• Germany's news in English
 

Finding fossils at Germany's tiniest national park

Published: 03 Sep 2008 13:06 GMT+02:00

A four-hour northbound train ride took us from urban Berlin through sprawling fields of sunflowers, corn and barley, to the shores of the Baltic Sea, where the small island of Rügen nestles just off the coast.

Our quest for hardy outdoor living had brought us to Sassnitz, a quaint 150-year-old fishing port on the most northerly point of Rügen, an island belonging to the German state of Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. It's the gateway to the Jasmund National Park, the smallest park in Germany at just 30 square kilometres.

Jasmund is most famous for its sheer chalk cliffs, which jut 118 metres above the sea - Europe's highest cliff formations in Germany's tiniest national park. The 10-kilometre stretch of crags, crowned with thick beech forests that date from the 13th century, puckers the shoreline north of Sassnitz. Not bad, for such a wee park.

Each summer a hive of German tourists descends on the area in search of one thing – fossils.

We set out walking along the pebbly beach against a brisk sea breeze, stepping between amateur paleontologists diligently sifting through the salty stones for the six-million-year-old fossils of sea urchins and ancient squid for which the park is known. These fossils, along with 'lucky' pebbles and gnarled beech driftwood are German tourists' most-cherished Rügen souvenirs.

The fossil hunters shack up in Sassnitz's quaint wooden villas. Almost every salt-stained abode boasts blooming flower boxes along the cobbled lanes that lead down the hillside to the rocky shore. Many of the guest houses offer self-catering apartments, equipped with kitchens and spacious enclosed balconies or Wintergarten and panoramic views of the sea. The view from our Wintergarten takes in the cluttered tiled rooftops of the old town below, with balconies full of dining families and airing outerwear. The stormy Baltic Sea, dotted with sailing boats and ferries cruising to Sweden, spreads out to the horizon.

One of the best ways to take in Jasmund's beauty is a nine-kilometre walk along the contours of the rocky beach, or the cliff top walkway 100 metres above the shore. We took the high road and hiked along the cliffs with a gang of outdoorsy Germans through the lush beech forests, tramping up and down wooden steps and walkways, across tree roots and past striking views of the silvery beach below.

The hike's reward is the spectacular Königsstuhl, or 'King's Throne,' the highest cliff in the park, which stands at a majestic 118 metres above sea level. Visitors can catch an alternative view of the Königsstuhl at Victoria Ansicht, a lookout point at the park visitor's centre, which charges an entry fee.

On day two we checked out hundreds of brightly painted fishing boats anchored in the quay of Sassnitz harbour. Among the boats lurks the British submarine HMS Otus, sold to a German entrepreneur five years ago, dressed in black camouflage paint and flying the Union Jack. Inside, the submarine is still equipped with all its cogs and dials, radars and sleeping cots - a fascinating way to spend an hour.

Venturing out into the open water is easy in Sassnitz. Boat trips leave daily from the harbour to give tourists a sea-side view of the Jasmund cliffs and the town. For sea hardy travelers a day trip around the whole island costs €40 and explores all the coast’s nooks and crannies. A one hour trip was more suited to our shaky sea legs, and we were treated to breathtaking views, fresh sea air and sunshine reflecting off the choppy waves.

Back in the old town we came across the local art studio and Trödel (rummage) shop called 'der Laden,' where we found ceramics and an eclectic selection of former East German kitsch, including two rooms stuffed with books. Local islander and potter Hartmut Netschas also creates hand-made bowls and over-sized mugs in a traditional Rügen style for the shop.

A turn of a corner in the quirky shop revealed a room bursting with orange-labeled 'Sanddorn' products, ranging from tea, to honey to sweets and jam. Sanddorn is a sour berry native to Rügen.

"Every man must eat Sanddorn," bellowed Netschas in a thick east German accent and a serious grin. Locals have enjoyed the health benefits of Sanddorn for centuries, he explained.

Walking through the old town later that evening, we finally found exemplary specimens of the fossils we'd seen others digging for on the beach. Through a thick shop window we saw the marbled stones of the beach encrusted with chalky white lines marking the skeletons of ancient creatures.

“Maybe next time,” we said, eying the elegant tails of ancient squid preserved amid the stone, but content with our lucky beach stones and Sanddorn tea.

Related links:

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Today's headlines
Merkel summons US envoy over spy claims
Photo: DPA

Merkel summons US envoy over spy claims

UPDATE: Chancellor Angela Merkel's office Thursday asked the US ambassador to discuss new allegations about NSA spying, a German government source said. READ  

Police confiscate WW2 tank hidden in cellar
Photo: Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-490-3270-06A/Wikimedia Commons

Police confiscate WW2 tank hidden in cellar

Police searched a villa in a wealthy suburb of Kiel on Wednesday and found a Second World War tank, a torpedo and other weaponry in the cellar. On Thursday they were still working on removing the tank. READ  

Google game slammed over use of death camps
Dachau concentration camp. Photo: DPA

Google game slammed over use of death camps

News that Google is using the sites of Nazi concentration camps as elements in an "augmented reality" project - an online game linked to the real world - has caused extreme upset to Holocaust survivors' organizations. READ  

Capturing Berlin with an outsider's eye
A Soviet Cosmonaut mosaic in Potsdam. Photo: Digital Cosmonaut

Capturing Berlin with an outsider's eye

It took a German who spent much of his early life abroad to document some of the hidden, abandoned, or forgotten-about corners of Berlin in English. The Local meets "Digital Cosmonaut", one of Berlin's best-loved bloggers. READ  

Greek President cancels Berlin visit
Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos(l) with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Photo: DPA

Greek President cancels Berlin visit

Prokopis Pavlopoulos, President of Greece, has cancelled plans to visit Berlin next Tuesday, German media reported on Thursday. READ  

Guardiola: Schweini must decide on future
Photo: DPA

Guardiola: Schweini must decide on future

UPDATE: Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola said Thursday that Bastian Schweinsteiger holds his future in his own hands amidst reports linking the Germany captain to Manchester United. READ  

Drug-driving trucker kills two police officers
The accident happened on the Autobahn near Dortmund. Photo: DPA

Drug-driving trucker kills two police officers

A truck driver crashed his vehicle into a stationary police car on the Autobahn in North Rhine-Westphalia on Thursday, killing the two officers inside. READ  

Watchdog escapes breast implant fine
A breast augmentation operation in progress. Photo: DPA

Watchdog escapes breast implant fine

A French appeals court on Thursday found German safety standards body the Technische Überwachungsverein (TÜV) had "fulfilled its obligations" in certifying breast implants that were later found to be faulty and sparked a worldwide scare. READ  

Govt 'breaking promises' with new CO2 deal
The RWE brown coal plant in Niederaussem. Photo: DPA

Govt 'breaking promises' with new CO2 deal

Germany's governing coalition came to a major new agreement on carbon emissions on Wednesday evening. But the reported deal has left environmentalists feeling betrayed. READ  

Thais send kidnapper to face Munich justice
A photo used by police to track alleged kidnapper Mario S. Photo: DPA

Thais send kidnapper to face Munich justice

Thai authorities will deliver a man to Germany later this week to stand trial on accusations of kidnapping the wife of a Bavarian banker to finance his lavish lifestyle abroad. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
How to survive the Europe-wide heatwave
Sport
Is Schweini already out of the door at Bayern?
Politics
How German media shaped the Greece crisis
National
Car assembly robot crushes worker at Volkswagen
Rhineland
Weathermen red-faced over heatwave snow warning
Society
An eye for an eye? Mum protects child in playground with pepperspray
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's final day in Germany
National
As it happened: Queen Elizabeth's second day in Germany
National
Queen Elizabeth II's first day in Germany - as it happened
National
Bus passengers tell fake racists where to get off
Politics
What's really in the Queen's handbag?
National
Germans say USA doesn't respect freedom
National
Yes, you CAN buy adult e-books before 10pm in Germany
VIDEO: Watch a 93-metre turbine crash to earth in slow motion
Gallery
Who's got a shot at the German Film Awards
Rhineland
Anger over 'child-free' beer garden
National
How do you do, Majestät?
National
Man defends right to pee in public with tear gas
Features
The Germans who won Waterloo for the British
Frankfurt
Should Germany ban circus animals?
Hamburg
Where people are having the most sex in Germany
Culture
Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Not this student...
National
Dresden's three-decade-long red light
Politics
Upper house calls for gay marriage now
Berlin
Berlin named 3rd-best city worldwide
Sport
In search of the toughest firefighter
Business & Money
German firms shine for European engineering students
Gallery
Hitler's paintings up for auction
National
German's 70-year search for murdered US pilot
Politics
What the G7 leaders agreed at Elmau
Business & Money
What really makes Germans happy
National
Playmobil builder leaves worldwide legacy
National
The car share that became a drug run
Politics
What Snowden revealed to Germany
Rhineland
Why wolf cubs are being raised by hand
National
Hitler's booze cave found
National
Environment makes Germany worth living in
Culture
What's top of the charts in June
Gallery
Germany's most beautiful cycle routes
Business & Money
The business case for Britain in the EU
Rhineland
Why farmers are free to pong up the countryside
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,912
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd