We have a funny saying in danish – “gå ad Pommern til!” (Go to Pomerania!). The meaning of that saying is – “please, go far, far away, or even better, go further away and stay there- ish”.
We happens to believe that Pommern (or Pomerania) is a beautiful and well respected part of Poland and Germany, but to be sure we had to pay it a visit and thats why Pomerania ended up as the goal for our summer expedition in 2017.
The history of the weird saying probably goes back to the time where Pomerania wasn’t even German or Polish. In the late 14th century , Denmark literally ran out of heirs to the throne and therefore queen Margrethe the 1st had to take action to avoid the disliked part of the family to come to power. Queen Margrethe actually never was a real queen, but she was very beloved and respected, and therefor was considered as so by the Danish people. A very long and a very different story we might or might not have to revisit sometime…
The very short version is: Queen Margrethe adopted little Erik from Pomerania and made him king at the age of only 14 years – and not just king of Denmark, but the entire union of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Erik of Pomerania was not the most popular king Denmark have had and that might be why we have that weird saying – guess nobody really cares anymore?
Since then, Pomerania has been both under the rule of Sweden and Denmark, but because of a lot of land swooping and neighbor battles in general it all ended up with the borderlines we know to day.
Does this have any relevance to our journey? not exactly..! And besides we do have an awful lot of weird sayings in the danish language, and we’ll never manage to travel them all anyway…
So Enough ancient history and back to our contemporary tour.
We crossed the Baltic Sea by ferry from Gedser (DK) to Rostock (D) and drove via Strallsund to Rugen Island. I’ve always felt that a true journey should start with a ferry. That might be because I was raised on an island without any bridges. Nowadays we have bridges all over the place and we can actually drive directly from our parkway to Ulan Bator – which we for sure also dream about!
Funny thing is, that I never found the same necessity to sail on the way back home. Then it feels more like an obstacle, so let’s see if we’ll not find a bridge to cross at that time?
We just had to start the Pomerania-tour with a visit at the hotbed of the ancient Venders countless attacks on the danish shores – Rygen Island. Luckily bishop Apsalon took that to a hold when he invaded the island at Kap Arkona, made Rygen Danish and crashed their mighty god – Svantevit – in 1168. Some might say that the Danes had just as many conquests against the Venders. That’s totaly fake news – the true story always comes from him who wrote the newest history book. In this case Saxo Grammaticus is our very reliable source!
Rygen is the largest island in Germany, and it is a very nice and tranquil place. The small villages and towns are dotted around the island, and it’s a really scenic drive around the countryside. We drove to kap Arkona, walked around the cape and visited the Unesco fishermans village Vitt for a lunch – fresh fish, of course!
Just south of Kap Arkona is Jasmund national park, where we did a short hike to the Kings chair, a stunning beautiful chalk cliff that rises almost vertically from the sea. It’s whiter than white against the blue sea.
The chalk forming the cliffs consists of the remains of shells from millions of microscopic creatures (coccolithophores) which lived on the seabed over 70 million years ago. As a result of huge pressure from glaciers moving west, the terrain was compacted and pushed upwards, forming a number of hills and folds. When the ice melted at the end of the last ice age about 11,000 years ago, the cliffs emerged. They form part of the same deposits as the cliffs of Møn, Denmark, on the other side of the Baltic. Today, it is possible to find fossils of various types of shellfish as the sea continues to erode the chalk.
Further south, still on the east coast, we took the veteran train “Rasender Roland“ from the hunting castle just outside of Binz, and went to Lauterback Mole to eat more fresh fish. The railway runs regularly along a stretch of 24 km of track with historic steam locomotives and coaches, some of which are almost a hundred years old. Rasender Roland uses the narrow gauge of 750 mm, approximately half of the standard gauge in Europe. The maximum speed is 30 km/h, so you won’t get stressed.
Perfect way to spend a few days.
The German hospitality was not impressive. Seemed a little like they didn’t bother to deal with not German tourists, even though some of us (not me!) speak the language pretty well. Maybe they are still mad about the destruction of Svantvit?
Well that’s not what we usually feel visiting our southern neighbors. They probably just had a bad day – or two.
From Rygen we drove further into Pomerania and crossed the border into Poland. We took the small coastal roads and spend a night in Ustka on the way to Gdansk.
The countryside in Poland is absolute a must see! Small villages where tons of storks have there nests on long poles, and the old people stop to see who is breaking the silence when you drive by. This route brought us right through to birthplace of little Erik of Pomerania just before we headed south and drove to Gdansk.
Gdansk is a large and bustling city, with an impressive history. But nevertheless it’s size, the center is still very intimate and cozy . There are market stalls all over the streets in the old town, but it was never a hassle to walk around. It was here WWII started in September 1939, when the German battleship “Schleswig-Holstein” made the first attack and fired on the naval port at Westerplatte. The city was devastated during the war, but was restored only 9 years after the end of it.
The prices are fair, the people are very friendly and helpfull and there really is a lot to see. When we got tired of the big crowd we took a harbor cruise to see the shipyard where Lech Walesa in 1980 jumped the fence, organized NSZZ Solidarność (Solidarity) and proclaimed the general strike that was a major step to end the era of communism in Poland and the entire Sovjet empire.
And meanwhile we walked around and enjoyed the streets, the food, the people and the history of Gdansk, our Land Rover enjoyed a visit at the mechanics at 4land in Gdynia. They changed all the bushes, u-joints and stub-axles. Excellent service, top quality and half the price as in Denmark. It felt like a entirely new car on the way home – which, by the way, was with no ferrys involved…
So if anyone in Danish, ever tells you to go to Pomerania – don’t hesitate, but don’t miss the polish side!