We have now arrived at the third major stop of our journey, and with it the first German state that I have never been to before. Welcome to...
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern ("Criticize Castle Front Pomerania") is located in the very northeast of Germany, and is one of the five coastal German states (with two of being the city-states of Bremen and Hamburg, so if you only count non-city-states, it's one of three), and of them all has the longest coastline, largely due to its many and extensive bays. Altogether, its coastline measures a whopping 2000km! That's over twice the length of Germany along its longest axis! It also features two of Germany's largest islands, as well as a total of 2028 lakes, of which the Mürnitz is also the largest lake that is entirely contained within Germany. With a population of 1.6 million, it has about as many inhabitants as the African nation of Guinea-Bissau, and at about 23,000km², it's area is comparable to the republic of Djibouti. It is one of the least-populous states of Germany, ranking 14/16 before the Saarland and Bremen, but since it is also one of the bigger ones with rank 6/16 in terms of size, it is also the least-densely populated state of all of Germany. With a population density of only 69 people per km², it is about as densely populated as the Ukraine. Note that this still makes it about three-and-a-half times as densely populated as all of New Zealand. Its coat of arms depict twice the crowned steer on a field of gold of Mecklenburg, once the red griffin on a field of white for Vorpommern, and once the red eagle on a field of white for the Uckermark - once a part of Brandenburg - which was also incorporated into Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
Within Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, we are now within the county of Vorpommern-Rügen ("Front Pomerania Scold"), the coat of arms of which is made up of a black griffin on a field of gold for Vorpommern and a black lion on a field of gold standing on a brick roof for Rügen holding the silver arrow and cross coat of arms of the Hanseatic city of Stralsund, beneath all of which runs a golden griffin on a field of blue for the eastern regions of Mecklenburg that are included in the county.
And within that region, we are located atop the island of Rügen, the largest island of Germany. At 926 km², it is about 20% smaller than Okinawa which I visited during my time in Japan (see Book II ~ Chapter 16 ~ Tropical Tokashiki), and about half the size of Rakiura, which I visited during my time in New Zealand (see Book I ~ Chapter 15 ~ Restless in Rakiura). It is also smaller and bigger than several of the Canary and Balearic islands I have visited, so among the islands I've been to, I'd group it into the "medium-sized islands" category. Due to being rather flat, Rügen has a lot more bays and lagoons than any other medium-sized island I've been to however, and its coastline is the longest too, beating even elongated Okinawa's 476km with its impressive 574km, which is already over a quarter of the coastline of all of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and over ten times the width of Rügen along its longest axis!
The reason for this impressive length of shoreline is that despite seeming rather compact at first glance, Rügen is almost exclusively made of peninsulas, some of which have smaller pen-peninsulas, and some of those even have yet smaller pen-pen-peninsulas. It's basically Inception on an island-level.
On Rügen, we are based in a village by the name of Rambin ("Ram Leg"), which is located to the southwest. Having just less than a thousand inhabitants, this is the smallest place we've stayed in thus far - smaller than Bad Schandau by a factor of almost four. It's coat of arms is rather recent (1999), and depicts a Roman knight on a field of blue, riding a white horse and slaying a golden dragon, as well as a smaller coat of arms with a red rod of Asclepius on a field of white.
And within Rambin, our Airbnb place is located just on the other side of the village, overlooking a playground/park that fades into open fields.
So much for the broader scope of where we are. Now, let us continue by looking at...
With Rügen being a popular vacation destination and Rambin being located conveniently near the "entrance" of the island and along the main thoroughfare leading across it, it does not come as much of a surprise that the primary industry of this village is tourism. As such, there are quite a big number of Airbnbs and holiday homes around, of which we are now staying in one. This one is called Dat Zimmermannshuß ("The Carpenter House"), and is yet another step upwards from our last stay place.
Of course, we don't have the entire house, but only a small apartment on the upper floors, but that is already more than enough. Most importantly, it has comfy beds...
...as well as a clean and well-furnished bathroom.
It also has a little balcony overlooking the nearby playground/park...
...and also a kitchen, which ironically we should not end up using at all this time around. Oh well.
Most curiously, however, it has an armchair that appears to be the white brother of the black armchair I have at home. What are the odds?
There's also a number of pets around the house, starting off with a bunch of chickens living in the yard...
...as well as a cute black cat that can frequently be encountered just outside the door.
Moving out of the house and continuing with the village of Rambin, I had already mentioned in the last chapter that the roads here are not exactly canon...
...but much more awesome than the roads is this one car that we find parking at the side of one, bearing the best licence plate ever.
Most houses here in Rambin are of relatively modern make, but there are also a couple of local traditional-style houses with roofs made from Reet ("Thatching").
Maybe even better than that, however, is the artfully decorated transformer box, which fits in so well with its surroundings that it takes two looks to recognize it as what it actually is.
At the centre of Rambin stands its church, which like many buildings in the north is built in the Brick Gothic style of architecture...
...while the commercial centre of Rambin is the Alte Pommernkate ("Old Pomeranian Cottage"), which is a combination of several regional food stalls, as well as a regional foods and souvenir store. We should frequent this particular place daily during our stay here.
And that's pretty much all there is to the place, and all we should see on our first day. The next day, we should rise in the morning to expand our island-horizon by means of...
An Early Expedition12-Sep-2020
With not much else to do here, we go to bed early and are awake equally early. Today, we were planning to go to Stralsund, but since we have this much time on our hands, we figure we might as well also explore our immediate vicinity for a bit. And so, we strike out across the landscape of Rügen, our goal being a little knoll by the name of Fuchsberg ("Fox Mountain"), which I naturally just have to go and see.
So, out we set, along the peculiar road...
...past modern, 20th century bird roost...
...and into the Landschaftsschutzgebiet that is most of Rügen these days.
Incidentally, the peculiar road gets more and more peculiar as we go. I did not notice it in the city, but walking along it for all this time I notice that each major slab of the road has a pair of holes in it. `The holes are always of the shame rectangular shape, and are always located at roughly, but not exactly the same positions in the stone. At first I assume they might be part of some sort of palette stacking system or something, but no... the holes don't line up between individual slabs, and the individual holes are often angled against one another. All in all, it looks like someone punched holes into each slab with a machine, one at a time and following only the principle that each slab gets one hole on each end. But for what purpose? We should never find out.
Anyway, we follow the road past Breesen ("Brioom")...
...and then head towards the Fuchsberg along the "anywhere but there" not-cycleway.
The Fuchsberg turns out to be impressive four meters in height, and also features a vista point that adds another 25% to that already impressive altitude. Now if only all those giant trees were not in the way all around, we might be able to get a really impressive panorama here.
In order to get a proper panorama, we yet have to continue all the way to the actual seashore, where we get a nice view on the Kubitzer Bodden ("Cubits Flor"), and can actually see all the way to... oh wait, that's just another peninsula of Rügen, now isn't it?
There's also something else to be found here on the Fuchsberg. No, not a fox (regrettably), but a Geocache in the guise of a rabbit. Considering just how big it is, it's almost embarrassing how long it took me to find it, but coming from the wrong direction I walked right past it twice before finally spotting it coming back the other way.
On the way back, we take a slightly different route...
...one that would take us right to the Gut Grabitz ("Estate Diggits"), the oldest pirate hideout of Rügen.
After that, we soon return to Rambin. It would only be a short stopover this time around, but let me still use this time to tell you about...
Here on Rügen, the day begins with a few slices of Käpt'n Korn ("Captain Corn"), on top of which we put either local east sea cheese, tomato paste, or Sanddornmarmelade ("Sand Thorn Jam"), a local speciality made from the berries of a thorny bush growing on the beaches here. It's jsut a bit sour, but mixes well with the sweetness of the jam.
Unlike the accompanying Sanddornsaft ("Sand Thorn Juice"), which is so intense that I recommend only drinking it in homoeopathic doses. The one little bottle we bought should easily last the two of us for our entire stay. Still, it is an interesting taste. You just have to know that you need to dilute it generously.
Lunch should once again be something we eat during our strays. As for dinner, since we're right at the sea now Robert has requested that we take the opportunity to eat fresh fish, so we should spent our evenings at the Alte Pommernkate sampling the various types of Fischbrötchen ("Fish Sandwiches") on sale. Robert, being someone who likes fish, is not afraid to try out exotic fishes such as swordfish, while me as someone who isn't all that much into fish prefer to stay within the scope of the few types of fish that I have established I can eat without my stomach staging a rebellion, such as smoked salmon and eel.
And on the very final night, I manage to get to the Alte Pommernkate early enough to get a Currywurst ("Curry Sausage"), which is somewhat of a speciality of northern Germany. I'm sure a connoisseur could instantly tell me where to get the best Currywurst in northern Germany, but for me it's already enough to know that the northern Currywurst tastes just so much better than anything you can get in the south. In fact, I literally get an Extrawurst ("Extra Sausage" = "Special Treatment") since the lady who runs the stall was just about to close it when I came, but open telling her that I've already missed the chance the two nights before and won't be here anymore the night after, she agrees to prepare one more sausage, just for me. Yay!
So much for the food. Now continuing where we left off on the first day, and that is our trip to Stralsund...
For the Love of Laundry12-Sep-2020
4/8 (+1 passed)🎁︎
In Japan, and New Zealand, and Brazil, and South Africa, almost every single place I stayed in had a washing machine, and some even had a dryer. And even in those few places in Japan that did not feature acceptable laundry options, doing laundry was usually no problem because there were laundrettes usually only a short walk away (see Book II ~ Chapter 3 ~ Living, Learning and Working).
Not so in Germany, where I did not only manage to pick three consecutive Airbnbs without on-site laundry options, but the closest laundrette is not only not in the same village, but in fact not even on the same body of land anymore. As such, we should be venturing to Stralsund not to see the sights, but rather to do laundry. What a noble goal.
Hence, our next stop is the train station of Rambin once again. This is another place we should end up frequenting on a daily basis. One thing we notice is that the station is so remote, that it doesn't even feature ticket vending machines. Good thing we learned on an earlier trip (see Book IV ~ Chapter 1 ~ A New Departure) that in this case we can just buy the tickets directly on the train from the conductor.
As we wait, we get to see impressively big swarms of tiny birds, the likes of which I don't think I've ever seen anywhere before, stretching across the skies in long bands before collapsing into big clouds again and then scattering in all directions again. I can only imagine how much more birds there must have been in these fertile lagoons before people came and claimed it all for themselves.
Soon enough, the train arrives...
...and as expected, we are able to buy tickets for our trip to and from Stralsund from the conductor inside without any problems, even if the freshly printed tickets end up being kinda curly.
It's only a short trip to Stralsund by train, and before long we arrive at one of the terminus tracks of the station reserved for the trains commuting exclusively between Stralsund and Sassnitz on Rügen.
Our stray through Stralsund should end up being just a little bit eclectic. After all, first we have to find a laundrette, and then we want to also see a little bit of the city along the way. As such, we should first head for the city centre before setting out to the outskirts, and then heading back to the seaside again. From there, we would follow the coast south, and finally skirt around a number of lakes on our way back to the station.
So anyway, here we are, in Stralsund, a city that makes no secret of the fact that it's big on bricks, and also shamelessly flaunting all the cool things you can do using only bricks.
Also, they have rather interesting street lights for cyclists and pedestrians here, with the cyclists' traffic lights having a "wait for signal" in the middle, while the pedestrians' ones have the "wait for signal" at the bottom.
Not that they should bother us for long, as we take the first opportunity to go down a less busy side street, which be pure chance takes us past a traditional playing card factory in a traditional brick house.
We end up in ye olde towne walkinge malle for just a bit...
...before making our way past the cultural church of St. Jakobi, which is naturally also built of brick. Originally built in the 14th century, this is the youngest of the three great churches of Stralsund. Like much of Stralsund, it was partially destroyed in the Second World War, and was only very gradually restored in the decades to come afterwards. By today, however, it looks as good as new again.
After that, we make or road through yet more brick roads (hoping not to accidentally run into Dungeon Man, the first combination of human and dungeon in history, created with the help of Dr. Andonuts)...
...and eventually arrive at the Waschcafé ("Washing Coffee Shop").
However, we are given a rude reception, with people telling us it's all full, so we leave again. Fortunately, this was not the only laundrette I marked down, but the only other one is located several kilometres away. Oh well. Nothing to it. Better get going then. And so, we leave the inner city behind, passing through the Kniepertor ("Knee Per Gate") - one of the ten former city gates of Stralsund, and naturally fashioned from brick...
...walk past a house where you can apparently get warm baths...
...and eventually make our way along the entire length of the Stadtwald Stralsund ("City Forest Ray Sound").
About an hour later, we finally reach the only other laundrette in the entire area, this one bearing the flowery name of Rosi's Waschsalon ("Rosies Washing Saloon").
This one is thankfully almost empty. However, the functionality is about as convoluted as it gets. Unlike good old Japanese laundrettes, where you simply picked a machine, put your laundry and money in and ran it, these ones have to be operated from a central terminal, and also feature a forest of options to get lost in. Still, somehow we manage to get it running even without a Master of Laundrette decree.
All in all, I'd say this place is as dated as it gets, and probably in its death throes. One more indicator for this is that there's a counter for a laundry service that probably has not been opened ever since Odysseus crossed the Alps with his Mongol hordes to fight Napoleon, and as such even the improvised coffee and tea menu hanging nearby is rather moot. A real shame too. At these prices I would probably have bought a cup of tea.
But anyway, roughly one hour later we are free again, even if the drier did not manage to get the laundry half as dry as a Japanese dryer would have and still took twice as long for it. So, we continue on our way, free to explore as we see fit for the rest of our day, and promptly run into a supermarket bingo. Haven't had one of these since I was in Japan (Rules for Supermarket/Konbini-Bingo: You have to be able to see three competing stores of the same category from one position, all within easy walking distance from there. In this case, for example, Penny, Lidl and Norma are all grocery discounters, so they fall into the same category and thus qualify for a Bingo).
We also come across one of these instances of really good road design...
...and also pass by a hedge made from Sanddornbüschen ("Sand Thorn Bushes"), proudly bearing their bitter berries.
By the way, the reason why we're headed further north at this point is that we wanted to go and see the Schwedenschanze ("Swedish Entrenchment") of Stralsund. However, we are disappointed to find not even an informative sign at the location, only an open field surrounded by an overgrown trench. The trench is rather impressive though, considering how flat this area is otherwise.
Shortly thereafter, we reach the shore of the sound again Stralsund's one major beach, and are welcomed not by bathing tourist, but rather a panorama full of geese. And on the other side of the sound, Rügen.
There's also a really cleverly refurbished telephone booth around here: Since nowadays most people have cell phones, this one has been converted into a swap-library. It's actually kinda amazing how books have become so cheap these days that such a system simply works, and I wonder if this might be the first tentative step to a post-scarcity community.
From here on, we head south along the promenade for some time...
...before finally arriving at a place that sells food. By now it's already almost 15:00, and my stomach is just about telling me to go back and have at some of those geese. Fortunately, that scenario has been averted for now.
Sticking with the maritime theme again, I go for a serving of smoked salmon (yes, again) in a tasty pumpkin cream sauce with pasta, while Robert goes for another fishy dish (I forget which) featuring potatoes.
After that, with a fully belly, I am ready to move on. A little bit further down the promenade, we come across some sort of scarcely visited festival. Now, at this point in time, the Green Shnolz is experiencing an ebb, but looking back from the future, I suppose my prediction at this time of "You really do want a second wave, now don't you?" was apparently pretty dead-on.
Moving on, we next run into the famous Gorch Fock from 1933, not to be confused with the Gorch Fock from 1958, which made headlines in the national news due to cases of corruption and other types of incapability during its overhaul. This Gorch Fock (which is or rather was also a sailing training ship, by the way) had a turbulent past. Named after the German sailor and writer Gorch Fock, it first served Germany, then the Sowjet Union, then the Ukraine, and was finally returned to Germany again in 1999. Today, it is no longer seaworthy and rather functions as a swimming museum in its ancestral home harbour of Stralsund.
Just a little bit further down the road from there is the Lotsenhaus Stralsund ("Navigator House Ray Sound"), another brick building, this one dating back to 1901. Today it is being used as the harbour office.
Naturally, since we're now near the city centre again, there are suddenly no shortages of food stalls anymore. However, one thing I have not seen until now are food ships, and specifically smoke ships selling smoked fish. Talk about e-fish-iency!
And then, there's also that one building with ladder of no return.
By now, we have reached the point in our stray when we start heading back towards the station, passing along two lakes along the way. The first one is the Kleiner Frankenteich ("Small Frank Pond"), which is notable for offering a view on all three of Stralsund's major churches, der Dreikirchenblick ("Three Churches View")...
...and the other one is (surprisingly) the Großer Frankenteich ("Big Frank Pond"). This one is somewhat more natural than its little sibling.
Incidentally, by now it's getting rather windy, and we have been warned that the weather can quickly change here at the coast.
Fortunately, we are now not far from the station, and manage to make it just in time to catch the 17:00 train back to Rambin, where we wrap up the day with a serving of Fischbrötchen at the Alte Pommernkate.
So much for our half-day in Stralsund. Now, there's one more adventure to tell, but before that, let us quickly take care of...
Again, Dat Zimmermannshuß was a step upwards both in quality and in price from our previous stays. We had a complete private apartment that even featured an actual laptop-friendly workspace this time around, and the beds were okay too. The atmosphere was nice and quiet, we had our own bathroom, and a kitchen with a dishwasher too (not that we needed them this time around since we ate out all the time). The area was really nice too, and the place was close to the station, with reasonably good if somewhat limited local shopping options nearby. The free WiFi worked, and the temperature was nice and comfortable too. However, at 23€ per night and nose, it was maybe just a tiny little bit too expensive for what it offered. I guess that comes with Rügen being a popular vacation spot. All in all, this goes in the top 10 places I've visited, and should actually end up being the best stay place of our entire trip!
Now then, before we move on to the next location, we have one more thing to do here on Rügen, and that would be...
The Sassnitz Seaside Stray13-Sep-2020
3/6 (+1 passed)🎁︎
For our main event here in Rügen, Robert and I should head out to the far northeastern corner of the island, where the town of Sassnitz is located. Since that is about 35km away from Rambin, we're going to make use of the conveniently located train line once again. As such, we are heading off to the train station early in the morning. Incidentally, did I mention that the road to the train station here in Rambin does not at all look like how you'd expect a road to the station to look?
So, where last time we took the train to Stralsund, this time we venture deeper into the land of Rügen, and take the train to Sassnitz instead.
Even by train it takes us about 45 minutes to cover that distance, and along the way pass the inaptly named central city of Rügen, Bergen auf Rügen ("Mountains on Rügen"), which is decidedly flat.
The train ride takes us mostly through flat fields with a bunch of forests, but especially as we get closer to Sassnitz, there's quite a few hills to be seen as well. We also pass by the Kleiner Jasmunder Bodden ("Small Yes Mouth Flor"), a brackish lake that used to be a proper lagoon before the construction of the very causeway which this train runs across.
One problem arises on the train ride, however. Since there is no ticket vending machine in Rambin, we figured we could buy a ticket on the train, same as yesterday. However, even though we walk through the entire length of the train, we are unable to find a conductor, and through the entire length of the trip, no conductor makes an appearance ever. Talk about fare-collection evasion. And then, we arrive at Sassnitz, a lovely little town clamped between the sea on one side and surprisingly high hills on the other. Book IV ~ Chapter 2 ~ Scaling Saxon Switzerland's Serene Slopes) - at least while going downstairs. Fortunately, the number of stairs we have to descend is limited, mostly occurring whenever we have to cross a stream that cuts the cliffs in twain, such as the Kieler Bach ("Keel Stream"). Still, in the end, this stray should end up being the one with the third-most ascents (and consequently also descents) of our entire Germany tour, after the two ones in Saxon Switzerland. I would have never guessed that Rügen would turn out to be this hilly!
Sitting on the right side again, this time I effectively face north, and thus despite having already travelled the same route this morning, I get a different view this time around. The overall features of mostly flat fields with a few forests and fewer hills stays the same. However, this time around ig et to see the Großer Jasmunder Bodden ("Big Yes Mouth Flor"), which unlike its little counterpart at the other side of the causeway is a proper lagoon - though with a rather tenuous connection to the open sea, the salinity is still less than 1%, making its water brackish water by definition.
We arrive back in Rambin in the evening, but still early enough for me to finally get aforementioned Currywurst.