Stettin Haff & the Island of Usedom

19-21/7/16. We have hit upon a prime German holiday area – and we can see why!  It’s pretty. It’s civilised. It has got the facilities. The weather is wonderful.

We have spent the last two evenings with a couple from Bremen, Gisela and Thomas, who tell us that the place has been transformed from how it was when they first came here more than 20 years ago. Even then it was probably at the “better” end of (former) Soviet bloc resorts but now it is very much in the Western mainstream.

(We are on the island of Usedom which is the German side of the border with Poland on the Baltic coast – part of the old East Germany.)

After shopping for camping stuff (gas for the stove and a new towel for Stephen – to replace the one he left behind at a campsite drying on a rock along with his swimming shorts – what an idiot!) we set out from Stettin (sorry for using the German name but the Polish one is too difficult to spell – just a long string of consonants it seems!) on a cycle track beside the main road heading north west back towards Germany and the Baltic coast).

Soon we were out of the city and riding through woods. Stopping to eat lunch at a table and bench we were joined by a couple who had been picking berries (whortleberries according to Somerset Christine) and a conversation in a mixture of broken English, German and Polish ensued, the main points of which were that they have a daughter and three grandchildren living in Evesham and that they do not understand why the UK voted for Brexit!

Just before Ückermunde (meaning the mouth of the River Ücker) we stopped at a campsite on the Stettiner Haff, a lagoon sheltered from the Baltic itself by Usedom. We camped in a lovely setting right by the water which gave Stephen a lovely early morning swim the next day – warm, wave free, gently sloping sandy bottom (the lagoon, not Stephen!) under a blue sky with the birds singing all around – just glorious!

On Wednesday we headed west along the southern shore of the Haff towards Anklam back on the Berlin-Usedom cycle route that we had been following. Just before the town there was a fork in the route with a short cut using a small ferry (max 6 passengers) saving 32 km which Christine took and the longer route via Anklam which Stephen took. We arranged to meet at a tourist information point in Heringsdorf at 6 o’clock if Stephen didn’t catch up with Christine earlier.

The route on the island was further than expected (and Stephen added 20 km to his trip by going in completely the wrong direction at one point (the Garmin is great for navigating in the local area but the tiny screen is rubbish for getting the bigger picture). As a result, Christine arrived at the designated meeting place at 6.20 and it was almost 7.00 when Stephen polled up.

With us both feeling exhausted, having done 80 and 120 km respectively, we set about finding a campsite. The first one had a sign saying “Full” and there was nobody in Reception for us to plead our case. The second did not accept tents. So we were getting a bit desparate when we arrived at the third site, about 8 km from where we had met, but luckily there was room at this particular “inn”. We set about tent erecting, bed sorting and dinner cooking at once. As we were about to eat a neighbouring German couple, Gisela and Thonas from Bremen, offered us the use of a couple of camp chairs and table to eat at, having overheard us tell someone walking past how far we had cycled.

As the campsite was even more lovely than the previous one and it had wifi (cost €3 per device for 24 hours!) we decided to stay an extra night. This would mean we could visit Peenemunde, where the V1 and V2 rockets were launched in the war, without bags.

We slept deep and long that night.  Thursday dawned warmer and sunnier than the previous day and we were glad not to be lugging heavy panniers around – especially when we encountered a couple of short, sharp 16% hills early on the cycle route that runs through the woods between the road and the beach. These hills aside it was a lovely ride mainly shaded by the trees and passing through the occasional very busy seaside resort.

As we neared Peenemunde the countryside opened up and we shuddered at the thought of how bleak and miserable it would be on a wet January day with an easterly wind blowing out of Siberia. But we were lucky with almost clear blue skies, a gentle tailwind (on the way there) and temperatures on the right side of 30°.

The small harbour is dominated by a real, live U boat which can be explored for €7 per person. As we have watched the TV programme Das Boot, we chose to sit and admire the outside while scoffing ice creams!

Having made a late start to the ride (midday-ish) and dawdled on the way it was now almost 5 o’clock and we had over 30 km to ride back to camp. And the tailwind was now, of course, a headwind!

So it was again quite late when we started cooking and we had cycled more than 60 km on a “rest day”! Gisela and Thomas again invited us to eat our meal at their table and we had another very pleasant natter. They also very kindly offered us a bed when we pass Bremen although it might be difficult to fit in around their hosting of their three grandchildren.

This was yet another example of the kindness we have encountered from almost everyone we have met on the road as talked about in the previous post.

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