For the entire forty years of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) there was a housing shortage in Rostock, as everywhere else in East Germany, despite the feverish construction of low-quality pre-fab buildings known as Plattenbauten.
After reunification a building boom set in, pushed by speculators hoping to cash in on government subsidies and tax credits. At the same time the population started declining -- Rostock now has a population of around 200,000 people, down from nearly 260,000 at the end of the GDR -- so the housing shortage suddenly came to an end and some of those flimsy pre-fab buildings could be torn down.
The reasons for the decline in population were that people moved to the suburbs or to the West, and the birth rate also decreased quite drastically.
In any case, there are now lots of new or newly renovated buildings in the city center -- though some of the outlying neighborhoods still look much the same as they did twenty years ago, except that there are no longer any heaps of brown coal on the sidewalks.
1. Buildings near the harbor in Rostock, 2009.
2. Renovated buildings as seen from the terrace of the Adult Education Center (VHS).
On my short visit in 2009 I was asked a couple of times by people in Rostock how I liked their new pedestrian zone in the city center.
Well, I think it does look attractive and even prosperous, especially compared with the way it was twenty years ago.
You even see young women with baby carriages, as in my first photo, even though statistically the birth rate in this part of Germany is at an all-time low, and young women are especially prone to pack up and move away.
Why young women, particularly? The reason, I'm told, is that girls and young women tend to pay attention in school, get good grades, get some job training and then move to the West to work or study -- leaving behind a growing number of poorly educated young men who are frustrated because they can't even find girl friends, much less jobs.
As a general rule in Germany, the further north or east you go, the poorer it gets. Since this region is both north and east, it is not nearly as affluent as some other parts of the country.
On the other hand, the people here are quite well off compared to their neighbors in some of the Eastern European countries -- but that's not who they compare themselves with.
GPS 54° 5'17.71" North; 12° 8'2.08" East
1. Young women with baby carriages at University Square, in the new pedestrian zone.
2. Pedestrian zone Kröpeliner Straße.
Rostock is located on the Warnow River near the Baltic Sea, and has always been a seaport.
In the nearly four decades of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Rostock was in a privileged position because it was the only seaport for the whole country.
Now in reunited Germany it is only one of several seaports on the Baltic and North Seas, and is in a relatively depressed region, so business is not as good as it used to be.
GPS 54° 5'33.21" North; 12° 8'4.67" East
Rostock has also been renovating some of its older buildings and finding new uses for them.
This brick building near the harbor was originally built in the early 19th century for grain storage.
In the 1980s, still under the GDR regime, it was saved, renovated and has since been used for harbor and shipping offices.
GPS 54° 5'31.41" North; 12° 8'32.40" East
Look for the few buildings made with the special dark 'Backstein'; see: More info.
There are a lot of museums and other interesting spots. When you walk around the city center you will see most of them. But outside the center there are also interesting places; see the map.