My Short Weekend at Rugen Beaches
Germany borders on two seas – Nordsee (The North Sea), which essentially is a part of the Atlantic, and Ostsee that is commonly known as Baltic sea. Therefore, there are plenty of lovely resorts that Germans like to visit quite at any time of the year. Period of time from the end of the Second World War untill German reunification the lands near Baltic sea were the only option for eastern Germans to visit seashore. One of the popular spots in that region that attract beach lovers as well as history geeks untill nowadays is the island of Rugen. To get there from Berlin you can pick bus or train. Ticket prices start from around 16 USD from capital city. The highway passes through the lands of Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern so if you turn off the highway you may find beautiful tiny towns that would help you get into the spirit of Eastern Germany’s provincial life. It happened one day I felt tired from my everyday affairs in Dresden so I decided to visit abandoned beaches of Rugen. I boarded the bus that brought me there after 7 hours of riding.
Rügen is the largest island, which belongs to Germany. It is hard to say which shape does it resemble having a highly indented coastline along with numerous bays, smaller islands and headlands which are good for summer swimming. One part of the Rügen was kept top-secret in the DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik). And, that was Prora beach that is four miles long. It was that very place I intended to visit to see why it was classified so strictly. “Koloss von Prora” or the Colossus of Prora is a huge abandoned recreation resort was built in the late 1930s. Initially, it was constructed for members of the Nazi party, whilst the construction was arranged by “strength through joy” organization. I have to say that it was a large-scale project at that time as it was able to accommodate up to twenty thousands of holidaymakers at a time. It was awarded at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937 since construction was carried out by using innovative technologies. The entire resort consists of eight six-storey blocks stretched along the coastline for three miles. In its very heart it was planned to place a huge concert hall that should have accommodated all visitors. But these efforts were in vain because of budget overrun coupled with war problems. Some time after the war these blocks were used as military barracks, while the whole region became a DDR military base. Nowadays, some blocks are in quite poor condition while the others are being actively reconstructed. Moreover, a youth hostel opened nearby.
I stayed at that very hostel. Prices start from 25 USD for a middle class dorm room. In addition to this hostel there are several private hotels along the coastline, but almost all of them were closed due to off season. As most of them are really close to the sea it might be a nice option for summer family accommodation that also provides spectacular views to the dunes and the sea. Usually, ground floor in such hotels has a restaurant that specializes in seafood cuisine, so it is an opportunity to try out local fish dishes. On the first day I was having lunch in one of the restaurants in Sellin. The main-courses here are totally of fish and chips. An average bill for two persons is 37 USD alcohol included.
The main feature of the local seashore is the absence of shallow water, unlike the Gulf of Finland. This usually allows you to avoid odd people while strolling along the beach. Find a secluded cove, swim and sunbathe in solitude. There is one more thing about beaches. If you ever pass a sign saying FKK (Free Body Culture) be ready to see a lot of people (or just a few) with a bit different appearance. Well, I mean you have just entered one of Germany’s numerous nudist beaches. During the East German regime naturalism became really popular and it is still popular in East Germany. On my previous trip to Rugen I went to the beach early in the morning when no one was there and fell asleep. Naturally, there was no FKK warning sign so to my great surprise, I woke up among naked people of all ages, I was the only one who slept in the very center of the crowd fully clothed. I had nothing else to do, but undress myself and go swimming.
If you want to take a ride around the region near Prora you can easily do it by taking a ride in an old fashioned train called “the Rushing Roland” (Rasender Roland). Spectacular scenery slowly passing by can be seen not only from the windows, but from the open deck behind. Ticket price varies from 2 to 9.5 USD depending on your destination point. The nearest station to the hostel where I have stayed is Binz. Roland’s route passes by Granitz hunting castle (Jagdschloss Granitz). The castle’s history is quite remarkable, in particular because of the observation deck on the top of the tower. During DDR times this observation deck was used to control people and preventing them from crossing Denmark sea border. Despite this, such attempts were not uncommon, while several lucky guys were able to cover the distance of 30 miles to reach Denmark.
But surely such stories are quite a common tourist attraction. However, if you are young and would like to have party here, there is nothing to do here during the off season. In summertime occasional open airs are arranged by nightclubs from Berlin. The area all around Prora resort is a right place for such events during the summertime. As dancing between abandoned blocks and the nearby sea is something worth attending I believe. To my greatest disappointment I visited Rugen during the off season so there wasn’t any party around. On the other hand, weather conditions were nice while the absence of people around inspired me to spend all my weekend outdoor. The two-lane local roads with tall linden trees growing on both sides usually reminiscent of France country roads. The peaceful pictures of sun breaking through the branches of trees, village houses and grazing cows beside totally made my day. Rugen appears to be a perfect place for relaxing holiday or weekend, at the same time it is small enough to be explored within two days.