Schleswig-Holstein’s Baltic coast runs for 385 kilometres. It has gently shelving sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, bays and narrow inlets cut deep into the land – Flensburg Firth, the Schlei, Eckernfarde Bay, the Bay of Kiel and the Bay of Labeck.
The Baltic island of Fehmarn lies between Kiel Firth and the Bay of Labeck. It sits off the mainland like the dot on an “i” and is known as Schleswig-Holstein’s “granary”. Burg, the main town on the island, the Wallnau aquatic nature reserve and the stunning bridge across the Fehmarn Belt are three of the key sights. Fehmarn also attracts many “artists of the air”, stunt kite fans practising their left turns, right turns, loop-the-loops and figures of eight. You can watch kites swooping precariously close to the ground, then zipping back up into the sky with just a few pulls on the strings. Kite flying is great fun for people of all ages – and it’s not too difficult to master.
Seaside resorts line the Baltic coast from Glacksburg in the north – the “cradle” of European royal houses, with its moated castle – to TravemÃ¼nde in the south-east. Holstein’s Switzerland, a picturesque nature reserve, is located between Kiel Bay and Labeck Bay. It was formed during the last Ice Age and is a habitat for rare animals and plants. With its gentle hills and almost 200 fabulously romantic lakes, it is also a popular setting for films.
The Baltic coast also has more than a hint of romance. Around 25 stately homes, grand residences, palaces, manor houses and estates sit in splendour by the sea, on hills and on the islands. Built for kings and their loved ones, they often have parks designed for leisurely strolls. Some of them are open to visitors – beautiful illustrations of the twists, turns and intrigues of the past.
Mecklenburg’s Baltic coastline – from the river Trave to the river Recknitz – is characterised by long beaches of fine sand, high banks and sheer cliffs. To the east is Western Pomerania with its islands Grosser Werder, Bock and the Fischland-Darss-Zingst peninsula. This is real Hanseatic League country, particularly the Hanseatic cities of Wismar and Rostock. To the west are the Bay of Wismar, Salzhaff Bay, the island of Poel and two of the largest and oldest Baltic seaside resorts – Boltenhagen and Rerik – whose history goes back to the mid-19th century. There are records of a settlement at Rerik dating back to the time of Charlemagne.
The former Hanseatic cities of Stralsund and Greifswald and the islands of Usedom and RÃ¼gen are along the Baltic coast of Western Pomerania. Stralsund, almost 800 years old, is an architectural gem. Its town hall, which has a magnificent gabled facade, is one of the finest secular buildings in northern Germany. Many of Stralsund’s town houses date from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The former Hanseatic town of Greifswald has – like Stralsund – a number of fine Gothic brick churches. A little to the east of Greifswald are the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey of Eldena and the fishing village of Wieck. The island of Usedom lies just off the coast at Wolgast. Usedom’s beaches are mainly flat – perfect for swimming. On the mainland to the south-west of Usedom – and on the south bank of the river Peene – is Anklam, with its prominent, late-Gothic, stone gate (32 metres). The river Peene continues to Ueckermande, Germany’s most easterly sea port.
Szczecin lagoon is excellent for sailing and angling. Eel caught in the lagoon is a local Pomeranian speciality. The whole of the Baltic coast lends itself to water sports, from kite surfing to wreck diving. It is also a rich hunting ground for collectors of shells, amber and starfish. Visitors can enjoy boat trips, walking, horse riding, golf and cycling, as well as discovering art and places of historical interest.