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In Störtebeker’s Footsteps

Untamed nature, fascinating vistas: Germany’s smallest national park on the island of Rügen.
Untamed nature, fascinating vistas: Germany’s smallest national park on the island of Rügen. | Photo (detail): © Adobe

Untamed nature, fascinating vistas: Germany’s smallest national park on the Baltic Sea island of Rügen offers some great views – not only for Instagram. And with a bit of luck, you might even discover some pirate treasure here.

By Jan Zipperer

The sight that welcomes visitors to Rügen is pretty unique: anyone approaching the island from the north is faced with a shining white wall of chalk cliffs. Millions of years old, the cliffs stretch 15 kilometres along the coast, giving the impression of a natural protective wall. While the caves and gullies of the chalk cliffs are said to have been used in the fourteenth century as a bolthole by a fearsome pirate named Klaus Störtebeker, who today is shrouded in legend, it is primarily tourists who are nowadays attracted to the island with its unique natural landscapes.

Rügen’s cliffs are magical – and a symbol of transience, as chunks of rock frequently crumble off the cliff walls. In 2005, for example, the island lost the Wissower Klinken, which until that point had been its best-known chalk rock formation. Erosion, internal tensions, damp and frost caused around 50,000 cubic metres of chalk rock to slide into the sea overnight – and Rügen was left bereft of one of its most beautiful attractions.

Known as the Königsstuhl, the highest rock formation on this section of the coast has gained a new attraction as a result, however: a “Skywalk”, a platform suspended directly above the rock, gives visitors breathtaking – and above all now completely safe – views out over the Baltic Sea. The previous visitor platform had been attached directly to the rock.

A walk along the high cliff trail is possibly even more beautiful than standing on the “Skywalk”: it leads you through the heart of a beech forest that is listed as UNESCO natural heritage. The trail offers frequent and varied vistas of the chalk cliffs and Baltic Sea coast. What is more, walkers also come right past the so-called pirate gully, where Störtebeker the pirate is said to have hidden several treasures – which have apparently never been found to this day.


What does Görliwood mean, why can you find a piece of the Caribbean in Bavaria and where can you dance in front of bucket wheel diggers? In our series we take you on a trip each month to somewhere in Germany that you may not yet know but should definitely be introduced to. We reveal places that are not to be found on the usual tourist trails. Are you ready for a bit of a detour?