More than a million guests a year, nightmarishly full beaches, a construction boom and long traffic jams on arrival and departure evrey day. The german island of Usedom is the Germans' favorite sunny island. Only 66 kilometers long and 24 wide, the island lies in the Pomeranian Bay, a money machine for hoteliers and pub owners, but often a nightmare for the 76,000 inhabitants, who have always lived from mass tourism.
But since the rediscovery of their home beaches by tourists who loved it for years to travel to Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia they are groaning about gridlock and high rents.
Nevertheless, the other side of Usedom is still there: lonely beaches, endless summer meadows full of animals and the starry sky above the bright sand. But if you want to discover this secret side of the island, you have to dive into the illegality of a journey that would be forbidden from the very first step if a beach bailiff, a policeman or a public order officer got a wind of it.
Wandering on the beaches of Usedom nevertheless works surprisingly well. If certain rules are observed. The challenge of this trip is clear - no hotel, no campground, no guesthouse and no Airbnb room. Just nature, for a week, with a tent on the beach or in the forest. A crazy plan in a country like Germany who has iron rules for everything. But let's see what comes out of it.
We carry heavy bags with everything in it we think we could need for the week. You never know the weather! With as much luggage as it takes, of course, no one can make themselves invisible. 17 kilograms weighs the backpack, without the hiking boots, which dangle outside on the occasion while the first beach stage. Germany lies in the sand, already in Ahlbeck, the easternmost place of Usedom near the polish border, densely packed in the Baltic Sea sand.
We are the aliens
If you look like a hiker who seem to have come here directly from the Alps everybody is starring at you as if he sees his first alien. Our planned route is always along the sea to Peenemünde. From there a turn into the interior of the island. And further along the shore of the Peene to the south to the Achterwasser, before it goes back to the Baltic Sea coast.
For experienced mountain hikers the way is an easy walk, because there is no such thing as elevation gain, apart from a detour to a former GDR vacation camp, which is hidden in the forest two kilometers behind Bansin. Picturesque ruins tell of long-gone vacation fun, green overgrown by the forest are the remains of what was once the much-coveted vacation idyll of some people-owned plant that has surely long since been wound up too.
Not even demolition is worthwhile here. Nature will reclaim the cardboard shacks all by itself. And until then, the local graffiti sprayer kids are having fun in the former dining hall.
Back on the beach, it's now a matter of just not walking too far. If you're hiking on Usedom and plan to avoid staying at the gigantic campsites, whose sheer dimensions are reminiscent of boring socialist cities, you'd be well advised to follow the boundaries between the individual communities. Where the beaches are empty because most hotel guests find the 500 meters into the open countryside much too far, it is best to wait for nightfall. With the dawn come the joggers, then the dog owners on their last round. And then the hikers unpack their tents and tarpaulins to set up camp in the shade of the cliffs.
This works amazingly well. In the twilight, the tents can hardly be spotted even from a few meters away. Those who see them anyway usually pass by, shaking their heads. "I'm sure that's forbidden," says one woman. "Nobody minds," her husband counters, sounding a bit wistful.
It's a dream to lay here in the sand and to see the sun is going down while the waves are rushing. He has given him up. We try to live him tomorow for a second day.
A few more pictures for you: