The Ghost Writer – Movie Tourism – North Frisian Islands & The Baltic Sea

Released early this year, The Ghost Writer features an outstanding cast that includes Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Williams, Kim Cattrall, and Timothy Hutton. Based on the novel Ghost by Robert Harris, Roman Polanski has produced an intriguing film about war crimes, British politics, and the isolation of exile. Under the capable direction of Roman Polanski while serving a different type of exile, the clever plot weaves a bit of Agatha Christie mystery, romance, and melancholy isolation with the rare humor and irony associated with film makers such as Polanski and Hitchcock. Some of the settings filmed at Babelsberg, the oldest and largest studio in the world, may be familiar to moviegoers who have seen Inglourious Basterds, Valkyrie, and The Pianist. A majority of the other film locations, however, are well known to tourists who travel on holiday from Denmark, Germany, and Poland to the North Sea or the Baltic.

Usedom, used by the German Luftwaffe as a covert research and missile test center in WWII at Pennemunde, lies on the Baltic Sea bordering Germany & Poland. Only 2 to 3 hours by car from Berlin, the island has been a popular resort since the time of German nobility and the Jewish upper class, and it is now a holiday destination for European and other international visitors. Comparable to Brighton and the Hamptons, Usedom is known as “Berlin’s Bathtub,” offering travelers sunshine, fine beaches, nature reserves, and an interior of historic villages, lakes, and gardens. Familiar sights on Usedom are the handmade canopied wicker chairs “strandkörbe” on the beach where people sit to watch the sun go down and listen to the unique sounds of the “singing sand.” After nude bathing became less popular, Usedom developed its own year-round spa culture with visitors flocking to the Puria and the Ostsee Therme spas in the villages of Heringsdorf, Ahlbeck, and Bansin.

Things to Do: Rent a bike and cycle past the villas along the coast and through the villages that are connected by a 5-mile boardwalk. Stop and enjoy schnapps and smoked herring in a beach shack, or dine at one of the more upscale restaurants on Usedom. The Restaurant Stellwerk in the old train station at Heringsdorf is a fascinating place of unusual décor, service, and cuisine. Seated in train car compartments, you’re served beer or other beverages from a model train that goes from table to table. Choose from a menu of favorite 19th century recipes for antipasto, crayfish, and duck, or try the odd combination of herring and dark chocolate. Open daily at Noon.

Cafè Knatter, a combination guesthouse and restaurant, offers German specialties, open air dining, and a private beach for surfing or sailing.

Room Rates: From $95.

You can visit the Botanical Garden, open daily during the summer, or the Pennemunde Technical Information Center where concentration camp and prison inmates were forced to work under deplorable conditions. Today, it is a museum of rocketry history and a cultural center representing world peace and reconciliation, as well as a memorial for the lives lost in the Nazi plan for military supremacy.

Hours: Apr – Sep, 10am to 6pm; Oct – Mar, 10am to 4pm.

Admission: $8 p/p, $22 for families, $42 for guided tours.

Accommodations: Usedom Palace, used by Polanski and crew, is on the water in the village of Zinnowitz. Rates: Around $227 high season, includes breakfast. The Villa Staudt, once visited by Kaiser Wilhelm II, has 13 apartments with summer rates around $140 and $50 during the winter.

(Numerous other historic villas with comparable rates, hotels, and B&Bs are also available.)

Special Events: October – Butterflies from Taiwan Exhibit; Art by the famous 18th century romanticist painter, Phillipp Runge; Designer Fashion Show collections. November – Hotels sponsor Wellness Days. December – Winter Craft & Food Market.

Sylt, another film location in The Ghost Writer, is a 25-mile long Frisian island in the North Sea connected to the mainland and bordering Germany & Denmark. Realistic scenes and houses in the movie were made to resemble those at Martha’s Vineyard, as well as the lighthouses found along the coast of Cape Cod where the story takes place. As a World Heritage site, the income from tourism is substantial, with about a million visitors each year. Most come for the summer sunshine and refreshing, healthy air before the cold winter wind sweeps across the island from the North Sea.

Things to Do: Besides hiking, cycling, surfing, and visiting the Ellenbogen nature reserve, there are two museums of interest – a museum of the island’s history and the Sylter Heimatmuseum, a restored 18th century sea captain’s house behind a gate of gigantic whale ribs – Entry Fee: $4. Visit the Aquarium, prices – $15 & $10, or spend some time shopping at designer boutiques. You can always rent a wicker chair for about $14 and just relax on one of the finest beaches in Europe.

Visitors will find a variety of nightlife at clubs and bars such as Pony, Greta’s Rauchfang, the Club Rotes Kliff, and the Compass for the young crowd, as well as the casino at Westerland, the capital and largest town on Sylt. Many join the crowds on the promenade at Westerland to enjoy afternoon concerts and Frisian grog, a strong beverage of rum, sugar, and water.

Recommended Restaurants: The Copper Pot in Kampen, a refurbished WWII bunker by the sea, is fun for socializing with friends, Voigt’s Alte Backstube for pancakes and rich desserts, the Gogärtchen, and the elegant Jörg Muller for outstanding seafood and European cuisine, as well as the many Jurgen Gosch fish places. The Wonnemeyer is great for families, with a friendly atmosphere, a beach sauna, and an old ship for the kids to explore.

Accommodations: Over 40 hotels including the upscale Miramar, the Laudhaus Stricker, and the Fahrhaus, as well as hostels, B&Bs, self catering apartments, and camping grounds.

Special Events: July – Children’s Circus & Barcardi (Bacardi) beach party. August – German Polo Masters & Catamaran Regatta. September – Surf World Cup at Westerland beach.

Transportation: Sylt offer convenient bus transportation with fares from $2 to $8, or bicycle rental for visitors to the island. Three hour train ride from Hamburg to Westerland, $55. Flights from several major cities in Germany. Car ferry and car train service from Havneby, Denmark to List, at the far northern end of the island.

(Note: Many of the websites for accommodations, restaurants, and attractions are only in German.)

You may not be interested in seeing Polanski’s latest endeavor, but the islands where The Ghost Writer was filmed are certainly different and well worth considering as vacation destinations.

Sharon L Slayton

Filed Under: Movie tourism

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