We went to the northeast of Germany specifically to see the cranes that fly in from Poland on their way South. Anything we have read indicates that about 60,000 cranes land in the marshes in this area in October. We paid 36 euros to take a crowded tour boat (so crowded we had to sit outside in the wind and rain!) and after nearly two hours, saw three flocks of about 12 cranes each fly so far off in the distance we could hardly see them with the good binoculars! So, tired, cold, wet and disappointed we decided to cut our losses, give up on the cranes, and left Zingst and drove to Rugen Island on the far east of Germany, right next to Poland. We found a campground way out in the countryside, miles from anywhere, that we shared with only two other campers. We woke the next morning to the most god awful screeching and got up to see hundreds of cranes flying right over our camper and landing in the field behind us. Talk about being in the right place at the right time (that generally does not happen for us despite any planning ). It was the most amazing sight, the sky nearly black with hundreds of cranes flying toward us – much like watching flocks of Canadian geese heading out in their V formation in the Fall…. And, my, are they noisy. It made us realize that we pay a lot to take tours that promise to give us what we are looking for – but they always seems a bit of a manufactured experience, shared with dozens of others. Being out, alone, witnessing nature – whether it be cranes or orcas – cannot be duplicated on a crowded tour bus/boat. PS. We have a million photos of cranes! As I said in a previous posting: Just how many photos of cranes are too many photos of cranes?
Zingst is a beautiful little town on the northeast coast of Germany, on the Baltic Sea. The beach, and surrounding community, is dotted with lovely sculptures along with signage and brochures and with a map of their locations so you can run around the community searching for them. There was an interesting turquoise blue structure at the end of the pier that looked like a small mosque. As we walked along the beach, it seemed to disappear. Optical illusion? No, it was a large diving bell that took people underwater to see the fish.
We rode our bikes out into the marshes for several hours, marvelling at the ease of biking in a tail wind. It was quiet, serene, filled with birds and just one of those experiences that makes you glad to be alive. BUT, we had to turn around to get back to the campsite, into the headwind, that was now blowing at such a force we had to get off our bikes and push. Then, despite the weather forecast, it began to pour…. sideways in the wind. We were an hour from the campground with no place to take refuge so we had no option but to push our bikes in the wind and the rain. We got back, soaked to the skin, and thinking that the day showed us the best of times and the worst of times!
While camping on Rugen Island, we drove up to Kap Arkona, the most northeasterly point in Germany where there are two famous red brick lighthouses: one built in the late 1800s and one built in 1906. From the lighthouses you can walk through the forest and down many rickety wooden steps to the beach. This was not the calm, white sand beach we found in other places along the Baltic, but a windy, rocky place reminiscent of many beaches on our BC coast. The limestone cliffs soared up over our heads and contributed to the unique black and white rocks all along the beach.
Prora was a very interesting stop along the way: it is another Baltic seaside town that is just coming into itself with the building of several large hotel/guest houses along the beach. However, the beach still bears testament to Nazi plans to create the world’s largest resort: six hideous unfinished 6-storey buildings, each 500m long. According to Lonely Planet, “They were intended as an escape for 20,000 workers but the outbreak of WWII stopped its completion and no one has known what to do with it since”.