A Journey to the Baltic Sea

Berlin at the end of March showed minimal signs of shaking off winter. The air remained cold as the winds from Siberia blew. I am a warm weather person and my constant default button, to find a warmer climate kept playing, but I persevered with the frigid realities.

For a change of scenery Peter and I decided to drive to the Baltic Coast for the weekend. The Baltic coast is a three-hour drive north of Berlin. We do not have a car in Berlin. There is really no point, public transportation is excellent, and it is impossible to find a parking place. For this outing, we decided to use Car Share.

There is no longer the need to go to a car rental location and wait in a long line for the one person dealing with the rental bureaucracy. Instead, Peter downloaded the app from the car share company and booked a car. He placed copies of our international driver’s licenses onto the app, bought insurance and booked the car all on the Car Share app. The app then informed us that the car would be parked on the street and ready for pick up the next day between 9 and 10 am.  With great enthusiasm the next morning we descended the five flights of stairs, exited into the frigid air, and fortunately found the car immediately. As we stood next to the car, eagerly wanting to get in, we realized that there was no keyhole, nor did we have an electronic key. As my teeth chattered and my face began to freeze, I mumbled: “How the hell are we supposed to get into the car?”

Peter took off his thick wool gloves and looked at the app. Our fat fingers make it impossible to wear gloves and use our phones, regardless that we had purchased gloves with cell phone usage tips.

I began to miss the old fashion car keys as we kept cluelessly fiddling with the app. Peter cursed like a true Brit and I kept kicking the tires hoping that would achieve… I have no idea what. Together we reminisced about the past when we would wait in a long line at a car rental place and then finally walk to the car with a key and tons of paperwork in our hands.

Finally, we reached a human being on the phone who in a matter-of-fact youthful voice explained which code opened the car door. Our tech knowledge is not at the level of total idiocy, but it is not in the league of anyone under the age of 30.

We scrambled into the car and turned heating and chair warmers to the maximum number.

Finally, we drove out of the city, actually, the high-tech car drove itself out of the city and into flat, very flat landscape. The landscape maintained the same brown winter coloring and flatness for the entire journey.

Halfway through the journey we needed gas. The car share program included gas charges for up to two full tanks. But you must go to a gas station that works in partnership with the car share company.

As Peter drove, I clicked the gas station map on the App. They appeared to be on average thirty miles from any freeway exit. I began to wonder if this was more of a partnership with the villages where the gas stations were and not the gas station. A way to get the tourist to come off the freeway and see the village.

We exited the freeway and drove out onto a small two-lane country road in search of the gas station. This part of the journey was the old DDR, East Germany, and the villages we passed often consisted of sterile blocks of apartments. In the 1960s, in the DDR, the need for more housing was recognized, but little attention was given to design.

After driving 45 minutes in the opposite direction from our destination, we arrived at the gas station. Once again Peter and I struggled with the app. We had to enter the code of the gas station, which then sent a signal to the pump. This level of technology surpassed my old-fashioned method of using the credit card, but it worked, and we set on our way again. Fortunately, I had found an alternative route back to the freeway which was three minutes faster.

To link back up with the freeway, I navigated us through villages and the countryside only to arrive at an obstruction blocking our journey. At a junction, the two-lane country road was blocked by two tractors parked across the junction and six cows grazing next to the tractors. Several farmers were standing in the road hanging up a sign between the vehicles, protesting the recent increase in gas prices. The farmers were huge burly men dressed in jeans, suspenders and checked shirts with massive bellies hanging over the jeans. They were patting each other on the backs with pride as they hung the banner. Peter and I were the only people at the demonstration. There was not another car in sight. Peter rolled down his window and in German commented with a complete lack of empathy for their protest:

“How can we drive around and continue on our journey?”

One of the large, bellied farmers came up to our car window and shook his head indicating ‘not possible’  “This is a demonstration,” he stated and walked away and greeted a man who arrived on a bicycle with two cameras hanging around his neck. The man leapt off his bike and began to click pictures. I assumed he was the local press. The car app was obviously able to understand the situation better than us and switched off the engine. Peter persisted and decided to call a different farmer over:

“Can we drive into the field and onto another street?” I could not believe he asked that question to a farmer about a farming field. And then Peter continued: “The government said it was issuing gas vouchers today. You are okay.”

The farmer replied, “The government lies.”

Oh no Peter please stop. These are obviously very angry anti-government farmers. I then reverted to my annoying habit of shushing Peter when he starts to talk politics. As for me, I understood the purpose of their discontent and the tractors parked across the junction, but I struggled to understand the role of the cows.

We sat in our car and stared at the tractors and cows for one hour. We were joined by two other cars. But the people in those cars knew the farmers and got out of their cars and started to chat. Exactly at the one-hour point they all bid farewell to each other and got back into their tractors and drove off. The cows were guided off the road. This time our app did not respond to the situation, and we had to enter the code again to turn the engine on.

Five, instead of three hours later we arrived at our destination, the town of Binz. We treated ourselves to a luxury hotel overlooking the beach that had been built in what is known as the Baltic resort style. Which consists of villa-style homes and hotels. Along the beach, there was a lovely promenade and pier to walk on. Although freezing cold, the skies remained blue, and I welcomed the opportunity to walk on the beach. The modern hotel room was a relief after the Airbnb in Berlin. I have the capacity, not the budget, to spend the rest of this undefined journey in five-star hotels. clean crisp white sheets, puffy white towels, and robes that I can wear to the spa.

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  1. Michele McNeill on June 27, 2023 at 8:01 pm

    You have more patience than you think, if you were able to “wait out” the protesting farmers. Great story.