Anyone who has ever been to Germany’s North Friesland knows what this place has to offer, a magnificent panoramic view of natural salt marshes and mudflats, or watt in German, stretching to the horizon.
But there’s something more. The country region of North Friesland has a tranquility that will soothe the hearts of those who are jaded with modern life, the hushed sound of trickling waterways, the grazing sheep and cows, the perennially cloudy sky or the land’s daydream-inducing quiet corners.
As for those who love wind and expansiveness, the fresh maritime air and the sound of the rushing sea, they can find them in the recreational spots along the beautiful North Sea coasts of Schleswig-Holstein. Stretching from the west of Hamburg over Dithmarschen and North Friesland up to the Danish border, this is a place to relax and play.
Over the mile-long beach of the North Sea, sunbathers and beach walkers can find plenty of space to pamper themselves. A walk through the mudflats is a must-do for tourists wanting to discover more of the Wadden Sea.
Guides for walking tours are never in short supply and they come in handy to give you more knowledge on the unique flora and fauna endemic to the region. Extra fun could be had from sinking into knee-high mud and enjoy a spa experience that is good for the skin.
However, the tide can be quite treacherous and it is highly recommended for tourists to take a guided tour through the Wadden Sea.
The Wadden Sea can be an extremely dynamic environment. It is considered the world’s most volatile landscape – mostly formed by the ever-coming tides – and you can expect the landscape to change on a daily basis. A massive system of waterways has been constructed to protect the mudflats from the tide.
The region serves as home to many types of animals. Beds of mussels, dense seaweed, grasslands and soft mudflats provide rich nutrition for many species. The variety of landscape of the Wadden Sea serves as a unique habitat for more than 10,000 animal and plant species. In addition to that, four million migrating birds make a stopover at the Wadden Sea each year, as it provides them an indispensable resting ground.
For that reason alone, the United Nations for Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has included the Wadden Sea in the list of World Heritage Sites in 2009, making it comparable with other renowned natural wonders such as the Grand Canyon or the Great Barrier Reef.
But if you are not a fan of lessons in the animal kingdom, the natural phenomenon of the Wadden Sea alone should be enough to keep you on your toes.
Here, the ebb and flow of the high and the low tide change every six hours. So, if you are lucky and come at the right moment, it is possible that the landscape will change within the blink of your eye.
The ebbing tide makes it possible for you to walk on the mudflats. In fact, you can even literally go island hopping by walking from the mainland to one of the North Frisian Islands. The islands off the North Frisian coast have emerged over the centuries from larger and contiguous landmasses being separated by flash floods. A big flash flood in 1634 severed the old Nordstrand or the north beach, into Nordstrand and Pellworm Islands, and the islet, in German holm, Nordstrandischmoor.
A total of ten small islands: Oland, Langeness, Groede, Habel, Hamburger Hallig, Hooge, Nordstrandischmoor, Norderoog, Suederoog and Suedfall, are all attractions too valuable too miss.
When there is serious flooding a breathtaking spectacle transpires. Houses seem to float on the water as the islets are completely engulfed during the high tide, with the exception of the dwelling mounds, or warft in German. Dwelling mounds are elevated flat land on which houses are built to escape the flooding. You can find houses built on dwelling mounds on the mainland of the North Friesland too.
Of islands in the North Frisian Islands, Sylt, Foehr, Amrum, Pellworm and Nordstrand are all favorite destination for holidaymakers. They all have many things in common, sandy beaches and interesting historical artifacts.
Sylt Island is the most famous one, thanks to its long beach and rows of expensive-looking reed-roofed houses populated by members of high society. Old farmhouses with reed roofs are a common sight in the North Frisian region and you can see some of the houses, complete with neatly manicured gardens, when on a bike tour.
Riding a bike is indeed the best way to explore more of North Friesland as it allows you to travel between its small villages. Decent bike trails are available along the main roads. Biking is the most appropriate way to discover unspoiled nature in its best, especially during spring when all the flowers are in bloom. A stunning view of intense yellow, luscious green and the clear blue sky serves as your background while cycling over the flatlands.
Some people may find that North Frisian locals are aloof and reserved. But, they are in fact anything but. The two characteristics are indeed their default mode in dealing with life, but after a brief introduction you will find that their calm and laid-back manner is typical of the North Sea people.
On closer inspection, you will soon discover that the people of the North Frisians are very open-minded, friendly and helpful. And before long, you will be saying “moin” to everybody you meet in the crowded street or desolate dyke. “Moin” is the traditional greeting in the northern part of Germany.
In the end, it is very easy to fall in love with this part of Germany. Its unique nature, the fresh maritime air, the sound of the rushing sea, the warmth and friendliness of North Frisian people and the vast expanse of the sky, all add up to a harmonious and quiet ensemble that is one of a kind.
Photo by Maren Hoepfner