Germany Part 4: Breakfast Buffets, Fischbroten, and Beaches

19 07 2012

I don’t think I will ever tire of the free breakfast buffets in German hotels:  a huge assortment of rolls, breads, cheeses, and meats, eggs, sausages, yogurts and toppings, cereals, coffee, tea, juices…We could have stayed there all day!   But we had a train to catch, so we hoisted on our backpacks and headed over to the bahnhoff  (that’s German for train station).  There was a long line of locals at the train station bakery: always a good sign.  We bought two rolls and a huge iced sweet bread for only euro 1.55 (about $1.90).  On the train we asked (and by we,  I mean Annalise) the ticket checker lady about our train schedules.  Thank goodness we did because we had about three changes.  She was kind enough to print out our schedules.  A man sitting behind us overheard our halting conversation and volunteered that he was traveling on the first two trains with us and we could follow him.  Whew!  That simplified things!

The next train we got on was crowded but we finally found seats beside two mothers and their children.  Being the kid magnet that I am, I whipped out my iPad and showed the kids the Falling Stars game.  They were enthralled to say the least and we, meaning I, had an interesting trip talking and playing with the kids.

We again followed the man from the first train and got on the next one, with strict orders from Annalise not to sit near or talk to any children.  I so enjoy embarrassing my offspring!  We had a quiet ride, eating our rolls on the train for lunch.

We got off the train in Stralsund (“Gateway to Rügen”, Germany’s largest island) in a steady soft rain.  We got directions to a hotel and had about a ten-minute walk to the hotel.  After drying off and freshening up we headed back out, this time  to the Ozeaneum (not too hard to figure out that this was an ocean museum).  Up until this point, I hardly knew where the Baltic Sea was, so it was interesting to find out that this sea has low salinity due to it being almost enclosed by land masses and also has very low tides, due to I-don’t-know-what.

  Germany 2012 179We then walked over to an old ship docked at the pier.   The Gorch Fock was a tall three-masted ship that has had three lives: first as a training ship before WWII, then as a Russian ship after  WWII as a part of the war reparations, and then finally as a museum ship.  The man selling the tickets was almost  more interesting than the ship.  When he found out that we were from the US he excitedly asked us if we knew about the Eagle, a sister ship that had been taken by the US as war reparations.  He was quite surprised that we didn’t know anything about it.  Apparently there were five of these same ships built around 1933. The guy told us much more than we ever wanted to know about these ships, but it was evident that they were his passion.

As we headed back to our hotel (again in the rain) I stopped by the harbor to buy a fischbroten, or fish sandwich.  Yes, I, Beth Eberhard , who detests eating any type of sea life, ate a pickled herring sandwich.  It still had the skin on it even.   It actually was good:  it didn’t taste like fish at all! While I was eating, hungry sparrows gathered at my feet.  I amused myself by dropping crumbs for them.  Talk about your Angry Birds!  One fellow got ahold of a biggish crumb and when his comrades started gathering around for their share, he took off, flying some ten meters away so he could greedily have the entire morsel.  After he flew away, I thought the fighting would stop, but one bird grabbed onto another one’s foot, holding on for a good three seconds or so.  There is a lesson in there somewhere.   Poor Annalise didn’t get anything to eat and didn’t want to stop anywhere either since at this point, we were both soaking wet and chilled.  Never a complainer, back at the hotel she had a roll and ate spoonfuls of Nutella.

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The next morning we had another hearty hotel breakfast buffet, making sandwiches for lunch to take with us.  We walked to the bahnhoff, got tickets and boarded the train for the seaside town of Bitz on the island of Rügen.  This is as close as Germany can get to a beach resort.  In fact, the Nazis planned a large resort on this island as a part of their Strength Through Joy program, which aimed to occupy people’s free time.  Based on what we saw, it was cold and rainy, even in the summer, but other than that it was a pleasant Seebad (seaside resort).

This Monday morning looked like another rainy day, perfect for the beach…if you are a duck.  As it turned out, though, it was a much nicer day than yesterday, all things considered.  It did rain, but it was intermittent with gusty winds making things much more interesting.  A shower would have us popping up the umbrella and pulling on the jacket, then in five minutes the rain would stop and the sun would come out.

We arrived about 11:00 and hiked to our hotel, about a mile from the train station, oops, hauptbahnhof.   It was too early to check in, but they let us store our bags for a while so we could go exploring.  We found the main shopping district, i.e. tourist traps, that led to the pier and the beach.  We went for a walk on the beach for some ways, the sand gradually becoming a rocky shoreline.

The waves were very small, about what I would expect for a large lake, although this was the Baltic Sea.   I picked up some black glassy rocks splotched with white on them; I later found out this was flint, I think, based on the librarian’s description of how it was used to make fire.    Swans, ducks, cormorants, and gulls gave me plenty of fodder for photography.  I struck my feet in the cold Baltic waters just for bragging rights.

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Note the heavy coats!

We walked back to the hotel Binz Landhaus and checked in.  This place has a unique method for determining how much food to put out on their breakfast buffet.  We were given a wooden ball with our room number engraved in it.  On the wall was a case with columns for your ball.  You could choose what hour you expected to eat breakfast: 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, or Not Sure.  You were to put your ball in the column the night before to reserve your spot: an ingenious way to serve food efficiently!

After Annalise had a half hour beauty nap, we headed out again.  We went first to the Tourist Information Center where we paid to use the Internet in their library.  Then we walked back to the train station, trying but not succeeding to find a building housing their sand castle festival.  Guess it rains too much here to do it on the beach.  I will say that they make a concerted effort to have ongoing entertainment.  We had to pay about six Euros for a city resort fee, which got us free transportation on a tram (we never did use it, though) , free admission to several sights that we didn’t go to, and reduced fees for other events or sights.  It was a good idea, although we never took advantage on it during our short stay.  We stopped at a grocery store and stocked up on food for the next day, and then, since we obviously needed the exercise and our feet weren’t already threatening to drop off, we headed back to the hotel the long way by a lake.

There was a wonderful path around the lake with statues and other pieces of art along the way.  I was particularly impressed with a water playground that had pumps, an Archimedes screw used to pull water uphill, a dam, and lots of puddles for splashing.  What a great way to build engineers!

Germany 2012 250 I again embarrassed my daughter by asking a German couple caught in a sudden shower to pose for a picture with their dog.

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Still needing more exercise, we walked back to the beach area where we ate at an Italian restaurant.  I had herring, but won’t do that again.  It wasn’t quite as good when it wasn’t wrapped in a hard crusty roll, covered with onions and served by a guy in a clown suit standing in a boat by the dock.   Back at the hotel for the night, we both washed out socks and undies and let them dry on the towel warmers (another European nicety)and then hit the bed since we had an early train to catch the next morning.