The Baltic Sea (the "East Sea" to Germans) is about 3 hours north of Berlin by car, in the federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The Germans like to call the state Meck-Pomm, which is much easier to say. :) Meck-Pomm is definitely my favorite nature-y destination in the vicinity Berlin area so far. The coast is quiet and rural - it reminds me a little bit of Maine. I'm not sure there's anything here to attract the international traveler, but it makes a great weekend trip from Berlin. I want to go back!
Our little road trip is mapped out here and also below.
Stop 1: Graal-Müritz
Graal-Müritz was a much needed beach break after driving up through annoying traffic from Berlin. We weren't hot enough to swim, but we had a little picnic, lay on the beach, and played our favorite new game - Kubb. It involves throwing sticks to knock over other sticks - like something between horseshoes and Boules.
By the way, the Baltic Sea is way warmer than Puget Sound!
Stop 2: Born auf dem Darß
Born is a little town on the "Darß," the little inland sea that you can sea on the map. It is home to a fun campground plus surf school that's populated by 90% families, 10% surfer-hippie dudes - and us, for the night. The surf school/surfer-hippie dudes made it fun because: (1) we weren't the only ones there without kids, (2) it meant there was a cool little bar/beach shack where you could buy Astra beer, an indicator of hipness (or perhaps just hipsterness), and (3) we could rent a kayak, which we did the next morning. It felt great to be out on the water!
Stop 3: Coffee break in Straslund.
Hannes and I made a little stop in Straslund en route to the island of Rügen. Straslund has a historic city center that's quite nice - in fact, it's a UNESCO world heritage site. (Though it's beginning to seem that everywhere has this classification). Straslund was an important city in the Hanseatic League - something I vaguely remember learning about in history class but couldn't tell you much about now. The brick Gothic architecture in Straslund reminded us of Brugges - which, by no coincidence, was also a Hanseatic port.
Stop 4: Jasmund cliffs on the island of Rügen (with an overnight in Sassnitz)
Our last day we spent hanging out in Jasmund National Park on Rügen. It's a really pretty place! Plus we had a beautiful sunny day, which made it all the more enjoyable. We spent the day walking 9 km from the town of Sassnitz, where we spent the night, to the Königstuhl, the most "famous" of the cliffs. (We could then catch a bus back to Sassnitz, where the car was.) Even if you're not someone who normally likes to go on 9 km walks, this one is really worth it - the coast is beautiful and varied and you'll have a lot of it to yourself. Actually, our grandparently B&B hosts thought we were wimpy for taking the bus back - they thought we should walk the whole way back, too. There's a trail on top of the cliffs, and it's also possible to walk the whole way on the beach. We opted to walk partway on top, and then take one of the handful of stairways down for the rest of the way.
So: I give Rügen two thumbs up. I'd like to go back and explore more of the island.