After the Easter holidays here in Germany, a whole series of holiday days start. 1st of May, then the “Christi Himmelfahrt”, followed by “Pfingsten” – so if you are smart and take some additional days off, you can have quite a few longer weekends. The past weekend was one of those, we had 4 days! And so we booked a bigger apartment in a house on Germany´s largest island, Rügen together WITH FRIENDS. None of us was ever there so we were really looking forward to it and we also went really lucky with the weather – only 2 weeks ago it was snowing and now we had very pleasant 20-something °C and sunny skies! It was simply the perfect weekend to drive up to the coast and considering the heavy road traffic many had the same idea!
HOW TO GET THERE
Rügen is not really close to any bigger town except Rostock. It will take you 3 hrs from Hamburg, little less than 3 hrs from Berlin, 2hrs from Lübeck and 4,5hrs from Braunschweig. Especially if driving on Friday/Sunday, the way might be even much longer – it took us good 7hrs to get back home. But, it was worth it! The island is beautiful and big enough to keep you busy even for a week or more. The island is located close to the shore and it is connected with the charming town STRALSUND with a bridge (no extra fee), so it´s pretty easy to get there, as you don´t need a ferry.
WHAT WE SAW & DID
Since we were very god in time on Thursday morning and we chose to drive the little country roads instead of highways, plus all the technology can tell us now how to avoid traffic jams – we decided TO MAKE A STOP in Stralsund first, before driving on to Rügen. The stop here was really a great decision – the town is not too big, but also big enough that there is something to see and do.
The architecture is always kind of different here at the coast and in combination with a nice sunny day, strolling around the little streets was very enjoyable. The main market square with the City Hall and all the buildings surrounding it is an eye-catcher! Founded in 1234 the city was one of the most prospering members of the medieval HANSEATIC LEAGUE and in 2002 it´s old town was put on the list of UNESCO World Heritage site.
In the harbour you find the famous GORCH FOCK I ship, built in Hamburg in 1933. The ship was in the past taken by the Soviet Union (where they changed its name to Tovarishch) and ended up in Britain afterwards, but due to lack of funds, the ship was eventually brought back home to Stralsund and was named Gorch Fock again in 2003. This is a MUSEUM SHIP now and it´s pretty interesting to visit it – you can also go inside of course and see the rooms. In 1958 the German government built a replacement ship called Gorch Fock and this one is still in service today.
Also a very remarkable point of interest here is the famous OZEANEUM MARINE MUSEUM with its 8700m² space where different water animal species from the German East- and Northsee as well as the north Atlantik are presented to the visitors. This is the largest and most important museum of such kind in Germany and in 2010 it also got a prize – it was named the EUROPE´S MUSEUM OF THE YEAR! It is located in the harbour and you really cannot miss it, due to its interesting architecture.
From Stralsund´s harbour we could already see the bridge over to Rügen and since it was already late in the afternoon we decided it was time to leave. There were around 50km ahead of us, as we were staying at the other side of the island, which is by the way really big, for an island ;).
The drive across the island was spectacular! We had no idea it was so hilly – I thought the landscape will be flat as everywhere else in northern Germany but I was obviously wrong. This is also my favourite time of the year in Germany because of this beautiful yellow fields, covered with RAPESEED PLANTS!
Finally there! Our friends were already waiting for us and you know the kids – they were excited to see each other again (our boys are friends since they were still in the tummies :)) and were ready to hit the BEACH, even though it was getting pretty late. Luckily, we didn´t have to walk too far to get to Sellin´s south beach! The coastline is often rough here, many cliffs and no access to the actual beach, so we had to go over a smaller hill to get down.
The beaches here are really nice – very long and covered with white SAND, perfect for the little ones. The only problem I have with them is, the sea is muuuuch to cold for me. So, I can´t really consider this as the perfect place to spend a summer at, but for a spring trip it´s just perfect!
The most famous site in Sellin is for sure the “SEEBRÜCKE”, a wooden pier with a spectacular house on it. In 1906 the first pier with a restaurant on it was built and it was 508 metres long! Since then the “bridge” was often damaged by ice and suffered a fire once – it was repaired every time and got an extra feature each time. There was a famous dancing place at one point. The whole thing had to be torn down in 1978 because the construction was too old and could not carry its visitors anymore, and for quite some years there was no pier. Until 1992 when the new planning began and the architects stuck to the 1920´s design of the pier and its main building. In 1998 the reopening took place and the 394m long pier is still the longest on the island today.
The “Seebrücke” is situated at the main town beach, which is a popular spot to spend the day or at least a couple of hours. There are many “STRANDKORB” of course to keep the wind away and in case you get hungry just go to the bridge and treat yourself with a yummy ice cream (black vanilla for me this time), a “FISHBRÖTCHEN” (popular fish sandwich), a piece of cake or just eat a whole lunch. The beach is perfect for the kids because its so long they can run around and the water is shallow for quite some metres – great for playing!
At the end of the pier there is also a kind of SUBMARINE SHUTTLE, which submerges every now and then and you can watch the sea life under water without getting wet. The end of the pier is also a station for several BOAT TOURS, which take to around the island or to one of its main attractions, the JASMUND NATIONAL PARK. You can buy tickets in advance or on the boat (if you are lucky to get a free space). The boat tours go for at least 4 hrs, so make sure you check when they leave, as there is just one or two in the day.
Love this architecture here!
JASMUND NATIONAL PARK
And here it is, the main reason why so many people visit Rügen every year, Jasmund NP with its famous CHALK CLIFFS! It has become really popular in the last decades and therefore it can get really crowded at the weekends. There are many parking lots where you can leave your car – we left it on the last parking, at Königsstuhl and took a shuttle bus from there. The bus goes every 20min and costs 1,5€, so it´s a great deal if there are not too many people in the line already. Alternatively, you can park elsewhere and then walk to the Visitors centre – which provides information about the area of the national park, which is also a part of UNESCO´s World Heritage!
There are several ways to see the cliffs – you can observe them from a boat (actually this might give you the best views), you can walk around the ridge in the national park and if you choose the right ways you can see them from above, you can visit the NP VISITORS CENTRE and pay 8,5€ (you can stand on the viewing platform directly above the cliffs) or you go down the long wooden stairs construction and walk the beach under the cliffs.
We decided for a WALK ON THE BEACH under the most famous part of the chalk cliffs, the KÖNIGSSTUHL. Although we have heard news in the past that people have gotten injured here, since there is no guaranty that the cliffs won´t break off at one point, we somehow forgot all about it and went down like it was the most normal thing to do. We walked on the beach for quite some time and took lots of photos, you know just enjoyed the sun, the kids were throwing stones into the sea and climbed up the cliffs for as far they could before sliding back down. And when we had enogh we went back up the wooden stairs, shortly peeked into the Visitors centre and took the bus back to the car.
Only a couple of days later we heard on the TV news that a tree has fallen down and damaged a good part of the stairs which lead to that beach – luckily nobody got hurt, but the whole are is now closed for public until they renew the stairs. They have estimated this might even take them as long as 2 years! So, lucky for us we still got to go down there ;)!
And because kids are not only interested in rocks and stones and national parks, we usually find some activities just for them – this time we found this DINOSAUR PARK, which is also the largest free time park on Rügen. There is also a smaller cafe, a shop and playgrounds – one has a special feature, kids can dig out a dinosaur skeleton! Otherwise it´s a nice park with walking path along which here and there a huge dinosaur stands. And they don´t just stand there, some of them also move and make sounds, which scared the hell out of our little ones a few times haha ;).
NATURERBE ZENTRUM RÜGEN
In the middle of a forest close to the coastal road between Binz and Sassnitz there is the so-called BAUMWIPFELPFAD (Canopy walkway), with a 40m high tower which offers amazing views on the islands landscape. The whole way is easily manageable also with a stroller, since there are no stairs! Along the way there are stations where certain interesting facts about the woods are explained and it´s very nicely done so that also children have fun at stopping at those stations.
In the summer time it is opened until 7:30 PM which is great, since many other things are already closed by that time. It will take you around 1,5 hrs to see and read everything, depending on how fast you are and how much time you spend enjoying the views from the top of that tower. The centre itself is also interesting and very new, with a restaurant to it and a great playground.
To make it even more interesting and a bit more challenging for the kids, here and there there are a few optional OBSTACLES on the way they have to climb over!
Prora is a coastal town mostly known for its huge NAZI PLANNED TOURIST COMPLEX with identical buildings which line up along the beach for as far as 4,5km – this was constructed as a holiday resort for the soldiers, but in the end it was never used for this purpose. As it seemed impossible to sell the whole complex, they started selling parts of it and normal people could buy apartments (and they did! Although quite frankly, I don´t get why would someone want to live here, but ok). There is also a hostel there and the area around the buildings seems to look a bit more inviting ;). As some of the buildings are being refurbished and sold, some of them are still ruins and therefore creepy reminders of the past!
Binz is the BIGGEST BEACH RESORT town on Rügen and it might also be the most fancy one. We visited it on one morning to have an ice cream and a walk before going home and we could directly notice that it´s more upscale. Many very nice hotels and buildings, well-known restaurants and lots of posh cars to see here 😉
The beach of course is the place to be on a sunny day and here were even more “Strandkorb”, on the pier the boats also had a stop, just like in Sellin, there were similar ice cream shops and fish sandwiches were as popular as in Sellin.
So, we tried to make the best out of our 4 days, and I guess we did! No clue what we could have done if the weather was bad, but I´m sure we would have found some activity we could do indoors. The men also went CYCLING for 30km one day – it seems to be very popular on Rügen, you can rent the bikes pretty much everywhere. There are still some things we did not see or visit, but we´ve seen enough to get the big picture and I can honestly say, this is my favourite German island i´ve been to so far! It´s much different to the East Frisian islands, but I guess this also has much to do with the fact that it´s simply very big and there is therefore much to see and do. The kids also had fun playing together and we had a bit more time off than we usually have ;). Looking forward to next year´s long weekends and discovering some other islands!
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