In landlocked Berlin, a call to the sea can come on strong. Yes, Berlin’s lakes are wonderful but they are not the beach! While the Mediterranean is an undeniable superstar of European seas, there’s one much closer, lesser-celebrated body of water that’s only a 2.5 hour car trip (or 5.5 hour train trip) away: The Baltic Sea (or “Ostsee,” auf Deutsch)
My girlfriend and I had both checked out The Baltic for the first time when we visited the Hanseatic, Brick Gothic covered town of Stralsund in the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and though we loved our time there, we wanted an Ostsee experience that offered more expansive sea views.
Stralsund was great, but the water was very still and the horizon was obstructed by the glorious Rügen Insel (Germany’s largest island.) Stralsund beach felt like being by a lake. We wanted to stand on the shore and look out past big waves into the endless blue.
Neither of us had been to Poland. So, after reviewing a short-list of Baltic coast Polish towns, we decided to make an Ausflug to Kolobrzeg, a city in the Western province of Pomerania known for its windy beaches as well as its spas.
Spa culture and incredibly windy beaches
Quick vocabulary review: Ausflug is a German term used for a quick trip out of town. Many say the rule is that you can’t stay overnight and still qualify for an Ausflug, but my German girlfriend assures me this law is silly and can be bent for one or two nights.
Spa culture is a big deal in Kolobrzeg and people travel from all over Europe to enjoy long visits to the various wellness centers. The city has a big history as a destination for healing that stretches all the way back to the 19th century.
Mimicking the style of traditional English seaside resorts, Kolobrzeg became known as a place where people came for sea-bathing to improve their vitality, which was previously considered an unhealthy thing to do. After some quick comparison shopping, we settled on the Hotel Aquarius Spa which boasted traditional Finnish/Russian style saunas as well as steam baths and a giant cold pool.
The facilities were top notch and came with, like a lot of things in Poland, a very agreeable price point.
Kolobrzeg beach is gorgeous and incredibly windy, so windy in fact that one can rent little hooded, wicker beach chairs (Strandkorbs) that provide a kind of enclosure to the whipping wind. On the shore, it’s very common to sit in what looks like a tiny wicker car, facing away from the ocean with a little roof over one’s head.
On the way to or from the sea, one can also enjoy beautiful walks through pine tree filled parks. As we enjoyed deep, hearty breaths of sea wind filled with ozone and iodine we understood why Kolobrzeg would attract people looking to improve their health.
How about a little weird to go with that beach vacay?
The downtown area has a good number of nice restaurants and cafes (which we hid out in during an unexpected storm) as well as some notable tourist attractions including our favorite, the ridiculous Mice Town which is a tiny little museum with custom built environments for mice.
Watching tiny rodents run around a fake castle served as a perfect interlude between a coffee break and more outdoor exploring. Other notable sites are the Kolobrzeg lighthouse and the beautiful, tree-enclosed walking path near the city center.
Our funniest discovery came from the simple act of watching television in our AirBnB. Just like in Germany, most English-language programming is dubbed, but with one distinct difference: instead of multiple actors intoning the show’s players with emotive characterizations, Polish dubbing usually features just one, tired, monotonous male voice, completely devoid of any feeling.
This reader is known as “The Lektor.”
The voice is most often male and middle-aged sounding and made me feel like my Dad was sitting next to me on the couch, softly explaining the movie to me, only in Polish.
We loved how weird it was and could see the argument for very quiet, colorless narration; arguably, “The Lektor” provides a kind of neutral tone to feed your subconscious the verbal information in the background without distracting from the non-Polish speaking actors.
From a producing standpoint The Lektor makes perfect sense: just get one guy in the studio to read the script through on a single-day recording, no rehearsal, no fuss and boom: the film is dubbed.
We stayed two nights in this simple little city by the sea and resolved to come back. It’s close to Berlin, everything to do is fairly local and the air, water and spas are truly stress-melting.
“Hey,” I said on our way back to Berlin, “You know why I love this place? Even if we get bored there’s always weird, weird Polish TV.”