Translated from German: Usedom is a Baltic Sea island in Pomerania, divided between Germany and Poland. It is the second-largest Pomeranian island after Rügen, and the most populous island in the Baltic Sea.
It is situated north of the Szczecin Lagoon estuary of the Oder river. About 80% of the island belongs to the German district of Vorpommern-Greifswald in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The eastern part and the largest city on the island, Świnoujście, are part of the Polish West Pomeranian Voivodeship. The island’s total area is 445 square kilometers (172 square miles) (the German part 373 square kilometers (144 square miles); the Polish part 72 square kilometers (28 square miles). Its population is 76,500 (German part 31,500; Polish part 45,000). – Wikipedia.org
With over 1,900 hours of sunshine a year, Usedom is the sunniest region in Germany and the Baltic Sea, hence its nickname “Sun Island” (German: Sonneninsel, Polish: Wyspa Słońca). Fashionable Baltic Sea resorts line up like white pearls along the 42 kilometers (just over 26 miles) of sandy beaches, a contrast to the island’s hinterland with its mysterious forests and quaint fishing villages. A varied gravel experience for me is akin to the contrast between beach and sea, nature and idyll (happy and peaceful).
My intent was to circumnavigate the island with the gravel bike on the cycle path. This path is perfect for off-roading the island with all its facets and as well as having a lot of off-road fun.
I began my gravel adventure on the promenade in Bansin. The first kilometers towards the Polish border I enjoy the fresh, cold sea air that blows into my face from the east. Shortly before the Polish border, the path branches off to the right into the forest. I drive over an old GDR (former German Democratic Republic aka East Germany) armored plate path. Afterward, the path heads steeply uphill in a dark forest. On a sandy forest path, I circle the Wolgastsee (a lake in Usedom, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany) and shortly after stand at the Polish border in the forest.
In Morgenitz, the center of Usedom, I ride over the worst cobblestones I know. Further on, there are concrete slab paths that cut through the forest. In Grüssow, I stop at a quaint little cafe where I have an early breakfast.
My journey continues over a narrow path on a dike for a long time, later passing through villages typical of the GDR era. After Suckow, continue to the right on a sandy forest path.
I returned to the mainland over the Zecheriner Brücke bascule bridge (aka a drawbridge or lifting bridge). Time appears to have stood still here since the 1950’s. A 10-kilometer long bumpy country road ultimately leads me through a series of fields, where I ultimately reach Wismar. After 112 kilometers of riding, I take a break in Wismar and eat delicious marzipan cake! I resume my journey once again from Wismar and back to the island of Usedom.
Along the Peenestrom the route passes old bunkers from the Second World War. For those who are unaware, Peenemünde is where the V2 rocket was built and tested by the Nazi regime. An old Soviet submarine lies in the port of Peenemünde.
The submarine U-461 belongs to the Soviet-owned Project 651. It is the last surviving boat of this class designed with nuclear strike capability against targets on the eastern coast of the United States. Thankfully, this is machinery from the past and a history that I hope is never repeated.
The entire forest near Peenemünde is a restricted area. Bombs and ammunition from World War II and from the Soviet national guideline troops are still stored here. Fast-flowing forest trails are found near Karlshagen and Trassenheide. Riding back into Zinnowitz, I find myself on the Baltic Sea. Here you can dive 11 meters into the sea with a diving gondola. What follows is a gravel cycling dream. There are many steep grades up to 16% and there are beautiful views that look over the Baltic Sea. dream. After the descent into Bansin, I enjoyed a delicious fish sandwich on the beach, a good way to end my gravel adventure!
Timo’s Route – Words by Timo Rokitta / Mandy Rodriguez