In the afternoon briefly put bare feet in the sand

The success story of the seaside resort Travemünde told by Wolf-Rüdiger Ohlhoff. International celebrities like Josephine Baker, Sophia Loren, Thomas Mann, Caterina Valente and Gunter Sachs have all beaten a path to Travemünde.

Wolf-Rüdiger Ohlhoff knows them all, not personally, but no one knows more about Travemünde as a meeting place for the rich and famous than the amateur historian from Travemünde. He is a walking encyclopaedia. Everything began in 1802 when the seaside resort of Travemünde was founded and life in the traditional fishing village was truly turned on its head. Sea bathing became fashionable at that time in the better circles, albeit only from a wooden bathing machine or in one of the six warm water bathing poolson the beach. 3.000 visitors came to bathe in the first year alone, bringing money with them; the coastal architecture that is so typical for Travemünde today sprang up quickly.

The queues at the bathing machines and in the warm water bathing pool became ever longer, until finally in 1873 a public swimming facility was constructed on piles in the water. This was an immense boost to bathing operations, as large numbers of visitors could now bathe at the same time in the sea, though separated into male and female areas as before. Technical progress brought the first steam shipping line to Travemünde in 1824. Weekly the side-wheel paddle steamer Princessia Wilhelmine brought visitors across the Baltic Sea from refined Copenhagen to Travemünde. Shipping connections from and to Saint Petersburg, Riga and Reval quickly followed, which were used by rich Russians to reach the great cities of Europe. Famous Russians who lodged in Travemünde at that time were Ivan Turgenev, Nikolai Gogol and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Travemünde really began to fill up from 1882 onwards, when the first railway came and a couple of years later, when cars started to become a common mode of transport. Famous names like Joseph von Eichendorff, Emanuel Geibel, Richard Wagner, Clara Schumann, Edvard Munch and of course, Thomas Mann, all feature the list of prominent visitors to the historic seaside resort. In July 1914, Franz Kafka wrote in his diary: "In the afternoon briefly put bare feet in the sand. Felt unpleasant". It was still unbeseeming at that time to show bare skin in public.

"Monte Carlo of the North"

Gambling was a magical draw for high society and had a decisive impact on Travemünde's reputation as a fashionable seaside resort. In 1833, it was officially approved in the "Kurhaus" - now the A-ROSA Resort. For forty years gambling was banned under Chancellor Bismarck and the gaming tables in Travemünde were put away. Gambling was allowed to start a new in 1949, this time in the "Kursaal", dating from 1914, which is now the Columbia Hotel Casino Travemünde.This helped the resort to achieve an incredible comeback in the post-war era as the glamorous "Monte Carlo of the North". The casino-nightclub "La belleEpoque", was legendary, creating a furore in the 1950s and 60s with shows featuring international stars. A "nogozone" of 15 km prevented citizens of Travemünde from gambling everything away themselves. This was instituted because the town elders were concerned that daily temptation in the nearby casino might drive the locals to speedy ruin.

Does Ohlhoff have a favourite place in Travemünde? Of course, two even! He loves listening to the Passat Choir live on-board the four-masted barque Passat, and sitting on the bench of the new pier to watch the majestic ships coming in going out - just like in olden times. Madness!