Stralsund - A Treasure in the Baltic
January 1, 1970
by Sofia Malvar
How did I end up in Stralsund?
Sooooo, roughly one year ago I was moving to the most northeast peak of Germany, to a little town named Stralsund. Stralsund belongs to the federal state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, it is bathed by the Baltic sea on a beautiful coast line and it is the home of around 56 000 inhabitants. Included in these inhabitants are the students of the Stralsund Fachhoschule, who are encouraged to register themselves in the city on their arrival and therefore wining a prize of symbolic amount of money. I’m not gonna lie, that money bought me a cozy winter jacket, which would turn out to be quite useful for a Mediterranean girl as myself spending the winter there. So, yes, I went there to join the fachhoschule for one semester for studying Leisure and Tourism Management. Turns out, even though it was the winter semester and the weather was kind of harsh on me, I did not end up studying much…, at least not as hard as I was expecting. Why? Because I kept being busy with all the best Stralsund had to offer.
The backyard of the student campus is nothing less but a cliff that divides the forest from the sea. Once we sneaked our way out of the campus either we turned left and followed an endless set of green fields or we turned right to walk or ride our bikes through a quiet yet lovely promenade passing by the old harbor, the beach and finally leading us to the city center. And certainly, some of the nicest memories I have from Stralsund are either from those heart-warming natural views or from our ultimate clumsiness falling on snowy days on our back and forth journeys from the university to the city center.
What to do in Stralsund
Main sites, museums and churches
The old town of Stralsund is just beautiful. Founded in 1234, built from adorable houses on which we can see signs of brick gothic, baroque and renaissance mixed styles classified as World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2002. One can easily walk around and get to know each corner of the old town, passing by the the main sites. The “Rathaus” (city hall), placed on the “Altmarkt” square, the main square in the old town, in that same square we can find one of the most iconic buildings of the city: the “Nikolaikirche” (saint Nichola’s church). Not far from there, we can find the “Marienkirche” (saint Mary’s church), which is open to visit and it is worth to climb all the way up to have the highest view spot in the city (fair to say that this church held for a short period the record for the tallest church in the world, but due to a series of infortunes, which you can learn about once you visit, the tower is currently only 104 meters tall). In addition to these, you can also visit the “Katharinenkloster” (saint Catherine’s Monastery), which is the home of two big museums in Stralsund nowadays: “The German Oceanographic Museum”, which contains the Germany’s largest aquarium and oceanographic collection, and the “Museum of Cultural History of Stralsund”, having exhibitions from fine arts to the original pieces of “Viking Gold Treasures” on display as its highlights.
Being on the coast, Stralsund has a strong connection with the Baltic region, specially with the sea. Near the harbor there some small boat restaurants serving fresh seafood where I actually had my first meal in Stralsund. It was a Saturday afternoon and I was starving because I had just been visiting the “Ozeaneum” for the past three yours. The “Ozeaneum” is a popular aquarium in the located in the city’s harbor, voted European Museum of the Year in 2010, displaying past and present sea life of the North and the Baltic seas (yes, they even have penguins and a life changing show about whales that I couldn’t really understand because I missed the English version of it).
Neur Markt square
What is today named “Neuer Markt” is a historical square in the old town, not far from any of the churches, was once the very heart of the city. Today, this square is the location of the city open market, a popular meeting point amongst the residents and holds, occasional, traditional fairs. An example of one of these fairs is the typical “Weihnachtsmarkt”, or as we call it in english the “Christmas Market”, commonly found even in the smallest cities across all Germany from December to January, where we can find lots of attractions for children, traditional sweets and, of course, delicious “Glühwein” (mulled wine).
Food of Stralsund
As food being one of the most important part of any travel, I couldn’t help mentioning that Stralsund has wonderful ice cream and coffee shops and even some nice bakeries. In opposition to other german cities, the usual deutsch “Bratwurst” in not easily found in Stralsund as street food. Meanwhile, many types of sausages are always reachable in supermarkets at quite cheap prices, so it is a good idea to get some and make a super affordable barbecue with friends, since the prices of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are pretty fine as well. If you prefer to eat out, the prices at the restaurants are not very high either. I would personally recommend “Kartoffelhaus”, a kind of underground restaurant in the old town.
Chilling and Nightlife
After a good meal, you can find yourself strolling around the city’s great lake beautifully placed all year ‘round or going to the beach in summertime. The evenings, are spent either in one of the few pubs in the old town or in the bars around the harbor. Best nights are Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, in which sometimes there are special event nights hosted by the bars or by the university. On normal nights, usually there are no entrance fees or it is just 1€, on special nights it can cost you till the maximum of 10€, depending on the party.
Now, one of the most characteristic aspects of Stralsund is that it has its very own island, to which you can sail or drive to through a connecting bridge. A small green island named Dänholm that was once a strategic point in the baltic history. Nowadays the access to Dänholm is easy and its visit is trouble-free. But the best part is that it doesn’t stop there, the bridge doesn’t stop there, it keeps going till it reaches another island. That’s the Rügen Island, the largest island of Germany, famous for its beeches and breathtaking cliffs in “Jasmund National Park” classified World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2011. But you know what? That’s another journey, that’s for another time.