Postcards from the Edge – A North Sea Hallig
Posted on August 4, 2015
Every good postcard should start with: “Wish you were here!” And so I will try in a series of short posts to explain why I feel that way.
My daughter Suzi and I are on our beloved Hallig Hooge, the small island in Northern Germany’s Wadden Sea, where we spent all of five days last year. We knew then that we’d be back, and this year was a perfect time, a month-long stay for me, and eleven days for Suzi, added on to Bob’s and my trip through water-themed Netherlands, Germany, and Poland.
So here we are in a very comfortable and nicely appointed vacation rental apartment on a Warft. There are nine Warften on the island, man-made hills on which people have built their houses. Since a Hallig is a small, unprotected island in the middle of the sea, and since the North Sea produces tremendous storms that often pound the coast, it gets flooded several times a year. Then the entire island will be under water, and only those hillocks, the Warften, will peek out of the water. I haven’t experienced a Landunter (literally “Land Under”) yet, probably never will, but secretly wish I could! Therefore, lacking dramatic photos so popular with magazine articles, I will show you a few of the Warften under normal conditions.
Our Warft is the easternmost one called Ockenswarft, home to nine homes, a pond that in former times served as people’s and cattle’s drinking water, an open area with a bench, even a communications tower.
A road leads clear across the island to the westernmost Warft, the Westerwarft, with four cute, thatched-roof cottages, all surrounded by lovely gardens. In fact, a sign outside proudly states that they won “best gardens” of the Hallig some years ago.
Then there is Hanswarft, the “downtown” and hub of the Hallig.
Here are located, besides private residences, the only grocery store, three restaurants, a couple of small places selling fish sandwiches and ice cream, a museum, a small movie theater that only shows short films about past storms and floods, the only souvenir shop, and an arts and crafts shop. In the summer one restaurant puts on Friday evening BBQs, and the place often rocks to music late into the night. This Warft also houses the Volunteer Fire Station, the Tourist Office, and the wonderful Wattenmeer Information/ResearchCenter/Natural History Museum. They sponsor a number of programs, lectures, and guided tours.
The most picturesque Warft is the Church Warft, with only the Church and the parsonage. It is surrounded by a wide priel, a waterway created by the tides. The priels criss cross the whole Hallig and are alive with ducks and fishing birds.
Connecting the Warfts are wide open pastures with cows and sheep, even free range chickens, salt marshes, more pastures, more cows and sheep, more salt marshes … I already mentioned the main road, east to west. There are a couple of other roads, also a few trails, some paved, leading from some Warfts to the water. Otherwise, uninterrupted wide open space, with the sea beyond. And a big sky with ever changing cloud formations.
This Hallig will be our home for a whole month.
Now to the question most of you have already asked me after last year’s short stay on Hooge: “What do you do all day?” I will tell you … later.