From "Where Hoffman Told His Fairytales" [Page 91]...
Many of the girls had not even been able to sell all the tickets in one booklet. She had not been aware of this, but there was a reward for her diligence and enthusiasm. The best ticket sellers of all the Königsberg girls’ schools would be spending a whole week at the seaside, in the youth hostel of the old port city of Pillau. This place had many attractions – there were rows of tiny, neat houses in the narrow streets, the fishing boats and steamers created entertaining commotion at the harbour and the powerful cone of light coming from the light-house swept tirelessly across the scene all night. There was also the Seekanal, or sea channel, connecting Königsberg to the sea. It all exuded a romantic notion of faraway places and held a strange fascination for visitors from the inland.
From: "Where Hoffman Told His Fairytales" [Page 47]...
One Sunday, the goal was to make as much use of the public transport ticket as possible. They were out of their beds by sunrise in order to make the first Samlandbahn train to the Baltic Sea resort town of Cranz. Even though it was so early they could barely keep their eyes open, the children still gazed breathlessly out of the train window, and Papa was careful that they didn’t miss a thing. Soon they were passing the only mountain in the area, the Galtgarben, that stood 112 meters above sea level. Then they were told to admire the lupines (or bluebonnets) that were the national flower of the Samland peninsula and gave the edge of the forest a bluish tinge. All the passengers who got off in Cranz immediately turned towards the boardwalk, but not Papa. Instead of going with the crowd, he and his family set off for Sarkau, where no train went.
It was a nine kilometre walk through the forest, and one was well advised to take off socks and shoes for this hike. Sarkau was not a resort, but a modest fishing village. As the family passed the fishermen’s homes hidden in the woods, they noticed that the smoking of the morning’s catch had already begun. They could see where the freshly smoked flounder would be available later on by the plumes curling above the farms… the entire forest smelled of it.
Finally they reached the beach, where the sky reflected in the clear seawater, the endless white sand practically blinded them and there were no other human beings as far as the eye could see. All they could hear was the swoosh of the waves hitting the shore. They didn’t have to go any further. Here they felt the force of nature’s inconceivable beauty, here the world could end!
Gretel and her family were still on a tight budget. Yet she got permission to go on a little trip with the Young Women’s Christian Association that summer. Anyway, it wasn’t going to cost very much. They were to spend a few days in the youth hostel in the fishing village of Sarkau on the Kurische Nehrung, a peninsula on the Baltic Sea.
In the afternoons they would go on long hikes along the gorgeous Kurische Nehrung peninsula that stretched 98 kilometres from Cranz to Sandkrug, and which boasted dunes up to 66 metres high. It also featured a famous ornithological station.
From "Where Hoffman Told His Fairytales" [Page 94]...
To Gretel’s great delight, she got permission in her last year of school to spend two weeks at the Landschulheim, or student hostel, in Groß Dirschkeim on the Samland coast with some of her classmates. Due to the cost, not all the children in Gretel’s grade were as lucky.
The hostel stood on a high cliff with a grand view of the sea, and was nestled in a beautiful large garden surrounded by a fence. It was run by an elderly couple who provided their guests with five square meals a day. Groß Dirschkeim had the advantage of not being overrun by bathers like other resorts. The west coast of the Samland at this location shows a peculiar feature: While the rest of the coast is largely flat, this section is an extremely steep cliff that falls more than 60 meters down to the Baltic Sea.
Some of the bluffs have deep gorges and dense forests, and offer stunning vistas of the open sea. Only a very narrow strip of beach covered with sand and pebbles lies at the foot of the cliffs. Mighty waves gouge the slopes, creating deep caves that cause the land to collapse which in turn leads to erosion of roughly two feet per year. The Samland coast was therefore placed under conservation, and access to the area was restricted.