Germany's coastal pleasures
Kuehlungsborn a seaside resort between Wismar and Rostock bills itself as the "German Riviera" (TSK GMBH PHOTO)
LUBECK, Germany — Wide sandy beaches, fascinating islands, and plentiful seafood, may not immediately come to mind when you think of Germany.
But all of this and more — historic cities and UNESCO World Heritage Sites — can be found on the country’s north coast. Yes, Germany has a coast, though it’s still largely undiscovered by foreign tourists. In the seaside resort town of Cuxhaven for example, only 2% of visitors come from outside the country. Now you can be among those in on the secret of Germany’s coastal pleasures. Some highlights:
Move over schnitzel, bratwurst and sauerkraut. This is the land of herring, shrimp and zander (a delicate perch-like fish) — a few of the seafood items to be found on local menus. This part of Germany definitely gets its culinary inspiration from the sea. During five days I sampled everything from halibut, scampi, shrimp soup, shrimp sandwiches and zander (my favourite), to rainbow trout, cod, salmon and white fish. If you’d like to try several different fish at one meal order “fischteller” — a sample plate, which is on the menu at the bright and modern Fischereihafen restaurant in Cuxhaven.
Other notable places to eat: One of the seaside restaurants overlooking the Wadden Sea; the Steigenberger Hotel Stadt Hamburg in Wismar one of the top restaurants on the market square; or, in Lubeck, the lovely courtyard at Miera restaurant or the Historische Schiffergesellschaft, located in the former home of the Shipmasters’ Society, where patrons dine at the original oak banquet tables and benches below ship models (one dates to 1607) suspended from the ceiling.
The north coast has more than a dozen islands, several of which can be visited on a day trip or longer. These can be reached in a variety of ways — by boat, by car, on foot or even on horseback From Wismar, you can drive to the lush green island of Poel, which is connected to the mainland by a bridge and causeway. Enjoy its beaches and see the 13th-century Roman-gothic style church, a museum and a bird sanctuary.
In Cuxhaven, at low tide you can walk or ride a horse 10 km to Neuwerk Island on the Wadden Sea — a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or take a boat to the two islands that make up Helgoland, 46 km from Cuxhaven, where you can enjoy fresh air, beaches and local specialties such as Helgoland lobster and “kneiper” (crab pincers).
Other options include the North Frisian Islands — popular with German jet-setters; Rugen, Germany’s largest island; or Usedom Island (with a 42-km-long beach) near the border with Poland.
Put on your swimsuit, grab a towel and head to one of the many spectacular kilometre-long beaches on the north coast. Germany has some eye-poppingly gorgeous stretches of sand. In the seaside resort community of Duhnen (home to no less than three five-star hotels, a two-star Michelin restaurant and the Thalassozentrums ahoi spa complex), you can take a dip in the sea, walk on the mud flats, laze in a beach chair, stroll the paved paths that parallel the beach or watch the stunning sunsets.
Further east in Mecklenburg, the Baltic Sea stretches for 260 km with more beaches from which to choose. Brochures claim sea bathing was invented here 200 years ago when the Dukes of Mecklenburg chose Bad Doberan as their summer residence and founded a sea health spa at Heiligendamm in 1793.
Close to Lubeck is the Schlossgut Gross Schwansee, a neo-classical manor dating from 1745, that is now a hotel within walking distance of a beach. Nearby Travemunde has 4.5-km of sandy beaches with water sports being the main draw. And of course, more beach destinations abound on many of the islands off Germany’s north coast.
For history and culture on the north coast head to the Hanseatic cities of Lubeck and Wismar, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In Lubeck, which dates to the 12th century, see the Altstadt (old town), the iconic Holstentor city gate, the impressive town hall (Rathaus) built between the 13th and 15th centuries, and sample marzipan at Cafe Niederegger.
Wismar, to the east, boasts the largest preserved ancient town centre in the Baltic region. Of note are the carefully restored merchant houses, unique market square, and collection of north German red brick Gothic architecture. Wismar has been popular with filmmakers. You may have seen the city’s harbour which featured in the 1922 Dracula movie Nosferatu.
BOATS OF ALL KINDS
Wismar is becoming an increasingly popular cruise ship stop and visitors love the conveniently located port within walking distance of the historic city. If you arrive by land, there are various options for getting out on the water including hour-long harbour cruises; taking a boat to Poel Island; or for something completely different, a day cruise on the “Wissemara,” an authentic replica of a medieval cog sailing boat.
NEED TO KNOW
For travel information on the area, visit the German National Tourist Office website at germany.travel.