Submitted by Susanne Bacon
The very first vacation I remember was when I was barely four. My family took a long train trip from Stuttgart to the Baltic Sea. I will never forget the sensual experience of that first seaside vacation, and maybe it has triggered my love for all things maritime. You can imagine how much it means to me to be close to the sea here in Western Washington. Even though the German seaside is so very different from the one we have here.
The first time I set foot on the beach in Ocean Shores, I was flustered that you actually had to look out for cars. I knew that there are beaches in this world where people drive instead of walking. The Netherlands have them as well. To me the concept, besides serving indeed as an alternative road from A to B, as it used to be before actual roads were built, is not enticing at all. I love beaches that are for pedestrians only. The tranquility and the purity of the air are like balm for body and soul. And a bit of exercise to reach the waterline from the beach entrance is quite welcome to me.
I have enjoyed countless vacations by the North Sea in my early twenties through my late 30s because the natural aerosol that you breathe during a long beach walk healed my hay fever and asthma for two years in a row. Better than any medication in fact. So, long beach walks were part of those vacations. And when I didn’t walk, I hired a beach basket, that is a recliner inside a wicker shell or open tent. Some people used to build a sand wall all around theirs, decorated with stones and shells, as in “my home is my sandcastle”. In later years this got more and more discouraged, as it adds to the erosion of beaches. And it can turn access to other beach baskets quite a hike. Needless to say the fun of beach baskets is unknown over here.
Instead I find people camp out on the Washington beaches with camping chairs and tables they carry along. Often enough an open fire is lit, and people sit around barbequing or cooking off clams and crabs. It looks extremely romantic at a day’s end: these dots of fire at the bottom of the dunes, with people huddling around, the sound of laughter in the air. This is something I have never spotted anywhere in Germany.
Instead, you find sheds with glass-sheltered beer gardens right on the boardwalk in Germany. A hearty pea or barley stew, waffles, red berry compote with vanilla sauce, semolina pudding, sausages or deep-fried fish and chips are the most common fare. Farter towards town, you find cafes and restaurants on the spa promenades. And often enough a concert shell with at least one concert a day during the tourist season.
Actually, I found one place in Western Washington where the flair with its dunes, boardwalks, and town (in spite of the different style of architecture) filled with restaurants and tourist attractions comes pretty close to the German North Sea coast – Long Beach, the farther up north you go, the closer. It even smells similar! And the beach up north, at Leadbetter Point State Park, is entirely car-free, which makes it even more similar.
Oh, to enjoy a long beach walk and then go to a beach bar for fish and chips or salad, to imbibe the fresh, salty air and indulge in some simple seafood! When I was still a single in my late 30s back in Germany, I dreamed of retiring some place near the North Sea one day. Life has twisted things even a little more in my favor. Isn’t it simply awesome that my home is only ten minutes from the Sound and maybe 90 minutes’ drive from the Pacific beaches now?! The language and the continent may be a bit different, and a lot of the coastline is way more dramatic than the one in Germany. But I wouldn’t know which beaches I like better – either have their unique beauty.