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Beach Resort Plays Host to G8 Leaders

  • Ivana Kuhar

Leaders of the world's leading industrial nations (G8) are arriving/have arrived at the German resort town Heiligendamm for their annual three-day summit. As the leaders gather, VOA's Ivana Kuhar and Valer Gergely take a look at the historic retreat on the Baltic Sea where the meetings are taking place.

Founded in 1793, Heiligendamm is the oldest sea spa in Germany.

Also known as the "White City by the Sea" for its classic white buildings lining the beach promenade, the Baltic resort was built as an elegant summer getaway for nobility and high society.

German Kaisers were regular guests of the bathing resort.

After the Second World War the area became part of East Germany. Under communist rule, the refined tradition of luxury vanished. Some of Heiligendamm's famous buildings were demolished. The others were unattended for years, or were converted to utilitarian structures.

After the German unification in 1990, restoration of their old glory began. Today's Heiligendamm represents a synergy of history and modernity. The latest technology is coupled with the grandeur of the past.

Tourism is booming on the German coastal area. Unlike the North Sea, the Baltic is a calm body of water that has seen a tenfold increase in the number of tourists over the last 15 years.

A narrow-gauge steam railway, known as Molli, has been connecting Heiligendamm to nearby towns since 1886. Locals boast that one can set his watch by this train: they say over its 120 years of operation, Molli has always left on time for its 12 kilometer run. The original size tickets -- not much bigger than a postage stamp -- are sold by a man in an old fashioned uniform who sits at the 19th century wooden sales counter.

President George Bush stayed at Heiligendamm during last year's state visit to Germany.

Tuesday Mr. Bush was the first foreign leader to arrive to the G8 summit.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered at the nearby Rostock airport, where the G8 leaders arrrived before being taken to the summit site by helicopters. Another group of anti-globalization protestors converged Tuesday at the media center in Kuehlungsborn. After heated, but peaceful, street demonstrations, the protestors took their message to the beach.

More demonstrations are underway throughout the area, as anti-globalists vow to push their way towards the site of the G8 summit. Police have sealed off the area by a 12 kilometer long steel fence around Heiligendamm.

President Bush met Wednesday with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel for a working lunch. Ms. Merkel greeted all G-8 heads of state and governments Wednesday night at a nearby 18th century Hohen Luckow estate.

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