We booked a hotel in Binz, which is one of the main seaside towns on the island. Binz features a really nice beachfront promenade with lots of great shops and restaurants. The area reminded us a lot of Cape Cod, with slightly warmer water, whiter beaches and newer buildings. While people do live on Rügen, in the summer time it’s mainly filled with vacationers – probably about 80% from Germany and most of the rest from Sweden, which is a short ferry ride away.
After a short time in Rügen, we also proclaimed it the friendliest place on earth. Everyone we saw there was happy and cheerful, and without fail, everyone we saw said hello to us!
White Cliffs of Rügen
The morning after we arrived, we headed up to Jasmund National Park, home to Rügen's famous white chalk cliffs, leading many people to call it the Dover of Germany. There are some nice hiking trails that take you along the top of the cliffs and down to the water.
Next, we stopped off at Prora. This place was very interesting and a little spooky. Shortly after the Nazi’s came to power, they introduced a program called ‘Strength Through Joy’. It was sort of a ‘work hard, play hard’ concept, where they believed that happy people would be productive workers. As part of this program, they decided to build a huge resort on Rügen Island called Prora, which could accommodate over 20,000 vacationers simultaneously. Between 1936-1939, seven massive (and ugly) concrete buildings were built along the coast. Each building was 1.5km long and six floors tall. Each room was to have a sea view, and all rooms were to be identical. The halls and communal bathrooms occupied the side of the building facing away from the sea. The beginning of WWII meant that these monstrosities were never used as a holiday resort, but instead, as military housing. After WWII, Rügen became a part of East Germany, and the Soviet and East German armies both maintained a presence here. Today, the buildings are abandoned, and two of the seven have been demolished. There are plans to redevelop the area, and a large hostel recently opened in a portion of the northernmost building. The good news is that if you pass through the ruins of the Prora buildings, you find yourself on a beautiful, expansive beach, which has become very popular with vacationers.
We spent the rest of the day back in Binz, walking around the town and later, enjoying a local festival. We heard a great local band playing – sort of a Rockabilly type group covering techno songs, which was much better than it sounds.