Family, surfing swans and a sad beach at Christmastime

Not a creature is stirring on a Saturday morning in Neustadt in Holstein. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Not a creature is stirring on a Saturday morning in Neustadt in Holstein. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The best time to visit a coastal town is in the winter: frosty cold, deserted streets, gray skies, sleepy shops, and empty beaches for miles. Neustadt in Holstein on the Baltic Sea in Germany did not disappoint as a beautiful, quiet getaway.

The beginning of our walk along the coast in Neustadt in Holstein Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The beginning of our walk along the coast in Neustadt in Holstein Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Andreas and I traveled there to visit his parents for a few days. We had a wonderful stay in a “French” shabby chic Airbnb in town. The rooms were full of knickknacks and EVERYTHING was painted white so it all sort of blended together. Not my thing and not Andreas’ thing either especially after he cut his finger and no band aid. Poor thing fell asleep with his hand wrapped in toilet paper hoping he would not bleed on any of the thousand white objects in the room. I’d love to share a photo but the proprietor asks that no photos of the establishment are shared.

Winkie the Viking display at the Christmas market. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Winkie the Viking display at the Christmas market. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We had a lovely visit with his parents sharing fancy coffees at their apartment and a nice dinner by the water. We also had a wonderful German breakfast and I ate my first soft-boiled egg after a sad, sloppy job of breaking the top of the shell, rookie mistake.

Coffee time by the sea with Lothar. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Coffee time by the sea with Lothar. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
First time for everything. Stop laughing at my egg. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
First time for everything. Stop laughing at my egg. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Christa is a wonderful quilter. This is a gift she made for her friend. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Christa is a wonderful quilter. This is a gift she made for her friend. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We took advantage of the gray, cold weather by walking a few miles along the Baltic following a sculpture trail towards the family campsite.

Christa's favorite sculpture along the path. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Christa’s favorite sculpture along the path. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Swans in the surf. I have never seen this in America. I thought this was so cool. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Swans in the surf. I have never seen this in America. I thought this was so cool. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Neustadt also has a horrifically sad story to tell from the end of WWII on this coast. The Neuengamme Concentration Camp near Hamburg was emptied and the prisoners were put on decommissioned ships in the Bay of Lübeck to prevent them from being liberated alive by rapidly advancing British troops the last days of the war. The prisoners were put below decks without food and water, and survival gear was replaced with dynamite charges to sink the ship. Barges of women and children from Stutthof and Mittelbau-Dora camps were also sent to the ships already holding 9000 prisoners, but they were turned away because the ships were full. Their SS guards sailed the barges to the beach where they shot women and children aboard with machine guns. The ships were then mistakenly bombed by the British Royal Air Force. The few survivors able to reach the beaches from the ships were shot on the beach. When the British Army arrived later in the day, they found empty camps, burning ships, and corpses of the murdered on the beach. We visited a mass grave and a marker along the path. There is, of course, much more to this story.

A sign that needs replacing
A sign that needs replacing
The stone for the mass grave. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The stone for the mass grave. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We kept walking quietly after this …

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Andreas wrote about this event in 2013 as well.

Hell Bent for Spandex*

Bremerhaven is the best city I’ve ever lived in for bicyclists, even though I’m told that the local bike club considers the city to still be in the middle ages for German bicycling. There are separate bike paths on most sidewalks that share a wide space with pedestrians. This means the rider is a curb above and away from traffic. The lanes and riders are respected by most, but once in a while you’ll get stuck behind a grumpy old dude in a jazzy chair or a family of six with a pram.

Bicycle parking at the train station. Beyond the bikes you see here are little bike boxes that you can lock your bikes in that I call veal huts. Beyond that is a large caged area for maybe long term parking?20180723_105145

I like bikes and support bike culture but I haven’t been a daily rider since 1993. Andreas, on the other hand, has been commuting by bicycle almost as long as I’ve been alive. He is bike culture. The other day he said, “Riding a bicycle is as easy and as enjoyable as drinking a glass of wine.”

Andreas the biker at the Fischmarket.20180722_154642

This is wonderful for him, and for me when we run out of something and he happily rides off to the store. A fun time for Andreas involves a long bike ride to get there. He will laugh at that statement because a long ride for him is very different than my idea of a long ride. Over the past few weeks he has been “pushing” me to ride further and further each day to build up my endurance. This is not appreciated at all. I’m a walker, not a biker. My biking muscles went away with my last mohawk.

Andreas puts up with a lot of grumbling and dirty looks from me. Especially when he changes route to go to the familiar places. “What’s down this road, he asks, let’s go check it out.” “No, I say, you can check it out I’ll find my way home.” I’ve blamed frustrated, tired tears on wind and sunscreen in my eyes more than once. COBBLESTONES, oh my God, cobblestones…try keeping up with Speedy Gon German on cobblestones. No, really, I challenge you.

Lately he has decided that riding behind me so I set the pace is a better idea. This is a horrible idea. I feel like a fat, snail loser making him ride so slow, which for some reason makes me mad and then the sunscreen tears pop up. Grrr, also, I don’t know where the hell I’m going.

Me in the bike lane on my chunk of a coaster brake bike. The brand is Stevens. I call it Stevezie after Bill Murray’s character in the Life Aquatic.  Photo by Andreas MuenchowDF_0439

Now, all whining and complaining aside, I love that my boyfriend, almost a decade my senior, is super fit and happy. I’m sure that after my year here I’ll be more fit too. I can tell that I’m very very slowly getting a little stronger every day. I have also seen some cool things and been to some beautiful places that I never would have discovered on foot.

Andreas very happy after a bike ride to one of his favorite places.20180720_184504A mural we discovered after turning down a new street.20180722_154505

Andreas looks longingly at the couples that pass us loaded down with traveling saddle bags on their way to other countries with hilly terrains. If our relationship survives this “training period” imagine the adventures we’ll have.

P.S. * Andreas wouldn’t be caught dead in Spandex, or with a helmet, Camelback or lights on his bike. (I think lights are required by law here)

The author at the Fischmarket preparing for a long ride home.DF_0445