I think it was the bread rolls that really brought it home to me. The sheer scale of the place was one thing, the madness of the entire concept another. But it was when our guide told us about the bakery that I truly understood how reality hadn’t been factored into these grandiose plans. How many workers would be required to produce fresh rolls for 20,000 people each day? In the 1940s?
Okay, I think you need to back up a little there buddy. What?
Sorry, let me start at the beginning. Early last year while surfing the web I came across an article about this place – an enormous holiday resort conceived by the Nazis but never completed.
Located on the idyllic island of Rugen in former East Germany, it had been off the radar (and off the maps) for years as it was used by the DDR military. After the wall came down the unified German army took over before giving it back to the local council in 1990. The problem was what to do with it now – the reason it was in the news was that the biggest youth hostel in Europe was due to open in one of the renovated blocks and this was the subject of huge controversy – would it become a place of pilgrimage for neo-nazis?
They like hanging out in youth hostels?
No, that’s not the point…given the sensitivity of the period I suppose it was inevitable that there would be opposition, but if we are to abandon all buildings tainted by the Nazi era then there will be a lot of vacant office space in European cities. And this place was never completed either.
True. Okay, so having found this interesting place you jumped on a plane?
No. We were already planning a trip to Germany by rail and needed somewhere to break the journey from Berlin back to Ystad. Rugen has some great beach resorts, including Binz (which also has a station).
I see. So you hijacked the family holiday to satisfy your fetish for abandoned buildings?
Hmm, it sounds a lot worse when you put it like that. We all ended up happy – we had a hotel on the beach in Rugen with a pool, which was handy as it poured with rain the day I hired a bike and cycled to Prora.