überlin

Coconat – a workation retreat

by James Glazebrook

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Photo by: Nadja Bülow

We thought we were pretty hot shit when we opened our coworking space, but now it seems that everyone with a spare corner of desk is renting it out to someone else! It seems like the real next big thing is “workations”, which allow you to get away for a while and work in beautiful, natural and usually remote surroundings.

That’s why we were stoked to hear that some friends are planning to open Coconat in the Brandenburg countryside, just an hour outside of Berlin. They’ve found a unique rural property in an old brick-making village, and they’re working to convert it into a work/live space with indoor and outdoor meeting areas, wireless internet, a kitchen serving shared meals, a fire pit and a sauna. We know where we’ll be spending our summers!

The founders of Coconat are now running a crowdfunding campaign to help bring the 1870s villa, which was once a DDR hotel and holiday camp with a forested park, into the digital age. The opening and proof-of-concept phase begins this summer season, in July. If you have some money to spare, are good with your hands, or are just curious to learn more about this inspiring project, check out Coconat on VisionBakery. Help make this dream workplace a reality!

view from front

Photo by: Nadja Bülow

Around Rügen: Exploring the Island

by James Glazebrook

James and Olive in Jasmund National Park

It feels like a lifetime ago that we got back from our trip to Rügen. The highlight of our island experience may have been the Nazi ruins of Prora, but every day was like a little adventure. Olive may have been happy rolling around in the grass around our holiday home, but somehow we managed to tear ourselves away and explore Rügen to the fullest.

Jagdschloss Granitz
If there’s one thing we learned on Rügen, it’s that Germans really believe that getting there is half the fun. All of the island’s landmarks are situated a good few kilometres from the nearest car park, just so visitors can fit in a decent hike while they’re sightseeing. Jagdschloss Granitz, a pretty pink confection of a hunting castle, is fine – but the walk up, through unspoiled fields and forests, is sublime.

Cat resting in the sun Couple sitting waiting for the train Jagdschloss sign Jagdschloss forest Jagdschloss

Sassnitz
We came to the port town of Sassnitz for the Fischbrötchen – the same reason we didn’t stay long! As North Sea natives, we thought we liked fish – until we sunk our teeth into Rügen’s local delicacy. Turns out we need our seafood to have at least been kissed by a grill before it enters our mouths, but don’t let that put you off.  Get yourself to the wind-battered harbour of Sassnitz for taste of something super-fresh.

Sassnitz pier Fischbrötchen Sassnitz harbour

Sellin
The next stop on our tour of Rügen’s seaside towns took us to Sellin, worth checking out for the longest pier on the island and the old-fashioned Strandkörbe (“beach baskets”), available to rent for pooped-out visitors. When we were there, a couple were taking wedding photos running through the south beach surf. Cute!

Sellin pier

Jasmund National Park
This nature reserve on the Jasmund peninsula is Deutschland’s answer to Dover, home of the largest chalk cliffs in Germany. A peaceful hike through a beech forest brings you to Königsstühl (the King’s Chair), and a vertigo-testing climb 160m down rickety wooden stairs finds you on a rugged, undisturbed beach, with epic views out across the open sea. Unmissable.

Jasmund National Park forest

Jasmund National Park cliffs

Jasmund National Park reflection

Jasmund National Park

Boat in the ocean

Olive and James looking out at the ocean

Prora: The Nazi’s Unfinished Holiday Resort

by James Glazebrook

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When we recently vacationed on the German island of Rügen, there was place we made sure to visit first: Prora. Earmarked by the Nazis as a holiday destination for some 20,000 worn-out workers, construction on the eight buildings of the “Colossus of Prora” was halted by World War Two, since which the huge complex has been used as a military base by the Soviets and East Germans, and later a youth hostel and, seemingly, a squat with its own nightclub.

We rocked up on what turned out to be an unseasonably beautiful September day, both wearing head-to-toe black and Dr. Martens, looking to our fellow holidaymakers like wannabe stormtroopers, or maybe just hipster-goths on vacation. Piling our winter coats on the sand, we rushed into the crystal clear sea with Olive, before climbing through the ruined walls and marvelling at the sheer scale and ambition of Hitler’s answer to Butlins. Construction work confirmed what we’d read about the buildings being redeveloped as vacation apartments, so we’d advise you to visit Prora while it remains one of Germany’s great abandoned relics. 

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Resting at Rügen

by James Glazebrook

Sunset in Rügen

We may not be too sentimental about our home on the northeastern shores of England, but we certainly miss the sea. Sure, Berlin has beautiful lakes, but they don’t quite fulfill our longing to feel the coastal winds whip against our faces, taste the salt in the air and gaze out towards the horizon where blue meets blue. That’s why we chose to spend our short summer break on Germany’s largest island, Rügen, which sits on the Baltic Sea (Ostsee), a mere three hours’ drive from Berlin.

For our first Oliday (holiday with Olive), we pointed our rental car due north and headed towards Trent. Here we arrived at our beautiful Airbnb with an ocean view and its very own sauna!  The location was stunning, with wild flowers dotted all around and the sea only a minutes walk away. On an evening we would sit in the garden with a glass of wine, watching sunset close in and the flashing beacon of Hiddensee lighthouse and feel a million miles away from Berlin.

Having set up camp, we started planning a week of wholesome outdoor activities, including visits to the white cliffs of Jasmund National Park, the tiny towns of Sassnitz and Sellin, and the Nazi’s half-built vacation resort of Prora. Check out the first of our holiday snaps, and stay tuned for more adventures of überlin on Rügen!

Trent Airbnb home

Bedroom with Olive on the bed
Olive relaxing in the sun
Wild Flowers in Rügen


Thistles in Rügen
Olive relaxing in the sun

 

Alpaca Farm, Das Schwarze Haus

by Zoë Noble

alpaca close up

This week I actually left the confines of my Berlin bubble to head north east to a teeny tiny town called Pinnow. The reason for the trip was a lifestyle shoot against the backdrop of a stunningly-designed Thomas Kröger building. Das Schwarze Haus is pretty much my dream home, with its black-stained wood, floor-to-ceiling glass walls and more angles than a dodecahedron. As if that wasn’t enough, I got to visit the neighbouring Alpaca farm and get within spitting distance (literally) of these insane-looking animals! Enjoy.

das schwarze haus designed by Thomas Kröger alpaca looking at camera alpaca close up alpaca's on grass alpaca eating an apple baby alpaca in paddock alpaca's roaming on grass alpaca standing on grass in the sun

(Photos by Zoë Noble Photography)

Impressions of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

by James Glazebrook

Sachsenhausen Neutrale Zone

It’s 4am and I’m wide awake, struggling to process the GetYourGuide Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Memorial Walking Tour. I’m”suffering” from two things: a nasty cold I picked up wandering around in sub-zero conditions, and a hazy black cloud of half-formed negative emotions that hangs somewhere in the back of my mind. Both leave me feeling pathetic and weak-willed.

Sachsenhausen red rose burned barracks

I got sick after less than four hours in -10°C, wrapped in three layers of weather-resistant clothing. Some of the 30,000 prisoners who passed through Sachsenhausen work camp endured more bitter cold (as low as -20°C) wearing only one layer of thin cotton, and no shoes. Once they stood outside for a roll call of their identification numbers that lasted 26 hours. Listening to this, I wolfed down a sandwich, feeling particularly worthless. Impossibly brave people had survived unimaginably worse conditions, sustained by only one slice of bread per day.

Sachsenhausen frost

As I tried to make sense of our guide’s detail-soaked narrative, I felt a pale shadow of what Germans must, when they think about this part of their history. Hearing about the sheer number of prisoners, and the methods employed to dehumanise, punish and – later in World War Two – kill them, left me numb. Finding it impossible to put myself in their position, I tried to empathise with the citizens of the small town of Oranienburg, some of whom still lived on the borders of Sachsenhausen. I don’t blame them for doing their best to ignore the rumours of what happened inside, insinuated by the chimney stack smoking with the ashes of the Third Reich’s victims. If I can’t process this, generations later, no wonder they couldn’t at the time.

Sachsenhausen executions

Apologies if you were expecting specifics about the GetYourGuide Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp tour. No amount of words, images or facts and figures – although there are many to be found in the careful reconstruction of the camp – can truly represent the horrors that took place there. Go for the price of an ABC BVG ticket (entrance to the site is free), or book a guided tour, and support the invaluable work of the cash-strapped Memorial. But don’t expect to be able to comprehend what happened there.

Sachsenhausen barracks

Sachsenhausen prisoner uniforms

Sachsenhausen watch tower

Sachsenhausen prison

Sachsenhausen hole in the fence

Sachsenhausen morgue

Sachsenhausen barbed wire

Sachsenhausen prison cell

For more photos and another writer’s impressions of the camp, read this guest post about Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp

by Guest Blogger

Natalye Childress takes us on a tour of Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp near Berlin. All words and images her own.

Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp Arbeit macht Frei sign

This past week, I paid a visit to Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg, one of the concentration camps from the Third Reich. Located in the Brandenburg town of Oranienburg, it’s a mere 35 kilometers north of Berlin. During the war, it was mostly home to political prisoners, which means that prisoners from all over Europe were brought there.

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One of the many memorials in the wooded area in front of the main gate.

My first experience with concentration camps was my visit to Dachau in June of 2010, which, for the most part, I did not enjoy. Certainly I have always been intrigued by historical events, and it was definitely interesting to see first hand a place that I have read about so many times. However, being in the actual camp was not something I was prepared for. Due to a combination of many things – the heavy visitor traffic, the hot weather, the emotional reality of it all – my reaction was visceral.

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The “neutrale zone.”

This time around, I decided to go because of a desire to increase my understanding, both of this country I have adopted as home and its people, as well as of the greater area in which I live. After all, Berlin is a bit like a pal of mine described it earlier today, a giant playground, but there is much much more to it that I have yet to discover and I feel that it is my obligation, particularly if I want to function in this society. And now that I live here and have been a member of German society for a year, the German mentality is something I am just beginning to understand on a more complex level.

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A former prisoner’s reconstruction of the different identification each of the prisoners had to wear.

In some ways, it makes sense how a society ordered in this way could give rise to something like the Third Reich, but it’s a complicated and tricky kind of reality. That’s not to say Germans are bad people, but more to make the point that they are organized, efficient, and follow the rules. This makes things run smoothly, most of the time, but I can see how dissent during the early-to-mid 1900s was not something the government responded well to. I am simplifying things here, but these are just some general, surface-level observations I have made.

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Flowers and notes left in jail cells in the solitary confinement block.

I have also seen how Germans wrestle with and confront their feelings about what occurred leading up to and during World War II in general, and about the Holocaust specifically. This takes the form of everything ranging from guilt, to a sense of responsibility and obligation to recognize and remain aware of what happened, to a backlash toward anything being regarded as remotely nationalistic, and more.

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A statue bearing the names of all the countries that the various prisoners came from.

My overall impressions of Sachsenhausen were quite different than those of Dachau. Again, the external circumstances played a huge role; it was a beautiful day and there were not many visitors when we arrived (mid-afternoon). This allowed us to take our time and truly absorb the things we were interested in.

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The Soviet Liberation Memorial, in the form of a tower reaching to the sky.

There were many things I learned on my visit that maybe seem like common sense or were never factually apparent to me, but also either had never occurred to me before or I hadn’t known about. The many exhibits here were also pretty thorough and intense. It gives a pretty in-depth look at the lives of the prisoners, which I appreciated. All in all, we spent three full hours exploring the grounds, but that was hardly enough time to cover even half of what was there. This is more like a full-day experience.

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The execution trench, where thousands of Soviets were killed.

And would I recommend it? Well, yes. One has to be in the proper mindset and have plenty of time to go. It’s free, and although there is the possibility of guided tours for a small price, I prefer having the freedom to pick and choose what I want to see and explore things more than surface level. So how one tailors a visit is up to the individual.

sachsenhausen concentration camp prisoner photographs 2

sachsenhausen concentration camp prisoner photographs 1

Photos of prisoners taken just before they were killed; the photographer smuggled out the negatives to release them to the public.