Did you go to the beach this summer?
I did. Just for a day in Northern Germany. The place was Travemünde, a seaside resort town, where the Trave River meets the Baltic Sea.
To get there we took a local bus from Lübeck. I like taking public transport when I’m on holidays – I feel less like a tourist – but I hate taking it at home.
Anyway, Travemünde, our seaside destination, was similar to Lübeck in that it was good for walking, cycling and café life. In addition, it had a long stretch of beach with wooden and wicker “sun lounges” for hire. These were no ordinary “sun lounges” though; they were more like capsules, providing protection from all weathers.
Only a handful of the ” sun lounges” were being used while we were there, as it was cloudy and cool.
Optimists, we had our swimming gear with us, but a dip in the sea was out of the question: Not only was the water cold and uninviting, but it was host to a plague of transparent, hand-sized jellyfish. (I shiver just remembering them.)
But we hadn’t come to Travemünde just to bathe in the Baltic Sea. We wanted to experience the fisherman festival – the Travemünder Fischerfest – so we walked and walked in search of this event.
I’m not going to tell you how long we spent searching for the festival (or that we almost stumbled upon it, but turned back) but let’s just say that it was the subject of a “travel squabble”. (Most of our travel squabbles are about navigation. Or my itineraries. Or walking speed.)
When we finally found the fisherman festival – by now in full swing – all resentment from our squabbles melted away. There was music. There was laughter. There were food stalls and a general air of merriment in the air.
We hit the food stalls. Signor Lu had a fischbrotchen (fish sandwich) with backfisch (fried fish) while I had some tasty fish canapés that contained Baltic shrimp and salmon.
We listened to a band called Glenfiddle play Irish music and tapped our toes and clapped our hands in time (more or less) to their jigs and reels. The music suited the nautical setting. Weird, huh? You go to Germany and find yourself listening to authentic-sounding Irish folk music and it all seems perfectly natural.
Another thing that struck me was how different to each other, German and Italian people are, when they’re out and about.
For one thing, when out walking, Germans concede some of the footpath when you’re heading towards them (or when they’re heading towards you). Italians play a game of chicken.
It’s also possible that German children are less mollycoddled and less neurotic than their Italian counterparts, and that they are more free-spirited and relaxed when out with their parents. At least, that’s the impression I got.
Of course, Germans appear to drink more in public, and at all hours of the day, morning included. And maybe the average German’s diet is less healthy than the average Italian’s.
These observations are generalizations, naturally. In fact, the more I think about it, the more difficult it is to stereotype anyone.
That doesn’t mean I don’t form opinions based on little substance, however. After our brief visit, I decided I like German people and I like their highly functional cities. Italian cities, in contrast, are very much in the grip of paralysis – unable to do anything because of a lack of funds (well, that’s the mantra they recite).
In short, I really liked Coastal Germany and found it a pleasant and stress-free place to visit in summer. And Travemünde is certainly worth a look if you like nice walks, beaches (even on unswimmable days), eating fish and hanging out at festivals.