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Thanksgiving in The North

November 23 - 27, 2005


Dear Friends and Families,


In America, Thanksgiving is among the most important holidays in the year. It may be the most traditional, since its roots are North American and not European. It is also the clear beginning of the end-of-the-year celebrations. I know, this may not be as clear as it was a generation ago, but in Germany, the Christmas season now creeps earlier and earlier and there's no complaining about decorations (and sales) going up "before Thanksgiving".

For Marianne and me, traditional Thanksgiving is complicated by the fact that she works for the American government and gets the days off but I have German holidays. This year, I used some of my (generous) German vacation days to match her school holidays and we headed north. The purpose of going this direction was, in part, to have cold and wet and nasty weather, traditional for the American Thanksgiving story.

On Wednesday, I drove up from Erlangen and met Marianne at Sommersmuhle, home #2. We were facing a 420 mile (750 km) drive and we wanted to take a bit of it this first evening. Much of our German autobahn driving consists of passing or following trucks and that's best done in couple hour bites, so that's exactly what we did. At two hours, we pulled into the Rhueden-Harz roadside rest area and checked into the Montana Hotel. I'm not sure what made this place "Montana-like", but we had a decent dinner and spent the night in a clean and adequate room. This continued our German experience of almost always finding good, clean rooms.

The next morning we hit the road early. There was nothing remarkable about another few hours on the autobahns but, eventually, we left the freeways and continued on smaller highways. We managed to bypass Rostock by taking a ferry. It was nice to be able to let someone else drive for at least a few minutes.

On the other side, we took our first tourist detour, over to Poel Island. This was our first encounter with a summer vacation community, empty now that winter was setting in. We drove through a small town or two and saw virtually nothing open. On the way back to the mainland, we spotted a restaurant sign and grabbed a right, toward a small boat harbor and the Poeler Forellen Hof (http://www.poeler-forellenhof.de). The building was blockhouse-plain, but we were hungry so we ventured inside and sat down, doubling the number of occupied tables. The meal of smoked and fresh fish turned out to be excellent, worthy of a Thanksgiving celebration.


On the way off Poel Island, we passed a country farm that reminded us of our home in Pommersfelden -- only 4 or 5 times bigger!

Back on the mainland, we continued to drive the back roads. Many were bordered by trees and we could imagine the summer shade tunnel these roads must make. We could also imagine how easy it would be to make a very serious mistake on these narrow roads, particularly if the weather got just a bit colder and wetter.

Every now and again, we would detour off the "main" road, onto the beach street, to see the old water-front hotels that this part of Germany is famous for. Since the reunification of Germany, many of these places have been completely remodeled with generous government grants and loans, as the old worker's paradise is struggling to become a vacation destination of Germany's prosperous middle class.





Finally, just after dark on our Thanksgiving drive, we made it to our beach town, Prerow. The stay was nice, and deserved it's own web page (click to see).


On the next day, we made it to Strahlsund, another destination warranting its own tour guide (click to see).


Our third city-page, belongs to Wismar, yet another Hanseatic Town, where we stayed on Saturday and enjoyed a German Christmasmarkt, complete with Finnish crepes (click to see).


On Sunday, we hit the autobahns again. We passed many windmill farms throughout our northern drive and I wondered if these were economic businesses or more subsidized programs, serving to provide reunification jobs as much as provide electricity. We can talk about this sometime when we're together over a beer.

We ended up driving through middle Germany in a bit of a snow storm. It wasn't too bad where we were, but not far away, the wet snow was heavy enough to topple power lines and throw people into the dark for up to 4 or 5 days (and nights). On this one, we could talk about the relative benefits of windmill versus power line investment.

We were lucky, though, and ended up at Sommersmuehle Farm with a glimmer of sun left and a whole car full of new memories and stories.


So, look at our three town pages and remember that it's OK to write about YOUR holiday too!


John and Marianne.

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