• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Finding fossils at Germany's tiniest national park

The Local · 3 Sep 2008, 13:06

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.

Story continues below…

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 offers Russia a lifting of sanctions - if it behaves
Angela Merkel. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday that she has "the very greatest interest in stopping sanctions" against Russia, Reuters reports.

'Idiot' youth lets regional train drive over him as dare
Photo: DPA

In a stunt police have described as "incomprehensible idiocy," a drunk young man from Munich lay down on the tracks in front of a fast-moving train and let it ride over him.

'Unfriendly' Germans make expat life harder: report
Photo: Pexels.com

Expats in Germany generally find it great for families and starting a career, but were turned off by the language barriers and "unfriendly" Germans upon arrival, according to a new report.

Is German diplomacy getting too chummy with Russia?
Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Photo: DPA/AFP Pool.

Critics have been questioning the German Foreign Minister's recent series of comments about working closer with Russia, with some labelling the diplomat a "Russia-sympathizer".

Police investigate after mosque door is bricked shut
The bricked-up door. Photo: Facebook/Netzwerk für Flüchtlinge in Parchim.

Unknown people have bricked up the entrance to a mosque in northeastern Germany and stuck racist flyers to their masonry work.

Vice-Chancellor: TTIP trade deal is dead
Photo: DPA

Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Sunday that negotiations on a massive trade deal between the European Union and the United States were effectively dead in the water.

Law to force mums to give up identity of child's real father
Photo: DPA

Germany has drafted a law requiring mothers to inform their partners if their children were fathered by another man, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday.

Gallery
Germans race bulls too, but with a difference
Photo: DPA

The most important sporting events only happen every four years: the World Cup, the Olympics, and of course the Münsing ox race.

Attempted murder charge for Isis teen who stabbed cop
A police officer stands on a train platform at Hannover main station. Photo: DPA

German federal prosecutors said Monday they had brought charges against a 16-year-old girl who allegedly stabbed a policeman in February in an operation for Isis.

Nearly 9,000 refugee children reported missing: report
Refugee children in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

German media reported on Monday that the number of refugee children reported as missing has doubled to reach nearly 9,000.

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
National
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
National
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Culture
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Rhineland
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Culture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
Lifestyle
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Gallery
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Society
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
Lifestyle
What's on in Germany: events for August 2016
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
National
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
International
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Technology
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
Lifestyle
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
7,431
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd