In case you're tired of doing nothing else but relaxing on the beach, or the weather doesn't co-operate, or you're curious about what else there is on Usedom island than the wannabe upscale seaside resorts, then a cycling trip is a good option.
Naturally you'll explore the seaside resorts first; cycle along the promenade (pics 1, 5) between Bansin and Świnoujście (Poland). Please see my transportation tip "Cycling", too. I highly recommend to explore the "backsides" of the resorts, so to speak, as well: I liked the area around the small lake Schloonsee in Bansin very much, in Ahlbeck some fishermen's village ambience is preserved off the promenade (Seestraße), ditto in Heringsdorf's western part (Strandstraße).
More rewarding, however, is the backcountry. I did a cycling trip from Heringsdorf via Bansin to Ueckeritz - Loddin and back, which first took me through the beautiful woods above the cliffs between Bansin and Ueckeritz. Then I headed to Ueckeritz proper, a cute village at the backwater. From there it was only a few km to Loddin, another similar village at the backwater and even more atmoshpheric. Back via Ueckeritz and its small harbour Stagnieß, then along the main road to Heringsdorf. More info on the villages in the Off the beaten Path section. The trail above the cliffs is well marked, goes up and down, is a gravel road - so be careful. Between Ueckeritz, Loddin and the main road it was minor roads mostly, very little traffic, along the main road is a separate cycling trail - safe, but not very pleasant with the noise and exhaust fumes.
I did another cycling trip from Heringsdorf via Bansin, up to the main road and to Lake Gotensee and Neu-Sallenthin, from there through the woods (gravel road, almost no traffic) via Forsthaus Fangel (cafe) and along lake Schmollensee (no view of the lake) to Sellin, a tiny and cute village. Cobbled streets in the village, gravel road again afterward, in the woods (pic 2). After crossing the busy road from Bansin to Usedom (town) the marked (!) cycling trail runs over farmland, barely recognisable (pic 3), the views over the rolling hills were beautiful, though. From the next village, Reetzow, on the trail followed the minor road (pic 4) to Korswandt for 5 km or so - little traffic, flat, but the VERY strong wind blew in my face ... yuck! Coffee break in a restaurant in Korswandt (see restaurant tip) at the small lake Wolgastsee, then flat and very pleasant on a minor asphalt and shortly a gravel road back to Heringsdorf.
- Budget Travel
This tiny village, pop. about 200, is in the backcountry of Heringsdorf (off the street between Bansin and Usedom town). The main attraction is probably the moated castle (pic 4). It was built 1578 - 80 with brickstones, but the facades were plastered, so you don't see the brickstones. In 2001 it is undergoing restoration, which is almost completed. Nowadays it is hotel (in the western side wing), has a brewery with beer hall (eastern side wing) and restaurant/cafe (central building) - see my restaurant tip! To get to the castle you must walk across the (pedestrian) "toll" bridge, where they charge 3 Euro as sort of entrance fee - you get a voucher, and can deduct the amount from your restaurant bill. However, if you don't plan to eat or drink there, it is indeed a hefty charge since there's not really much to see. A walk in the park is nice, but for 3 Euro? No way.
The other attraction in Mellenthin is the parish church. It is actually the most interesting one I saw on the island. Built in typical brickstone architecture, it is surround by a nice churchyard, enclosed by a wall with small gates - very picturesque (pics 1 - 3). The choir was completed about the year 1330, the nave end of the 15th century. The interior - a crucifix, pulpit with pictures of the Evangelists, confessional box, altar, balconies, pews, several paintings - is originally preserved from the 16th - 18th centuries. Highlight are probably the frescoes in the choir, an impressive depiction of the Last Judgement from about 1420 and probably created by the same master's workshop as the frescoes in Stralsund's Marienkirche.
Same here as in the church in Usedom (town): Photography inside is allowed, but publishing not - internet explicitly mentioned. So no photos of the interior here, sorry.
Pic 5 shows the former servants' houses along the tree-lined alley between the parish church and the castle. They were turned into apartments, shops, restaurants/cafes.
- Castles and Palaces
- Religious Travel
Yep, there's a town with the name Usedom. Now don't get any excited about a visit: Frankly, it's nothing really special. An hour or two is enough IMO. The (very) small town has a nice main square with the only remaining (of originally five) medieval churches, a former city gate with tower and some leftovers of the city walls. The townhouses are nice, but nothing special.
Definitely have a closer look at the church. It was built of brickstones in late Gothic style after the big fire in 1475 and is really huge compared to the surrounding townhouses. The upper part of the steeple and the choir were redesigned during the thorough restoration 1891 - 93. Some old epitaphs are preserved, the wooden ceiling is from the 18th century and remarkable are also the colourful stained-glass windows in the choir from 1891 - 1893. Photography inside is allowed, but publishing not - internet explicitly mentioned. So no photos of the interior here, sorry.
The city gate "Anklamer Tor" is from 1450 and hosts the small, but interesting historical museum. Open usually a couple of hours in the mornings and afternoons, no regular opening hours. Small entrance fee, 2 Euro if I recall correctly.
- Religious Travel
- Museum Visits
Each sea resort has a pier, named "Seebrücke" in German. Originally built as landing place for the boats, they became attractions themselves over the years.
In the three sea resorts Bansin, Heringsdorf and Ahlbeck you have the opportunity to see three different piers: Bansin's (pic 3) is the most simple one, like in the old times just a pier where you walk, rest on a bench, enjoy the views and get on/off a boat. It was buiilt in the 1990s, replaced an old, rotten one, and is 285 m long.
Heringsdorf has the longest - 508 m - and most commercial pier. The first one was built 1891 - 93, destroyed by a fire soon after WWII. In the 1990s it was replaced by a construction in somewhat old style, with a shopping mall (pic 5, ugh!) at the begin at the promenade and a restaurant (pic 4) at the end, far out in the sea. What I really liked was the glass wall in the middle, so you can walk on the downwind side.
Ahlbeck has the most beautiful pier (pics 1 and 2), it's also the only one originally preserved. In 1898 they built the restaurant on the wooden plateau by the beach, erected in 1882, and 1901 - 07 the 300 m long pier was added. It is *the* landmark of Usedom, and it features prominently in Loriot's movie "Pappa ante portas" - highly recommended!
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Food and Dining
- Spa and Resort
A *must do* in one of the seaside resorts is a walk along the sea promenade. From Bansin in the west, where the cliffs are, over Heringsdorf to Ahlbeck, where the pine forest at the Polish border is, the promenade stretches over about 8 km.
Walking trail and cycling trail run mostly separate and parallel (but beware of the parts where not - really dangerous!), always between the dunes and the (mostly) beautiful old houses (hotels and apartments) in so called "Bäderstil" (sea resort style, late 19th/early 20th century). In Bansin the promenade is a bit elevated, so you have sea view, in Heringsdorf and Ahlbeck it is lower than the dunes, so no sea view. In the centres of the respective resorts the promenades widen to squares, designed with flower beds, benches, concert places (bandshells), restaurants, cafes and shops and the piers (Seebrücken).
In Ahlbeck you can continue the walk through the pine forest to Swinouscie/Swinemünde in Poland, it's just 20 minutes or so, where another similar promenade is.
Pics 1-3 are from Ahlbeck, 4 was taken in Heringsdorf, 5 in Bansin.
- Hiking and Walking
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Spa and Resort
The main attraction of Usedom island is the beach. It is along the entire northern coast, fine-grained white sand, about 50 - 100 (rarely) m wide. The beach is public ground, but unfortunately the authorities consider it subject to charge - see my tourist trap tip. There are few stretches between the seaside resorts where the beach is really free, not maintained and without any services.
In the seaside resorts like Heringsdorf, Ahlbeck and Bansin you can rent beach chairs (from 2 Euro per hour to 9 Euro per day), there are beach bars, snack places, rental stations for boats and sports gear. You can play volleyball, build sandcastles ... and you can swim.
Be prepared that the water is going to be cold - water temps rarely reach more than 20° C.
In October the beach chairs were excellent protection against the wind. Despite temps only around 15°C and a pretty cold and strong wind from the sea I was able to relax for a couple of hours on the beach and catch some sun rays.
One of my favourite activities on the beach is collecting sea shells or amber during long walks.
- Water Sports
The view from the pier
The view from the pier at the beach and characteristic two high buildings situated in front of the entrance to the pier.
- Family Travel
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