Baltic Germany

The northern coast of Germany is probably the most popular Baltic destination for UK sailors. It is easy to reach, has good facilities, low prices and plenty of interest. Against that there are huge numbers of boats, and a large charter fleet crewed by people who make the Sunsail weekend sailors in the solent look like professionals.

Even some years after reunification, there is still a distinct difference in character between what was East and West Germany (Even some of the western locals refer to 'the east'). The western half is more mature, has more boats and many more marinas. However there has been significant development in the eastern half, with a number of new marinas many of which are still half full, and, for my money, the area is the nicer. The best bit, for us, is around the island of Rügen. Its something of an irony that the lack of development under the old GDR has left many medieval buildings still standing, which, given the money lavished on them in the last few years, has meant some stunningly restored towns - in the west, they have mostly been replaced with tower blocks! Also in the east are a number of national parks.

In terms of food and drink, compared to Sweden and Denmark, Germany is an oasis of choice. You can eat good meals out for around €4 to €10 a head - once we reached Germany we never eat on the boat again! Prices in the west are slightly higher than in the east, but still good by UK standards. Oddly, many of the local supermarkets are unimpressive, with none of the variety available even in Sweden. Good ones do exist though, particularly in the west - we came across one in Flensburg which just blew us away. The booze section alone was the size of our local Tesco and the drink was delivered by fork-lift truck!

Another excellent feature of Germany is the beer. The choice is bewildering, but whatever, its good and comparatively cheap. We have friends who sail all the way there every year for the beer alone. Actually, the wine is pretty good too, and a 'glass' in a restaurant amounts to about half a bottle!

Although Rügen may be the nicest, there are tons of other places to explore. The sail up Flensborg Sound for twenty miles or so from Sønderborg is lovely, with a nice town to explore at the end. The Schlei is another complete and rather famous sailing area in itself, as is Kieler Fjord, although, for my tastes, you can keep that bit. The holiday island of Fehman has a few nice harbours and then there is Lübeck Bucht. There are the old Hanseatic cities of Lübeck, Rostock to explore. These towns are now a few miles upriver, but the towns at the river mouth (Travemünde and Warnemünde respectively) are lively and colorful resorts. And then there is Wismar...

There are places to anchor, but the coastline is mostly sandy beach, somewhat exposed to the north. Fortunately there are marinas and harbours every few miles, all geared up for visitors. There are some huge ones for nearly 2000 boats - some in the east only half full. All the marinas have power and water (although some in the East require coins for the water) and many have WiFi Internet.

We found the people to be welcoming and friendly. This disconcerted us at first, as our experience of Germans in Sweden has not been entirely positive. In their own country, they seem much more relaxed, often going out of their way to make you feel at home. English speaking is much more widespread than it used to be the last time we were here, but its still good to have a smattering of German if you want to get the best out of the country.

Germans boat yards are renowned for their quality and attention to detail. Everything is done 'properly' as their native customers expect only the best. Its a good place to lay your boat up for the winter if you want good service.