IntroductionI have written this account of our holidays mostly for familly and friends, but I thought it would make a nice trip report for MBpost as well, despite it includes a bit of non-biking tourism, and a lot of personal stuff. But I hope it will give a bit more relief than the many photo albums - perhaps not labelled enough - I posted recently, and that you will enjoy the read !
Since we couldn't be in a country whose football team was doing well in the world cup, we chose this year to spend our summer holidays in Germany, and more precisely at the sea side. More seriously, some more concrete considerations led us to choose Rügen: Thanks to motorway through Berlin, the German coast is closer in driving time. Germany also has more bike paths, and finally, as seen on the map, the island of Rügen and its complex shape immediately focused our attention. Contrary to popular beliefs, housing there is hardly more expensive than in Poland, and after some searches on the internet, we throw our vests on a small flat in the seaside resort of Sellin. The Focus parked in front of "Haus Vaterland" on Saturday evening, bikes loaded, and Mikolaj still not asleep, his attention fueled up by the sight of these new places.
SellinWe partly occupied our first day for some cleaning, which was indeed the only one whose weather could have been better, and we contented ourselves with a first glance of the place. Our first discovery, while strolling through Sellin, was the local architecture, which we can divide into two styles. Many former fishermen's houses on the island of Rügen have only one floor, and a thatched roof, adorned by a figure representing crossed heads of horses. The walls are often made of beams with cob or bricks, which gives them a very Scandinavian look. On the other hand, Sellin, like few other resorts in the 19th century that we will visit later, own large luxury homes, most of them from the times of Wilmhelm II. These houses, often converted into luxury hotels are equipped with balconies where the rich facades and windows are decorated with white beams and complex geometric patterns, a style unique to Rügen.
Sellin, like Göhren, Binz, or Sassnitz, have what we call in German a "Seebrücke", a word with no real equivalent English: a long wooden pier away a hundred meters from the beach, to where the ferries, commuting daily, have enough depth. But the dock, with benches, is mainly a place where tourists can walk while overlooking the sea and watching the seagulls. Poland has got a well known copy in Sopot. The "Seebrücke" of Sellin, where we stayed, has two extra characteristics: It has at mid-length a splendid café with refined architecture, popular choice for weddings and all sorts of events. In the end, it also has a diving capsule allowing tourists to dive to a depth of 5m, to admire the marine fauna of the Baltic, which we will do later too.
See Sellin album
MönchgutSellin, in south-east of the island, also caught my attention because it is in the heart of a complex region with a various geography, with hills in the north, many peninsulas to the south, and a lot of bike paths. The hills are called "Granitz forest", and on top stands a hunting inn, the "Jagtschloss". It culminates hardly over 100m but this is a very hilly terrain spread with trails. My intuition proved very accurate, I have thoroughly explored a number of times, biking in the early morning before Mikolaj wakes up.
The peninsulas in the South are called "Mönchgut" and form a culturally and historically specific region, since Mönchgut was a separate island until 1840. It is currently linked to the mainland by a strip low dunes, seconded by a forest of pines settled in artificially created polders.
One of the peninsulas of the Mönchgut, Cape Reddevitz, was our first trip with Mikolaj in the bike-trail. We leave Sellin by a trail on the dam of the polder, the harbour of Baabe Bollwerk on the Bay of Selliner See, then a wilder area, the Teschenberg hills, covered with yellow gorse in flower. The tour finally ends on the peninsula, a narrow strip of pasture stepping right into the sea. The path becomes more and more battered as we go along, and ends with a small cape overlooking small cliffs, sceneric place. We returned by Mariendorf and the pine forest of Baabe to reach back Sellin at the lunchtime of Mikolaj.
We devoted our second hike, the next day, also to the Mönchgut, towards the South end Thiessow. The route follows the same start, then heads to Middelhagen, charming village, before entering a long stripe of dunes and forests, equipped with an excellent bike path. It ends with a small nature reserve behind which lies a magical beach. We linger a bit too much, because while returning, Mikolaj goes for a nap in the trailer before mealtime. After a siesta that he will never do at home, we spend the second part of the day at the beach. We now decide that running after the clock for Mikolaj meals makes no sense, and we now organize day trips, bringing along the picnic.
Few days later, I explored alone a region of Mönchgut by bike alone: the Zickerberg Hills. The location proved to be magical at dawn. Many sheep are grazing there, and the place reminds somehow of Ireland. I wanted to come back there with Dorota and Mikolaj, but the opportunity did not happen.
See Reddevitz album
See Thiessow album
JasmundKeen to make a small break from biking, we decide to walk for the third day, towards the Jasmund National Park, a little more remote area on the north of the island. This round-shaped peninsula has chalk cliffs that recall a bit those of the french Normandy. We decided to boycott the large parking fee and to park instead into a village a little more distant, Nipmerow, whose paths leaving it are both less popular and more varied. After passing through areas of immense beech wooded dunes and a surprising residual lake of stagnant water, we join back the crowd and then pay out 12€ in order to climb on Königstuhl, the most popular point of view of these cliffs. The place also has a restaurant where we ate and where Mikolaj spread terror, sneaking into the kitchen. As usual, the nap is usually never very long to come after such periods of excitement, and we decided to use his nap, resting in the backpack, to walk down to the beach under the cliffs. This tour allowed us to appreciate the complex geology of the island of Rügen under its most beautiful aspects. The chalk cliffs are pure white, but their rocks carry other kinds of minerals, which turn into pebbles as the sea goes ahead. Indeed, recent landslides attest the fragility of this coast, in constant evolution: the paintings by artists of the 19th century also show Königstuhl in a completely different form.
The pebbles are mostly pieces of flint polished by erosion and surf. But there are also pebbles of gneiss, sandstone, conglomerate, and above all granite, beautiful reddish granite flecked with white. This granite is not only present the form of pebbles, but also huge round boulders up to several meters in size, which are also present on the white sandy beaches like in Sellin.
These stones are called "erratic boulders", and, as their name suggests, are the result of the action of glaciers that have transported them hundreds of miles away during the last glaciation, from the Scandinavian Peninsula. They are present everywhere throughout the basin of the Baltic, including in northern Poland. Their presence on the beaches is the most beautful effect.
See Jasmund album
ArkonaDespite legs getting heavy, we plan a major ride the next day, the weather still looking perfect, before an expected slight degradation. The Wittow Peninsula and Cape Arkona ending it are the northernmost part of the island. We saw the Arkona cliffs from far away the day before, and a brief glance at the map revealed the existence of a bike-trail around along its coast. We didn't ask for so much, thus despite the fact we needed to reinstall the bicycle carrier before crossing the whole Rügen by car.
We park at Juliusrush and take the direction of the north. The coast is already made of cliffs and we can regularly appreciate the beauty of the views. Cape Arkona and its cliffs, also made of chalk, are already visible. Nestled in a valley leading to the shore lies the small fishing harbour of Witt, certainly the most charming and photogenic one that we saw during our stay. There we do a long break. Cape Arkona is reached shortly after, at mealtime. There is monster crowd and 3€ are needed to climb to the top of the cape, so we decide to postpone it. After Mikolaj eats, we go beyond the two lighthouses of this location, to continue our journey along the North shore of the island. There are still cliffs, but trails made of small steps give access to few beaches of supreme beauty: blue sky, extra-thin white sand, still featured with those pink granite boulders that give them some kind of appearance like the Seychelles. Despite this, we continue till the forest of Schwarb, where it becomes a "singletrack", inconvenient for the bike trailer. We decide to turn around, and enjoy the beach we saw, before returning by the same route.
A good inspired spirit had the brilliant idea to build a beautiful and huge sand castle with circular-shaped walls, which entertained Mikolaj during this lengthy stopover. As galvanized by the beauty of the beach, he also went to play in the waves, not without soaking all his clothes. At 17pm, we realize that it is time to leave, and reluctantly get back on the bikes. A final stop at Cape Arkona, now deserted and without any cashier, enabled us to visit it, and then we rushed back to the car making good use of a nap (finally!) of Mikolaj.
See Arkona album
Binz and GöhrenThe following days were marked by the passage, fortunately discreet, of a perturbation, with an intermittently cloudy sky. We decided to take a break from our excursions to devote more cushy visits. We had to visit the nearby sea resorts of Göhren and Binz, we began with the first, which is the one I prefer (but unlike Dorota). Göhren is partly perched on a headland with beautiful views. This was the only day when wind was strong enough to try to fly our kite. On the south side of the cape, where we went the next day, is a nice walk to do, overlooking beautiful beaches below.
Binz, that we visited the next day, is significantly larger, with more shops, and many luxury villas facing the seaside. We returned in Binz few days later by the forest bike-path of Granitz, that is Dorota had to try too, with the trail and Mikolaj inside, and the umbrella attached to it ! Later, Göhren was again the goal of a new visit, taking the ... steam train.
Indeed, the island of Rügen has the particularity to own a railway line with narrow gauge, and on which vintage steam trains, in excellent state, keep running till today! This line goes from Putbus to Göhren via Binz and Sellin, and is called "Rasender Roland". We chose to try it on this very last portion of itinerary. What is surprising is that the line is far from being a sort of museum for entertainment. Apart from the appearance and mode of transportation that are original and deliberately kept in this state, the rest featured with modern composters tickets, seats, windows. Many passengers take this train daily and pay no attention to the fact that it is a steam train.
As real steam trains do, it blows a "chu chu" at each station, hourly whistling that we hear as far as our house in Sellin, rhythming the day. It also spits out a terrible smoke, so that one can wonder how people could bear it at the time it was in all cities of Europe and, even more legitimately, why we came to the sea to breathe "pure" air ! But Mikolaj, great train enthusiast since he watches them passing in front of us in Wroclaw, appreciated the experience. To his great regret we had to forbid him to touch the wheels cylinders, as he used to do with the chain of my bike.
See Binz album
See Göhren album
PutbusPutbus, mentioned a little earlier, was the goal of our bike ride the same day. This small town is quite curious, all houses are white and arranged in a circle. It is a spa resort created from scratch by the Kaiser Wilmhelm II during last century. Located near the south coast, we decided to cycle there from Sellin along the seaside. The route first crosses the marshes of the Selliner See, wide marshy bay, and then goes from fishing harbour to fishing harbour, alternating stretches of grassy coastlines, rarely with beach. Rare incident during the outward ride: flat tyre. Not on one of our two bikes, but one of the wheels of the trail of Mikolaj !
See Putbus album
HiddenseeThe good weather confirmed, and despite the fatigue we decided to plan the most ambitious trip the next day: the island of Hiddensee. Rügen, as mentioned, is an archipelago, and some small islands form a constellation around. Most are uninhabited, except the most significant in the West. Hiddensee is a long strip of dunes oriented from north to south. It is wider on the north side, and has a few fishing villages and a region of hilly dunes, over which stands a famous lighthouse. Just like Jasmund, it is one of two national parks of Rügen.
Hiddensee is completely closed to motor vehicles, except maintenance, and everyone ride bicycles, people as well as the masses of tourists who come via the ferry. Located on opposite side of the island, it involves a small drive by car, plus a certain cost for the ferry, and it was our biggest fantasy of these holidays. Ultimate dare, we included in our equipment the baby rucksack, which we attached to the trailer, allowing us to visit by hiking the hilly part of the island, while attaching the bikes somewhere. Unfortunately, inflexible schedules forced us to visit the island and make it all in the space of only six hours.
On the way up, an impressive crowd embarked, all of them with bikes. We were last (and mine the only bike with a baby-trail) to go in, and once we were installed on board, we were surprised to learn that some people had been refused and forced to wait for the next one ! We accosted at Neuendorf, and waited until the crowd dissipated on the bicycle path to engage ourselves in our turn. We soon reached a magnificent area on the western shoreline, made of pristine white beaches, wild dunes where grow heather and blooming yellow gorse. Continuing further, the path took us back again to the east coast, totally different, made of salt marshes with cows and horses grazing in.
We reached the port of Vitte, where a path on the sea returned west again. The pristine beaches gave place to a crowd of umbrellas and bathers. Arrived in Kloster, we could distinguish the hills north of the island. We attach the bikes in front of a restaurant where we and Mikolaj ate some haste. The bikes remained in their location, but I untied the rucksack. Then we started on a beautiful trail in a hilly dunes, called Bakenberg, dotted with yellow gorse in flower. On the coastal part ends with pine forest with Mediterranean feelings. The Dornbusch Lighthouse, red and white, stands as from a postcard. Despite the late hour, we extended the exploration to the cliffs. The overhang is impressive, it is perhaps the best viewpoint we've been on. The sea, perhaps because we are in the West, has a kind of "oceanic" smell, and the waves crashing below look like dishwashing liquid.
We found the bikes again and, during a nap of Mikolaj, came back in one go back to the south of the island, taking this time the path skirting into the east via Vitte and the marshes. Neundorf is reached, 20 minutes before the arrival of the ferry, and we spent our last moments on Hiddensee enjoying the beach we saw during the morning ride. Curious observation, the water is much warmer here than on the eastern seaside, for example in Sellin. Perhaps an explanation with the Gulf Stream, or rather what remains of it in the Baltic. The ferry is far less crowded than the morning journey, and this time we load and unload the bikes peacefully, before returning to Sellin.
See Hiddensee album
StralsundWe spend our last day of vacation, already on the way back, to the harbour of Stralsund, facing Rügen on the German mainland. The city reminds a bit of Amsterdam, as well as few Polish cities, such as the Port of Gdansk, but also Torun for its fortifications, or ... Wroclaw, beeing severely damaged by the Russians by the end of the war, and have remained in poor state during 40 years of communism. Putbus gave us a bit the same impression, like if it just reached the end of huge renovations and has just returned to its standard.
Stralsund has two central squares (Rynek might say the Poles), and many colorful streets. On the oldest square, the church St. Nikolai unavoidably attracts our attention. We ate at the neighbouring Café Nikolaj not without taking pictures. We finished the tour by the Ocean's Museum, where Mikolaj and Dorota shared the same sense of wonder at sharks, giant octopuses and other giant skate fishes.
Then came the time to leave, a very last one, and with regret we got back to the Focus for a return to the apartment ... this time to Wroclaw ... our three heads full of souvenirs.
See Stralsund album