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The Bank Holiday weekend seemed like a good time to head to the coast again. We chose Usedom as I was very keen to visit Peenemunde, part of my interest in the history of spaceflight. On the way up we stopped at Niederfinnow to see the boat lift. We had visited the Anderton Lift in Cheshire but this was so much bigger. It is also younger and is still in commercial use as a large amount of freight is still carried by boat on canals and rivers here in Germany.

Usedom is a long thin island at the very eastern extreme of the German Baltic coast. The eastern tip of island is actually Polish. In the 19th Century and early 20th Century it was a very popular destination to take the sea air. This resulted in a large number of very plush villas being built as all the rich and famous people can to Usedom. One attraction is that Usedom has a very good beach. It only has one beach but it is 30km long. It is a long strip of fine white sand, the slope into the sea is gentle and in the summer the water is warm and calm.

In the 1930s the German military was developing rockets and they looked for somewhere flat and isolated. The western end of Usedom at Peenemunde fits the bill and a large centre was built to carry out this work. This is now a large museum and exhibition that covers the history of how Germany became interested in rocketry, the development of the missiles, the treatment of the prisoners used to build the missiles and the role played by the rockets in the development of the US, Russian and European space programmes. It was the latest in my list of important sites in the Space Race. I thought that it was a very good and wide ranging exhibition. The only complaint is that we were not able to go out to the actual launch site, or the remains of it.

After the war Peenemunde was used by the DDR as a weapons range and airforce base. This is why the rest of the range is off limits. At the museum they are expanding the rocket and spaceflight museum to include a range of exhibits that illustrate this period. The main attraction is a large collection of aeroplanes and helicopters used by the DDR airforce. The Mig 17 shown here is one example of what is an interesting display. They also have an ex-DDR naval ship that was used for launching missiles and it is possible to go on board.

In the same harbour there is also a submarine that you can go on. This is not part of the Rocket Museum and Exhibition but is a separate attraction. However, it forms a nice extra to the display of ex-DDR planes. The submarine was an ex-Soviet one and was used to launch cruise missiles and has four silos. Two are in front of the sail and two behind. They pop up when the missiles are to be launched. I think that the submarine looks a bit like it came from a 1960s science fiction programme, you know, the ones with puppets.

The next day was warm and sunny so we went for a walk in to the middle of the island. As the island is low lying it consists of lots of marshes and lakes. We hoped to see lots of birds but there were not many. There was a house with a stork nest on top of the chimney. The owner of the house had put a board up telling people how many chicks had hatched each year. We kept hoping for a good view of the lake for a photo but we never got it.

On the Sunday the weather was not good to start, cold and wet. We went for a walk on the beach. The resorts in Usedom have all got these piers that run out in to the sea and they all have a cafe or restaurant at the end. It is nice that they have been rebuilt or restored but they do not have the character of your typical British pier. We kept hoping that the weather would improve but it didn't. In the end we went for coffee in a cafe that had beach chairs just to say that we had been in one. Eventually we decided to hit the road head back to the mainland.

On the way back to the mainland we headed down a rough cobbled road to find a windmill. The road was a real legacy of the lack of repairs during the DDR times. Eventually we found the village and walked the 400m up to the windmill. It was great, windmills need to be in the open to catch the wind and this one was sited on the one hill in Usedom. As a result it had a great view over the southern half of the island. The windmill itself has been restored and you can go in it. It is built of wood and looks like it had been completely rebuilt over the last few years. Inside you could see all the machinery and it looked like it was all still functioning. The owners were selling coffee and cake to help fund the work which we were happy to purchase. After this little excursion we really did hit the road back to Berlin. When we got back everyone delighted in telling us that it hadn't rained all day!

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