Rügen – Germany’s biggest island. The pearl of the Baltic sea. “Island” and “sea” sound wonderful, but is the Baltic, with its relatively cold water, wonderful enough to spend your summer vacation there? The short answer, definitely yes; the long one: keep on reading, it will be worth it. I promise.
To be fully honest, I have been avoiding this moment for quite a while. When I was a student, I went to Heligoland – tiny island(s) on the North sea – for a field trip. I managed to put my feet into the water, and then spent 15 minutes cursing my foolishness. I know that the main reason for this was the fact that it was February or early March; but somehow, this experience made me think that German islands are beautiful lands floating on a cold, hazardous, and unwelcoming sea.
My opinion slightly changed when I traveled to Rostock – a city on the Baltic sea – and visited my sister. However, after a while, I started to think that I romanticized my experienced there because – if you have followed my blog – I met Felix exactly on that trip.
Nevertheless, since this year the pandemic left me with the choice of no sea or the Baltic sea, and since cold sea is better than no sea, I was soon packing my suitcase and was on my way to Rügen. This was probably, the best decision I have made this year.
I decided that even if I cannot spend all of my time on the beach and in the sea, I would still give the island a chance. I left all of my prejudices away and embraced the vacation with an open mind. Imagine my surprise when I actually did manage to get quite some beach and water time. To be fully honest, I mostly ran in and out of the water screaming because it was just a bit too cold, but I did swim. On some days, even three or four times. And everything in between was a great complication of pleasant experiences.
Rügen: what can you expect?
Rügen is not an island like Hvar, Croatia. It is not filled with night life or crowded parties like in Corfu, Greece. It was definitely different than the summer vacation I am used to, but it was greatly refreshing. Here are my top five reasons why.
- REST: Calm place, not too crowded, not much noise. Just the sea, the nature, Felix, and I. Proper restart. Refreshment. Relaxation.
- SPORT + EXPLORING: Biking and exploring the island simultaneously in the fresh air was fun and invigorating.
- GOOD FOOD: We rented a place with a kitchen, but how can you resist all that great, fresh fish?
- TAKING TIME FOR YOURSELF: Maybe you remember how I talked a bit about “alone time” some while ago. Lately, my life got so busy, that I had not much time for that. But, being on Rügen gave me the opportunity to have this once again. I could spend my time reading or writing by the water and no one would be there to remind me that there is an upcoming meeting or pending lab work.
- GREAT FOR THE RELATIONSHIP: Regardless if you have kids or not, if you are married or not, every couple needs time to get away from their everyday problems. To spend some quality time together; talk more deeply and honestly; reconsider their issues with calm mind and soul.
- STUNNING SUNSETS AND STARRY NIGHTS: Due to the low (light) pollution, these two were just… breath-taking. Each one of us deserves to experience at least one burning sunset and one fully visible Milky Way.
Rügen: my top five sites
We were accommodated in a tiny village called Wiek. It was a nice area for suntanning and for swimming, but eventually a tiny place that might get boring after ten days. Since we had really great and sunny weather, we were able to explore the island a bit and have fun. We do not own a car, so we either biked or used the public transport. Here are my top choices of what you can do if you ever decide to visit Rügen.
1. National Park Jasmund: UNESCO World Heritage site since 2011
One word: stunning. The national park Jasmund is one out of sixteen national parks in Germany. I have not visited all of them, but in addition to being the smallest one of them, I could imagine it to be the friendliest one. Friendly how? Kids friendly, sporty people friendly, not-sporty people friendly, forest-lovers friendly, seaside-lovers friendly… anyone can enjoy Jasmund.
With its dense, preserved, and untouched by men beech forest on the one, and the Baltic see and chalk cliffs on the other side, this national park offers a unique experience. Its trademark is the Königsstuhl (king’s chair) – Germany’s largest chalk cliff.
We completed a 14-15km hike from Lohme to Sassnitz simply by following the coast line. Around four to five kilometers from Lohme, you can visit the Königsstuhl National Park Centre; or, you can arrive here by bus and start hiking from here. We decided not to enter the center since we had further plans for the day; nevertheless, it seems like a fun choice, especially for families.
You know those big car garages where you keep on spiraling with your car until you reach the top? Well, imagine that, but made out of wood, fully unprotected by windows, 40 meters high and constantly spiraling around a magnificent beech tree. The roof – a walking platform with an unprecedented panoramic view. The town or Prora, the Baltic see and a lake, and an endless forest – all within your sight only after a total walk of 1250 meters. This one took my breath away. It was a mixed feeling of being overwhelmed by the beautiful sight and battling my anxiety due to my fear of heights, but totally worth it. If you ever have the chance to visit this tower – do it. If you are interested into some videos of the view – head onto my instagram.
3. Exploring the sandy beaches, Kap Arkona, and the Island Hiddensee
Hiddensee is not quite part of Rügen; instead, it is an independent island west from Rügen. We went from Wiek to the island by a boat and we had only three hours available there. The island’s trademarks – a monastery and a lighthouse – were 4km away from the harbor, so we decided not to walk the distance since we feared that we will be in a great hurry. Instead, we went to the beach.
Hiddensee, however, is much more than just a sandy beach. In addition to its monastery and lighthouse, the island is dedicated to nature and environment preservation. Cars are strictly prohibited. There are some electric buses and horse carriages, but people mostly move around on bikes. Moreover, in order to maintain its authentic look, the island has not expended its tourist capacity since the nineties. Especially charming is one cinema in a tent, which combined with the horse carriages, works on you like a time machine.
Some other beaches on Rügen (for example in the north of the island) are so wonderful with their soft sand and clear sea waters, that anyone should try to spend some time on them if they ever happen to be in Rügen. Felix and I made a bike trip to one beach five kilometers to the north from Wiek and then continued biking to Kap/Cape Arkona. It is a 45-meter high cape which constantly erodes and changes Rügen’s landscape and also one of Rügen’s trademarks with around 800 000 visitors annually.
Near it, there is a well-preserved light house, while the municipality of Putgarten can offer a you a nice afternoon when you can wander around its small streets filled with houses with creative architecture.
I have a mixed feelings about this one, but here we go. On the one hand, it is a 4.5 km long reminder of the dark German history and the Nazis’ obsession with magnonimous buildings. However, on the other hand, it is architecturally unique and worth a visit. The Colossus of Prora consisted of eight buildings that stretched along the beach. Built between 1936 and 1939, they were initially planned as a beach holiday resort, but they ended up being mostly used for military puroposes. It might come the closest to its initial idea actually nowadays, when many of the buildings are so modernly renovated that if you did not know anything of their history, you would not even think of the World War II.
Do you want to have some fun? Feel like you have biked and hiked enough? Then head off to “Splash”. Sure, it is not a huge water amusement park. In fact, it has only one big indoor and one outdoor pool. However, the saunas and the relaxation niches are quite nice. We enjoyed and had fun being here, even though we had to bike a lot to reach this place.
If you search for a holiday spot where you can party, go shopping, or eat out in fancy and exotic restaurants – than Rügen is not for you. This, however, does not mean that there are no restaurants on Rügen. There are quite some and those serving local and fresh sea food are amazing. Regarding hospitality, I sometimes got the impression that some of the people were a bit rude, but others were incredibly nice. Thus, I cannot generalize on this point. You know, grumpy people are grumpy no matter where they live.
If you seek relaxed holiday, family/partner time, fresh air, amazing nature and possibility to do some sports (especially cycling) – then Rügen is THE place to be. You can reach it by train or car. If you want to go directly to Hiddensee, then there is a ferry from Stralsund – the last town which separates Rügen from the mainland.
Finally, have you been to Rügen or anywhere else in Germany for your summer vacation? How was it? Do you have any questions regarding Rügen? Then, hit the comments. If not, consider sharing this post with someone who might enjoy a holiday of this type.