After Copenhagen, we made our way to Warnemunde. Now, the vast majority of the people on our ship took a tour to Berlin, which involved a three hour train ride in each direction. Now, as Dave our tour guide said, “Who wants to be given a number and marched on a train? In Germany?” Not us, so we opted to go on a tour of Warnemunde and Wismar with Dave.
Dave was our admittedly rotund, relatively flaming, entirely enjoyable tour guide. I think, hands down, he was the best guide we had on the cruise, for two main reasons. First, he is an avid cruiser (over 70 cruises), so he knows what we want…we want to go see things, make no decisions, and make it back to the ship. In fact, we paid one price to him and he took care of all the trains, all the food, and all the entrance fees. Second, he had us wear these “whisper” systems that basically meant that we wore a little headphone during the trip (see John exhibiting it above). But it was great because it meant that we could wander about and still hear him.
We started off by walking around Warnemunde, a quaint former fishing village that is now a vacation spot. Before there were hotels, the residents would enclose their front porch and rent out their front porch as a kind of Warnemunde Veranda.
People from all over Germany book their vacations in this little town with its lovely beaches.We were there a little early (and it was a little cold), so the beach was all but abandoned.
Now, for the shocker: we were in the former East Germany! Who knew? (The only geography class I had was a high school class taken by correspondence from Texas Tech, so heaven knows the quality of that course.) Evidently, during the DDR (or GDR, for us in the States), Warnemunde was *the* vacation spot for high ranking party members.
Dave told us that since WWI this particular area of Germany had been under 5 different ruling regimes: the German Empire, the Weimar Republic, the National Socialists, the DDR, and now the Republic of Germany. Given the amount of change that happened there, the locals learned to just keep their noses out of trouble and stick to what they do. So that means that even though at 7:30am 2000 tourists came rambling off a big boat, they won’t open their shops until 10 because that’s how it has always been done. We left Warnemunde before 10:30 and it was a little creepy…like walking through a ghost town.
We ended our walk through Warnemunde with a stop for a breakfast pastry and coffee. The ladies found the bathroom while the guys negotiated an ATM machine in German. The breakfast streudels were awesome. I’m not usually one for sweet things at breakfast, but I ate the whole thing. We then got on a train to Rostock. We then changed trains and headed west to Wismar. It was kinda fun to actually be taking a train in Germany and interacting with locals, but even more fun was that we didn’t have to think about it. Dave just took care of everything.
So, two quick notes about the train. First, before we got on the second train Eddie and a few others grabbed a beer (10:30am, beer in Germany, check!). There are no public liquor laws, so anyone can drink in public, even on a train. And the beer he had (a Rostocker) was significantly cheaper than our cokes. Second, so remember the “whisper” system? When we got on the train we couldn’t all sit next to each other, but we left our headphones on and Dave talked to us the whole 90 minutes. It was particularly amusing when he would say something funny and the Americans (and a few Canadians) scattered throughout the train would bust our laughing simultaneously, leaving the Germans to look at us like we were crazy. (We got that a lot.)
Wismar was famous for being part of the Hanseatic League, which was a collection of municipalities formed in the 13th -17th centuries which were along the Baltic coastline. They were economic trading partners and had their own rule of law. Wismar, in particular, was known as a brewing city, and at one time there were more brewers than families in the city.
Now, I’m going to be honest. I don’t remember a whole lot about Wismar except that it was pretty, we went to a lot of churches, and we ate at a 555+ year old brewery. And that lunch was, for me, the best meal I had on the entire cruise. I had Jaeger Schnitzel, which was Weiner Schnitzel with a cream mushroom sauce. Hello, heaven? I also had an amber ale that was very good. Most people, including my husband with his second and third beers of the day, had a Mumme’s beer, which was a regional delicacy and only made by two breweries with any regularity.
As the food coma settled in, we went to a bunch of other places. Here are some of the sights:
The churches we went to had been built during the 13th and 14th centuries, but suffered heavy damages during WWII. During the GDR religion was not looked upon favorably, so there was little to no restoration done from 1945 to 1990. Since that time many of the churches had been restored, were being restored, or were rededicated as museums and historical sites.
This picture was taken from a church that had relatively little damage during WWII and served as a hospital. Now this is either a liberal interpretation of the father, the son, and the holy ghost (maybe the three wise men?), or L. Ron Hubbard was on to something.
After a little free time (in which John ate a wonderful sounding ice cream concoction), we headed back to the trains, where Dave told us about what to expect and do on the second half of the trip as he had been to all our ports previously.
Given that we didn’t really know what to expect going into the day, I think we had a really good time. We ate really well, we laughed a lot, and we walked over 7 miles! Dave was a really fun guide and he did what he promised…showed us the sites, didn’t make us think, and got us back to the ship on time.
That evening we sat on our balcony and watched as we left the port. We went up the river a little ways, then did a 180, and then went back out of the river to the Baltic. Now, the Germans might not get up early to open their shops, but they stay up late to wave at the big ship leaving. I couldn’t believe how many people lined up along the shore to watch our ship sail past.
Then we went to bed to prepare for our last sea day before the non-stop onslaught of hard-core touring began.