Saturday, 19 August 2017

Schloss Moritzburg

Another camping excursion, this time to Moritzburg in Saxony where they have a fairy-tale Schloss surrounded by an enormous moat!









Monday, 7 August 2017

Wismar

Wismar is one of the most interesting and picturesque towns in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, so whilst we were in the area, we had to explore. We last visited it four years ago, and we were impressed how much had been renovated since that time, especially around the harbour area.

Here are some photos from our afternoon spent there.





















Kühlungsborn


It's a strange feeling heading somewhere you expect to be the middle of nowhere, and coming across a large, busy town there. That's how we felt when we came across Kühlungsborn, which is in fact the largest seaside spa town on the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern coast. We had no idea. It's like suddenly coming across Bournemouth when you'd never knew it existed.

It has a marina and a long, long, long promenade and a beach fronted by elegant hotels and restaurants. And of course Strandkörbe. Lots of Strandkörbe, in all different colours.





What it does have that most seaside resorts do not, and certainly Bournemouth doesn't, is a military lookout tower:


What you can tend to forget is that not that long ago Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was part of Soviet-controlled East Germany, and this coastline was the border between the Communist states and decadent Western Europe. Many people attempted to flee to the West by sailing off from here hoping to reach Schleswig-Holstein, Denmark, or Sweden. Some made it, and some were spotted from towers like this and Police boats sent out to prevent their escape.

Birds know no international boundaries, but they are still subject to the law. Do not feed the seagulls!


These sparrows are having a giggle. "We're not seagulls, you can feed us!"


Here's another sight you will often see in German seaside towns. In fact, any touristy town! The ubiquitous Stadtrundfahrt 'train':


Before we leave Kühlungsborn, the resort we didn't previously even suspect existed, a note about these vending machines:


All spa resorts are allowed to charge a Kurabgabe, which is a 'health tax'. This goes towards keeping the beach clean and providing showering and toilet facilities, lifeguards, and many organised cultural events. Visitors can pay their tax at these machines, and you can be challenged by town officials to prove you have paid the tax. Of course, this being Germany, everyone automatically pays without thinking about it, and few people are bothered to be challenged. At Kühlungsborn the charge is 2€ per adult in the high season. Children up to 18 years old go free! I think this is a very good idea, and provides a small but guaranteed income to the town. I can't see it catching on in Bournemouth though.

Maize Maze to Lighthouse Bastorf

There are some enterprising farmers who get extra revenue from their tall-growing crops by creating mazes out of them and charging admission. These are great fun, so long as you are not asthmatic or have hayfever, and I suppose is at least not preying on the credulous like some Wiltshire farmers do by charging to see supposed 'crop circles'.

The most interesting maze I've seen is one just north of our village, which was in a hemp field. The hemp was not for smoking, but it did feel like you are inside a hippy's daydream.

More common are the mazes in fields of maize corn, which is the kind we came across whilst visiting a lighthouse on the Baltic coast.


The idea is; you donate 2€ per adult (4€ per family) for a fun way to get to the lighthouse (which you can see as a red speck in the distance) via the maze.

Or if you want to be boring, or are short of time like we were, you can wander round the edge of the field/maze. Nice sunflowers mind. I wonder if they were last year's crop, and they had a sunflower labyrinth?


The lighthouse is called Lichtturm Bastorf., and whilst it is topographically the highest lighthouse in Germany, it is also, at 20.8 m, the shortest lighthouse in Germany. Its construction was completed in 1878. It became a favourite day-trip destination for tourists up to the beginning of the 1960's, but was then classified as a military object and no-one but the lighthouse keeper was allowed to climb its 55 steps and admire the view from the top. After it was automated in 1979, it wasn't even visited by a lighthouse keeper. It fell into dereliction, but on the coming down of the Wall and the unification of Germany it was renovated (between 1991 and 1999) and can be visited again.


Teddy am Salzhaff

The Ostseecamping am Salzhaff we are staying at is rather cramped, but okay. The toilet and shower facilities are very good, dish-washing and kitchen facilities not so good. What they have that is innovative is a contactless card that you top up, and then use to get yourself hot water for a shower or to use in the kitchen. It also gets you through the barrier in and out of the campsite, and into the toilet and shower blocks. Cool.

If you are into surfing, and especially kite surfing, then this campsite would be perfect. Guess what, we aren't into surfing, but if we were there is a surfing school and equipment renting places right there next to the camp, which is direct onto the Baltic Sea.

Our Ted isn't into surfing either, but he's got a towel ready for going for a swim in the sea.


Downside to camping here? Hmm, tent pitches are amongst the trees - which lots of birds use to perch on and then poop on your tent and car.


Sunday, 6 August 2017

Doberan Minster Church


After looking around Schloss Ludwigslust's gardens we headed for the Mecklenburg-Pomeranian coast and pitched our tent at the campsite 'Ostseecamping am Salzhaff'.

Then we headed out to explore the area, and it being Sunday visited the Doberaner Münster in Bad Doberan.


The minster was formerly a Cistercian abbey, founded in 1171 at Althof just South East of Bad Doberan, after the conversion to Christianity of Prince Pribislav of Mecklenburg, undertaken by the missionary Berno, Apostle of the Obotrites. On the death of Pribislav in 1178, caused by a wound he received at a tournament in Lüneburg, the community of monks at Althof were massacred by a faction of the Obotrites (a Wendish/Slavic tribe) who hadn't taken to Christianity as eagerly as Pribislav.

In 1186 the abbey was moved to Bad Doberan, and this time it flourished and became the political, social and spiritual centre of the Mecklenburg region.


It is a most impressive building, absolutely enormous and yet well balanced and lyrical in its architecture. It is a magnificent example of Backsteingotik (brick Gothik), showing that lack of natural stone resources locally in Northern Europe didn't stop the builders of early Christian churches from creating vast structures both aesthetically pleasing and able to withstand the centuries.


The church interior is as impressive as the exterior, and worth the admission charge. Until the Protestant Reformation, when it was secularised in 1552, the church was the burial place for many of the princes of Mecklenburg and other notables such as Margaret Sambiria, Queen Consort of King Christopher 1st of Denmark. The richly coloured interior still retains many of these graves and memorials, as well as a beautiful triptych and other medieval Christian artefacts.

(excuse the poor quality of the next photos. No flash allowed in the Minster!)






Some of the tombs are like stage sets or dramatic friezes. Impossible for me to capture with my lens and no tripod, but hey, you'll just have to go and see for yourself!



Other artwork looks to be more recent, possibly from the Gothik revival era of the nineteenth century, but interesting non-the-less.


Inside the Minster are a collection of contemporary sculptures by Walter Green. This (I think temporary) exhibition is called 'Skulpturen mit Vorleben: Bitte berühren!' which I like to think translates as 'Sculptures with a back-story: Please touch!' And indeed, signs encourage you to feel the sculptures, which are incredibly tactile and sensuous.

One of my favourites is this:


It is titled 'Und meine Seele spannte Weit ihre Flügel aus', which are lines from the poem 'Mondnacht' (moonlit night) by the late-Romantic poet Joseph von Eichendorf. The lines translate as something like 'and my soul unfolded wide her wings' (and then in the poem, flew home). It sends a shiver down your neck.

There is a permanent sculpture outside the mister worth looking at as well, the 1986 'Ehrenmal für die Opfer des Faschismus' (memorial to the victims of fascism) by Reinhard Dietrich (1932-2015). I'm not quite sure I understand what it is saying, but I find it very powerful in its dynamism.



Also in the grounds are a number of ruins in varying states of decay that are worth exploring.



In summary, a most interesting and relaxing place to visit on a sunny Sunday afternoon. But all too soon we had to make our way back to the tent and get some food going on the gas stove.