• Germany edition
 
Finding fossils at Germany's tiniest national park
A view of the ocean through the beech forest at Jasmund. Photo: Sarah Roberts

Finding fossils at Germany's tiniest national park

Published: 03 Sep 2008 13:06 GMT+02:00
Updated: 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 promises help for Liberia in Ebola fight
A man walks past an Ebola information mural in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: DPA

Merkel promises help for Liberia in Ebola fight

Chancellor Angela Merkel has promised that Germany will send help to Liberia to tackle the Ebola crisis in response to a personal appeal by the country's president, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. READ  

Cabinet clamps down on child image possession
Justice Minister Heiko Maas. Photo: DPA

Cabinet clamps down on child image possession

People caught in possession of indecent images of children will face tougher prison sentences, the government announced on Wednesday. READ  

The Local List
Ten German words you'll never want to hear again

Ten German words you'll never want to hear again

There are some German words which we'd rather were never invented. From the almost unpronounceable to the sheer pointless, The Local List has identified ten of the worst words in the German language. Do you agree? READ  

Investigators offer $30m reward for MH17 clues
Investigators at the MH17 crash site. Photo: DPA

Investigators offer $30m reward for MH17 clues

Anonymous backers have armed a German private detective with a $30-million war chest to find out who shot down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine. READ  

13,000 police will catch speeders on Thursday
This sight will be familiar to drivers on Thursday. Photo: DPA

13,000 police will catch speeders on Thursday

UPDATE: Drivers across Germany will be on the lookout for police holding radar guns on Thursday, as 13,000 officers take to the streets to crack down on speeding. READ  

Oktoberfest 2014
Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest traditions
Photo: DPA

Your guide to Munich Oktoberfest traditions

The world's biggest beer festival opens in Munich on Saturday. Running until October 5th, Oktoberfest is expected to attract more than six million visitors, drinking seven million litres of beer. Here's the first of The Local's four-part guide to the festival, starting with leathery traditions. READ  

Climber, 77, falls 80 metres to his death
The Alps near Innsbruck. Photo: DPA

Climber, 77, falls 80 metres to his death

A 77-year-old German climber fell 80 metres to his death in an Alpine ravine on Tuesday. READ  

State leader defends 'Russia Day'
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania state premier Erwin Sellering is a big fan of Russia. Photo: DPA

State leader defends 'Russia Day'

The leader of a state in eastern Germany is not letting the worst crisis between Russia and Europe since the Cold War get in the way of his plans to celebrate "Russia Day", despite critical voices calling him a "Putin sympathizer". READ  

Champions League
Borussia Dortmund outgun Arsenal in opener
Dortmund players celebrate at the final whistle. Photo: DPA

Borussia Dortmund outgun Arsenal in opener

Italian striker Ciro Immobile scored his first goal for Borussia Dortmund as the German side produced a dominant performance to outclass Arsenal 2-0 in their Champions League opening group game in Dortmund on Tuesday. READ  

German Muslims protest against extremism
Muslim Coordination Council spokesman Ali Kizilkazya speaking in Berlin on Tuesday. Photo:DPA

German Muslims protest against extremism

The biggest Muslim faith organizations in Germany will hold a nationwide demonstration for tolerance and peace and against all types of extremism on Friday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Education
German universities tumble in global rankings
Photo: DPA
Tech
Netflix launches in Germany (in English too)
Marks & Spencer
Sponsored Article
Fashion Ladies of the Local: Win a New Autumn Look
Photo: DPA
Politics
These men want to be the next mayor of Berlin
Photo: Shutterstock
Business & Money
The three types of firms hiring foreigners
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Berlin spy station sees tourism boom
Photo: DPA/ESA
Tech
VIDEO: How one German astronaut sees Earth
Photo: DPA
Berlin
Frisky couple shock Berlin commuters
Photo: DPA
Politics
Are Germans right to want cooler relations with USA?
Photo: Bayernpartei/DPA
Politics
Why some Bavarians want a Scottish 'Yes'
Photo: DPA
Gallery
12 things to do in Berlin for less than a latte
Photo: Facebook
National
Bavarian waiter breaks beer-carrying record
Sponsored Article
Bilingual education from nursery to graduation at Phorms
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
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

3,325
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd