SCHARBEUTZ, BALTIC SEA, GERMANY
For northern Europeans, a seaside resort is appealing anytime from early Spring onwards, clouds notwithstanding, as Andrew L. Urban discovers on the Baltic Coast.
My Sunday brunch at Scharbeutz on the shores of the Baltic Sea is a superb Bismarck herring sandwich, served with onion rings and a crisp lettuce leaf in a fresh bread roll, washed down with a crisp lager. The café we have chosen (with my brother Tim) has open views to the north-east across the flat, grey-blue Baltic, past the coast of southern Denmark towards Sweden, a couple of hundred kilometres across the water (335 kms by road & ferry). A calming view.
It’s spring. At 11 am, the place is almost empty, but by lunchtime it’s comfortably crowded, people filling the beachside cafés, window shopping along the archetypal holiday resort shopping strip. The newly opened (April 2014) Bayside, a multi story hotel on the beach, would have been called the Scharbeutz Grand, had it been built when they built hotels grand. There is in fact a ‘Grand’ hotel, the Belveder, it’s a bit older than the Bayside, a bit grander to look at, 2kms up the beach.
Even though it’s a cool 16 C on the day of our visit, visitors from as far as Hamburg, 83kms away, are looking for parking spots along the road above the beach, or jamming their vehicles into parking bays in one of the two large, open air car parks a block back. Out come the strollers and toddlers, the dogs - and the wheelchairs.
The sun slips behind the clouds – again - as I finish my lager and button up my windcheater. But to North Germans, it’s officially Spring with a capital S, and not even the cool wind will stop them celebrating it; sunshine – even if fleeting - is treasured here.
Rugged up, they lie in the wicker shelters (cosy for two) that stand like some alien pods all along the long, flat beach of the Baltic, its waves measured in millimetres, the water clear and expansive. Nothing on the surface for 15 kms, across to Neustadt (the smaller one, on the northern coast, with its unexpected pagoda house on the waterfront), where a few yachts move slowly in the cool, light breeze.
Scharbeutz has an impressive beach, a long, wide crescent, much bigger than the famous ones at Cannes or Bondi, the sand fine. And in the middle of summer (July & August), when the temperature regularly reaches 25 C and the sun doesn’t set until almost 9pm, the beach is just as crowded, the view across the Baltic just as expansive.
Souvenir shops and eateries (and a couple of stalls selling lovely gelato) dominate all along the promenade, and an attractive bar with outdoor seating marks the entrance to the long Scharbeutz jetty, where dog walking owners mingle with scuba diving students and couples on a Sunday stroll.
Scharbeutz itself has been gentrified, one could say, with holiday homes and apartments jostling for prime position. Larger private homes stand out in prime locations, and the atmosphere is definitely relaxed.
Standing alone on the vast expanse of beach, Tim (a sun starved Hamburg resident), realises he has lost his mobile phone and we run back to the car park, retracing our steps, searching in vain. In desperation, he calls in on a beachside stall just opened for business (selling wurst and sauerkraut, surprise!) and returns triumphantly. Someone had found it in the sand near by and handed it in to the lady vendor. This is definitely not your average seaside resort.
Scharbeutz in summer
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By car from Hamburg to Scharbeutz (approx. 85 kms) takes about 1h 10m; allow €11 for petrol; no tolls.
Bismarck herring sandwich
The Belvedere - Grand Hotel