Föhr — A Fitting End to our North Sea Trip
Posted on August 21, 2014
We left Hallig Oland the same way we reached it a couple of days earlier: by Lore. However, this time we pointed the Lore towards the mainland. We were headed towards one of the larger islands called Föhr, but since there is no ferry from Oland, we had to go to Dagebüll, a small town and harbor on the mainland, in order to catch a ferry which then took us to Föhr. This was a roundabout way — but we never tired of looking at the sea, the islands, and the sandbanks where seals were sunning themselves.
All the islands off the coast of Northwestern Germany were once part of the mainland. But in 1362 an enormous flood tore a great chunk off the coast — and islands and Halligen were born. Halligen are smaller islands without substantial dike protection. Several times a year wild storms come through and flood the Halligen. Then only the buildings on the man-made mounds called Warften peek out. Nowadays the Hallig people are required to have a “safe room” under their roof into which they can flee if the waters decide to inundate their houses. Some smaller Halligen were drowned in big floods. Föhr is the second largest of the islands and is relatively protected by Amrum and Sylt to the West.
On our last morning on Oland, we gathered our belongings, and together with the family that was staying in the same house as we were, watched Claudia install her Lore back on the tracks. When not in use, Lores are kept on concrete pads next to the tracks. With the help of a metal pry bar and strong muscles, she maneuvered the Lore back onto the tracks. Then came the baggage cart, both were tied together, she filled the tank with gasoline, and off we went.
It was 5 km to the mainland, twice as far as the distance to Langeness. We enjoyed every minute of it. Suzi sat facing forward and got wonderful videos of gulls having a meeting on the tracks and not at all inclined to fly off until the last minute.
In Dagebüll we did not have a lot of time before our ferry was ready to leave.
We arrived in Wyk (pronounced “veek”) auf Föhr and immediately liked what we saw.
The popular resort town was clean and neat with a profusion of flowers everywhere, the pedestrian-only downtown inviting to stroll and window shop, a busy little harbor … and the beach.
But before we even went to the beach for the first time, an important event happened that we couldn’t miss. The final game in the World Soccer Games was being played the evening we arrived in our apartment! We had watched only one other game, US vs Germany, but missed the exciting semi-finals. Now we just had to watch, or the Germans would never have forgiven us. The entire country was going nuts over their team’s success.
We fixed a rather modest dinner that first night in Wyk. Instead of beer we opened our tiny bottle of champagne which was a welcome gift from Claudia on Hallig Oland, and settled down in front of the TV.
And the Germans won the World Championship.
Finally we could enjoy the beach, stretching about 15 km all along the island’s southern and halfway up the western coast.
Strandkörbe, like on the Baltic Coast, are popular here, too. You don’t have to rent one, just throwing one’s towel on the sand is fine, too, but for a modest price you can reserve yours for the entire day, or get it for a few hours in the afternoon for a reduced price.
Here you see one sun worshipper, whereas other beach goers seem to prefer shade.
At night the Strandkörbe are locked, and when you pay your euros, they unlock one for you and it is yours for the day.
This was a grey and overcast day, hence not much activity at the beach.
But the sun came out the following day, and so did the tourists.
On the afternoon we arrived, we sat on our small patio with a glass of wine, looking forward to our days on this new-to-us island. All of a sudden a stork came flying by, very low, sailing by us. A stork?
It wasn’t until the next day that we discovered the storks, being held captive across the street by a stork enthusiast in his yard.
People were obviously divided over the appropriateness of this “hobby”, but for us it meant many trips over there, watching at least a couple of dozen European storks doing their thing, and attempting to get the ultimate photograph of one of those big birds. Their wings had been clipped, but they were still able to fly short distances. Once there were three in the air circling over the houses, quite a spectacle. We even saw them at the beach a couple of times.
The highlight of our stay on Föhr was an experience we had been planning for a whole year. Last summer Bob, Suzi, and I spent a few days on Amrum, another one of the North Frisian islands. We had planned to do a walk on the Watt, when the tide was out, and more specifically a walk from Amrum to Föhr, i.e. from one island to another. You are only allowed to do this with a guide; obviously it is too dangerous to be out there by yourself if you don’t know the Watt intimately. But the weather wasn’t exactly in our favor: on the day of our planned excursion, the air was quite chilly, and so was the water. This year we had no excuse as the weather was sunny and warm.
We gathered near the harbor and were ferried by bus to a small community on the NW coast of the island. We met our guide, took socks and shoes off, and got into the water, or what was left of it.
And thus began a marvelous adventure of walking 8 km, or about 5 miles, on the Watt to the neighboring island of Amrum. The sun was warm, and it felt good to walk on the wet sand. No mud this time, but very sandy ocean bottom.
We stopped numerous times so the guide could point out, pick up, and explain various creatures that make the Watt their home, their unique ways to adapt, pro-create, and hide from predators. It was fascinating. Our group consisted of people of all ages — even a small dog was along.
Far off we saw the sand dunes of Amrum: last year we walked to that point of the island several times as it was not far from where we stayed. Now I recognized those dunes right away, and it was thrilling to see them come closer and closer.
Before we could touch firm ground under our feet again, we had to cross a wide, and often quite deep, Priel. Priels are narrow waterways running all through the Halligen, as well as under the water of the Wattenmeer. Our guide told us that normally this particular Priel was a lot deeper and could easily come up to our waist. But today conditions were more favorable: it was shallower and barely got to my knees.
After our successful crossing of Watt and Priel, we reached the beach of Amrum. There we dispersed.
Suzi and I found a picnic table and first of all had some lunch. We had a few hours to explore the island, so we crossed the dunes to the huge beach on the west side.
We slowly walked along the water’s edge, marveling at the beach which seemed extra wide that day. A walkway led into the small village where we stayed last year, and once again we were most impressed by the number of bicycles parked in the parking lot. Bicycles are definitely the foremost kind of transportation.
How familiar everything looked to us. We had just enough time to find a table in the cafe that we visited last year a couple of times for some iced coffee. Don’t even try and compare it with our American iced coffee!
Later we took the last ferry back to Föhr, and still later we fell asleep to the clacking of the storks.
Thus ended our two weeks in North Frisia. Lots of memories. Our hearts were heavy when we had to say good-bye. Back in Dagebüll, the local and long-distance trains share space with the ferry building, and soon we were situated in our comfy train and on our way to Hamburg.
We had two nights and only one full day in Hamburg, near the airport, through an Airbnb arrangement. The hostess was out of town, so we had her lovely, modern apartment all to ourselves. Somehow our plan of taking the S-Bahn to downtown Hamburg to do some more sightseeing didn’t come to pass: neither one of us felt like doing anything specific. It was time to decompress.
Early next morning Suzi and I took a taxi to the airport, she went off on the train to Berlin, her first stop before venturing again into Eastern Europe, and I flew off on SAS to San Francisco — and reality.