Watt and vastness: From Borkum to Büsum – the North Sea in winter

Borkum – Biology lesson on the beach

Nafter a winter storm on the North Sea, with a bit of luck, you’ll see blatant creatures. On walks on the beach you can see them lying there, as if thrown in the sand: sea anemones and brittle stars.

On Borkum, Albertus Akkermann goes on beach hikes with his guests, even in wind and weather and cold, to appreciate such treasures of the sea. See what came up. You never really know, says the mudflat and nature guide, why, for example, after many a storm, countless cockles were washed onto the beach or on other days the shells of sea urchins.

Brittle stars, which are among the rarer finds, are relatives of the starfish. But brittle stars with their thin, snake-like legs look a lot more eerie. And the sea anemone first! It is a pretty flower animal, but with tentacles that are deadly for tiny prey.

What one also finds, reports Akkermann, are small black, pillow-shaped objects that look like ravioli with tails. They are the egg capsules of the nail skate, and they show that it is still there. Or again. Because the cartilaginous fish was considered extinct on our coasts for a long time.

It is all the more gratifying that individual specimens can be seen again, as in the summer off Baltrum. A hundred years ago the ray was a common fish, says Akkermann. On the Rochepad path on Borkum, they once hung on a line to dry. They were eaten, considered a delicacy. For around ten years, the one-meter-tall sea creature has been appearing more frequently, says the Wattführer, who encouraged the Corona crisis with his songs in spring 2020:

Watt leader and encourager sings against the Corona crisis

Albertus Akkermann is watt leader. Easter would actually be the high season for travel on the North Sea islands. But these are blocked for vacationers. “Laat jo nich unnerkriegen”, the brave East Frisian sings every day on YouTube. The reactions are overwhelming.

Source: WORLD / Albertus Akkermann

If you don’t want to expose yourself to the elements like on Akkermann’s beach tours to see the beauties and gruesome of the North Sea, you can alternatively go to the North Sea Aquarium Borkum, which is currently closed due to lockdown. Those who want to do research on their own can identify beach finds using the beachexplorer.org website.

Albertus Akkermann for nature tours: wattwanderung-borkum.de. The Lower Saxony North Sea Coast Mud Guide Association can be reached at wattfuehrergemeinschaft.de, here you can also ask about mudflat guides in winter and other offers.

Norderney – coffee in the “Marienhöhe”

“The sea was my only contact, and I’ve never had a better one.” Heinrich Heine wrote this, who spent a summer on Norderney and was inspired there for his North Sea cycle. Perhaps the great poet of German Romanticism spent his time on the Hohe Düne, which has always been a lookout and watch post for the islanders.

Heinrich Heine probably enjoyed the view over the island and the sea, where you can see the sun come and go again, where you can watch the ebb and flow in their eternal rhythm. In any case, the East Frisian island of Heine made a lasting impression.

The North Sea in freezing cold: The mudflats near Norderney also have their charm in winter

Source: Getty Images / Etienne Brandt / EyeEm

Today you sit on the dune in style in an extraordinary coffee house – the restaurant and coffee house “Marienhöhe”. But the history lesson continues: When Baden became stately in the 19th century, the Hanoverian royal family discovered Norderney and traveled with their entourage.

Queen Marie of Hanover remembered the poet at Marienhöhe with coffee hours and picnics, with literature and music festivals. The original wooden pavilion has not survived. The massive octagon built by master confectioner Radtke in the 1920s was renovated a few years ago, a listed building.

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The author at the age of eight in 1968 on a roof terrace in Wenningstedt

With the surrounding terrace and high windows, the copper roof and its architectural shape, today’s coffee house still has a lot of historical charm – the Marienhöhe is even considered a landmark in Norderney. You sit in the wing chair, read or listen to music, look out over the sea, enjoy coffee and cake or grab Friesentapas – matjes fillet with pumpernickel or crispy hake with potato salad.

Dignified security, while the wind and clouds race outside and the winter sun shimmers over sand and dunes. The “Marienhöhe Norderney” is located at the western end of the island (marienhoehe-norderney.de).

Further information: norderney.de

Spiekeroog – an island without cars

Some days look as if they have long since ended by noon. Twilight creeps up, the sky and the sea are soft blue and calm in front of the dike.

The “Spiekeroog II” creeps slowly through the water, the air smells of salt water and early frost. The cold tingles my face. With the gentle hum of the machine, the ferry pushes through the North Sea, the calls of the seagulls blow away. The mainland is disappearing, the island of Spiekeroog is getting closer.

North Sea winter connoisseurs stand outside and breathe, finally, deeply. Those who know it are happy – those who don’t get an idea: of the seclusion, of the tranquility, of a beautiful, conscious solitude by the sea.

North Sea in winter: After a walk on the beach on Spiekeroog, you can warm up in the sauna or with East Frisian tea

After a walk on the beach on Spiekeroog, you can warm up in the sauna or with East Frisian tea

Source: pa / imageBROKER / Jochen Tack

You look forward to coming down and of course to the obligatory handcart for your luggage to be transported yourself from the port to the holiday accommodation. People like to pull it after Captain Claus Wulff has maneuvered the ferry to the edge.

Spiekeroog is car-free, which makes the island all the more charming. The next day the steps crunch in the sand on the way to the beach, the vastness seems immeasurable. The hiker is greeted by the iodine aroma of seaweed and surf.

Sea buckthorn berries, frozen by the hoar frost, are still hanging on the bushes, and you can enjoy nibbling on them as you pass by. Step by step and hour after hour – 15 kilometers of beach are there that you can hike – you feel more and more grounded.

Looks forward to warming up in the sauna of a hotel or in the “Inselbad & Dünenspa”, and then perhaps attending an East Frisian tea ceremony in one of the cafés – with rock sugar and whipped cream, of course. And maybe a piece of sea buckthorn cake with it? A winter at the North Sea is a pleasure and, like here on Spiekeroog, one of harsh beauty.

Further information: spiekeroog.de

Sankt Peter-Ording – Mudflat hiking in winter

Sankt Peter-Ording, on the south beach: It is two hours before low tide, and the mud flats are gray and calm in wintry solitude. A few nature lovers meet with the volunteers from the Wadden Sea Conservation Station for a mudflat hike. Can you see anything in the mudflats in winter?

More than you think: “Although some animals retreat into deeper water when it is cold, the Small Five can certainly be found with a little luck,” says Joline Kleekamp. Small Five is the name given to five typical representatives of the animal world in the North Sea, based on the Big Five in Africa: Wadden snail, cockle, lugworm, North Sea shrimp and beach crab.

North Sea in winter: a stilt hut in Sankt Peter-Ording

Landmark in winter: a stilt hut in Sankt Peter-Ording

Quelle: mauritius images/Pitopia/All mauritius images Travel

Hiking in the mudflats in winter also means: a quiet, more intense experience. The senses appear sharpened, the air is clear and fresh. A flock of dunlins flies up and geese with a longing call pass by. It’s quiet from the seaside, but the power of the distant sea can be felt, the surf can be heard.

Joline Kleekamp digs a little longer than usual for the lugworm, but she finds one. “Maybe there isn’t always everything to see in winter,” she says. On the other hand, the guest groups are smaller, there is more time and leisure to explain in “this unique atmosphere”. This also includes the early twilight, and when the first stars start to shine, everyday life is far away.

Mudflat hikes at the Wadden Sea Protection Station in Sankt Peter-Ording take around 1.5 hours in winter. Further information: Schutzstation-wattenmeer.de

Büsum – everything made from mussels

“Kolles Alter Muschelsaal” is the name of a traditional restaurant in Büsum. It cultivates sophisticated table culture with beautiful cutlery and starched tablecloths, as well as classic service. But the treasure hangs on the walls: maritime motifs, for example a lighthouse or a sailing ship, made from shells, there must be tens of thousands of shells. They didn’t count the Kolles either.

You see mussels and oysters, recognize the distinctive scallop and are always surprised. “I discover new mussels every year,” reports Erika Kolle. The bowls are important to the senior manager. She cleans the shells, every year, every single one. Some mussels have disintegrated over time, but replacements have been made to repair the motifs: “We still have a sack full of most species in the cellar,” says Kolle.

Islands in the North Sea

Source: WORLD infographic

The history of the “Muschelsaal”, known beyond the city limits, is 120 years old: At that time there was an inn on the spot, but the guests did not come as many as the landlord had hoped. Together with the spa guests, they began to decorate the walls with mussel shells, including exotic specimens from overseas ships from the port of Hamburg. At first it was just a room next to the dining room. But when Kolle’s family took over the business a hundred years ago, they already had a unique collection on the walls.

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The North Frisian Wadden Sea: In front right Blauortsand, far right Blauort

Because the mussels and a figurehead on the wall are not everything, “Kolles Alter Muschelsaal” also offers good service and excellent cuisine – for example mussels in vegetable stock or, more elaborate: oysters with a dash of Talisker whiskey and salmon from the whiskey marinate in one Seaweed Cabbage Salad. In July 2020, an additional 24 modern and cozy hotel rooms were completed.

In winter, you can also go on pleasant mudflat hikes near Büsum. National park guide Michael Wieben leads south of Büsum through the maritime nature in front of the port. The focus is on mussels in line with the traditional local accommodation, followed by a mussel meal in nearby Meldorf.

Another national park mudflat guide is Johann P. Franzen, who leads north of Büsum into the wintry mudflats. And at the end, another winter meal is served in a rustic restaurant: steaming kale.

kolles-alter-muschelsaal.de, mudflat tours: nordseetourismus.de/veranstaltungen; reiseservice-franzen.de

Further information: on the North Sea as a travel destination in Schleswig-Holstein and special winter offers at nordseetourismus.de/winterangebote and on the Lower Saxony North Sea at die-nordsee.de; Current information on corona rules and restrictions: die-nordsee.de/informationen-zu-corona-2

Greenpeace – Ecosystems in the North and Baltic Seas are doing worse than ever

Overfishing and fishing nets are destroying the seabed, plus climate change. The German seas are under constant stress. This could even be dangerous for bathers.

Source: WELT / Gerrit Seebald

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Vacation despite Corona: Where else can you travel now

VBefore the trip you have to do some research. The Robert Koch Institute and the Foreign Office do not prohibit travel, but they do not make it easy for you either. Detailed lists of the states and regions for which a travel warning applies are published.

Conversely, you have to find out for yourself which countries still allow visitors to enter the country and whether there is a quarantine obligation when returning to Germany. We have made the effort for you and here is an overview.

Island

Iceland is currently the only complete country in Europe for which the Federal Foreign Office has not issued a travel warning.

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Vacation despite Corona: Where else can you travel now

VBefore the trip you have to do some research. The Robert Koch Institute and the Foreign Office do not prohibit travel, but they do not make it easy for you either. Detailed lists of the states and regions for which a travel warning applies are published.

Conversely, you have to find out for yourself which countries still allow visitors to enter the country and whether there is a quarantine obligation when returning to Germany. We have made the effort for you and here is an overview.

Island

Iceland is currently the only complete country in Europe for which the Federal Foreign Office has not issued a travel warning. The land of hot geysers is still not really suitable for a short trip. After entering the country, travelers usually have to go into quarantine for five to six days.

However, visitors who can be shown to have already passed Corona or are vaccinated will soon be exempt from the test and quarantine obligation. An exact date for this new regulation has not yet been set.

Norway

This is where things get complicated because around half of the regions are risk areas. Oslo, Viken, Innlandet, Rogaland, Trøndelag and Vestfold og Telemark. Conversely, this means that there is no risk of quarantine after returning from the other half of Norway, specifically from Møre og Romsdal, Nordland, Agder, Vestland, Troms og Finnmark and Svalbard.

To put it more understandably: Without a subsequent quarantine, the far north as well as most of the coast and the island of Svalbard can be visited. The main problem is the ten-day quarantine requirement when entering Norway. Whether the vaccine should fall is currently being discussed in Oslo.

Finland and Greenland

There are no travel warnings from a German perspective for most regions of Finland either. But the Finns only allow entry from countries with a seven-day incidence below 25. And Germany is far from that.

The situation is similar with Greenland: The island is spacious, only a few people live there, and there are hardly any people infected with the coronavirus – Greenland will remain completely closed to holidaymakers until the end of February.

Greece

January is not the high season in Greece. After all, the meteorologists measured 27 degrees Celsius shortly after the New Year. Entry for Germans is possible. If you decide on one of the popular holiday islands such as Crete, Kos or Rhodes, you do not have to be in quarantine after your return, according to the current status. Most mainland regions, however, are considered risk areas.

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However, there is still a lockdown in Greece; but at least the shops are open again. Until January 21, there is also a seven-day quarantine requirement when entering Greece.

Caribbean

The French overseas territories Guadeloupe, La Réunion and Martinique belong politically to Europe, climatically they are in the tropics. This happy combination makes them places of longing.

Upon departure, travelers need a negative PCR test result that is no more than 72 hours old and a self-declaration that they are symptom-free. There is currently no quarantine requirement, the authorities only prescribe a second test seven days after entry.

Switch off in the Caribbean: There is no travel warning for Antigua and Barbuda

Switch off in the Caribbean: There is no travel warning for Antigua and Barbuda

Which: Getty Images / Roberto Moiola / Sysaworld

As far as the corona situation is concerned, the Caribbean is currently in a happy situation outside of Guadeloupe and Martinique. There are currently plenty of countries there without a travel warning.

The most important destination is Cuba. The socialist beach republic is looking forward to visitors and only obliges them to undergo a PCR test upon entry; there is no quarantine for tourists.

The situation is similar in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada and Saint Lucia. However, you shouldn’t have great excursion plans on your Caribbean vacation this year. Mostly the stay is only allowed in the hotel or local area.

Mauritius, Rwanda and Uganda

So far, Africa (with the exception of South Africa) has come through the Corona crisis surprisingly well. In times of the virus, the popular holiday island of Mauritius has developed its own concept for holidays: Those who enter the country have to be in quarantine for 14 days – but they are welcome to spend in a luxurious holiday resort with a butler and pool.

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Africa by rail: The journey on the Rovos Rail train takes you through Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa

From Tanzania to South Africa

Other countries without a travel warning from Germany are the gorilla paradises Rwanda and Uganda, although only certain routes are opened for tourists and contact with locals is prohibited.

Thailand

In the Far East there are numerous attractive destinations without a travel warning from Germany. Most of them are currently sealed off and entry is not possible.

After all, Thailand has opened up to long-term vacationers. You need a special tourist visa and you have to spend the first 14 days of your vacation in one of around 100 certified quarantine hotels. Then you are “free” and can stay up to 90 days.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka could become another glimmer of hope for vacationers. Travelers on the island in the Indian Ocean remain obliged to quarantine for 28 days.

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But the state airline Sri Lankan will start weekly flights from Frankfurt to Colombo from January 28th. Apparently, pure hotel stays should then be possible without a shore excursion. According to the Robert Koch Institute, Sri Lanka is currently not a corona risk area. Therefore, there is currently no test or quarantine requirement when you return to Germany.

Islands in the South Seas

The South Pacific remains a longed-for destination, but the French South Sea islands such as Tahiti and Bora-Bora have meanwhile been issued with a travel warning from Germany. And that means quarantine on return.

Most of the other South Sea islands have closed their borders completely – with one interesting exception: Fiji allows entry via “Blue Lane”. So if you come by sailing boat or yacht, you can enter the country if you can prove that you have spent the last 14 days at sea without interruption and that a negative PCR test is available.

Vacation despite travel warning:

What used to be unthinkable is becoming increasingly normal. Popular travel destinations from pre-Corona times such as the Canary Islands and the Dominican Republic, the Maldives, Egypt and the Turkish Riviera are all classified as risk areas by the Foreign Office and subject to a subsequent quarantine obligation.

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The accommodating rebooking and cancellation conditions often only apply to package tours with flights

But in their distress, the major travel companies have long since taken the foreign minister at his word (“travel warnings are not a travel ban”) and launched flight charters in these areas. As you can hear, they are well booked.

Further information on traveling despite Corona:

If you want to travel in these uncertain times after careful consideration and despite everything, you should definitely inquire beforehand. The two most important contact points on the Internet are the Federal Foreign Office and the Robert Koch Institute.

After the trip, returnees from risk areas must register online at einreiseanmeldung.de and have proof of registration with them when entering the country. In addition, they must undergo a test within 48 hours that shows that they have not contracted the coronavirus. Anyone coming from countries with particularly high incidence figures must present a negative test result before entering the country.

When returning from risk areas, there is still an obligation to quarantine. Details are available depending on the federal state.

When traveling within Europe, the so-called Corona traffic light of the European Union on the website ecdc.europa.eu and the “Re-open EU” app of the EU Commission also help.

Holidays in corona times – you should pay attention to this

Despite Corona, many people want a vacation. The good news: Traveling in times of pandemics is not entirely impossible, but there are a few things to keep in mind.

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Saxony: A divine break in the St. Marienthal monastery

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.

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Schleswig-Holstein: To the Flensburg Fjord instead of the Alps

EThere are a few things that just don’t go together: socks and sandals, for example, Northern Germany and Carnival, Til Schweiger and sophisticated cinema. And planning and corona.

I actually wanted to travel through the Balkans last spring. I actually wanted to dance until dawn at the weddings of some of my best friends last year. Actually, I wanted to promote my book “I’ll stay for a beer: Bar stories from Tehran to Havana” and tour Germany with it. As I said: actually.

I don’t want to whine at all, my failed 2020 plans are pipifax in the face of other people’s problems. Canceled trips, weddings and readings are stupid, but no comparison to the existential hardships that freelance artists have been facing for many months due to the forced coma of cultural life.

Even so, it was pretty bitter at first. Until I started to change my line of sight. Instead of wandering off into the distance, I focused on what was happening at my feet. Inevitably.

No trip to the Swiss Alps due to Corona

It was my birthday last fall and my girlfriend gave me a new pair of hiking boots. My old ones weren’t really suitable for the Alps. What I once painfully felt on my bloody feet at 2800 meters in the middle of the Swiss canton of Graubünden.

It was the year 1 BC (Before Corona) and I fell in love with the most beautiful alpine rose in Switzerland. Apparently it had set itself the goal of putting my alpine skills to the acid test and climbing every mountain in the area with me. Which I did as best I could. Inspired by love, held back by my aching feet.

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That should change now. New shoes, new luck. I was ready for the summit. Ready to look for the Yeti in Reinhold Messner’s footsteps. Or at least after a good alpine pasture for the next snack.

Last autumn in the mountains was supposed to get me out of the premature northern German winter blues. Then snowshoes should be strapped under my hiking boots to admire the wintry Alpine panorama in romantic mountain huts with fondue and Schümli-Pflümli, an alcoholic coffee drink. Then, however, the second corona wave came and washed away all Alpine plans. Switzerland was again a restricted area for me.

There are five Swiss in Schleswig-Holstein alone

What we are in the now. I look out of the window of my Flensburg apartment at the drawn winter sky. Then, past the burning candlestick, onto my new hiking boots. Then to my girlfriend. She’s here for my sake and spends the cold season not in the Swiss winter wonderland, but in the gray north. I have to offer her something to at least compensate for her Alpine asceticism to some extent.

“Honey, there are 105 Swiss in Germany and five of them in Schleswig-Holstein alone. We would be in Holstein Switzerland in less than an hour, it’s a little further to Dithmarschen Switzerland, ”I explain. Meanwhile, she looks at me with a look that is somewhere between pity and dislike. We seem to have a slightly different understanding of height.

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Franconian Switzerland (Bavaria): In addition to the old half-timbered house in Tüchersfeld, a Jura rock juts out into the air

A friend of mine from East Frisia in exile, who has also lived in Flensburg for several years, had pressure on his ears for the first time when climbing the Frisian mountain. By the way, I have been living at its summit, almost 60 meters above sea level, for several years.

A fact that I can well understand. On my first class trip to the East Frisian Eierberge near Aurich, about 30 kilometers away, we climbed to almost 14 meters – almost twice as high as our dike on our doorstep. The fact that I threw up afterwards and spat on my classmate’s shoes may have been due to either the bus ride or the high altitude rush.

Even in the years that followed, I couldn’t really make friends with mountains. I once got so lost in the Frörup mountains south of Flensburg that a work colleague who lives next door had to get me out.

To the Holnis peninsula in the north of the Flensburg Fjord

Still, I have to somehow prove to my girlfriend that northern Germany is not as flat as our humor. I suggest a tour to the Bungsberg, at 167.4 meters above zero the highest point in Schleswig-Holstein. There is even a ski lift there, the most northerly in Germany, with a slope of 200 meters. “How about?” I ask and look at her invitingly. “When I’m at the sea, I want to see the sea and not pseudo mountains,” she grumbles.

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Zippert rises

All right, so off to the water. I choose the Holnis peninsula, a nature reserve in the north of the Flensburg Fjord. After a half hour drive we are in the middle of nature. The wind whips through the barren branches of the trees, the grasses and reeds that line the path rustle in the wind.

The path meanders gently uphill for a kilometer or two to the steep coast of the Holnis cliff, from which the sea and wind take another piece with each storm surge. We pass the old grave of a seaman who died of cholera on board his ship in 1839 and was buried here in the dune sand.

Schleswig-Holstein: On the banks of the Flensburg Fjord, old trees defy the salty air

Gnarled: on the banks of the Flensburg Fjord, old trees defy the salty air

Quelle: picture alliance/gscheffbuch/Shotshop

The meteorological beginning of winter was a while ago, which in northern Germany is usually less noticeable in the snow-covered treetops than in the fact that the temperature of the rain falls to Siberian levels. Incidentally, the name of the peninsula is personally attributed to the devil, who threatened to overturn his ship off the coast here. “Fetch Nis”, he is said to have called out to his servant Nis, a goblin, so that he could haul in the sails to prevent the worst.

We don’t see the devil today. Instead, a tiny bird with a black and yellow mohawk and greenish-gray plumage that looks at us curiously through the branches of a bush on the side of the path. “A golden chicken,” I say. “Isn’t that the name of the grill stall in front of your supermarket?” “Yes, too,” I laugh and frighten the little bird when I smack my left shoe and free my left shoe from the muddy ground. It’s good that I have my hiking boots on.

Golden cockerels are one of the smallest bird species in Europe;  the stripe on the head is striking

Golden cockerels are one of the smallest bird species in Europe; the stripe on the head is striking

Quelle: pa/WILDLIFE/M.Varesvuo

Then we’re on the cliff. You can’t go any higher in this area. In front of our feet it goes steeply downhill to the water. We are now even above the tops of the gnarled trees that, defying salt air and surf, grow on the beach. If you want to know how many shades of gray there are and how many facets this supposedly monotonous color actually has, you have to have been to northern Germany at least once in winter.

We stand on the cliff for a while and look into the distance in silence. The Flensburg Fjord lies before us as if it were dead. All of the sailing boats, which otherwise ensure a hustle and bustle on the water, are now winter-proof in the harbor or on land.

The sun colors the Baltic Sea red and orange

I love the Nordic winter. As a rule, you have the wonderful coastal landscape, which you otherwise have to share with bathing tourists and locals alike, completely to yourself at this time of the year.

It’s as if the stiff wind is blowing your head free of all the stress that has built up over the year. At this time, nature no longer belongs to humans, but entirely to itself. It is unruly like a wild animal.

As if to reinforce my thought, the seagulls begin to screech in the storm, allow themselves to be carried up by the gusts before they dive to the surface of the water as soon as they have spotted a fish. It is so hazy that in some places on the horizon it is difficult to see where the sky begins and where the Baltic Sea ends. Nevertheless, the coast of Denmark can be made out in the distance.

The sun is slowly tilting towards the horizon. And then suddenly they come after all, the colors. As if the sun had ignited the seemingly eternal gray, the horizon flames in red and orange colors, the sky above is wrapped in an increasingly darker blue and the tips of the reeds are illuminated with the last force of the setting celestial body, so that it almost looks like this as if they were covered in snow.

Evening mood in the Holnis nature reserve: the setting sun turns the Baltic Sea orange

Evening mood in the Holnis nature reserve: the setting sun turns the Baltic Sea orange

Source: pa / imageBROKER / Volker Lautenbach

We watch the spectacle of wind, waves, colors and animals until the cold even penetrates my new hiking boots. “What do you think we’re going home? I’ll make a nice, hot punch. It warms us up again, ”I suggest. My girlfriend is smiling at me. “That was nice,” she says as we make our way back to the car through the wind. Was it. Things are looking up.

The author lives in Flensburg, comes from East Friesland, travels a lot and blogs on derrufderaale.com.

More tips for a vacation on your doorstep:

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Germany: Sylt, Görlitz, Oberstdorf, Selfkant bring stamps

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.

Herbert Corsten shows Zipfelpasses, which should be an incentive for tourists

Source: dpa-tmn

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.

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The author at the age of eight in 1968 on a roof terrace in Wenningstedt

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.

Saxony: View over the border river Neisse to the parish church of St. Peter and Paul in Görlitz

View over the border river Neisse to the parish church of St. Peter and Paul in Görlitz

Those: Getty Images / Ventura Carmona

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”.

Day trippers on the Fellhorn: Oberstdorf im Allgäu is the southern tip of Germany

Day trippers on the Fellhorn: Oberstdorf im Allgäu is the southern tip of Germany

Source: dpa-tmn

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.

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Zippert rises

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.

This footbridge in Selfkant-Isenbruch leads to the westernmost point of the country

This footbridge in Selfkant-Isenbruch leads to the westernmost point of the country

Source: dpa-tmn

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.

More tips for a vacation on your doorstep:

These German ruins are worth the trip

Germany’s landscapes are full of ruins. Many of them are worth a visit. WELT gives seven tips for short trips to beautiful and bizarre fragments in north, south, east and west.

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Madeira: where fans grab Cristiano Ronaldo’s crotch

Madeira island

Portugal close to Africa: Madeira – which, together with the neighboring country Porto Santo and a few uninhabited mini-islands, belongs to the autonomous region of Madeira – is known for its year-round spring-like climate and its rich flora, to which it owes the nickname Flower Island. Around 700 kilometers off the Moroccan coast in the Atlantic, you will find green parks and gardens full of hydrangeas, strelitzia and caplilies, rugged cliffs and extensive laurel forests all over Madeira.

Because Madeira was created through volcanic activity and was never connected to the mainland, some special species developed here, such as the Madeira cabbage white butterfly or the Madeira lizard, which can only be found here. It is believed that the island of Atlantis, which the Roman historian and writer Pliny the Elder mentions in his “Natural History” around 77 AD, is Madeira.

The name of the island’s capital, Funchal, means something like “a lot of fennel” – that is what the Portuguese saw when they landed on the island in 1419: a thick vegetation with wild fennel.

Source: Infographic Die Welt

The most promising way to get around on the 741 square kilometer island is to use one of the eleven cable cars that connect interesting places, such as the botanical garden with the village of Monte above the island’s capital. The most idiosyncratic means of transport is a basket sledge, with which the return journey through the narrow and steeply sloping streets can be covered in record time – pushed by the carreiros, men dressed entirely in white with straw hats and leather boots.

Awarded as the world’s leading island destination for the sixth time in a row at the “World Travel Awards” in 2020, Madeira is currently one of the few areas in Europe for which there is no travel warning from the German Foreign Office.

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Barbados in the Caribbean: Two to three days of quarantine, after which the island is open to holidaymakers

A negative PCR test must be presented for entry. Alternatively, you can have yourself tested at the airport, but then you have to be in isolation for around twelve hours before the result is available.

A statue in honor of the world footballer Cristiano Ronaldo

Madeira’s most famous son is without a doubt Cristiano Ronaldo. Born in Funchal in 1985, the five-time world footballer opened his own hotel with the “Pestana CR7 Funchal”. There is also a museum and a statue dedicated to him on the island.

“The statue is more beautiful than me,” said Ronaldo in 2014 at the unveiling of the three-meter-high, bronze monument near the harbor – more beautiful than the abundantly unsuccessful and now revised bust that was on view for a long time at the airport named after Ronaldo it at most.

The step, which visitors love to touch, is particularly striking that it now shines golden. The “Museu CR7”, in front of which the monument stands, is dedicated solely to the numerous prizes and awards that the athlete has won so far.

Funchal, Madeira: Fans are so fond of touching the crotch of the statue of Cristiano Ronaldo that it now shines golden

Fans touch the crotch of the statue of Cristiano Ronaldo so much that it now shines golden

Source: pa / empics / Adam Davy

The black scabbard fish is a delicacy

Definitely try: the island specialties Espetada (a meat skewer) and Espada (an eel-like fish found in the North Atlantic). The black scabbard fish, as it is called in German, is one and a half meters long when fully grown, lives at depths of up to 1700 meters and only rises to higher water layers at night, where it is sometimes used by fishermen.

Due to the pressure difference, it changes its color from a copper tone to black in the air. He is the most popular with banana, so served with the Madeira native banana.

Espada: The black scabbard fish lives at depths of up to 1700 meters

The black scabbard fish lives at depths of up to 1700 meters

Source: WORLD infographic

Sisi made the luxury hotel “Reid’s Palace” famous

“Reid’s Palace” is Madeira’s most famous hotel – and one of the most expensive. Built in 1891, the luxury house quickly attracted wealthy Europeans fleeing the cold and damp winter – especially after the Austrian Empress Sisi spent a month and a half here two years after opening and made Madeira a trendy destination. The Irish playwright and Nobel Prize winner George Bernard Shaw took dance lessons here in order to be able to take part in the Saturday (and still held) dinner dance.

When business was down in the post-war period, the idea of ​​inviting former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill came up. He came in the 1950s, wrote his memoirs here, regularly strolled through the terraced gardens with its mimosa and bougainvillea, and in the following years attracted British tourists to the island. The “Reid’s Palace”, now part of the luxury brand Belmond, is celebrating its 130th birthday this year.

The luxury hotel “Reid’s Palace” was built in 1891

Quelle: mauritius images / eye35 stock / Alamy

The laurel forest is a Unesco World Heritage Site

Madeira’s laurel forest, the largest in the world, measures 150 square kilometers. It covers about a fifth of the island. The forest, also known as Laurisilva, which thrives on the island from an altitude of 300 meters, consists of subtropical plants that were native to large parts of the Mediterranean region in the warm Tertiary age 66 to 2.6 million years ago and disappeared there during the ice ages.

In the Atlantic, laurel forests can also be found in the Azores and some Canary Islands. Because of its size and uniqueness, Madeira’s laurel forest, which in remote locations still has the character of a primeval forest, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Madeira has wonderful hiking trails - they also lead through old laurel forests

Madeira has wonderful hiking trails – they also lead through old laurel forests

Source: pa / imageBROKER / Michael Weber

Seafarers brought Madeira wine from Portugal to the United States

Madeira’s most important export is a wine that bears the island’s name. It is made from four grape varieties called Sercial, Verdelho, Boal and Malvasia and then stored in wooden barrels for at least three years. But there are also wines in the “Over Forty Years Old” class, which have matured for more than 40 years.

The grape harvest takes place in August and September, when the smell of must penetrates the around 4,000 wine cellars and many private houses. Due to its high alcohol content (up to 22 percent) and its large residual sweetness, which makes it the perfect aperitif or digestif, it has a long shelf life even in opened bottles.

Madeira wine was popular with seafarers centuries ago and was often taken to America – in 1776, George Washington toasted with it to celebrate the US Declaration of Independence. In 1903, Madeira sauce was invented on the occasion of a banquet for the Belgian Prince Albert, which includes Madeira wine in addition to white wine and veal stock.

Wine with a sea view: In Madeira, vines only thrive near the coast, here in the south near the town of Estreito de Camara de Lobos

In Madeira, vines only thrive near the coast, here in the south near the town of Estreito de Camara de Lobos

Source: mauritius images / Alois Radler Woess / Alamy

The quote

“Between two huge beauties, this city smiles like a sleeping little child, safe and warm, between its parents”

With these words the mainland Portuguese Júlio Dinis, a 19th century writer who is widely read to this day, praised Madeira’s capital Funchal and its location between the Atlantic Ocean and the mountains. In fact, parts of the city are located on cliffs by the sea – such as the airport, which is therefore a difficult destination to fly to and which can only be approached by pilots with the appropriate experience. Dinis, whose real name was Joaquim Guilherme Gomes Coelho, visited Madeira three times from 1869. He lived in Rua da Careira 90, where a statue reminds of him today.

Quirky, record-breaking, typical: You can find more parts of our regional geography series here.

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We will be happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.

World on Sunday from January 3, 2021

Source: Welt am Sonntag

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Colorado: Where you are in four states of the USA at the same time

Die Region Colorado

RThe largest river in the area runs oten mud, and this is what the Spaniards who explored central North America probably called it in the 17th century. colorado, dyed red. The state of Colorado was later named after the Colorado River, which joined the USA in 1876, 100 years after the declaration of independence – which is why it is also called Centennial State, the state of the century.

Tourists especially love the Rocky Mountains. No state offers more Fourteeners, that is, mountains higher than 14,000 feet (4,267 meters). There are almost 40 ski areas and a number of scenic byways, on which adventurers can explore the high mountains in their car or mobile home, sometimes along rock faces and edges.

Biking and hiking are also popular activities in monumental landscapes such as the Garden of Gods with 30 meter high stone needles, the Great Sand Dunes National Park with the highest dunes on the continent or the wild west scenery in the Colorado National Monument with deep sandstone canyons.

The only national park in the USA that serves to protect an archaeological site was established at Mesa Verde: Hundreds of rock dwellings by pre-Columbian tribes are located on Table Mountain. Around half of Colorado’s almost six million inhabitants live in and around the capital Denver. The state capitol there is adorned with a gilded dome that is reminiscent of the gold rush in the second half of the 19th century.

Source: WORLD infographic

With one step in New Mexico, Arizona or Utah

Four states meet at the most south-westerly point of Colorado, from here you are in one step in New Mexico, Arizona or Utah. The quadrangle is called Four Corners Monument marketed.

On the granite slab directly on the border point it says: “Here four states meet in freedom under God.” The slab is conveniently sunk into the ground and can be walked on, so that time and again tourists on all fours in four states pose for photos at the same time.

USA: It would also be easier to be at the Four Corners Monument in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah at the same time

It would also be easier to be at the Four Corners Monument in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah at the same time

Quelle: Getty Images/Dave G. Houser

A strong beer – brewed with bull testicles

Microbreweries are plentiful in the state, but none use ingredients as quirky as Wynkoop Brewing in Denver. Okay: Malt, barley, hops are nothing special, but who brews with Rocky Mountain Oysters? These are not oysters, but bull testicles, cut and roasted. It comes out, you guessed it, a strong beer. It is not known whether it promotes potency.

Do you fancy something out of the ordinary?  Then the strong beer from the brewery Wynkoop Brewing is worth a try

Do you fancy something out of the ordinary? Then the strong beer from the brewery Wynkoop Brewing is worth a try

Quelle: Wynkoop Brewing

A steam bath in the hot springs

The native American Indians used the healing power of the many hot springs in Colorado. A particularly productive one was from the Ute people Yampah called – Great Medicine. Today, guests can stew in the underground geothermal steam room where they emerge from the rock at Glenwood Springs.

The spring is tapped by the Glenwood Hot Springs Resort, which has operated the world’s largest naturally fed thermal water pool since 1888, measuring 123 by 30 meters. US President Theodore Roosevelt and gunslinger Doc Holiday have already cured here.

Colorado, USA: The Glenwood Hot Springs Resort has operated the world's largest naturally fed thermal water pool since 1888

Glenwood Hot Springs Resort has operated the world’s largest naturally fed thermal water pool since 1888

Quelle: Getty Images/

Perfect powder snow for skiing

Champagne powder – The Steamboat ski area has registered the term as proof of quality for the powder snow, which is particularly dry and powdery here. But also in Colorado’s other ski resorts such as Vail or Aspen (also in the Canadian Rockies) the fine snow ensures perfect winter sports conditions.

USA: In Colorado's ski resorts, Champagne Powder ensures great winter sports conditions

In Colorado’s ski resorts, Champagne Powder ensures great winter sports conditions

Quelle: Getty Images/

One of the highest rack railways in the world

No US state is higher than Colorado, an average of 2073 meters above sea level. Here you can venture over the highest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world, which spans the Arkansas River at a height of 291 meters, or reach rather thin air by car, even for combustion engines – on the highest paved road in the USA, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the ends at 4307 meters.

And where one height record chases the next, the highest railroad in the USA is also involved. In 1891 the Manitou and Pike’s Peak Railway, also one of the highest rack railways in the world, transported guests to the summit (4302 meters) for the first time using a steam locomotive, 71 years after its first ascent. The railway is currently being modernized. For the 130th anniversary in May 2021, it is running again.

Colorado: The Manitou and Pike's Peak Railway takes tourists up to over 4,300 meters

The Manitou and Pike’s Peak Railway takes tourists to an altitude of over 4,300 meters

Source: pa / imageBROKER / Jim West

The quote

“It’s been a wonderful night”

writes Jack Kerouac, pop literary writer and an important representative of the Beat generation, in 1957 in his strongly autobiographical book “On the Road” (“Unterwegs”). The passage was not about wine, drugs, sex and jazz, but about a visit to the opera house in Central City, where the declared Beethoven fan listened to the opera “Fidelio” in 1947 – and he treated himself to “some extra-large beers”. “

Quirky, record-breaking, typical: You can find more parts of our regional geography series here.

This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We will be happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.

Source: Welt am Sonntag

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On a world tour: Montenegro surprises like no other country

Bulgaria and romania were two great stops on my trip through the Balkans. Topping them is not easy. Especially if you want to enjoy a mild Mediterranean climate at the end of the year. Yet another Balkan state fulfilled my wishes and even exceeded my expectations: Montenegro.

“Podgorica is the boring capital I’ve ever been to”, “Podgorica is a hole”, said some travel bloggers about Montenegro’s largest city. It won’t be that bad, I thought to myself on the approach. Now I can confirm it myself: You shouldn’t lose any time in Podgorica’s barren concrete landscape. The rest of the country is far too impressive for that.

Montenegro is ideal for a round trip by car because it is not even the size of Schleswig-Holstein. In this way, the entire country can be traveled in one to two weeks. The best thing to do is to rent one of the many cheap rental cars as soon as you arrive in Podgorica.

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A decent small car from a large German car rental company cost me just 100 euros – for two weeks! In addition, the 1400 inclusive kilometers are easily enough to see the most beautiful places in the country. And there are quite a few of them.

Mediterranean flair in Budva on the Adriatic

Already on the way from Podgorica to the coastal town of Budva I get a foretaste. It goes over mountains on well-developed roads. The foliage on the slopes still has late autumn colors and the sun is shining as if winter was just a rumor.

Suddenly the pass road goes downhill, a spectacular view of Budva and the entire bay on the Adriatic opens up. Once at the bottom, a Mediterranean flair awaits with palm-lined streets and an old town that feels like southern Italy with its mini-city beach. From here you can easily walk to the two pretty beaches of Mogren 1 and 2.

Montenegro: Budva on the Adriatic has a beach and a beautiful old town

Mediterranean flair: Budva on the Adriatic has a beach and a beautiful old town

Those: Getty Images / Tuul & Bruno Morandi

But you shouldn’t stay too long in Budva, because the real highlights of the country are elsewhere. The Bay of Kotor is about an hour’s drive away. Now at the latest you are grateful for a mobile pedestal.

On the outward journey, a short detour via Porto Montenegro and Donji Stoliv is recommended. The reward for this: a wonderful coastal road. In the fjord-like landscape you pass small islands, villages and fishing boats. The sheer enthusiasm makes it difficult to keep an eye on oncoming traffic on the often single-lane road.

You don’t see any cruise ships in Kotor because of Corona

Arrived in Kotor you should have rested legs, because from the beautiful old town you go up to the fortress ruins. After more than 1300 sweaty steps you can enjoy a fascinating view of the fjord landscape.

Montenegro: View from the fortress ruins to the Bay of Kotor

One of the highlights: View from the fortress ruins over the Bay of Kotor

Quelle: Martin Lewicki

From here you can often see huge cruise ships unloading thousands of tourists every day. But the corona pandemic has put mass tourism on a forced break. So the area looks idyllic and invites you to linger for several days.

A little tip: There are inexpensive apartments on the mountain slope with a terrace view of the bay a few minutes by car further north in Dobrota. In addition, the two charming coastal towns of Perast and Herzeg Novi can be reached quickly from here.

Fantastic views of Montenegro while hiking

A day trip to the Lovcen National Park is a must. The fantastic mountain roads lead up to the panoramic summit, which offers a 360-degree view of half of Montenegro.

If you feel like hiking in the mountains, you should leave the Bay of Kotor, as difficult as it is, and head to the Durmitor National Park. The best place to stay there is in Zabljak, because the country’s most beautiful hiking trails are just a few minutes’ drive from the small town.

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Balkans: hiking in Prokletije on the border between Montenegro and Albania

The Black and Cold Lakes, for example, invite you to take a leisurely hike. Ambitious hikers who have good shoes and are not afraid of heights, on the other hand, can climb the highest mountain in the country.

For the Bobotov Kuk you need a good level of fitness and a little experience, but after four hours uphill you get a panoramic view at an altitude of 2522 meters that makes you forget any effort. After a further three hours of descent, you can relax with a drive over the P14 pass road, which is one of the most beautiful in the country.

At Lake Skadar in Montenegro: Drivers shouldn't be too distracted by the view on the mountain road

At Lake Skadar: Drivers shouldn’t be too distracted by the view on the mountain road

Source: Getty Images / Westend61

If you still have time, you should go to Lake Skadar, the largest lake in the Balkans shared by Montenegro and Albania. Not only are the two coastal towns of Virpazar and Rijeka worth seeing, but also the single-lane mountain road that connects them.

This entire region actually looks like a single postcard motif. I could rave about picturesque places, mountain passes and mountain landscapes for a long time. Montenegro surprised me like no other country. Seldom have I experienced so much highly concentrated beauty that would have been so pleasant to travel to.

Read more parts of the world tour series “One Way Ticket” here. The column appears every two weeks.

Montenegro: The Durmitor National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980

Postcard motif: The Durmitor National Park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980

Quelle: Getty Images/500px Plus/Nenad Zivanovic/500px

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From Bosnia to Bulgaria: ski areas in the Balkans are open

Et doesn’t always have to be the Alps. Especially not if it is unclear whether and how the ski season will take place. While there is still a dispute about this in the Alpine region, 500 kilometers further south, decisions have been made in the Balkans.

Although the number of corona cases is still high there, the exponential increase seems to have stopped. In addition, the epicentres of the infection process are located in the urban centers, not in the countryside where the ski resorts are located.

That is why the ski areas have long since opened without major discussions – under the stipulation and application of numerous strict hygiene measures. Apart from the mask requirement, distance and event bans, everyday life in the winter sports areas of the Balkans is relatively normal.

Hotels, shops and restaurants are open, but curfew has been imposed locally. Contacts are limited, there are currently no general curfews.

Good conditions for skiing in the Balkans

The Robert Koch Institute lists the countries of the Balkans as risk areas, so the Foreign Office warns against traveling there. However, there is no travel ban, but there is a hurdle on the return journey. Travelers who come from the Balkans must go to a ten-day quarantine immediately after entering the country, which can be shortened after five days at the earliest by a negative corona test.

Source: WORLD infographic

The conditions for skiing, however, are excellent in the Balkans: the inland is characterized by a continental climate and humid winters. At higher altitudes, a lot of precipitation leads to considerable snowfall. The fold mountains of the Dinarides run through the peninsula, the peaks reach 2000 meters and more.

The scattered ski areas are rather small, but that’s an advantage this winter. Ski equipment including helmets can be rented cheaply on site. So let’s take a look at the individual winter sports locations.

Jahorina / Sarajevo, Bosnia: On the trail of the games

Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina, lies in the deeply cut valley of the Miljacka River. It seems that the surrounding mountains have forced the city to grow longer. It is only a 20-minute drive to the ski resort at an altitude of 1,300 meters.

In 1984 the Winter Olympics took place in the mountains around Sarajevo, and less than a decade later the war broke out. Sarajevo was under siege and attack for four harsh winters. The mountains and alpine pastures were mined and became paramilitary territory and the facilities fell into disrepair.

The mines have now been cleared and the city has become a backpacker mecca due to its stimulating mix of Habsburg and Ottoman heritage. Hostels and hotels shot up. The lifts, on the other hand, have been gradually modernized since 2010.

The 1984 Winter Olympics took place in the Jahorina ski area at the gates of Sarajevo

The 1984 Winter Olympics took place in the Jahorina ski area at the gates of Sarajevo

Source: pA / dpa / Thomas Brey

Unnoticed by the rest of Europe, an Olympic-sized ski area has been revived on Mount Jahorina. Only last season was a brand new gondola inaugurated in addition to the seven existing lifts (including four chair lifts). Designed for ten people, only four are allowed this winter.

The area is considered to be snow reliable, the heights reach up to 1900 meters. Nevertheless, since 2018, a snow-making system has ensured that the 25 kilometers of slopes are accessible on time at the beginning of December, the end of the season is at the end of March – this is also the case this season.

Corona info: A negative Covid-19 PCR test that is not older than 48 hours must be presented on entry. Information about the ski area: oc-jahorina.com/en

Kopaonik, South Serbia: On the mountains of the sun

The Kopaonik ski area in southwest Serbia, on the border with Kosovo, opened on December 3rd. Automatic snow-making, modern four- and six-person chairlifts and 62 kilometers of slopes (including six black slopes) make it the most modern and largest ski area in Serbia, and indeed in the entire Balkans.

The slopes were peeled from the slopes from 1970, and the entire infrastructure was completely modernized from 2008. Nevertheless, Kopaonik is largely unknown and remains a preferred destination for local skiers. This is also due to the fact that the resort is located at 1,700 meters and far from larger cities: it is a four-hour drive to Belgrade and two and a half to Niš international airport.

Thanks to 200 days of sunshine a year, the Kopaonik Mountains are also called “Mountains of the Sun”. In February the amount of precipitation is particularly low and therefore the chances of snow and sun are great.

Kopaonik itself, however, is a test-tube town of hotels and guest houses, dedicated solely to mountain tourism. The fact that the oversized gable roofs of the hotel buildings cite traditional Serbian architecture actually adds to the artificial impression. But so be it. And let’s be honest: It’s hardly any different in Austria.

Corona info: German nationals can basically enter Serbia without restrictions, there is currently no quarantine obligation. Information about the ski area: skijalistasrbije.rs

Brezovica, Kosovo: Small but steep ski slopes

When you enter Kosovo, you finally leave groomed slopes. But nature and culture are all the more spectacular. The gateway to the Sharri Mountains is Prizren, the young country’s second largest city. Although there is a lot of construction going on everywhere, Prizren’s city center, the bazaar and the central Shadervani Square have retained Ottoman flair.

Anyone who has an ear for languages ​​will notice that in addition to Albanian, Bosnian, Turkish and occasionally Serbian are spoken. The juxtaposition of mosques and Orthodox churches in the urban area testifies to the diversity that has survived despite war and displacement.

The Brezovica ski area is a good hour’s drive from Prizren, in the middle of the Sharri massif on the border with Macedonia. The resort opened as planned on December 15 this year, the season continues into March.

Kosovo: Skiers get off the lift in the Brezovica ski area, where surprisingly steep slopes await

Kosovo: Skiers get off the lift in the Brezovica ski area, where surprisingly steep slopes await

Quelle: Getty Images / Azem Ramadani

Nine lifts transport a manageable number of winter sports enthusiasts up to an astonishing 2500 meters. There are only 15 kilometers of groomed slopes available, but these are tough because of the difference in altitude of 800 meters to the valley station.

On nice days you can look over the sea of ​​clouds in the plains – on one side over to the so-called Albanian Alps, a branch of the Dinarides, on the other over the mountain ranges of Macedonia. There are no gondolas, instead there are two-person chairlifts – ideal for this winter! And if skiing becomes boring after a few days, then snowshoe tours through the almost untouched nature are ideal.

Corona-Info: Travelers from Germany must present a current Covid-19 negative test (sampling maximum 72 hours before entry). Info about the ski area: skicentarbrezovica.com

Mavrovo, North Macedonia: For beginners and families

To the south and a mountain range further is the North Macedonian Mavrovo National Park. The ski area of ​​the same name is one of the most tranquil in the Balkans. The starting point Zare Lazareski is a scattered village of hotels and guesthouses, in the huts of the ski rentals you can get equipment for 10 euros per day, which is no longer entirely new.

North Macedonia: The Mavrovo ski area offers 25 kilometers of groomed slopes that are open from December to early April

The Mavrovo ski area offers 25 kilometers of groomed slopes that are open from December to early April

Quelle: Getty Images/ Elena Pejchinova

A central chairlift leads over the tree line and up to 1700 meters with guaranteed snow. There a handful of drag lifts are arranged like a spider web – the heart of the resort. The gently sloping slopes are ideal for beginners and families, but quickly boring for sporty skiers.

The latter have to go higher in order to enjoy five kilometers of black slopes. The Mavrovo offers a total of 25 kilometers of groomed slopes, which are open from December to the beginning of April with the aid of artificial snow. The 2020 season starts on December 20th.

Corona info: Entry for German citizens is generally permitted without restriction. The quarantine obligation and the need to prove a negative PCR test are no longer necessary. Information about the ski area: skimavrovo.com

Bansko, Bulgaria: Corona rules in the ski area

Bansko hardly corresponds to the idea of ​​skiing in pandemic times, because it is the Bulgarian ski resort par excellence. Accordingly, one is not averse to après-ski and the hustle and bustle there.

But the government has drawn up a comprehensive pandemic plan: a mask requirement in lifts, shops and in public places is planned, as well as reduced numbers of passengers in gondolas or hand and surface disinfection. Events of any kind are prohibited. Otherwise, according to the Bulgarian authorities, one proceeds according to the motto: skiing and snowboarding improve health.

Bulgaria: In the Bansko ski area people are usually not averse to après-ski - but this season will be a lot different

In the Bulgarian ski resort of Bansko, après-ski is usually not averse – but this season a lot will be different

Quelle: pA/ Zoonar

The resort is located south of Sofia in the Pirin Mountains and starts rather low at a good 900 meters. But the lifts lead up to the Todorka mountain, overcoming an altitude difference of almost 1,600 meters. There are almost 50 kilometers of slopes waiting.

There are twelve lifts in operation, two of which are gondolas. In other words: Bansko can compete with a full-grown Austrian ski area. The season started on December 4th, was interrupted until the second half of December due to lack of snow and runs until the beginning of April.

Corona-Info: EU citizens are allowed to enter the country without presenting a PCR test, provided that the journey has not started in a third country. Information about the ski area: banskoski.com/en

This is how it could look after the lockdown on the slopes

The pandemic is also affecting skiing. In German winter sports regions, lifts first have to stay on the ground. But the German Ski Association is already working on concepts for the time after that.

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