"Rostock revisited" Top 5 Page for this destination Rostock by Nemorino

Rostock Travel Guide: 153 reviews and 472 photos

It wasn't planned that way, but my first visit to Rostock came at a major turning point in recent German history. I arrived there on 14 November 1989, just five days after the opening of the Berlin Wall and four days after the opening of the heavily fortified fence, wall and death-strip that had separated East and West Germany for the previous 28 years.

When I changed trains in Hamburg, the platform at track 8 was packed with East Germans returning home from their first day-trip to the West. Many of them had large bags and boxes of things they had bought in Hamburg with the 100 DM "Welcome Money" (Begrüßungsgeld) they had been given by the West German government -- that would be roughly 50 Euros in today's money.

Why did the West German government give "Welcome Money" to all these thousands of people? Mainly to undermine the East German GDR ("German Democratic Republic") government, which was rapidly disintegrating in any case. But also as an economic stimulus for retailers in West German cities, where all that money was spent. Otherwise the GDR visitors wouldn't have had anything to spend, because their East German Marks were unconvertible.

The mood on the train from Hamburg to Rostock was excited and exhilarated -- aufgekratzt would be the German word for it. After their first visit to the Golden West they all seemed convinced that from now on their lives were going to be different, and of course better, than under the stifling GDR regime.

One woman who ran an HO-pub in a small town -- HO was the state-owned Trade Organization -- was delighted at the idea that she would no longer have to take any crap from the arrogant local bureaucrats who came to drink at her pub. I didn't have the heart to point out that it was the state's pub, not hers, and that the HO was bound to crumble along with the rest of the GDR's state-owned institutions.

Many of the people on the train had bought electrical appliances that were not available in the GDR. Some were starting to doubt that they had spent their 100 DM wisely, but one young man told me proudly that he hadn't spent a Pfennig of it, but had spent the day just browsing the record and CD shops in Hamburg. "I just wanted to see what's on the market," he said, "and check the prices. In two weeks I'll come back with a list and buy the recordings I really want."

As always, the train stopped for an hour at a place called Herleshausen at the border between East and West Germany, but this time no People's Police came through with dogs to search the train, because travel between East and West had suddenly become legal.

During the stop they called my name on the loudspeaker and asked me to come and get my visa stamped in my passport. As an American I still needed a visa to enter the GDR, but suddenly it was no problem to get one.

(On one of the other railroad lines the trains stopped at the border town of Gerstungen, which I have described in a tip on my Leipzig page.)

My reason for going to Rostock in 1989 was that I had been invited to attend a conference at the university on computer-assisted language learning. The conference had been postponed twice, in part because the organizers had been hassled by the GDR authorities for daring to invite a few people from the West to participate. So it was purely by accident that the conference took place during the first week of open borders.

My second visit to Rostock was a very brief business trip in 1998.

My third visit was in January 2009. This was also a business trip, but not quite as rushed as the one before, so I had time to take a few rainy-day photos and even attend the premiere of an excellent new production of the operetta Orpheus in the Underworld by Jacques Offenbach at the People's Theater.

  • Last visit to Rostock: Jan 2009
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (12)

Comments (45)

  • Oleg_D.'s Profile Photo
    Jun 10, 2015 at 11:52 AM

    It is interesting page, but I still cannot decide should I visit this city or not.

  • vtveen's Profile Photo
    Sep 20, 2014 at 7:43 AM

    Nice [page and interresting tips. Visited Rostock (just one night) a year ago.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Dec 26, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    Interesting page Don! Rostock doesn't seem like it has much to offer the tourist?

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Dec 27, 2013 at 11:19 AM

      Dee, thanks for your ratings and nice comments on my Rostock and Renchen tips.
      I think I might have missed some tourist attractions in Rostock, because my three visits there were all for other reasons -- once for a conference and two on business. I found it an interesting town, though, because I could see how it developed in the twenty years following German reunification.

    • balhannah's Profile Photo
      Dec 27, 2013 at 1:19 PM

      A bit like here when a town gets destroyed by bushfires and we see it emerge again.

  • lmkluque's Profile Photo
    Oct 13, 2012 at 7:09 AM

    An interesting tour you give here Don! I like the contrast between "Then and Now." Thanks for the tour!

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Oct 13, 2012 at 1:12 PM

      Thanks, Linda. It was lucky that I was sent to Rostock three times, at roughly ten year intervals, so I could see the changes.

  • german_eagle's Profile Photo
    Apr 21, 2012 at 5:54 AM

    Very interesting general observations on going further East/North in Germany. Btw, the new euphemism for that kind of suicide is "Notarzteinsatz am Gleis."

  • XenoHumph's Profile Photo
    Apr 2, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    Nice page on this Northern town I went through 15 years ago! I like the GPS coordinates, that's original in VT!!

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    Mar 6, 2011 at 3:05 AM

    Don, fabulous page with outstanding and interesting descriptions. I like your observations in the IBIS Hotel. I haven't been to Rostock yet, but it is definitely on my list. Have a lovely Sunday.

  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo
    Jan 19, 2011 at 6:31 AM

    Fascinating intro, Don. Wish I had come through the east as I had planned in 1991. Things have changed so much now and your thoughts really put it into perspective, especially in your local customs section.

  • MD2nd's Profile Photo
    Jan 2, 2011 at 9:10 AM

    Great read on Rostock! Great link to your Orpheus describe, when he sung his way into the underworld to rescue the dead Eurydice.

  • Jefie's Profile Photo
    Nov 9, 2010 at 8:05 AM

    Very interesting descriptions of your visits to Rostock over the years, it's amazing to read about how things have changed in the last 20 years. Thanks for sharing!


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