|Given we were almost on the Polish/German border we figured “what the heck” and decided to nip into Poland for no better reason than to say we had done so! After knowing a bit of the history and knowing that getting in and out of Poland was not easy in the past, it amazed us that we were driving along and suddenly saw the EU sign on the side of the road indicating we were now out of Germany and into Poland. It was immediately obvious that we were no longer in Germany: roads were poor, many of the shops along the main roads were small and dark, there were massive apartment complexes, some repainted, others still dull concrete, huge above ground (heating?) pipes that snaked across the countryside and up over roads . However, once we got to the beach side of the city, all that changed: there was a beautiful wide brick promenade lined with lovely shops, restaurants and vendors, massive hotels; hundreds of people sitting on the benches lining the promenade enjoying the sunshine and listening to buskers (one group playing Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen – everywhere we have been they are playing 4-5 English songs to any in their own language). We walked down to the calm, blue Baltic Sea and walked for miles along the white sand – along with many other seniors. We read that this city appealed to the “older Germans” (because it is beautiful and inexpensive. I Googled the price of staying at the fabulous, huge Radisson right on the beach and the price was $70USD/night) and to stay away if you were looking for fun and nightlife. The city is a huge port and naval base. We stood one morning watching the freighters, the Border Patrol (with someone manning the mounted machine gun at the front) and naval vessels coming and going – including a 320 meter long, 50 meters wide, LNG freighter from Qatar carrying 210,000 cubic meters of gas that took 4 pilot boats to move it from the pier.
There is a wide cycle path that goes from Swinoujscie into Germany (the city is only 2 Km from the German border) so we spent one day riding along through the forest and along the Baltic to Ahlbeck, another Baltic resort that is a magnet for German tourists. It was a warm, sunny day so there were people out there, too, listening to music, enjoying a beer on the beach, or cycling as we were.
A highlight for us was cycling out into the forest to Podziemne Miasto, “the underground city” that is a series of bunkers built by the Germans when they entered Poland in 1939, and then connected through a complex set of tunnels by the Poles/Russians during the threat of nuclear war in the 1960s. The absurd part was that the only way we could get in to see the museum was to join a bus load of Polish tourists so we followed dutifully along listening to the 2 hour tour in Polish. For anyone interested in WWII, it was fascinating to stand in the war room and imagine the plotting that was going on as the war began.