by Dr. Denise R. Ames
After a fascinating few hours at the Minster Bad Doberan, a 13th century Cistercian abbey-church, our bus tour of a swatch of northern Germany headed to the village of Bad Doberan. A train ride on an old steam-powered engine, narrow-gauge train awaited eager passengers. It wasn’t an earth-shattering experience, but enjoyable to chug through the village and surrounding countryside on a beautiful sunny day. I am sure my grandchildren would have loved it.
Lunch was next on the agenda and we headed back to Warnemunde along the Baltic Sea for our culinary feast. Of course, the restaurant was spotless—German-style—with gleaming tiled floors and impeccable bathrooms. I didn’t linger over lunch, as I was eager to walk along the water and the beach walk, which was a bustling corridor of interesting people.
Although the mid-August day was cool—compared to the blazing inferno engulfing my home-town of Albuquerque, New Mexico—it was delightful to the sun-bathing Germans. Sunny, warm days were a rarity and to be enjoyed when they happened. I decided to walk barefoot in the heaving Baltic Sea, despite my cold, shriveled feet. The water felt invigorating as I ambled along the shoreline, glancing out to sea and then back again at the families lounging in their colorful, canvas cabanas doting the beach.
It appeared as though the beach-goers had brought their refrigerators with them to the beach, the amount of food they munched on was stupendous. The food was lovingly packed in wicker baskets, just as it should be for a beach picnic. A few hearty souls were actually swimming in the Baltic Sea, while children played with their pails and shovels in the sand and built sandcastles in the typical German efficient style. It would take gale-force winds from the Baltic to knock down these sand fortresses.
After a mile or so near the water, I decided to stroll along the boardwalk bordering the beach. It was thronging with vacationers, either on foot or bicycle, enjoying their August holiday and the sun’s warming rays. I dusted off my sandy feet and slipped on my Tevas. I blended into the crowd, no gawking looks as I had experienced in other countries such as Iran and Qatar. That was nice, since I rather stare at others than have them stare at me.
One observation about the Germans, and I have also read this, is that they immensely enjoy their families. Their delight in being with each other was palpable.
Along with partaking in their ample picnic lunches, the families participated in all kinds of beach games, frolicked in the sand, or leisurely laid about in their cabanas reading a book. Their bikes’ baskets were also laden with picnic lunch food and other beach-related paraphernalia. Their checkered picnic tablecloths were carefully smoothed over any grassy parkway, and a luncheon buffet delightfully displayed. Not only did Germans like their families, but they like to eat too!
Another observation about the idyllic beach setting was that this resort catered to middle-class Germans, which most Germans are. The economic gap between the very wealthy and poor is not very wide, much less so than in the US. Germans pride themselves in being middle class, whether you are a doctor or a gardener. Each person, generally speaking, is well-educated, conscientious, and works hard. These characteristics oozed from every pore of the happy German vacationers.
Also, the lack of commercialism, especially to an American, was starkly obvious. No garish signs directed you to the closest dairy delight or fried chicken franchise. Most people seemed to bring their own food, as the bulging picnic baskets implied, and the clean tourist cabins and few restaurants were neatly tucked away. Bicycles were everywhere, and few cars tied up traffic into frustrating snarls along the main thoroughfare.
Everything about Warnemunde indicated it was an ideal place to spend a relaxing holiday, either with your family or friends. From my brief observations, I was impressed that Germans had sorted through what made them happy and content. And it wasn’t the vision that Hitler had so violently put forth during the hellish late 1930s and early 1940s. The tiny microcosm of Warnemunde expressed volumes about what the German people value: family, food, relaxation, and being in nature. It was a scene, I thought, that Americans could learn something from.
It was time to head back to the ship after a wonderful day in northern Germany. The clouds clustered together over the roiling Baltic Sea and blocked out the day’s soothing rays of sun. Our cruise was ending in the morning at the port of Copenhagen, Denmark. My friend, Susan, and I were looking forward to spending several days taking in this fascinating city.
As the ship headed out of the harbor to sea, I glanced back at the beach, now misted over by fast-moving gray clouds, and I felt grateful for my wonderful day, and all the wonders I beheld on the Baltic cruise. It was an experience I will never forget.
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, scholarly research, personal experiences, extensive travels, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her balanced views and global perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit that develops globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university. She has written eight books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, teaching units.
Along with CGA’s Gather program, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners and, Global Awareness for Educators, Dr. Ames is developing a new program: Turn, Transformation, Understanding, & Reflection Network. Turn encourages life-long learners to see with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and recognize the relationship of all things. She teaches workshops/classes and writes about Turn’s five topics: learning from the past, cross-cultural awareness, five worldviews, elder wisdom, and transformative travel.
Dr. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books