Störtebeker 2016: Matters of Life and Death

It is the year 1397.  Around the Baltic Sea a number of big players are preparing to invade Visby on the the island of Gotland off the coast of Sweden, where are group known as the “Victual Brothers” – who earn a living from piracy – have taken refuge.  Among those preparing to act are the knights of the Teutonic Order, based in Marienburg (now known as Malbork and located in Poland).

With Visby on the left of the stage and the Marienburg on the right, this is the setting for the 2016 edition of the Störtebeker Festspiele on the Island of Rügen.

Visby - Herzog Johann's ArrivalVisby

The story continues pretty much where it left off at the end of last year, with Klaus Störtebeker and his men now settled is Visby and the town fortified ready for the attack.  The play deals with the events in both towns, as the battle draws closer, with some outsiders trying to find a peaceful solutions, and others spying on the groups and selling the information back to the others. [Read more…]

Hiddensee

Ever since my first visit to Rügen some years ago, the island of Hiddensee, located off Rügen’s western coast, has fascinated me.  Road signs show how to get to the ferry, and yet cars are not allowed on the island.  I had read about how cracks have been appearing for years on the island, and I also knew that in the days of the GDR the island was a resort that was used by musicians and artists, where they could be away from the main part of the country and the Stasi could still keep a close eye on them.  The island’s name even turns up in a song from 1974 called “Du hast den Farbfilm vergessen”.

But with so much else to see on Rügen itself, somehow in my first few visits I never made it to Hiddensee.  So when I received an invitation from Kurdirektor Alfred Langemeyer and the Reederei Hiddensee to visit the island before attending a preview of the Störtebeker Festspiele, the chance was too good to miss. [Read more…]

Vilm Island

Rügen may be the largest of the German islands, but there are several interesting smaller islands dotted around it. One of these islands is called Vilm, and it is part of the South-Eastern Biosphere. As such, the island has special protection. Boats are not allowed within 100m without permission. Swimming is not allowed in that area either.

The eastern side of Vilm, once the place where the GDR leadership bathed.The eastern side of Vilm, once the place where the GDR leadership bathed.

One part of the island is completely out of bounds to visitors, the other is used by a national government agency for nature conservation (Bundesamt für Naturschutz). Visitors here are limited to 30 at any one time, only in organised groups and only along a set path. Even the number of tours each year is limited, so when the Biosphere held a press tour on the island, they had to get special permission to exceed that number! [Read more…]