Rostock: Life on the Baltic

Rostock
••• Christmas Market in Rostock. Erin Porter

FC Hansa du bist so genial
FC Hansa wir lieben dich total
Auch wenn du mal daneben schießt
Wir sind für dich da - FC Hansa - FC Hansa

I was humming this song as I rolled into Rostock by train for the very first time. I knew the soccer chant by heart - even though I didn't know the town - because of my husband's fandom. F.C. Hansa Rostock has a strong system of local fans as well as the fevered support of a German language class in a small town in central Washington State.

My husband's High School did an exchange with a nearby German town and naturally developed an affinity for this scruffy East German 
fussball team. They are actually one of the most successful clubs from former East Germany, though these are hard times for the team as they are currently regulated to the 3 Liga.

On our way back to Berlin after a trip to the towns of Rügen and Stralsund, we were almost in city limits before I realized everything I knew about the town was soccer related. We expected something a bit run-down and right leaning like the football team, but what we discovered was a lot more lovely. It was the first day of Christmas markets and the town's pristine brick architecture served as a serene backdrop to explore this northern harbor town.

Located in the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, it has an old quarter similar to many towns of the north with deep red brick and Hanseatic roots.

The mostly intact center is fortified by city walls with a Fishermen's Bastion, canons and four historic town churches. Marienkirche (St. Mary's Church) is the largest and located in the center with Petrikirche (St. Peter's) on Alter Markt holding the title of oldest as well as a tower of impressive Baltic views.

In Neuer Markt (New Market) is the brick Rathaus (Town Hall) originating from the 13th century. Six original gable houses from the 15th and 16th centuries share this valuable real estate with Hanseatic rebuilds after WWII bombers destroyed select sections. For even newer offerings, make your way to the main Fußgängerzone and shopping street, Kröpeliner Straße, which runs from the Neuer Markt to the 14th-century Kröpeliner Tor (town gate). New thought bubbles out from Universität Rostock since it was founded in 1419. One of the oldest universities in the world, it is only the third oldest in Germany.

Warnemünde

Work in Rostock has long centered on the harbor, but a relaxing north German version of beach life is only 16 km (10 miles) down the coast. This seaside attraction is synonymous with Leuchtturm Warnemünde, a lighthouse from 1862, and its easy-going beach community. The area is most popular in summer where Germans stake their claim early on the sandy waterfront and spend sunny days eating ice cream among its pretty little fishermen's cottages.

For more great swimming, refer to our list of Germany's best beaches.

Hanse Sail

The biggest event for the city is Hanse Sail each August. Hundreds of ships and about a million visitors arrive to participate in a parade of vessels.

In addition to the finery on the water, the festival takes place on land with multiple stages and musical acts, plenty of rides and games, fireworks displays, a medieval fair and - of course - a Ferris wheel.