Caspar David Friedrich (5 September 1774 – 7 May 1840) was a 19th-century German Romantic landscape painter, generally considered the most important German artist of his generation. He is best known for his mid-period allegorical landscapes which typically feature contemplative figures silhouetted against night skies, morning mists, barren trees or Gothic or megalithic ruins. His primary interest as an artist was the contemplation of nature, and his often symbolic and anti-classical work seeks to convey a subjective, emotional response to the natural world. Friedrich's paintings characteristically set a human presence in diminished perspective amid expansive landscapes, reducing the figures to a scale that ... directs "the viewer's gaze towards their metaphysical dimension".
So far the Wikipedia introduction to Caspar David Friedrich. A little more down to earth: any nature lover will be captivated by his painting of the Chalk Cliffs of Rügen.
It is difficult, for any hiker-painter-art-lover, when close to the area, to resist the urge to visit the sites that provided the inspiriation for his masterpiece.
And so we go.
This is an easy half-day hike and probably exciting in any season. We happened to be there in early spring, when the beech trees were still without leaves - enjoying the warming sun, unobstructed views, and little to non-existent pedestrian traffic, except at the end of the hike, the famous Königstuhl (king's chair).
With a car, you can park at or near the trailhead. We arrived by train at Sassnitz coming from Stralsund, and the walk from the station to the trailhead added a kilomter and half to the hike. This was, in fact, welcome, as it allowed to pick up refreshments in local supermarket, and admire the beautifully restored beach villas in Sassnitz. There also is a bus from Sassnitz train station to the the trailhead or nearby. If you plan to do so, figure out in advance which bus to take, as they are leaving promptly after the train has arrived.
The hike ends at the Königstuhl - the highest cliff on the Rügen Island. From there, a fairly regular bus takes you back to to Sassnitz, or the car park.
Some hiker familiar with the whole affair advised us to first take the bus to Königstuhl and travel the trail in reverse. This has an advantage of moving slightly more often downhill than uphill, but really makes no big difference. The disadvantage would be that (if you start before noon) the sun is always in your face - while we prefer the sun to be in our back for better visibility and orientation. Do as you like.
The hike is generously marked with a blue stripe on white ground. Note the signposts warning of erosion at the edge of the cliffs. Pieces of the cliffs may dislodge under your feet. As long as you stay on or close to the trail and its marking, the trail has very little risk. But we also observed a hiker in the distance, walking towards us, who - in the attempt to get into position for a particular nice photographic shot - seem to unknowingly walk across an overhangs. It is a good idea to keep children close-by.
From the trailhead, the trail quickly gains hike, but there always will be considerable up-and-down.While the highest point is about 132 meters, the total elevation gain is 400 meters or more.
At some indicated waypoints, steep boardwalks or trails lead down to the water's edge. We didn't explore any of those, as we could not exactly see the benefit of climbing 100 Meters down and up again just for putting your big toe into the ice-cold water. However, the stairs are useful, if you wish to return to you starting point via the beach - which apparently is frequently done. Note that the stairs to the beach near the Königstuhl were closed in early 2018, due to erosion.
Throughout, the hike offers beautiful views across the shoreline, from above. If you plan a rest, do so at waypoint 6. This is the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Viewpoint, with seats and a table on a flat picnic point. Keep your children on a leash, as there are precipitous drops on two sides.
The entire trail runs through a self-regenerating beech forest - one of the last expansive beech forests on the European continent, protected as a UNESCO heritage site.
At the Königstuhl, you have to pay an entrance fee to walk on the cliff and visit the little museum and UNESCO exhibition. The view from the Königstuhl cliff is probably not worth the extra money - as so often, the view towards an outstanding highpoint (for example to the Königstuhl from the Victoria viewpoint, which you pass on your way) is better than the view from the Königstuhl itself. We still recommend paying the fee, visiting the exhibition, watching an interesting movie about the heritage site, learning something and contributing to the protection of this beautiful piece of earth, while waiting for the bus to take you back to your starting point.