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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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