In another attempt to practice the art of “slow travel”, and not get in an aeroplane in search of exotic adventures, I went for sun, sand and slightly sustainable instead. Yes, this summer, after more than five years in Berlin, I finally got around to visiting Germany’s famous Baltic Coast, the Ostsee, as some people (German ones) call it, otherwise known as Brighton for Berliners. In fact, I actually ended up going to the same island, twice, doing pretty much the same trip in about 10 days and travelling back to Berlin for about three days in between. Why? Well 1) because I am a ridiculous person and not good at organization and 2) because a trip to the Baltic Coast is the perfect weekend trip from Berlin. It is SO NEAR. (How did it take me five years to get there? Well, see point 1))
More importantly, I only saw a tiny bit of the island of Rügen and the weather was pissy 50% of the time, but it was still pretty much all-round aceness. So everyone should go.
Rügen Part 1
The first trip took place right in the middle of this summer’s two heatwaves, when it was rainy, windy, and cold, with a few little splashes of sun in between. The weather was so schizophrenic, even on the one whole sunny day we had there, at one point the sky went dark and there was a massive insane hailstorm. But there is of course one obvious advantage to clouds, at least broken ones: sunsets. This is the one that greeted us on our first evening (after it had stopped drizzling).
And also some Simpsons style sky…
But it wasn’t enough to stop people walking down to the water and jumping (most of them naked, we are in former East Germany after all) into those (really big and crashy) Baltic Sea waves.
The first night we just parked in a road near the beach and actually slept in the car that we came in (Please don’t do this, apparently this is not legal. But it only cost us 30 euro when we got caught, so, actually cheaper than a campsite...)
The second night we stayed in the aforementioned expensive campsite which was only about 10 minutes from a beach, in a place called Thiessow in the most south-easterly point of the island. This sign lists the different types of beach you can find on this part of the island: nudist, dog, and “textile”. A difficult choice. Take your pick.
Here are some of Rügen’s vigorously fenced-off and really quite lovely dunes.
This trip also took us to the most northerly point of the island, the lighthouse at Cape Arkona. The weather was the grossest. I’m posting one picture and that’s it. Here.
Right? We got back in the car and left quite soon after this assault of wind and rain and grossness. FYI, this is kind of what Germany (almost always) looks like from the motorway.
Rügen Part 2
The second trip was to the neighbouring corner of the island (the most south-westerly point), to a place called Zicker. Only three days later, but the weather was slightly different.
After about two kilometres of pretty much deserted road, heading towards the sea and about 100 metres from the beach, you run into something really cool (if you’re into this kind of thing) and completely unexpected.
Abandoned houses! A whole group of them! Inspired by the beauty that is Abandoned Berlin, I tried to capture them in all their crumbling, faded glory (and failed). They were incredibly cool though, pretty much open still, and with lots of retro fittings (see 70s print curtains at the windows).
The beach when I finally got to it was pretty nice too. Yes, amazingly, this is Germany.
Walking down to the very tip of the island and seeing the waves lapping on each side was pretty special too. Access to the island is usually over a bridge, not via ferry – so it’s easy to forget you’re on a piece of land surrounded by water, Rügen just doesn’t feel like an island most of the time, and it’s massive too. Here you were reminded of the amazing geography of the place.
Getting to Rügen from Berlin
I’d recommend getting the train from Berlin to Rügen – it doesn’t take much longer than driving, even with the regional trains, as getting out of central Berlin can take forever in a car.
There are direct (!) regional trains to Stralsund from Berlin Hauptbahnhof that take about three hours. From there you can change to another train depending on where you want to go on the island.
When I go again I’ll head for Sellin with its huge and crazy pier:
And to see the ancient ruins down by the beach in Heiligendamm: