Usedom lies on the Baltic Sea on Germany’s north shore, right on the border with Poland. About 2 1/2 hours from Berlin, it’s regaining popularity as a weekend getaway spot. Jokingly called “Berlin’s Bathtub,” it is something of an insider’s haunt at the moment.
Yet that’s not to imply this hasn’t been a hot spot for millenniums. The area was first settled in Neolithic times, because Germany’s ancestors loved a good beach just as much then as the modern citizens do now. Add in the healing spa waters, and you have an area with an almost magnetic pull on the senses.
There are more than 42 km (30 miles) of white sand beaches waiting. The beaches are dotted with special wicker chairs, available for daily rental and good for relaxing and listening to the sand. Yes, listening. When the wind blows through the fine white sand, it makes a sound unique to the area. Some say it is like an ocean of tiny squeaks, or thousands of miniature violins. Locals call it the beaches the singing sands.
The area used to be a retreat for Europe’s royal families, and their villas are now spas. The different clusters of houses and spas on the island are connected by a long promenade, popular for strolling, biking, and running. There’s also an area they simply call the hinterland, where you are away from the ocean and can hike through various nature reserves and get some good vistas of the island.
In July and August, there are many fun festivals. Every Monday and Wednesday there is a horse theater, with trick ponies and show horses. The third weekend in July they host a “Best Cocktail on the Baltic” competition.
Of course, it is not all cocktails and sweet sands. Usedom also has a selection of current and former cathedrals, nunneries, fortifications, and castles to explore. Space enthusiasts will especially want to check out the Peenemünde Historical Technical Center, where they launched rockets back in the 1940’s. Quite a bit of launch and weaponry equipment is still there and the exhibits are quite good.