Tag Archives: Strandkörbe

The Secret Life of Binz (3)

The next morning, I was sitting on the loo, doing my business and minding my own business, when I noticed something rather odd – there was a bench right outside the bathroom window. I sat there, snickering to myself, imagining some garden party guests suddenly showing up and getting an unexpected eyeful. Thankfully, it was a Monday and not exactly garden party season so I figured I’d be safe enough.

Then the garden party showed up. Eight or ten jovial Germans stopped right outside the window, with two men so close they were practically touching the glass. Dear God, please don’t turn around, please don’t turn around. They turned to face each other so now I could see their profiles. Another inch or two and they’d be looking directly at me. I did what any normal person would do in this situation – I stopped praying, snatched up the toilet roll and scuttled, crab-like, over into the corner, where I hoped I could wipe without being watched. I wasn’t quite ready to perform “LO’G Drops a Log” in front of an audience…

View from inside
View from outside

Safely back in the kitchen, I had a nerve-calming cup of tea, waited for the party to move on, showered faster than I ever had in my life, and walked into town. After a “not strictly breakfast” breakfast, I made my way to Pauli’s Radshop to rent a bike. Poor Pauli.

Pauli trying to make a run for it.

After several abortive attempts on a bike with back-pedal coaster brakes…

“Pedal forward! Pedal forward!”

“I’m trying! I’m trying!” (Thump)

…Pauli and I decided that this option was definitely not for me. He found a bike with normal brakes, made it “Linda-sized” and I wobbled around the yard on it a few times. Success.

Next up came the issue of me not being German, therefore, not having everything neatly packed in a bicycle-friendly backpack. Nope, I had a whopping great handbag with me. But not to worry; Pauli was a total pro and had attached a basket to the back of the bike before I could say “rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz” (which has absolutely nothing to do with riding a bike – I just thought I’d scare you with a terrifyingly long German word).

After paying my €8 and signing a contract (Germany), I sailed off confidently down the street. Ah, this was great. So much more relaxing and civilised than Berlin – lovely cycle lanes, hardly anyone else on wheels – perfect.

Unfortunately, I was so busy trying to blow falling leaves out of my eyes, I went wrong somewhere and ended up on a main road. Not to worry – the Binzians are sweet, patient folk, I thought. They’ll understand.

Opa thundered by shortly afterwards in his black cab, roaring at me that there was a cycle lane, beeping, and making rather a rude gesture out the window. Sweet old man. Ah yes, what I’d thought was a pavement on the opposite side of the road was actually dual function. I dismounted, wheeled the bike over the road through a couple of ditches and carried on.

Finally, I reached my destination – Prora.

Anyone fancy a dance?

Prora is quite the fascinating place. It was built by the Nazis as a beach resort between 1936 and 1939 – sort of a Nazi Butlins, if you will. The original structure was massive – stretching 4.5 km along the beach front – and was meant to hold up to 20,000 holiday-makers as part of the “Strength through Joy” programme (Kraft durch Freude (KdF)). The idea was that every worker deserved a beach holiday – they’d come here, relax and recuperate, then work harder than ever when their holiday was over.

There’s a documentation centre you can visit where they show a very interesting video on the history of the place, on loop all day, with English subtitles. For obvious reasons, construction was never completed, and since 1945, it’s been used as a Soviet military base, an East German Army restricted military area, a Bundeswehr military technical school, and a refugee centre. Plans to sell the whole structure for development failed so now it’s being sold off to investors bit by bit.

 

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This being Germany, cafés are obviously a priority and so I found myself here.

The Horn family strike again.

After a relaxing cake break, it was time to hop on the bike again and back into town. If Pauli was relieved to see that me and the bike were still in one piece, he didn’t show it. I parked up and walked next door to his brother’s fish shop where they sell Glühwein for €1.50 a cup. I also got to sit in my first ever Strandkorb, which I think makes me officially a German. 

Happiness is…

It seemed that, for once, I was ahead of the German schedule. Four or five couples arrived shortly after me and all asked for Glühwein but it seemed I’d got the last of it – take that, Germans, haha!

After a rather brilliant night out with a fun Italian, two South Africans, and quite possibly the most boring Englishman ever to have lived, I woke up to my last morning in Binz. After a furtive visit to the bathroom, I packed up and braved the gale-force winds and torrential rain to go and get some pastries from the closest bakery.

The Horn family really have baking sewn up in these parts.

After a deliciously gooey Schokobrötchen and cup of tea, sadly it was time to leave. My new German mum and dad dropped me to the station to catch the Flixbus. But, of course, it wouldn’t be Binz if there wasn’t one last bit of kink to see me on my way.

Mr. Karsten Breast – you couldn’t make this stuff up.

Oh, Binz, you weird and wonderful place, I’ll miss you.

 

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The Secret Life of Binz (1)

Every now and then, I like to get away by myself for a few days.

Mammy O’Grady: Well, you always were a bit odd.

Me: Indeed. 

As I’d never been to the German side of the Baltic Sea, I decided that now was as good a time as any to check it out. I settled on Binz on the island of Rügen, picturing myself skipping along the beach in the autumn sunshine, the sea breeze in my hair, or holed up in my flat reading a book while rain lashed against the windows. Either way, I’d be happy.

After a relaxing four-hour journey, the Flixbus rolled into town just after midday. I still had three hours until I could check into my apartment (Germans are usually rather strict about this sort of thing so I didn’t imagine I could rock up early) so I grabbed my suitcase and set off in the drizzle to find somewhere to eat.

After a few minutes, I came across Oma’s Küche; perfect for a wet and windy afternoon.

Quaint and wholesome.

The waitress told me I could leave my soggy case inside the door and seated me at a cosy table in the corner.

I took this as a sign and ordered a glass of white wine and the potato soup (which naturally came with chunks of sausage). I picked up Oma’s newspaper/menu and started to read. I learned that the place was named for the owner’s granny, a kindly old soul who, even in the middle of the night, would get up to cook something hearty for her beloved grandchildren. Opa started a limousine service with a small fleet of London black cabs and they were in business.

I turned the page to see that children are banned after 5 p.m; it seemed that while Oma would do anything for her own grandkids, she wasn’t so tolerant of other people’s. It came as a bit of a surprise that the menu was peppered with smutty jokes. I mean, children read this – before 5 p.m. obviously. I finished up, paid and went to use the facilities, where I made a new acquaintance.

50 shades of brown??

On my way out, I noticed a sign that I’d missed on the way in.

Men: No shoes, no shirt, no service. 

Women: No shirt, free drinks. 

Did this place turn into Oma and Opa’s S&M Dungeon after 5 or something? I decided I wouldn’t come back to find out.

I still had a good hour and a half before I could check in, so I thought I’d have a stroll along the main street up to the pier. Despite the gloomy day, I immediately fell in love with Binz. It seemed that every sensibly-clad German in the country had made their way here and they were now happily striding around, rosy-cheeked and colourfully all-weather prepared. The buildings were absolutely gorgeous and the streets were spotless – not even a stray cigarette butt or a hint of graffiti – a far cry from the grime of Berlin.

 

I stood on the pier, the wind making my hair stand on end, and mused that if I hired a little boat, I could sail to Latvia from here in around 10 years. Or die a horrible death at sea. I decided the latter would be preferable and turned back to lovely Binz. As I still had a bit of a walk ahead of me, I headed in the direction of where I thought my flat was.

After around 15 minutes, I passed the Kleinbahnhof and was lucky enough to see the famous “Rasender Roland” (Raging Roland) pulling into the station.

Everything in this place is so fricking cute…

I carried on and eventually reached my home for the next three nights.

Along the way I passed my new neighbours…

… and sincerely hoped I wouldn’t be woken up by an errant cock at the crack of dawn.

I was greeted by a jolly older German couple who led me downstairs to the apartment and showed me around. The place was massive – two bedrooms, fully-equipped kitchen, and a gleaming bathroom. It was far too big for just one person but, as it was only €50 a night, I’d decided to go for it anyway. My new German mum collected my “Kurtaxe” (visitor’s tax), explained the rules (because Germany), and presented me with my Kurtaxe card a few minutes later.

 

I immediately felt right at home. I only hoped that I would have enough chopping boards…

 

My original plan had been to go to the supermarket, pick up some stuff for the morning and a bottle of wine for the night, drop it off and go out again, but when I realised how far away the supermarkets were, I decided to just go out with my teabags, milk, sugar and (€1.99 from Netto) Chardonnay in a classy Edeka plastic bag.

In a bid to satisfy my craving for sausage, I found a place on the main street that served Nuremberg Rostbratwurst . The waiter was super-friendly, and my food arrived in a matter of minutes.

Not even remotely phallic.

I was starving after all the walking and maybe the sea air so I devoured it almost as quickly as it had arrived. But, not wanting to head out into the cold night again so soon, I ordered another glass of wine and settled in with my book. The other diners were mostly in and out again in around half an hour – one old lady didn’t even finish her beer, which I think might be against the law in Germany.

I eventually made my way to the promenade for a moonlit saunter. It was a beautiful night – crisp and clear – so I’m not sure how long I walked for. I found myself outside Hotel Dorint, which is normally far too sophisticated a place for the likes of me. My bladder disagreed and in we went – me, my bladder and my Edeka shopping bag. I was pretty sure that I was the only person in the place who had a €1.99 bottle of wine stashed on their person but they didn’t need to know that.

It was just me and a German couple. The man was kissing his dog, which I find rather repellent, but it did provide me with a conversation opener.

Me: What’s his/her name?

Frauke: Willi. 

Me: Heh heh.

We got chatting and I learned two interesting things:

  1. Dogs aren’t allowed on the beaches in Binz from April to October.
  2. Even dogs have to pay the Kurtaxe.

Me: But that’s crazy! Dogs don’t have jobs! They don’t earn money! How can they pay taxes?! 

The answer is: Because Germany.

 

Part two to follow…