I’ve never been to the three “Kaiserbäder” – the Kaiser’s beaches – on the German island of Usedom. But looking for a tranquil retreat from Berlin’s hectic November life – how come November always feels like a whole year? -, the quaint seaside town Ahlbeck welcomed us to a weekend of peace.
We arrived in the evening at the newly refurbished Strandhotel Ahlbeck. At the very last bit of the broad, white Ahlbeck beach, the hotel towers over the rest of the little town, allowing a mesmerizing view over the Baltic sea.
Sauna, swimming pool, a spacious sea-view room and a contemporary restaurant on the rooftop of Ahlbeck Strandhotel almost tempted us to stay inside for 48 hours, but we didn’t want to miss out on exploring the coast. So we made a plan: on Friday, we stayed in – drank wine, pampered ourself in the spa, took a long shower and called it a night.
I really enjoyed the “Usedom style Fish and Chips” on the menu of the rooftop restaurant PRIME, as well as the sturdy but delightful burger. There were many more things on the menu that we wanted to try, but by the end of the night, we simply collapsed into our vast king size bed.
The next morning, we enjoyed a lavish breakfast buffet at the hotel, where we got a glimpse of the weather outside: bleak and cloudy, but no rain. Perfect for a healthy Spaziergang down the boardwalk and the beach.
A walk along the Kaiserbäder beach
The whole coast along the Kaiserbäder coast is basically connected by dozens of kilometers of sand. I can well imagine how packed it gets in the summer, but in autumn, the walking and the fresh air makes us contemplative and calm. There are 42 kilometers of coast from Ahlbeck across Heringsdorf to Bansin, and they are lined from end to end with the opulent villas of the 20th century feudal ruling class.
The magnificent villas of the imperial spas of Ahlbeck, Heringsdorf and Bansin are unique in the world. Nowhere else can you find them in such abundance and variety. They testify to the taste and the purse of their former builders and are immeasurable today in their noblesse. Most of them have found a new purpose as hotels, resorts and vacation homes. It’s nice to look at such buildings from the beach.
While we were visiting, we enjoyed an intriguing contrast of blue and grey coast weather and the last golden leaves of the year. The whole region is surrounded by the the so-called Heringsdorf coastal forest, which makes it a perfect recreational area.
After around 15 kilometers of walking from Ahlbeck to Bansin and back, we got hungry for a snack. Fortunately, restaurants are still open in autumn on the esplanade. And while Usedom isn’t famous for its cuisine, there are thankfully some local specialities worth trying: the famous Backfischbrötchen, for example. We had one at Uwe’s, a brand that now has two franchises next to each other on the Ahlbeck part of the beach. While the “fishburger” wasn’t mindblowing, it was exactly right for our state of mind.
After a very needed break in our cozy room at the Strandhotel Ahlbeck, we tried an option for dinner that was recommended to us by friends: the Kaiser’s Eck. For Berliners, venturing into the countryside is always a bit tough on the palate: no place in the rest of Germany can be compared to the high culinary standard we regularly enjoy in the capital. And yet, Kaiser’s Eck somehow managed to combine a familiar and basic atmosphere with a solid kitchen. We had three kinds of fish and steak, and both meals were absolutely on point.
Bonus points: the restaurant is only a stone’s throw from the hotel, which made it just too easy to stumble back to bed in delight.
On our last day, we decided to extend our roadtrip. After checking out at the Strandhotel Ahlbeck, we visited the Polish bordertown Swinemünde for its grand market. It was quite deserted when we arrived – November is off-season – but not yet empty of vendors or visitors. If you’ve ever wondered where to get cheap cigarettes, fake Supreme hoodies or cold meat cuts, this is should be your next stop.
Maritime Museum Peenemünde
Before we headed home, we had one more thing to strike off our list: the Technical Museum of Peenemünde. Now, I’m not a big fan of technology, but I needed to see the derelict USSR submarine that has been transformed into a museum.
At the end of the 50s, this submarine was developed as a counter-weapon of enemy surface groups, especially US aircraft carrier combat groups. 72 JULIETT’s were planned, but in fact only 16 units came into service. Almost at the same time as the Baltic States’ successful efforts to achieve independence from the USSR, most of the Baltic Sea submarines were decommissioned. Two demilitarised JULIETT boats were sold or leased in 1994. U-461 came to Germany via detours in December 1998 with two tugs and is located in Peenemünde on Usedom. At the pier of the former naval base of the 1st Flotilla, the JULIETT U-461 is quite worth a trip: visitors can enter the ship and experience what kind of claustrophobic horrors sailors had to endure.
Technisches Museum Peenemünde
In Peenemünde, the world’s first launch of a rocket into space took place in 1942. During the test flight, the A4 rocket reached a speed of 4,824 km/h and an altitude of 84.5 km. Today, the A4 – also known as the V2 – is regarded as the forerunner of all military and civilian launch vehicles. The Historisch-Technische Museum Peenemünde (HTM) on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom has been dealing with its ambivalent development since 1991.
The Historisch-Technische Museum Peenemünde is located in the Bunkerwarte and the site of the former power plant in Peenemünde. The museum is concerned with the history of the Peenemünde Army Experimental Station (HVA) and the “Peenemünde-West” air force test site, in particular the rockets and other missiles developed there between 1936 and 1945.
I admit that the exhibition is probably more geared towards school children and teens, but I was nevertheless very impressed with the monumental architecture of the buildings (yes, I’m over 30 – I’m interested in architecture).
However, if you’re in the area, it’s definitely worth a visit.