Of sea dogs, beach lovers and cruise ships
In Rostock, once a medieval trading center and today Germany’s only major city on the Baltic coast, the sea still influences many people’s lives. The beautifully restored old town and city harbor area with its historical warehouses bear witness to the city’s former affluence and power as a member of the Hanseatic league. Today, Rostock is booming once again – and not just because it is one of the main German ferry and cruise ports, but also because more and more vacationers are discovering its charms: wide sandy beaches, pretty seaside resorts, and a beautiful park with a maritime theme.
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Old town, city harbor and cruise ships
Old town: Medieval town hall, colorful merchants’ houses, monumental churches – many splendid buildings still testify to Rostock’s grand history. In the late Middle Ages, the settlement at the mouth of the Warnow river was one of the most powerful members of the Hanseatic League. Its aldermen’s influence extended the length and breadth of the Baltic region, and in 1409, the region’s first university was also founded in Rostock. Almost the entire center of the city was destroyed or badly damaged during World War II; some of the old town buildings were lost forever, others left to decay. It was only after the collapse of the German Democratic Republic that many historical buildings were lovingly restored.
Historical city harbor: It was from here, Rostock’s former main harbor, that the city’s merchants traded with their business partners in Scandinavia and the Baltic region in the Middle Ages. Because it was last used by the Soviet army in the days of the German Democratic Republic and because regular freight and ferry services had operated out of the city’s modern, new international seaport since the 1960s, a question mark hung over the future of the city harbor after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Rostock recognized its historic chance – and turned the city harbor into a new, maritime district. Now cafés, restaurants and theaters occupy the old warehouses, and shipping companies have moved in. In addition to the restored buildings, a handful of old cranes and the ships in the museum harbor all recall the history of the place.
Cruise ships: The colossal Baltic ferries that serve destinations in Scandinavia, Poland and Latvia from Rostock are real eyecatchers. The spectacle is complete when they sail past the picturesque district of Warnemünde and through the narrow Warnow estuary. But Rostock can go one bigger, too! The Hanseatic city counts among Germany’s most popular cruise ports. Giant ocean liners – floating cities sometimes 300 meters long – tie up in Rostock-Warnemünde roughly 160 times a year, bringing with them a total of around 250,000 passengers. For a chance to see a luxury liner close-up, check the Internet for details of which ships arrive when.
Ferry services from/to Rostock: www.rostock.de/faehren/faehre-rostock.html. Ship arrivals online:
Lighthouse, Hanse Sail and IGA Park
Lighthouse and Teepott:
Warnemünde remained a small, impoverished fishing village right into the 19th century. It consisted of just two streets, Vöörreeg (front row) and Achterreeg (back row), where visitors today can still admire the beautiful rows of ancient houses. This district of Rostock is now a state-recognized seaside resort with one of the widest sandy beaches anywhere on the German Baltic coast. Warnemünde’s landmark, the 30-meter-high lighthouse dating from 1897/98 (open to visitors during the summer months), stands right next door to the postwar modern-style Teepott exhibition center, built in 1968, which houses two restaurants, among other things.
Lighthouse: Am Leuchtturm, Tel.: +49-(0)381/519 26 26. Open: May-Sep daily 10am-7pm. Admission: €2 (reduced €1).Teepott restaurant: Tel.: +49-(0)381/548 45 88, Seepromenade 1. Open: daily 11am-midnight. www.teepott-restaurant.de
Warnemünde/Hanse Sail: Warnemünde is definitely one of the busiest Baltic resorts today, with a host of bars, boutiques, pubs, restaurants and also a casino. Visitors love to stroll along the beach promenade and the main promenade, pretty Am Alten Strom, which follows the mouth of the river. This particular district of Rostock is pervaded with a real festival atmosphere several times a year, for example during Warnemünde Week and Hanse Sail, a maritime mega-event that draws some 250 ships and around one million visitors. Neighboring districts and resorts, such as Nienhagen and Markgrafenheide, are a better choice for anyone longing for relaxation. With some more tranquil spots along the way, Rostock’s Baltic coastline extends for a total of around 18 kilometers.
Hanse Sail: www.hansesail.com. Warnemünde Week: www.warnemuender-woche.com.
IGA Park: What’s it to be – waterfront or park? This question simply doesn’t arise in Rostock, where you have huge IGA Park right on the riverbank. Created for an international horticultural show in 2003, it not only boasts some beautiful gardens, but also reputedly the world’s largest living building – a church formed from arching willows. Visitors can also get a “first-foot” experience of different surfaces as they walk along a two-kilometer barefoot track. If you find yourself longing for a little maritime atmosphere after this little trip back to nature, the park’s museum ship is your ideal next stop.
IGA Park: several entrances, Tel.: +49-(0)381/12 83 13 00. Open: Apr-Oct daily 9am-6pm, Nov-Mar daily 10am-4pm. Admission: €1. www.iga-park-rostock.de. Shipbuilding and Maritime Museum on board the museum ship: Open: Jul-Aug daily 9am-6pm, Apr-Jun, Sep Tue-Sun 9am-6pm, Oct-Mar Tue-Sun 10am-4pm. Admission: €4 including park (reduced 2.50). www.schifffahrtsmuseum-rostock.de
Pictures: mauritius images (2), Tourismuszentrale Rostock/Warnemünde, IGA Park Rostock, Neumann/Tourismusverband MV