A day out in Peenemunde

Magnetic Attraction
Roger and Margaret Pratt
Sun 15 Jul 2012 19:59

15 July 2012: Kroslin and Peenemunde

A fascinating day.  Kroslin (which was formerly a sea plane base) is just opposite the Peenemunde site, but is located on the mainland.  There is a foot ferry which goes across the river at two hourly intervals. 

We caught the first ferry at 10.40, and were duly dumped on the quayside in Peenemunde 10 minutes later.  The cost was 3.50 euros each for the single fare, which seemed expensive.

The first thing that hove into view was the Russian Submarine U461

Other than the Uboat, there was nothing other than food outlets at the harbour.  There was no tourist info, and no directions to the museum.  When we asked the receptionist at the Uboat, she didn’t understand English, and referred us to the young man who ran the shop – who was very helpful.  He wanted to practice his English on us, and even told jokes.  He had self confidence – probably from the bottle of vodka that was beside his desk.  His advice was to allow 2-3 hours for the museum, so we went there first, and visited the U boat on the way back.

The museum more than exceeded expectations.  The cost was 8 euros each and 2 euros for the English commentary.  There were minor glitches (again) in the entry process: only one member of staff spoke English; and to access the commentary machines the museum required a passport or driving licence – neither of which were in the handbag.  In the end, we made do with my business card, with the old email address (but I didn’t own up to that.)

The site covers only the old power station complex – the rest of the Peenemunde research station has now either been demolished or is derelict – but had in the 30s and 40s its own electic railway based on the S-bahn. There were two facets to the museum: the exposition of the rocket research that von Braun and others had undertaken here, and it’s impact on space and weapons technologies; and “making the objects speak” – preserving residual artefacts in situ, with explanations and oral history.   We were particularly interested in the V1 and V2 rocket programmes (V is for vengeance!)

There was a lot of social and historic context.  It was surprising the extent to which the development and manufacturing programmes had been dependent on foreign and slave labour.  There had been a concentration camp – a satellite from Buchenwald – on the site. 

By the time we’d got round and reviewed all the objects, it was pushing half past two.  (Roger had been hungry since 12.30.) We went to the bistro near the entrance.  Roger selected a bratwurst in a roll; and a brochet of pork and onions, with a separate roll.  I added chips.  Not nourishing, but it touched the spot.

From lunch there was just time to visit the Russian submarine (12.50 euros for 2) and have a cup of coffee at the harbour before catching the ferry back.  On the way back it went via Freest, a small fishing harbour.  Each fishing boat had its own identical shed on the quay, next to the mooring.  Chris, the photos of the sub will come to you under separate cover!

This area is desperately poor.  There is no industry, and limited opportunities to make money from tourism.  Housing is noticeably poorer, and the infrastructure is weak.  The marina here is the vehicle for economic regeneration, and is a more powerful vehicle than the museum site for employment.  The Kroslin village, though, is crumbling – and now only has a bread shop.  The village is now dependent on the marina’s shopping facilities.

Tomorrow we may go to Sassnitz, on Rugen, to start the trip west – or we may take the bikes across the ferry to see more of the Peenemunde site.  It all depends on the weather!