Baltic Sea in winter: gin in Rostock and marzipan in Lübeck

Security and departure

ÜA pale sun appears on the horizon over the empty landscape, and small snow drifts on the fence posts along the way. The water of the lakes is indifferent and gray. The path ends in Bosau, a small hamlet on the Großer Plöner See. A special church stands here above the water and under mighty bare trees. In a place that was perhaps a Wendish place of worship, a sacred place even before the Christians.

After the heavy door of St. Petri has slammed shut, the visitor is greeted by an embracing calm and the scent of candles. Remnants of Gothic fresco paintings, the winged altar, painting panels on the gallery, the triumphal cross and the ancient baptismal font tell of many centuries of history. Instinctively being taken care of while the winter wind is blowing outside and you are amazed.

Triumphal cross in the church of Bosau, Schleswig-Holstein

Quelle: picture alliance/ DUMONT Bildarchiv

It was from here that they set out to bring Christianity along today’s Mönchweg to the far north. 800 years ago, with an uncertain outcome. They drove off and they didn’t know where. Perhaps this beautiful church, a jewel like others on the path of pious men, has this strange atmosphere of security and departure equally, of good faith and confidence. A place to pause for a while, and also a place to recharge your batteries.

Ostholstein has some more of these beautiful churches to offer along the way to the north – for example the Hospital Church of the Holy Spirit in Neustadt, the Altenkrempe basilica, the pilgrimage church of Kirchnüchel, the monastery in Cismar. But St. Petri in Bosau is most beautiful when the wind carries the sound of bells over the forest and water.

Lübeck fragrances

When the masters of marzipan stand at their kettles, it smells of almonds. And also for rose water? The exact ingredients are a closely guarded secret. Say Lübeck, and people think of marzipan. A delicacy whose ingredients probably came from the Orient to the Baltic Sea in the Middle Ages – Lübeck’s Hanseatic drivers had trade connections all over the world.

Even today you can drift in front of a historical backdrop and let yourself be tempted by delicious flavors. A few alleys in front of the Neue Rösterei there is a smell of coffee. Up until the 1950s, coffee and tea were traded there on Wahmstrasse – and today coffee is roasted in the old brick building.

The handpicked beans come to the roaster several times a week, then not only the aroma of coffee wafts through the dining room, but also a little longing for the distant countries from which the coffee originates – Ethiopia and India, Guatemala and Brazil.

Santa Clauses made from Lübeck marzipan

Santa Clauses made from Lübeck marzipan

Quelle: picture-alliance / Angelika Warmuth

Lübeck has even more scents to offer: If you walk across the pavement in front of the old gabled houses, the smell of freshly baked bread comes to you, you come to the “Freibackhaus”, which, according to the company, is the oldest bakery in Germany. More than seventy generations of bakers have been baking bread here since 1293. Today, the members of an organic cooperative do this in this manufactory, very contemporary.

At Hansekai you can then board the ferry, down the Trave to its mouth. Stand by the railing with your head in the wind and see the big ships. They don’t go to the distant coffee countries, but at least to Sweden and up to Finland. Far enough to satisfy the longing for the sea.

Delicious food from the coast

When the frost was severe, the fishermen from Fischland set off with mopeds and rattles; out onto the ice, out onto the bay. Most recently, Andreas Schönthier and his colleagues fished in this way in the icy winter of early 2016 by chopping a hole in the ice with an ax on the inland water and hitting the ice with clubs – to scare pikeperch and pike out of the frozen winter. and finally pushed the nets under the ice with the pole. They then pulled the catch ashore on a sledge with their moped.

When the bay is not frozen over, their small boats leave the dreamy port of Althagen even in winter; Fresh fish is available here all year round.

Andreas Schönthier from the “Räucherhaus” restaurant (and the “Fischkaten” snack bar) in Ahrenshoop-Althagen also has a boat outside on the Baltic Sea beach. If the swell allows it, they go out into the sea with their open boat even in winter, catching flounder, cod or herring, depending on the situation.

Ice sailors on the Saaler Bodden near Ahrenshoop

Ice sailors on the Saaler Bodden near Ahrenshoop

Source: picture alliance / Jens Büttner / dpa-Zentralbild / dpa

After the trip, the boat is pulled back up onto the sand with the cable winch; there is no port on this coast between Rostock-Warnemünde and Stralsund, apart from the Darßer Ort emergency port. It is a wild world, and it seems a little lost in the world.

The “Räucherhaus” restaurant at the port of Althagen is all the more inviting. Warm light, lots of wood, a few fishing utensils on the ceiling and wall, very cozy. The Schönthier family serves fish from the Bodden and the Baltic Sea here, along with home-brewed beer. They also smoke here themselves: eel, mackerel, and fresh pikeperch – you can order it in advance and enjoy it from the smoke.

The forest in the bottle

“We were on a winter hike in the Rostock Heath, and then the hiking guide asked us to close our eyes and sniff,” remembers Martin Neumann. “There was rustling and cracking in the forest, and there was an intense smell of citrus fruit with a pine scent.” Lemons don’t grow there, however, what smelled like that was the crushed needles of the coastal fir. “What a surprise, what a strange interplay of flavors!”

Martin Neumann produces and trades in spirits, so it wasn’t long before the people from the “Maennerhobby” spirits distillery in Klein Kussewitz near Rostock got down to work and created a new drink with their needles: Foerster’s Heide Gin. “The largest contiguous coastal forest in Germany is on the Rostock Heath,” says Neumann.

In Rostock, gin is refined with ingredients from the coastal forest

In Rostock, gin is refined with ingredients from the coastal forest

Quelle: Picture Alliance

And coastal firs also grow here. They harvest the pine needles at an approved location in the heather. Once a week they fetch a sack full of branches from the forest and pluck the needles off by hand. The needles are inserted and there are also extracts from aromatic plants such as juniper, cinnamon and lemongrass, cubeb pepper and arnica – “and a few more secret ingredients,” says Martin Neumann. The art is to create a harmonious and coherent interplay of aromas that reflect the local flora and the character of the region.

We succeeded: The resinous tartness of the coastal forest combines perfectly with the spices to create a surprising freshness. A touch of the Baltic Sea that you can taste.

Treasures from the water

Winter storms are not uncommon on the Western Pomerania Baltic coast. When they have settled down, nature guide Martin Hagemann sets off on beach tours with his guests. “The walks on the beach are often referred to as amber walks, but they are actually beach hikes,” he explains.

Because it is mostly other beautiful things than amber that the beach goers find and take with them – for example interesting and unusual clam shells and chicken gods, so there are flints with a hole in the middle.

Martin Hagemann and his guests go to the Darß at the rinsing area and their eyes wander over the sand. There, something sparkles there. Sunlight chases the beach and sets the scene for this wild coast in a spectacular way. A piece of green shimmers finely and mysteriously, almost as noble as a gem. “This is sea glass,” explains Hagemann, who collects it himself, “the most common colors are brown, white and green.”

Many years in the water of the Baltic Sea turn broken glass into works of art

Many years in the water of the Baltic Sea turn broken glass into works of art

Quelle: Picture Alliance

The colors of bottle glass that ends up in the sea and whose shards on sand and gravel are ground round by the waves over decades and get a real patina. There are sea glass in all colors: red, orange and purple are among the rarest tones. It has long been used to make jewelry, really beautiful pieces glitter finely – and in all colors. If you are very lucky, you might find a red piece that looks like a ruby ​​or a blue one like a sapphire.

Sometimes they are also a piece of history: “I found the rest of a Lysol bottle from the Schülke und Mayr company, founded in Hamburg in 1889, which was washed up here on the Baltic Sea beach after more than a century.” Martin Hagemann is inspired by such treasures , his guests follow suit. It doesn’t always have to be amber.

Information about the Baltic Sea coast in Schleswig-Holstein: ostsee-schleswig-holstein.de; Information about the coast in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: auf-nach-mv.de

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