenade. We wonder if the new materials for plaster, curb and roadway will be more scenic than the old cobblestone with the puddles within. We have a look at the Seebrücke (sea bridge), this is a kind of pier with shops and restaurants at the shore. The storm of last autumn has broken some planks of it as well. At the water side there are some open surfaces bare of ice. As some youngsters run on the ice we better reside to avoid that we had to save one of them.

On the way back we visit the Achterwasser. Plenty of ice again. The fishers even ride by car on it, chop holes in it and put their staggering or angels in it. Today it is very dull and one would risk his life to enter the ice without compass.

Seebrücke Ahlbeck
After a nap we start for Ahlbeck in the afternoon. After we have found a place for the car, put Ajax on his string we realize that we are not in Ahlbeck but in Heringsdorf instead. This is because the Landungsbrücke of Heringsdorf is brand new and twice as large than that one of Ahlbeck. There are couple of shops and a cinema - may be this all will work with profit one day. As we enter the pier Ajax behaves weird. He crawls flat on the ground and this is caused by the gaps between the planks. I am used to observe this effect at Heidi in fear of height, but then she uses to fumble around looking for a solid support. So we better return to the ground ashore.

Here and there in the shops there are poscards with views from the former times as Heringsdorf was a spa town of the "Kaiserzeit" (1900). May be it was more scenic then. Today they try to manipulate at the ugly buildings of the DDR-era. We call them "Plattenbauten". Sometimes they have successed to generate nice decorations, remains the fact that those buildings are too high for a proper silhouette.

We will be glad if some years later everything looks like everywhere at this place.

Similar impressions at Bansin, the third of the spa towns. As we ride around we end at Heringsdorf again and thereafter we better go home.


There is a lot to do yet. So this morning we have to walk in the other direction of the beach. You must know that hereabout the beach has exctly two directions divided by 180 deg. And if you think this is self-saying - you are wrong. At places with watt-areas you can choose arbitrary directions out of 180 deg.

At the walk along the dunes - the most narrow place within the sea and the lake Kölpinsee - we see the boat of Achim at the sand. It is a nut shell and they even have no broadcast onboard. It is harsh to go out with wind and weather. We come to the Streckelsberg with the highest cliff of the island. At the bottom of this hill there is a concrete wall and this has preserved this area from the floods. It is not allowed to walk there and so we return. Once we have to crie as loud as we can as our dog heads out towards the ice wall which would be the end of his life as no one could save him there.

The next and second attempt is a visit of the "Polenmarkt" at Svinemünde. This is no matter for Ajaax so he stays at home. We soon reach the border, the parking site is nearly empty but we have to charge for 2.- DM anyhow. At the border control they check out if we are deserters or potential terrorists. For this time everything is OK. At our last visit in 1991 we had to use a taxi cab. Nowadays the Polish market is quite near of the border and we can walk. The aristocratic feeling people can even use a horse-drawn carriage. The less elegant people use the bus if they want to go to Svinemünde.

At the pavement a thickly blond Polish woman soulfully plays on her accordion the melody "Wo de Nordseewellen trecken an de Strand..." (Where the Northseawaves splash at the shore...). We are amused to hear about the Northsea instead of the Baltic Sea. We can see that the woman does not play for her pleasure alone because she has a potty for some coins aside.

As we walk among the market booths we realize two problems, one at the ground and one above. At the ground there are dangerous ice panels so that we nearly walk like dancers. And from the roofs above there sometimes splasch down real waterfalls. Moreover the supplied products are not so interesting and if you stop for a moment immediately someone comes up to convince you of any service.It is said that the selling people are the last links of an organized market gang.

We go back to our mother country with some cheese, butter and the ineluctable cigarettes. This time we have a look to the real Ahlbeck. There are many construction activities now outside of the season. We press our noses against the windows of the famous Seebrücke but can only see an empty dancing hall. The promenade is very elegant and we can imagine to stride there to and fro among the other high nosed guests. As we are hungry we end in the "Bistro am Park" for a sausage or so. We watch to some locals who have no other themes than tears off, leasing, income, purchase and sale of houses, properties and estates. We swallow at our sausages meanwhile.

In the afternoon there are no more activities except a nice tea time with cake from the baker. Achim tells this and that of the region. At a factory producing tinned food there will soon be 70 workers get unemployed and it is well known, that the federal state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is the most lacking in infrastructure and at Usedom the problem of unemployment is even more serious. The sons of Anke and Achim perform a bricklayers apprenticeship. In this trade the skilled workers have all escaped to more profitable regions. So the enterprisers are forced to employ semi-skilled workers. In consequence of this fact there often occur mistakes and bricolage (Pfusch) and the clients will not pay. In solidarity the fee for the workers is not paid if there is not enough money in the cash box. And the workers cannot do anything against it because always some others wait for their working place.

Achim with his fishing activities is self-employed but is dependent of the purchasing power of his clients. And if someone goes to bankrupt there is no money at all.


The weather gets grey and ugly more and more, our walks at the beach get shorter. But there is another weather independant attraction on this island which is a must to be seen. This is Peenemünde where they started the first rockets during WW2. On the way we buy some frozen herring filets at our favourite fish shop at Zinnowitz. We then come to Karlshagen but this area is not so scenic. There are large apartment buildings and we wonder who lives there and where they all find their work. In former time this all was military prohibited zone but nowadays they build vast parking places for the summer guests.

At last we reach Peenemünde which is now named "Historic Technical Information Center for Space- and Rocket-Techniques". We argue how much we would have to pay for it and estimate a limit of DM 5.-. But we are too small-minded, we really have to purchase DM 6.- for each. As I murmur that we at our side should be paid for a visit at this season no one laughs. So at first we may admire some attempts of the local art of thatching roofs - which is not so related to rocket research on the first glance. May be some falling fire chunks from the rockets brought forward the activities of the craftsmen.

Then there are some rockets, helicopters and persuit planes spread over the terrain. Finally we end at the exhibition hall, the former air-raid shelter with walls and ceilings 2 m thick. In the hall you find documents, photos, weapons and these and those tools from the research-center era. Two other visitors have an intensive discussion with the grey-bearded and retired attendant. There theme is the width of the beach, the storms and floods and the responsibilities of the politicians. "What to think about them if nobody prevents that they massacre the monkeys at Kenya".

We look for some activities concerning long distance weapons which wsere the origins of the space exploration. Now at the full hour a video presntation starts. We learn how it all began and how it ended: namely by a crushing bomb attack of the British air forces. Thereafter the Nazis have changed the place of activity to the Harz and other places, deep pits and mines sometimes. We had heard about it, but they never succeeded to convert the result of the war by the V1 or V2 rockets. The second video presentation shows the continuations of the early attempt until the present times as they are known to everyone who has lived at this period. The big name of all this is Wernher von Braun.

Outside again we stumble on a slogan to be read at the memorial chapel. "Die Wiege zum Weltraum wurde den Opfern zum Grab" (The bassinet of space research was the grave of the victims). Let us annotate that in fact they did not plan any space activities at all but the development of long distance weapons to cause victims on the other side.

Back at home we eat our delicious herring and then have coffee with Anke and Achim. Anke does not know how long she is employed at her factory. She is said to come tomorrow, the day after tomorroow and even on Monday...


It is even more gray than the day before. We ride to Ueckeritz by car and then Ajax shall inspect the beach there. We deposit the car at the campingground which once was the largest of the DDR. Some huts of the fishermen are destroyed by the storm tide and the restaurant "Kiek Ut" (Look Out) has a free hanging terrace. May be somewhat foot-cold.

Towards Bansin the coast is flat and there are no demolitions hereabout. May be we wander about 2 km along the shore. At the return point we whistle for the dog but this is invisible just now. Behind the dike, thelane and the camping gounds there is a forest with lots of rabbits, deers and wild pigs. May be this is the cause that the dog stays to be invisible. We know our Ajax: when he gets something intersting to scent all of his consciousness gets lost. We peer and crie into the woods but it is all in vain. Finally we are at a loss and eventually go back. Let us say that we did not look behind as often as today during all of our life. We discuss the further activities: Police, Home for Animals, an advertisement in the news, extension of the vacancies etc. May be I get the bike from our house and ride around at this area for a while?

We come back to the parking place an look at our car: no dog in sight. But what is that, a black somewhat just coming from the sausage booth? Yes it is Ajax and we cannot tell who is more relieved about the reunion. And may be the most promising direction to run for in unknown terrain was the smell of a sausage booth.

So we can continue the rest of the day with a visit of the Achterwasser and Höft. There is apale sun behind the trees and an odd atmosphere.We do some steps on the ice but soon go back for it was warm during the last days. But you can still see the tracks of the car-tires of the last week. The Höft is the last tip of the headland and while walkink on slippery pathes our dog is quite happy again and explores every bush and shrubbery.

So this was our last day a Usedom, tomorrow we will go home again. We had not the best weather at all but we think to have recreated mainly by the strong air and at last by the fact that we did not stayed at home during this grey winter season.

For the last evening we are invided to a zander meal. The single bottle of wine is not enough for the whole evening.

And the final end is: back at home I just had started to write this report (in German at first) and then it happened that the har disk of my computer crashed. You can imagine what this means: some parts of recreation are gone again. But we have a story to tell and years later we may laugh about it.

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