Postcards from the Edge – Hallig Trivia
Posted on August 5, 2015
Life on Hallig Hooge slows down as soon as you disembark from the ferry. Your immersion in nature starts soon after you leave the mainland: you pass by one or more sandbanks where seals are lolling about, always an awesome sight. After an hour and 15 minutes, you tie up at the ferry landing on Hallig Hooge. Your first impression: Wow, no towns, no T-shirt shops, clean and wide open views. The only “traffic” is provided by the horse-drawn carriages — and by bicycles you can rent.
Nobody seems to be in a hurry. You learn that everybody says “Du” to each other, but they use the formal “Sie” with visitors, who are not used to addressing people besides children with the informal “Du”. People don’t lock their homes, nor their bicycles — why should they?
Laundry is hung out to dry, in front of their houses, in the side yards, even in front of the firehouse. It gaily flutters in the constant wind.
The Hallig has 9 Warften, and 107 inhabitants (as of today). Total area 5,6 square km, or 2.2 square miles. There is one school, and six students are presently enrolled. Also a nursery school. One grocery store supplies the locals, visitors, restaurants, as well as vacation rentals that serve meals. Of course, provisions have to come on the ferry from the mainland, and people are invited, with adequate time given, to special order groceries not carried in the store.
The hub, “downtown”, of the Hallig is Hanswarft. I have already mentioned the commercial activity there, but it is also home to 40 locals living in private residences.
Hanswarft also boasts a walk-in clinic which is open just a couple of hours a day. There is one nurse and a caregiver on the Hallig, but in case of serious illness or accident, the emergency doctor has to be called. He comes in his helicopter from the mainland and flies the patient to a hospital somewhere in Schleswig-Hostein.
There is a central recycling station. Here Suzi disposes of the bottle we enjoyed the night before.
The Hallig is administered by “The Community”. The mayor is at the helm, with a number of councils and committees helping to make decisions. Most people are involved in running the day-to-day business, if not paid, then as volunteers, and it seems to me they are really interested in taking care of each other and their Hallig. Theirs is such a unique place, so small and compact, and a larger city’s problems are simply not present here. They wouldn’t want to trade this kind of life for anything. Sure, they need to go to the mainland for medical treatments, dental appointments, and major shopping, but when they are back on the ferry they are going home.
The Community sponsors many events — movies, a theater group, guided tours to learn about the flora and fauna of the Hallig, game afternoons, concerts, and singing in the church or parish building. One of the most popular activities is participating in a Wattwanderung, or a Walk on the Bottom of the Sea. I was able to join in one of them, and will write about that in a different post.
And you walk. You walk everywhere.
Unless you ride a bicycle. You can bring your own or rent one here.
But if you don’t have a bike, you walk. From my Warft to the Hanswarft and the grocery store, or if I want a restaurant meal, it is 10-15 mins. From there to the next Warft, about the same. The path along the coast, all the way around, is 12 km, or about 8 miles. We walk a lot, needless to say. And on each outing we enjoy the profusion of wildflowers, the birds and their young, the grazing cows and their calves, and the eternal tides, coming in, going out …
And at night we are usually rewarded with a flaming sky.
It stays light a long time after the sun sets, which entices us to take even more walks after most people have turned in for the night.
Maybe you have a little idea now that this is not a hectic, running-around, doing-stuff kind of vacation. It is different: a real slowing down of body and mind. And we like it.