The fishing village of Freest is picturesquely situated on the Greifswald Bodden near the mouth of the Peene River. The numerous fishing boats dancing on the waves of the Baltic Sea tell the story of the largest fishing port in the region - and Dirk Baumann, of course.

Freest

Two possibilities, says Dirk Baumann, exactly two possibilities: "When visitors come to Freest, they first walk to the harbor and then go eat in one of our fish restaurants." Small pause. "Oooooor people go to eat in one of our fish restaurants and then walk along the harbor..." Only those who look closely can see how Dirk Baumann, this pithy guy in the checkered cotton shirt, quietly smiles to himself. He has perfectly cultivated the typical North German taciturnity, this sober "getting to the point". In Freest, people are sometimes like that - this fishing village steeped in history on the way to Usedom.

It first appeared under the name Vrestenuiz in a document in 1179. By the way, the Slavic name means heather. Which is somewhat surprising, because if there was one thing in the foreground in the history of Freest, it was certainly not heather, but fish in all sizes and varieties. Just as Dirk Baumann has already indicated in his bon mot about the sights of his homeland.

He knows what he's talking about: the man has been a Baltic fisherman since 1983, getting up at the crack of dawn to set sail with his cutter every day. "The village of Freest has always been connected with fishing; there is no larger fishing port on the entire coast," he says in his dryly amused manner. And, "We have all sizes of vessels here from small four-and-a-half-meter outboard boats to 17-meter cutters. The smaller ones do mostly set net fishing, the bigger ones trawl."

Even today, the 20 or so fishermen in Freest, who still live from fishing, sell their catch in the harbor directly from the cutter. So you can be sure: It doesn't get any fresher than this! Which fish are offered depends on the season: "Depending on the temperature, you can start fishing for herring in January and February," says Dirk Baumann, "followed by hornfish and then turbot season. Parallel to turbot, you can already catch flounder, and depending on the temperature and wind direction, there are also cod in the net in May."

When asked what else guests can experience in Freest, Dirk Baumann doesn't have to think long: "We have a local history museum here where you can look at the valuable fishing carpets from Freest!" The background: what began as a crazy idea of the then district administrator to improve the household coffers of poor fishermen's wives soon developed into a real cultural asset of the region: since 1928, the carpets have been knotted in Freest, Lubmin and some other villages on the Baltic coast. They outlast generations. Their creators say, "A fishing rug becomes really beautiful only after a regiment of soldiers has marched over it." Owners of Freest fishing carpets can be found all over the world today, and such carpets can still be ordered from a few carpet artists in the region.

In addition to the museum of local history, the old boatyard in Freest is also a very special place to visit for people who have a sense of nostalgia and honest craftsmanship. After the shipyard from 1889 had almost been left to decay, Kirsten Dubs from Bremen took it over in 2006 and has been running this historic workshop with heart and solid skill ever since. Keeping traditional cultural techniques alive is the concern of the passionate master craftswoman in boat and shipbuilding.

A little tip for budding boaters and fishing enthusiasts: During our last visit to Freest, the shipyard had two interesting boats for sale: the motorboat Tonki and the shrimp cutter Jonathan - an oak beauty from 1939... But this is unlikely to be a serious option for people who didn't grow up in the rough waters of the Baltic Sea... After all, life on the Baltic Sea isn't that easy, so you have to be of a sturdy disposition like Dirk Baumann. He would certainly agree with the saying that Kirsten Dubs has nailed to the wall of her shipyard on a wooden board, even if only barely audibly: "Let your feathers down and still float - that's the secret of life."

Cover photo: With the right temperature, you can catch the first herring as early as January © TMV/pocha.de

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