Whe comes here for the first time in the romantic valley of the Neisse in the border triangle Germany-Poland-Czech Republic, rubs his eyes in amazement. On the German side of the river, close to the border with Poland, there seems to be a fairytale castle. With domes, towers and decor in the Bohemian Baroque style.
And yet St. Marienthal is nothing less than that. Behind the magnificent facades, simplicity, obedience and renunciation prevail. Women who have dedicated their lives to God and their community live here.
Dhe person is a collector and the traveler perhaps a little more. Exotic stamps in the passport, however, will be difficult to collect in the foreseeable future.
But explorers can also go hunting in Germany – in the far north, south, west and east of the republic. Anyone who has visited the four corners of the country receives a curious award: the Zipfelpass.
It was in May 1998 when the four towns in the far corners of Germany united to form the Zipfelbund: List on Sylt in the north, Görlitz in the east, Oberstdorf in the south and Selfkant in the west.
In the following year, at the celebrations for the Day of German Unity, the partnership was notarized under the eyes of Prime Ministers Kurt Biedenkopf (Saxony) and Wolfgang Clement (North Rhine-Westphalia).
The Zipfelpass lures to the ends of Germany
Herbert Corsten, 70, was mayor of Selfkant for a long time. “For Selfkant, the Zipfelbund is more than just a tourist attraction,” he says. Because the place has only existed as an independent municipality since 1969 and has only been part of the Federal Republic of Germany since August 1963. Before that, the area had been under Dutch administration from 1949. “We form the communal framework of the republic”, says a Festschrift from the Zipfelbund.
Tourists should also travel to the corners of Germany, an incentive was needed. The solution was the Zipfelpass. The document measures 9 by 12.5 centimeters, has 22 pages and is similar in size to the former passport of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Holidaymakers receive and stamp their passport in town halls or tourist offices. However, you must provide evidence of at least one overnight stay in the respective Zipfelort. Otherwise everyone could come. No administrative act by stamp without consideration.
Pass holders must travel to the four locations within five years. So far it has been four years, but due to the corona pandemic, the period has been extended by one year. Anyone who can show all four stamps in the Zipfelpass will receive a small gift as a thank you. In Oberstdorf, for example, this is a summit book. Pardon me, of course it’s a corner book.
Corona increases the number of Zipflers
Several thousand travelers have made their way to the four corners in the past – by car, train and bus, on bike or motorcycle, on foot and on horseback. Around 100 Zipfelpasses are stamped in the town hall of Selfkant every year.
Exact numbers are not given there on request, as in the other tip locations. But the number of tip tourists is increasing from year to year, according to Selfkant. In the Corona year 2020 with the boom in domestic tourism, there was recently an even greater influx.
And this is how the four tip locations look like:
List on Sylt: look across the North Sea to Denmark
A small wooden sign on the edge of the dune marks the northernmost point of Germany. It is located in List on Sylt, on the beach in the Ellenbogen nature reserve. The car access from the road between Kampen and List branches off in Westerheide and becomes a toll private road.
The parking lot is waiting behind the List West lighthouse. From there it is only a few hundred meters to the destination: Germany’s top, with a view over the North Sea to Denmark.
The Zipfelpasses are stamped in the Lister spa administration. “There are guests who come over from the mainland by train and want to have the stamp in the Zipfelpass,” says Wolfgang Nicoley from the spa administration. But they categorically reject that in List – a night on site is a must.
Görlitz: easternmost city, but not the tip
There is a little cheating on the German-Polish border. The European city of Görlitz / Zgorzelec, with around 56,000 inhabitants, is Germany’s easternmost tip town – but the easternmost point of the country is around ten kilometers further north.
It is located in the community of Neißeaue, which has around 1700 residents, between the districts of Deschka and Zentendorf. A boulder there points to the point in the middle of the Neisse, which can be reached from Zentendorf via winding dirt roads.
Oberstdorf: tourist magnet in the Allgäu
In Oberstdorf there is the stamp in town, but anyone looking for the absolute southernmost point has to be fit and sure-footed. It is not a “Sunday walk”, says Miriam Frietsch from the tourist office, but “a day trip of eight to ten hours”.
The Zipfelstürmer come by bike – preferably an e-bike – and on foot from the Fellhornbahn car park via the hamlet of Einödsbach to the Speicherhütte. We then continue on foot. Hikers describe the path to the Trifthütte as exhausting and muddy.
Nothing is signposted at Haldenwanger Eck, the last few meters become a scramble. Finale on the rocky slope: The boundary stone 147 is at an altitude of 1931 meters. You can’t go any further south, there at the border triangle of Bavaria, Tyrol and Vorarlberg. A lonely place.
Selfkant: Near the narrowest point in the Netherlands
With your feet still in Germany, with your back already in the Netherlands: This is how it works on the quiet bench that stands at the westernmost point of Germany in Selfkant-Isenbruch.
A footbridge on Rodebach leads visitors to the tip point, marked by a bright red stick in the middle of the water. Westzipfel adventure area, that’s what they call the pretty tourist destination on Kreisstraße 1.
With the help of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Selfkant invested half a million euros in 2015 in benches, footbridges and bars, toilets, parking spaces – and thus became a case for the taxpayers’ association. That was a waste of money, the guards ranted about the money pots. But calm has long returned.
Many visitors spend the night in one of the 75 Selfkanter guest beds. Some spend a few days in the Zipfelort. On a bike tour in the region you will discover the narrowest part of the Netherlands (“Het smalste stukje Nederland”), it is only 4.8 kilometers wide.
If you cycle straight west, you can even quickly reach a third EU country: the Belgian municipality of Dilsen-Stokkem on the Meuse.