Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Critical Mom's Perfect Vacation, Part Two

Binz.  Rhymes with Prince, although Americans tend to pronounce it to rhyme with "spins," and your head does do just that, when you realize that this particular beach enjoyed a reputation as the East Hampton of the unacknowledged aristocrats of East Germany before the wall fell, and is now--oh, democracy!--a Coney Island for the hoi polloi.  They are now Prince.
Witness the big yellow rubber thingamajig vaguely reminiscent of a Viking boat, holding ten foolhardy persons in life jackets and hauled . . . rapidly . . . by a motorboat.   Crack the whip until the ten passengers fall out, vomit, or both . . .  a rollercoaster-waterskiing combo.  I saw no signs of vomit, but I did see a convocation of extremely tatooed men waving around beer bottles and speaking a Slavic language.  I did not understand a word, but the object of the game seems to involve the kind of dares your mother told you never to take.  (How far can you pee?  Chug that beer?  How big a . . . never mind).
The water, however, is nice. You can swim for hours.  Which we did, while I looked to my left and contemplated not the great white chalk cliffs of Dover, but those of Rügen, painted by Caspar David Friedrich, the German landscape painter (i.e. of The Sublime).
  Those cliffs are something out of a fairy tale,

 and a fitting opposition to the big (Jugendstil?) style buildings that reminded me of the pavilion at Brighton, and which must have been spas for the upper echelons of the Communist party.  
But now everybody gets to build their own sandcastle, and I saw quite a few lovely ones, complete with shells all over their towers and drawbridges paved with more shells.  
Bathrooms?  We entered at "Angang 27" or ramp 27.  A little arrow pointed toward the "WC" and tiny writing informed me that it was 87 meters away.  There's nothing like the Germans for precision.  I walked my 87 meters (about 286 feet) and encountered the bathroom, complete with signs warning the visitor that responsibility for items forgotten there lay with the person who had forgotten them.  And just as I was discovering the bowl in which I was required to put my fifty cents payment, a relic of the DDR reared his head--Cerberus, as I like to think of him, could be smelled from outside the door.  He reeked of ancient pee.  He emerged from his little office behind the bowl just as I had found it and growled at me, and I put in my money and he sank back gratefully into his cave, and pushed around the papers on his desk like a true bureaucrat.
Rügen is a pastiche of politics and style--on the way home we listened to the skeptical German commentator's ideas about why the U.S. is currently closing so many embassies.  Obama--on his birthday, no less--says it is necessary to avoid terrorist attacks.  But the Germans--see The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) have lived through surveillance too recently to swallow the idea that a surveillance state is necessary at all costs.  My husband remembers this same beach, this same place, in the early eighties, when he, a West German, managed a weekend visit with another Westerner.  In the hotel, they were segregated from Easterners.  They had to change marks into Eastern money every day, and if they didn't spend it, they lost it.   Lives of Easterners who talked to them--none did--would not have been worth the proverbial plugged nickel.
See The Lives of Others, and then then re-think the NSA's position. Snob that I am, I'll take today's Rügen over the DDR's Rügen any day. 


  1. ...either there's a heatwave or you are completely immune to cold water. When I went there (as an early teen) the water was... cold. Very cold.

  2. Wow, loved your entry...the cliffs are truly beautiful.
    Your humour got me ha! I enjoy your writing's lively and very engaging...
    I tune in again for more!

  3. Thanks! I nearly wrote another entry on our visit to the cliff ... really a German version of The Great White Cliffs of Dover. Chunks of chalk lying all over a pebble-and-stone beach. Really a lovely place.