Walking to Poland
It’d been ages since I’d been to the beach, so when I reached the Baltic Coast I was keen get my feet in the sand. I was staying in Ahlbeck, one of a number of small villages along the north coast of Usedom Island. Getting off the train and walking through the town to my accomodation, the place definitely had a sleepy seaside feel to it.
In summer I expect the place is bulging with tourists, but it was quiet and peaceful on that chilly autumn evening, with the cries of the great black-backed gulls ringing out across the town.
When I first got off the train, I thought I must have fallen asleep and missed my stop
My accommodation was in an old guesthouse, which perhaps was some rich person’s seaside retreat in the old days. The staircase creaked as I headed up to the top floor with my bags.
My room looked as though they had renovated an attic cleaning cupboard, but it was fine and I slept well.
Oddly, there was a sewing machine on each landing. I suppose it was there just in case you blow a hem on your way up the stairs
Next day I was ready for a beach walk, and on checking the map, realised I was only a couple of kilometres from the Polish border. For us Aussies, going to another country is considered a big deal. That’s because we are a long way from anywhere, so heading overseas is a big deal. Come to think of it, as Australia is pretty big, just going interstate is a big deal. Anyway, the thought of being able to walk to another country had me giggling like a kid.
Apart from being a little breezy, it was a great day for a walk to Poland (yes, a walk to Poland). The beach on the north side of Usedom Island is long and wide, and the sea that day (and perhaps most days) was flat and grey to the horizon. Heading over the low foredunes, I made my way to the waterline and turned south-east. There were plenty of others out for a walk too, but I can guarantee none of them were as excited as I was to be walking internationally.
The beach, shared by both Poland and Germany, had these colourful little boxes in groups along the sand, the likes of which I had never seen before. Were they small prisons for recalcitrant children? A way of getting them off your back so you and missus can enjoy a peaceful day at the beach? Or were they bathing boxes for tiny people?
Turns out they are little seats with built in sun shade (may be needed on some days) and protection from the wind (probably needed every day). For a few (or maybe a lot) of euros you can hire them, unlock the steel grill, and make your beach day a little more comfy.
‘Damned if you’re gonna sit on my chair for free!’
Making my way along the sand, I expected to come across a sign letting me know that I was leaving the Federal Republic of Germany and entering the Republic of Poland. It was only a couple of k’s away after all. On I went, thinking surely I must have arrived in Poland by now. I saw an access track from the beach back inland over the low dunes, with a green sign at the entrance. I walked over to check it out, and found it was in Polish. It had nothing to do with the border crossing, but nevertheless implied that I must have crossed into Poland and missed the international border somehow.
In Australia, even the most remote public roads have big signs telling you that you have reached a state border. Here I had just walked into another country and didn’t even realise. Times have, of course, changed since the advent of the EU open borders, and very much since the former East Germany was a satellite state of the USSR. Still, I thought there would have been a little marker of some sort above the high tide mark.
I reached the breakwater of Swinoujsciu harbour and wandered along to check out the old lighthouse, which dates back to the early 1870s. I’m not sure why it’s shaped like a windmill; or whether it ever actually milled anything. Maybe the mill blades are a more recent addition. Mind you, a wind powered lighthouse would have worked pretty well in Swinoujsciu since there’s no shortage of wind.
I decided to walk back to Germany (yes, walk back to Germany) via the inland route, and before too long came to a well designated and signposted border crossing. So there was one after all!
Pi went out for a walk
I have to admit I did find it pretty cool to straddle the demarcation line and be in two countries at once. Can’t do that in Australia.
I went down to the beach to see where the border crossing actually was, and found an oddly aligned fence that I hadn’t taken much notice of during my walk to Poland (yes, my walk to Poland). I’m not sure why the border line wiggles at this point; perhaps the cartographer hurried the last bit as it was nearly knock-off time on a Friday afternoon.
‘You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out…’
To provide a useful guide to other travellers, I drew my own borderline on the sand, directly down from the fence. That should definitely satisfy other curious visitors, at least until the tide comes back in.
Europe’s a pretty compact place, and considering there are heaps of countries jammed into it, I guess there are plenty of people who walk internationally every day. But for me it was definitely a unique experience, and on top of that, it was great to be back at the beach.
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2 thoughts on “Walking to Poland”
Great post! Loved the borderline. The city of Świnoujście should memorialize that line ☺️.
Hello Poli! Glad you enjoyed the post. Yeah I reckon the beach needs some sort of marker!