• Germany's news in English

The chilly off-peak perks of Rügen prove a treat

The Local · 10 May 2013, 11:04

Published: 10 May 2013 11:04 GMT+02:00

Sprawling over 900 kilometres, Rügen hangs off north eastern Germany's Baltic coastline and, thanks to its endless beaches, is popular among natives for summer holidays.

Colder weather lends the island a post-apocalyptic hum. Caked in snow and with temperatures lingering far below zero, tourists were scant on the ground and almost everything was shut.

There must have been other gaggles of families and friends passing the weekend holed up in houses nearby, but being there out of season made the island feel an awfully long way away from mainland Germany.

Thanks to its popularity in the summer there are lots of beds up for grabs on Rügen, meaning finding a place for nine people to stay wasn't too much of a problem. For this weekend, trusty accommodation website Air BnB proved fruitful, providing a refurbished post office in Neuenkirchen, 300-person hamlet towards the north of the island.

It takes just under four hours to drive from Berlin the north side of the island, a great base for taking in some of the region's tourists attractions. For those who fancy a weekend away without a car, trains run to harbour town Stralsund, a UNESCO site perched on mainland Germany. From there, Rügen is a short bus or regional train-ride away.

The island is dotted with quirky hotspots and top of our list was the biggest of them all - Prora, an enormous abandoned Nazi summer camp.

The crescent of eight huge buildings erected on Hitler's demand between 1936 and 1939 was intended as an affordable place to escape for up to 20,000 of Germany's working class. It should have been, in essence, a Nazi Butlins.

Yet it was never used, overtaken by the start of World War II and afterwards abandoned. The massive structure dominates that part of the coast, yet it is infused with sadness and disappointment.

Most of the buildings were, as far as we could see, tightly boarded up. More dedicated explorers would probably be able to get in by climbing up a tree or pipe – judging from walls covered in graffiti inside, many had done so before us.

But we filed through one of the only open doors and out onto the beach just metres on the other side. Snow-covered sand and a completely deserted beach completed the atmosphere.

Most of the building is for sale, but walking around it was hard to think of a profitable use, given the remote location and unreliable weather. A youth hostel in one corner looked pretty bleak, and apart from that there was nothing.

Moving on from faded fascist glory, Rügen's chalk cliffs in the Jasmund area are another popular site and easily located thanks to sign-posting. After marching along said cliffs, sturdier walkers can drop down onto rocky beaches and walk over the tail-ends of landslides.

The island's crumbling edges have seen bits of cliff dropping off at almost alarming frequency and tangled trees lie dead on the shore after daring to grow too close to the edge.

Admittedly there wasn't a great deal to do in Rügen's coastal towns other than to scope out quaint, empty guest houses and stroll down the promenade. But in a largely landlocked country, smelling the sea, marching along the coast and feeling salty wind is a treat. Going there in the cold means the beaches are empty and the experience even more bracing.

Story continues below…

Jessica Ware



The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Lion shot dead at Leipzig Zoo after breaking out of cage
Motshegetsi (l) und Majo. Photo: DPA

A young male lion was shot dead at Leipzig Zoo on Thursday afternoon after he broke out of his enclosure.

EU takes Germany to court for 'discriminatory' foreigner toll
A sign that reads "toll" along the Autobahn by Rostock. Photo: DPA.

The European Commission on Thursday said it is taking Germany to the EU Court of Justice because of the country's plan to impose a road toll that would mainly charge foreign drivers.

After 3-year trial, suspected neo-Nazi terrorist speaks out
Beate Zschäpe. Photo: DPA

Beate Zschäpe, the only living member of an underground neo-Nazi cell accused of murdering ten people, has spoken to the court in Munich after three years of silence.

Green party wants only e-cars on Autobahn by 2030
Photo: DPA.

The environmentalist Green party has an ambitious plan for German cars to be petrol- and diesel-free within the next 15 years.

Commerzbank to make one in five staff redundant by 2020
Photo: DPA

Germany's second largest lender Commerzbank said on Thursday it plans to cut 9,600 jobs by 2020 and withhold dividends to pay for a €1.1 billion restructuring.

Germany's favourite smoker wins battle against eviction
Photo: DPA

How a pensioner with a serious smoking habit won a years-long fight for his right to keep his home - and his favourite pastime.

Thousands evacuated after WWII bomb found in Cologne
File photo of a Second World War bomb: DPA

Several thousands people were being evacuated from a district of Cologne just north of the old town on Thursday morning, after a Second World War bomb was found in a parking lot.

Kidnapped German journalist and her baby freed in Syria
File photo of a Syrian soldier: SANA/DPA.

A German woman who was kidnapped in Syria last year while she was pregnant has been freed along with her baby, the German Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Air Berlin to cut 1,200 jobs and halve airline fleet
Photo: DPA.

Struggling Air Berlin, Germany's second-largest airline, announced on Wednesday a major restructuring plan that shrinks its fleet and cuts 1,200 jobs.

Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Photo: Thomas Wolf/Wikimedia Commons.

From stunning chalk-white cliffs to fairy tale castles, Germany has some breathtaking sights to see, perfect for social media.

Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Seven great reasons to stay in Germany this September
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Sponsored Article
The Inner Circle: the secret to dating in Berlin
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
Germany's 17 Olympic gold medals in pictures
14 facts you never knew about the Brandenburg Gate
Ten times Germans proved they really, really love beer
Six things you need to know when moving to Germany
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
German scientists prove birds can sleep while flying
London v. Berlin: Which is better for startups?
13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd