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Last Updated: Monday, 7 May 2007, 23:31 GMT 00:31 UK
Germans stay home for eco-holiday
By Steven Rosenberg
BBC News, Berlin

I don't get too many assignments like this one. Imagine the scene. There I am: polo shirt, shorts and sunglasses, lying on a white sandy beach, the sea gently lapping at my toes, the strains of Latino music dancing their way through the air, and the sun beating down through a cloudless sky.

Chairs on a beach in Mecklenburg, Germany
German holiday makers are keen to cut down their carbon emissions

For a moment, I almost forget where I am. Could this be some faraway Caribbean island? Or an exotic Mediterranean resort? And then the smell of sausages and mustard wafts over from a beach cafe - and I remember: no, it's only Germany.

I'm not alone in paradise. This beach in the region of Mecklenburg on the Baltic coast is packed with holidaymakers.

It's perhaps surprising. After all, as long as I can remember, Germans have always been the kings of the foreign package tour. Famous for getting up early and claiming all the sunbeds round the pool before anyone else. Well, not any more. Germany has now become the top holiday destination for Germans - and part of that reason is climate change.

Plane or train?

Giggling by the sea - and lying topless in the sun - are Martina and her three environmentally friendly colleagues.

It's not necessary to go to the Maldives, you can take your holiday here in Germany
German holiday maker

Like many Germans, they're keen to cut down their carbon emissions, to do their bit in the fight against global warming. So instead of taking the plane to Majorca, they've taken the train to Mecklenburg.

"I think it's better for the climate to stay here in Germany," Martina told me, once she'd put her bikini back on. "The traffic in the air is too much and it's not good for us."

On the beaches of Germany, you'll find more and more eco-friendly holidaymakers like Martina.

"Climate change is an issue," Mecklenburg tourism officer Tobias Woitendorf assured me.

"If you choose to spend your holiday on the Baltic Sea, then many people say they do that because of climate change. They don't want to pollute the environment by taking a plane."

But there's another reason - linked to climate change - why Germans are having their holidays at home.

Majorca in Mecklenburg

At a Mediterranean style all-inclusive club hotel in Mecklenburg, children splash around in the swimming pool while tired parents recover on the sunbeds. It's not even summer yet - but the day I come visiting, it's hotter in Mecklenburg than in Majorca. One more reason to stay home for your holidays.

"It's great that the climate gets warmer and warmer," says Waltraud from Hamburg, one of the hotel's regular guests.

German holiday maker Martina
Martina and her friends went north for their seaside break

"I get a Maldive feeling here because beaches on the Maldives are the same: long white sand and a lot of sun. So normally it's not necessary to go to the Maldives, you can take your holiday here in Germany!"

Tourism officer Tobias Woitendorf admits that for his industry there is a sunnier side to global warming.

"It's kind of ironic," Tobias says. "On the one hand you have the climate change and global warming. On the other hand that brings us tourists. We don't want to profit from a negative development but in fact we do."

Inside the hotel lobby, it's mini-disco time and a giant cuddly bear called Robby prances round with a group of children, to a song about spaghetti and chips.

In the light of global warming, I can't help feeling a little bit sorry for the guy inside the bear costume.

He must be sweating buckets. And with the numbers of German holidaymakers in Germany set to grow, Robby is in for a very long summer.

Why the Germans love Germany

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07 May 07 |  Science/Nature
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