Baltic Sea 1957
This year marked the very first time that Mother and Aunt Mieze went on a longer vacation since the end of the war. Finances were tight and did not allow anything fancy for food and accommodation. It was decided to go to Möltenort, a small fishing village near Kiel at the Baltic Sea.
There we enjoyed a pleasant 3-week stay at a humble cottage at the north end of the village. We were blessed with mostly sunny weather that allowed us to spend the daytime hours at the sandy beach. When young and old had been frolicking enough in the shallow waters of the sea, we would withdraw to our roofed wicker beach chair (Strandkorb in German) that Aunt Mieze had rented for a small weekly fee. Apart from offering protection from the cold breeze, they were comfortable and large enough for people to change into dry clothes, sunbathe, read a book, or simply relax. The Germans are very possessive when it comes to claiming a place in the sun. If the less well-to-do tourists couldn’t afford the expense of these mini-cabins, they simply spread a towel on any free spot on the beach. And that was for the rest of the day their very own place that no one else was allowed to touch. But a true German Strandkorb is not complete and does not lend that sense of privacy and security unless you surround it with a wall of sand. Then you truly have that ‘my-home-is-my-castle’ feeling. I soon became friends with a young girl from Berlin whose parents had their Strandkorb next to ours. After swimming and playing around in the gentle waves of the Baltic Sea, we helped each other build the castle walls for our parents. We even thought of making out of wet sand the city crest of Berlin, the emblem of the bear, at the entrance of her castle. Upon Mother’s suggestion we decorated ours with the mystical griffin, the official coat of arms for Pomerania.
At the south end of the beach stood in a stark silhouette against the sky the Laboe Naval Memorial. The 72-meter monument originally memorialized the WW1 dead of the Imperial Marine, but now stands for all sailors in the world who died for their services at sea. The monument today consists of an observation deck on top of the tower, a hall of remembrance and a veritable tourist attraction, the German submarine U-995, the only submarine of this class that had survived WW2. I remember how on gray days not suitable for spending time at the beach I approached the awe-inspiring tower pointing its tall front to the sea that had swallowed up many a sailor both in peace and war times. The area around the monument was nearly deserted. Attached to the inside wall was a giant open staircase zigzagging to the observation platform. Leaving Mother behind who suffered even more than I from acrophobia, I climbed up the stairs first very boldly. Then I slowed down and anxiously clung to the railing with its large gaps, which opened up an intimidating view down to the concrete floor below. Near the top I had to stop frequently and close my eyes to fight the oncoming vertigo. But I could not admit to Mother that I was afraid, so in small frightening installments I climbed to the top and was rewarded with the most memorable view of the sea and proudly waved to Mother below as if I had just conquered Mt. Everest.
On the way home, Mother and I stopped by at Auntie Ella’s place. She received me very kindly, as if I had never caused her any grief with those horrendous telephone bills the year before. After a brief visit to the Hamburg harbor and shipyards, we traveled back to Wesel having enjoyed a most relaxing and very happy vacation.