Rügen. A German island with Slavic history

Rügen is Germany’s largest island. It lies in the neighbouring state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, which makes it an easy destination for tourists from Poland. The easiest way to get to the island is by car or by train across the longest bridge in Germany. Rügen is not overcrowded even in high season and offers visitors wonderful opportunities for relaxation on the sandy Baltic beaches, idyllic countryside, an excellent network of cycle paths and natural wonders. What can you see on Rügen?

History of Rügen

Lovers of medieval history may have heard of Raja or Rujan, the Slavic name for Rügen, which over a thousand years ago was inhabited by tribe of the Ranswhich after the Great Migration of Peoples.After the Great Migration, an important trading and religious center was established on the north-eastern tip of the island. The temple of Sviatovid at Cape Arkona and the castle built around it were among the most important pilgrimage sites of the 11th and 12th centuries.

Unfortunately, almost no traces of its former glory remain. In 1168 Arkona Arkona was burnt to the ground by the Danes and this date is considered the end of paganism on the island. The progressive erosion of the cliff on which the capital of the Ranas stood also did its part. Only a grassy part of the ramparts remains today. The cape is now a protected natural area excluded from car traffic and is a great place for walks.

The landscape is varied by lighthousesand on a clear day you can see the coast of Denmark. There is also a post-war bunker that serves as a museum. Worth a visit is the Romanesque church in Alterkirchen – The oldest building on the island. It was built just after the fall of Arkona and it is here, according to the legend, that relics connected with the cult of Swiatowid were brought to facilitate Christianization of the local population.

A completely different and more tangible testimony to the complex history of the region is the much more modern tourist complex in Prora. It is one of the clearest surviving examples of Nazi architecture..

Eight identical buildings were erected in the years 1936-1939 by the efforts of the organization Kraft durch Freude – Strength through Joy was intended to serve as a mass recreation center for as many as 20,000 tourists. The gigantic project was never completed by the outbreak of World War II, but it still amazes with its size and grandeur. The grey facade stretches along the beach for 4.5 km!

In communist times, the Red Red Army i National People’s Army of the GDRIn communist times, the Red Army and the East German National People’s Army were stationed here, and today most of the complex stands empty. The regional government continues its efforts to revitalize the complex. In recent years, an original youth hostel with 400 beds has been built here as well as museums and several cultural institutions.

Nature of Rügen

Naturerbe Zentrum Rügen

Dal tourists, however, the greatest asset of the island is the pristine nature. After a visit to the dilapidated tourist complex in Prora, we can go to one of the best places to explore it. We are talking about a few kilometers away Nature Centre Rügen (Naturerbe Zentrum Rügen).

There are numerous information boards and interactive installations about the flora and fauna of the coastal forest and wetlands, but undoubtedly the greatest attraction is the 1,250 m long wooden path in the treetops, which ranges in height from 4 to 17 m above the ground.

The walkway is suitable for the disabled or people in baby carriages, and its slope does not exceed 6%. The lookout tower offers beautiful views of the surrounding forest, beaches and the Baltic Sea.

Jasmund National Park

One place you cannot leave Rügen without visiting is Germany’s smallest national park. Jasmund. The park was created to protect a unique for the Baltic piece of cliff, chalky coastline. White cliffs look most beautiful in the rays of the setting sun.

We can see them in three ways. If you decide to take the route from the top, a pleasant walk through a primeval beech forest awaits you, culminating in the Königsstuhl viewpointKing’s Throne. It is said that from here, the Swedish King Charles XII watched the naval battle of his fleet against the Danes. Indeed, the views from over 100 meters high cliff are breathtaking.

A completely different experience awaits us when we decide to take the road from the beach. An additional attraction of walking along the monumental cliff is the possibility of collecting souvenir pebbles. Torn off pieces of rock, washed by sea water take on subtle shapes. It is said that finding one with a hole in it has more power than a four-leaf clover.

Another way to see the largest UNESCO-listed natural wonder of northern Germany is by boat from the nearby coastal town of Sassnitz. This form of sightseeing is especially appreciated by children.

Leisure activities

Rügen is also about beaches and picturesque fishing villages turned into seaside resorts. Particularly worth mentioning are Sassnitz and the nearby Bintz i Sellin. They tempt with their peaceful atmosphere and long, sandy and uncrowded beaches, but not only.

In the largest Sassnitz you will find a cozy Old Town with plenty of pubs, and in the local marina moored, the original, British, 90-meter submarine HMS Otus, which is available for tours. Squeezing through the narrow corridors of the ship to the accompaniment of alarms and the sound of footsteps and sailors shouting from loudspeakers is an unforgettable experience.

Bintz stands out with its snow-white guesthouse architecture. The buildings are more coherent than in Sassnitz and look great on postcard pictures. Also the beach here is longer and more relaxing. In summer, the town hosts a sand sculpture festival. The narrow-gauge railroad to the neighbouring towns and the nearby classicistic mansion in Potbus which is pulled by a steam locomotive called “Roland in motion”.

The biggest attraction of the third town is a built-up pier. White buildings on the pier, next to the golden beach are the perfect backdrop for honeymooners taking pictures here. There is also Sellin Seepark – a complex of indoor and outdoor swimming pools with slides, which is a good place to relax for the whole family.

Active on Rügen

As is usual on the island, Rügen offers a full range of water activities. There are well known places for kite surfers and amateurs of boards with sails, as well as rental kayaks and SUP boards. In the sailing school we can take the first steps behind the helm of a sea yacht. We already know that there are great places for hiking, but the definite king of activity on the island is the bicycle.

Rügen Rügen is almost flat and therefore ideal for day trips on two wheels. Hundreds of kilometers of well-marked roads and paths lead along the coast, through forests and through the countryside in the center of the island.

The entire public transport network on Rügen is equipped to carry bikes, which gives you endless possibilities for planning your route. Local bike rental companies also provide luggage transport services and organise guided tours around the island. Car traffic, even in high season, is not heavy. Sounds like a paradise for cyclists? It really is.

Flavours of Rügen

We got to know a bit about the history of the island, feasted our eyes on its natural wonders, lazed on the beach and spent time actively on two wheels. In our tourist cycle we never forget the culinary part of the journey. The first place in Rügen’s kitchen is reserved for herring and other Baltic fish. turbot, cod or eels.

A popular snack available on almost every corner is fish sandwichwith our own sauces and local vegetables. Herring is served in various ways, filleted, fried, also as a traditional salad with potatoes or as an ingredient of regional fish soup. A seasonal delicacy, in spring, is fried belon with roast potatoes and rhubarb compote.

Also in the spring, herring festivals are held, which in local fishing villages are among the most important events of the year. Eating fish is accompanied by live music and folklore performances. The island is also famous for the tradition of smoking fish. The locals have mastered this art to perfection and the fish from the tempting smoky stands are juicy, creamy in texture and very aromatic.

We also encourage you to visit the local farmers in the center of the island. They serve their guests breakfast, fresh fruits and vegetables and dairy products: yogurt, butter, cream and cheese. For decades, the most appreciated is the Rügener Badejunge known as the “white Camambert of the green island”.

What to take back from the island as a souvenir if you can’t find a pebble with a hole in it? A good souvenir would be preserves made from the “lemon of the north”which is sea buckthorn. The orange berries of the plant are used to make juices, liqueurs and jams. We’re sure you’ll soon miss the idyllic atmosphere and the white cliffs of Rügen when you enjoy a cup of tea with this sweet and sour speciality.

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