Sunday, October 7, 2018

24 Hours in Binz/Rügen

Regardless how much time I spent hiking in the mountains or walking through thick green forests, my summers are not complete without a couple of trips to the sea. Unable to swim and not feeling guilty for it, I love spending time at the beach, looking at the sea while soaking in the summer sun. Given the moderate summers in Germany - I insist that 35 Celsius temperatures ARE moderate, as my real summers are burning hot for weeks with 40+ - I don't have to worry too much about being early at the beach for a couple of hours before the heat is hitting. Instead, I can spend hours reading and watching the sea and people. 
This summer was unusually long and sunny, with higher temperatures than usual, an invitation to explore more of the German islands - that I become aware not too many people outside the country are aware they exist. From a long wish list of places I wanted to go, the lucky winner of the season was Binz, on the island of Rügen, where we've spent one full day in August. 

Close from Stralsund and Rostock, both places with their own access to the sea, Rügen can be reached the best by car, especially as you can cross the spectacular suspended highway. From Berlin, by train, you have direct connection via the ICE, that lasts around 5 hours.


As we arrived pretty early in the morning, we join the big groups of people taking over the streets. It is the full holiday season and we hardly meet any foreigners. Therefore, we can have a full taste of local life, not adjusted to the needs of external tourists. August is 'Hauptsaison', the busiest time of the year, with many families but also couples spending their holidays here. Usedom is obviously more on demand for families as it has more quiet areas and children attractions, but at the first sight, Binz looked also tempting - although a bit pricey for this period of time. The price of a room during the 'saison' - from June until late September - starts from 75 EUR., with 45 EURO the room for the rest of the year.


We stroll alongside the beach and we can only wonder how long and rich in opportunities it is. There are 70 access gateways to the beach, each with a special profile: there is a family area, and an area where dogs are allowed, where people can enjoy the sun as they come to the world or many other options. 


Considered as Germany's first bathing resort, Binz is since 1885 a favorite destination on the island of Rügen - which is assigned descriptions as 'Nizza of the East' or the new Ibiza. Both appellations need some throughout checking, but as for now I prefer just to feel and observe my surroundings. 
The palatial Kurhaus building inaugurated in 1908 invites to a special offer of cake and coffee for less than 10 EUR - which for the prices of this establishment is a good offer indeed, to be tasted in the sound of piano played outdoors. This offer is available for 3.90 EUR in many small and less sparkling places all over Binz.


The busiest place to be is on Hauptstraße, with its many stores, outdoor restaurants and fish'n chips establishments (unfortunatelly I had a weak hand with my choice and I was deeply unhappy with my order at Happy Happen). In the weekend, you can hardly find some breathable space, with dogs of all sizes, buggies and big people all over the place. At least, the Whisky Bar does not look too crowded for now...


Rügen is considered an outstanding example of typical 'Baden architecture', with its 3-4 storey white buildings with fine iron wroughts balconies sustained by thin columns. Taking our eyes from the masses of people, we look up and put our cameras on work caughing different variations of the style.


Some of them do have a palatial majesty, and although most villas for rent are hosted in such buildings, there are also normal people living there. 


From a big row of souvenirs shops, on a side street we find a glass workshop, where you can not only admire different glass-made works, but you can also try the glass blowing techniques yourself. 


A couple of meters away, there is a full area dedicated to homemade fashion and interior items. The Kunstmeile on Margaretenstraße is colourful and bubbling with ideas put into practice mostly by local artists and designers.


A little bit before noon, we are finally ready for our time of rest and relaxation on the white sandy beaches. Near the pier, we easily find a spot where we can admire the Ostsee in its quiet beauty. There are no waves and the waters are perfectly clean and although it is plenty of people, including with children, everything is soothing calm and relaxing.
Renting a strand chair for the day costs 12 EUR. After 13 o'clock you can rent one for 9 EUR.


From afar, the green bushes covering the coast offer a special display of natural wild beauty. Particularly this part of the Rügen island was the inspiration for Caspar David Friedrich, the painter of early Romantic, born in Greifswald.


Swimming is not too dangerous, and although you cannot surf, at least you can keep being active while on the road.


Our way of being active is through walking. With so many beautiful details of the architecture that I want to better understand, I made a lot of steps this day, randomly exploring side streets around Haupstraße. It is not that difficult, and you do not need some special maps and directions with minimal chances of getting lost.


Sometimes you can encounter interesting buildings, that look very forward to the future oriented, most probably a location for cultural events or just from where you can watch the sea during the stormy days.


When you can hike with a view over the sea, you can consider yourself a lucky traveller. On Rügen you can explore the natural environment with a long walk through the Granitz National Park. Otherwise, Granitz with its castle can be reached by mini-bus and different offers of 1-2 hours tours are available from Rügen. 


With a limited amount of time on our sleeves, we rather focus on the architectural sightseeing. The high-end villas around Ulrich Müther Platz are displaying different levels of comfort. Most of them are open to rent and a couple of blocks away we can even spot some nice gardens with outdoor pools. Maybe this is the main reason of the comparison between Rügen and Ibiza?


Somehow, we are aware that one full day of intensive exploration is not enough to catch the spirit of the place. Our impressions are superficial but it is just the beginning of a process of understanding Rügen and its complex histories. 


As for now, we are enjoying the last rays of the sunshine, before boarding our train back to Berlin. Besides checking another island on my list of German places to see, I set up a bigger list of the serious reasons why I have to return here in the first place. Hopefully, it is just a first episode of just another long travel story.

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