There is a view of the Baltic Sea from the bedroom window. I wake up early and witness the sky growing slowly lighter and lighter. Only last night after our arrival, we took a walk down to the beach and sat in the fading light of the sunset, listening to the eternal sounds of waves crushing upon the rocks. Not violently or angrily though. The sound was just steady, calm, inviting even – inviting thoughts, feelings and musings to surface from the innermost depths of our beings.
We didn’t talk much. Now in the early morning haze of an in-between phase at the verge of sleep and wake, the misty morning appearing outside the window and Kap Arkona shining through dimly in the distance, this feeling of peace is still with me. And at the same time I am excited for the adventures of the day.
We want to walk from Lohme, the small village in Rügen’s Jasmund National Park, along the coast to the famous chalk cliff called Königsstuhl, King’s Chair. Anyone who likes art history and knows about romanticist painting may have heard of Caspar David Friedrich, a German painter from the nearby mainland town Greifswald (a place I truly love). The chalk cliffs in this area were among his most appreciated motives.
He painted them in beautiful romantic fashion, expressing the depth of human feeling, longing and the almost desperate will to live all facets of life, be they good or bad. At least this is what I see in his paintings – and I will be reminded of this romantic emotional overload walking in the beautiful coastal nature of the island of Rügen today.
We start out by the beach, but soon we are not sure how to follow the path, because there isn’t really one. Because of that, we make our way up through the forest to the upper part of the hiking trail. It is somewhat exhausting to ascend from the beach, but walking on the soft forest ground is less hard on the feet than walking on the pebbled beach was.
The forest is thick and green in its last bit of summer gear. Rays of sunshine fall through the tree crowns onto the mossy cover on the ground, like spot lights trying to point to something exciting. But there is just silence and, far beneath us, the growling of the sea.
Every now and then the forest will thin out toward the steep edge of the cliff, and beautiful views will open up in front of us. Andrew thinks that the Baltic seems like a finite sea, not as endless as others. He says he finds himself aware of the fact that there is land on the other side and half expects to see it somewhere in the distance. I remember that I felt the same way at the Black Sea, and that this was one of the reasons that I liked the Bulgarian coast – because it reminded me a bit of the Baltic.
At the Königsstuhl, we just take a quick glance at the impressive cliff with its peculiar shape.
Then we descend to the beach over 412 steps. Downward this might be okay, even though signs warn us everywhere that it will be a good work-out. Being an asthmatic, I am glad I don’t have to do it back up. We now walk all the way back to Lohme down at the beach.
The sounds of pebbles under our feet. The occasional scream of a seagull, maybe. The wind. The waves. The colours of the pebbles are white, grey, black and occasionally red. The sea is blue and grey. So is the sky. The cliffs are bright white. Occasionally there is a fallen tree, dead. Sometimes a bit of green emerges. I feel thrown back to the very basics of my being. Unobtrusive colours and sounds that make up for lack of excitement in intensity. Everything feels huge. Loud and vast and wide.
There is one tree trunk packed with stones and pebbles that people must have left there as though it were a tombstone on a Jewish cemetery. Andrew picks up a medium sized rock, I choose a smaller pebble, and we place them in the midst of the collection. It looks like a beautiful work of art. I feel great at the thought that we have left our tiny man made sign in this place.
Once again, I think of Caspar David Friedrich. His pictures show humans in the face of the vastness of the world, they teach us humility. I was right in anticipating the feeling of his art to come into my heart. I felt small and humble in the face of nature’s greatness today. For a great intro to the most famous painting of the chalk cliffs, check this youtube video.