Flying bombs, amber, herrings and sea that you can go walking in. Once holiday destination for Eastern Bloc citizens and even before that for Nazis. Summer 2014.
Rügen is a German Island known for being quite a beautiful and windy place at the same time. Coming here in summer does not guarantee you will get your tan. However, it is very popular among kiting and windsurfing enthusiasts. We didn´t come here to lie on the beach and therefore did not care about the wind either but were lucky as it was warm with little wind.
The idea to go to Rügen was a friend´s he invited me to join him and his friends when we met at one music festival in July. There was just one condition: „Get at least one more girl, we don´t want ot be jsut guys and you!“ In the end there were like 9 of us, with 3 female elements for good balance and it was one of the funniest and cheapest short holidays abroad I have been on.
Mireček, who organized the whole thing said it was necessary for everybody to get properly dressed as we were going to Germany and it is important to fit in. One of his ideas was to get nice white socks with your sandals and shorts…. The journey was fast and comfortable, German roads are famous for their good quality and motorways are not paid.
Straight after arriving on the island which is connected to the mainland with a road, you will notice peaceful atmosphere and beautiful nature. There are a lot of birds, a fox might cross your road so please don´t hit it with your car. National park Jasmund offers breathtaking views of chalk cliffs and beech forests, you can also visit nearby lighthouse on Cape Arkona. We climbed it and it is definitely worth it. The whole area around it is protected, you can have a nice walk there…well, actually you have to as cars must be left at a quite remote car park. The island persuades you there is no reason to hurry or be stressed.
My favourite part. Season here is short and unpredictable which means there are not so many hotels in the area. There are a campsites. And then there are free car parks near the beaches. It is not allowed to camp there but if you are not seen…To cut the long story short – I slept in the van as I never sleep in a tent and my friends found their perfect spots in the forest, on the beach, in a tent or simply put their mattresses under the great starry sky.
Most beaches have a similar access – car park, then road, stripe of forest, dunes and the beach. It was very quiet there at night, most people just come to stay during the day. Clean nature, pine woods with ground covered woth soft grass, beautiful. The weather was also very bad for windsurfers, no wind. Good for us. There were just more nudists than necessary but that is the part of German national heritage to call it nicely. Don´t think I am too prude, it is rather caused by average age and body constitution of these worshippers of naked body cult so called „Freikörperkultur“.
Don´t expect to swim a lot. When I saw a couple wearing swimsuits, backpacks and holding their hands walking far in the see until they vanished behind the horizon, I finally understood how stupid I was expecting to find place deep enough to swim properly. Still a good place to lie down in water and relax.
And when the evening comes and sun goes down, it is time to get out your BBQ, chairs and prepare dinner on the beach. It is legal and you might see other fires in the distance along the beach. There is enough wood in the forest and it is safe to start fire on the sand so what are you waiting for. Food can be purchased at a local supermarket that could be as far as 10 kilometres and there are no stalls or bars at the beaches (apart from towns). 10/10 if you ask me.
The WWII might have finished in 1945 but its traces are visible until today. Arms were developed and produced here and the response of Allies was adequate. Big forest areas are surrounded by fence with sign warning about mines and rests of bombs and ammunition. Even fishermen sometimes fish out something there are not so happy about. You might as well. For example while looking for amber. It can bee found on the beaches, I also found a really nice bog piece. If it starts burning in your hand, throw it away and quick! It is phospor from the old bombs and it starts burning when in contact with air. There are even warning signs about this at the entrance to most of the bigger beaches. Residues of the war are still an issue today.
War memorials and fish
Being already here there is no sense in pretending there was no war. You can still feel it. So why not get the best out of it and learn a bit more. That´s why we decided to go on a trip to a museum Peenemünde, where V1 and V2 flying bombs were once developed. Inside exposition were not very interesting for me, I prefered the bombs themselves and the pad.
Have you looked at the map? Then you might have noticed it is actually not on Rügen but on a nearby island called Usedom. It doesn´t even look like a proper island, rather a penninsula and there is a boarder with Poland. To get there, you need to cross a bascule bridge in Wolfgast which opens several times a day. If you don´t want to be kept waiting and looking at it for 30 minutes like we did, check out the „lifting hours“.
Our next journey lead us to Sassnitz, a port offering excursions in the inside of an old submarine HMS Otus. You would propably expect it to be German. It is not. It once belonged to Royal Navy and was sold to Germans in 1990 after it had been decommissioned. Brings more tourists, I suppose. Not bad anyway, the let you in and you can have a close look on everything.
If you are hungry there is a simple fish restaurant nearby at the coast and also a cannery. The rest of my friends being mostly vegans and vegetarians didn´t understand my enthusiasm when I found out about the factory shop offering canned mackerells and herrings in damaged packing (meaning scratched or slightly crumpled) for remarkably low prices. I bought like 10 kilos of fish in tomato sauce, mustard, cream and dill, oil…Yes!
The cherry on the pie of war memorials was supposed to be Prora. Holiday resort once meant to be place of well deserved relaxation for thousands of excellent Nazi citizens, was left abandoned for many years after the WWII. When we were there, you could see something was about to happen. Now it is actually becoming a 5 star resort, hopefully for people with more acceptable political opinions. The building at the coast looks impressive but when you just stand close to it, it is more like an extremely long block of flats. Very fotogenic from the distance, from the sky, not when you stand in front of it. So I had a bun with sour herring and onion in it, as it is a must when in northern Germany, and we set off for another adventure.
Needless to say we were extremely lucky with the weather but there is not to plan if you decide to go to Rügen and the neighbouring islands. Just get three days off, pack a sleeping bag, some euros and BBQ, get in the car and go. You will not need much more.