Second to Rügen in terms of size, USEDOM is overshadowed by its larger sister as a Baltic resort, too. This low-lying undulating island, around 50km long and only split from the mainland for much of its length by the narrow Pennestrom channel, lacks the scenic variety of its much-mythologized neighbour. Yet during the early 1900s Usedom was a summer playground for a wealthy elite in resorts that now brand themselves the Kaiserbäder (literally “Emperor’s Baths”). Since reunification Bansin, Heringsdorf and Ahlbeck have renovated their handsome Second Empire villas and Art Nouveau hotels to recapture some of that imperial pomp and shake off an image as workers’ playgrounds acquired in GDR decades; regime top-brass claimed private villas on the spurious legal grounds they were for the benefit of trades unions. Each resort has its own market, from families to pensioners to spa-goers. What keeps all coming is 42km of fine sand, spread up to 70m deep along the north coast and drenched in more sunshine than anywhere else in Germany, an average 1906 hours a year.
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