Kap Arkona. An intriguing name for an intriguing place.
It is a rather grey and rainy day as we get in our rental car and drive to Putgarten, where we have to pay the whopping 4€ for parking and then start walking. We walk through the small village of Putgarten with its clean tidy houses and cobble stone streets.
Andrew stops for recording songs every now and again. He will later use them for sampled pieces of electronic music. It makes me more aware of the soundscape that surrounds us. The little shuttle’s motoric roar on the pavement. The clip clop of horse shoes as a carriage passes us by. Wind, always wind swishing across the wide open landscape and the already barren fields. The light houses that we have seen light up from our bedroom window in Lohme at night and the sighting tower are visible early on over the width of the countryside.
We turn left at the fork in the end of the path toward the light houses first. The smaller one is made from red brick (my heart beats faster…) and designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, an architect responsible for most of the Prussian neo-classical architecture in Berlin’s city centre. It is almost 200 years old. Its taller brother is 100 years old and the one that we have seen light up. They look like Laurel and Hardy.
The lighthouses are quite iconic, but funnily enough, what gets to me more is the view of the tiny building across from them, just by the entrance to one of the two military bunkers. It is simpler and less considerable, yet the white and red colours against the grey sky glow and glisten in my eyes.
The two bunkers were mainly used by the military of the socialist German Democratic Republic, although one was built for the Nazi Wehrmacht. They house exhibitions today. Military history is not unusual up here, I have been to bunkers on the neighbouring island of Usedom, too. Andrew seems fascinated. I have never given it too much thought. Maybe because it makes me slightly uncomfortable.
We keep following the path that leads us to a small tree-lined alley. To the side there is a small stamped out trail in the grass. I suggest we go down there, through the bushes wet with raindrops. Just a few steps into the thicket and we get to the top of the massive cliff, to the overgrown ledge barely secured by a wooden bannister. The views of the Baltic from here may be the most spectacular we have had all weekend. The sun is breaking carefully through the thick grey clouds, the sea is howling under us, golden marram grass and even the bright orange fruits of the sea buckthorn are contrasting the reserved dark colours of sea and sky.
Andrew is recording sounds again, but all of a sudden he points behind me and tells me quietly to look – there is a deer, staring curiously at us, quite close and not really as shy as it should be. I carefully try to take out my camera and photograph it, but as it goes, the second I press the button, it decides to hide away into the thicket and I only catch its rear. As much as it has felt like we were the only two people in the world up here, I am enjoying the fact that we had a quick moment of company of an inhabitant of this magical and slightly mysterious place.
In one of the small souvenir shops, I go to look at the jewellery. The rings are tied to adder stones, or as they are called in German: Hühnergötter, chicken gods, – small rocks that have natural holes in them. They are found on Rügen often, and according to ancient Slavic pagan beliefs, they protect from the Kikimora, a poltergeist from Slavic mythology who killed or harmed poultry and eggs. Today most people use them for decor, but they still remind of the Slavic history of the region – because the earliest settlements in what today is Northeastern Germany were not Germanic, but Slavic. I pick a ring with an amber stone. The saleswoman unties it from its adder stone and I start wearing it right away. It has intricate silver ornaments holding the tear-shaped amber. A mystical, a nostalgic piece of jewellery. It will give me bittersweet memories of this weekend and of this place that I love so much whenever I wear it.