We marvel at the signed and mapped network of long distance bike paths. They are well used, too, demonstrating that if you build bike infrastructure it will be used. One of the main demographics is couples our vintage and older, out for day rides or short tours. Only a few are longer distance tourers. Hotels sport signs that welcome touring cyclists: Radfahrader Wilkommen. No need to ask apologetically where to put one’s bike.
Later in the week there were school holidays, and many families were out. Our last day in Germany was a Saturday, and the Ostsee Radfernweg became a crowded free-for-all — a veritable Blackpool-on-Wheels.
The routes follow designated paved pathways or forest trails on a variety of reasonable surfaces. Along the coast they follow dykes, run just behind the dunes, or along a cliff top with a view north across the Baltic. Sometimes we cut across a headland through quiet farmland. Occasionally we take busier roads for short distances, but cars are respectful of cyclists here.
These are flat coastal lands, with dunes and wetlands as well as productive farmland. It’s been a late spring, but the countryside is coming alive with green, with plum blossom in hedgerows, and with carpets of wildflowers in the woods.
Parts of the coast are undeveloped, but there are resort areas and areas of luxurious seaside homes, as the less aesthetic development such as caravan parks, go cart tracks, and mini golf. There are also the remains of defence structures from World War 2 and from the Cold War era, as well as a few derelict monuments to the glories of communism. Grand brick mansions in various states of disrepair or renovation date from Prussian days.
2013-05-07: 88 km to Pepelow Campingplatz
We’d heard various versions about the advisability of wild camping, technically illegal, and had decided we were probably best not to. A bit too much stealth would be required for our comfort. We reached a campground where the woman in charge had never dealt with cyclists, but who finally told us we could camp anywhere in a wooded section. This was fine with us, and after smoked halibut on a bun from the snack bar, we settled in for what turned out to be a rainy night. We hadn’t bought gas for cooking yet, nor stocked our panniers with dinner ingredients. It’s taking a while to get our system going.
2013-05-08: 95 km to Ahrenshoop Youth Hostel
We ate our first lunch picnic with proper German ingredients in a wind-sculpted beech forest, where the trail wound along a cliff top. Despite our intentions to picnic, we were waylaid by a doner kebab place yesterday. There is no problem with finding Turkish food options here.
At the mouth of the Warnow River north of Rostock, I could hear groups of tourists speaking Russian, and a Don Cossack Chorus sang rousing songs as we pushed our bikes toward the ferry that would allow us to continue along the coast without braving the city.
We’d decided we’d try a variety of types of lodging, so we headed to a youth hostel marked on the map. Here we had a four bunk room to ourselves, and dried our sodden tent.
2013-05-09: 83 km to Greifswald
We headed inland across a peninsula, riding across farmland and through forest on empty double track. In Franzburg we dove into an Eis Café as the sky darkened and hard rain began. Rain soon turned to violent thunder and lightening as we cowered; we later heard that more than thirty people in the area were injured due to this storm.
We rode on when the rain abated, and found a quiet pension in Greifswald, the owner being a very cheerful Turkish woman.
2013-05-10: 59 km to Kölpinsee Campingplatz
See Greifswald morning photos.
After morning sightseeing in Greifswald, we rode to Freest and took a short ferry ride to Peenemünde on the island of Usedom. Here, we visited the Historich-Technisches Museum that describes the development of the V1 and V2 rockets used during World War 2. I leave Chris to add detail how this grim piece of history is presented, but am happy to disclose that they have little pleasant to say about the infamous Wernher Von Braun.
We ate out despite being equipped to cook an evening meal, as there was such a crowd of cyclists that we envisioned someone telling us stoves were not permitted. We’d been planning to look for a zimmer, but saw a pleasant camp ground at Kölpinsee so stopped there. We were late and the reception was closed, so the restaurant held my passport hostage till the morning.
In the morning, once we’d paid our camping fee, we used the free WiFi briefly, then headed on to the Polish border with the pedalling throng. The throng thinned quickly to a trickle once we crossed the border.
See Baltic Coast photos.