Hiking in the Mud Flat, Wadden Sea or Watt

Part of UNESCO’s World Heritage, the Wadden Sea is a kind of intertidal zone in the North Sea. The tide goes out and leaves the flat bottom. You can walk from island to island in those hours… for some people the only way to leave their homes. The around 500 km along the North Sea shore are heavily altered, yet it seems natural.

When we were visiting Sankt Peter Ording this summer, we had a few walks in the salt marsh – a coastal intertidal zone with grasses, shrubs and herbs that are regularly flooded by salt water during high tide – and the mudflat or Watt itself. It is one of the most interesting and richest ecosystems and was always on my to-absolutely-do-list.

Mud or tidal flats are coastal wetlands that are exposed twice a day. They are essentially sediments of estuarine silts, clay and animal detritus. Very often these lands were dredged and developed into agricultural areas. Along the North Sea many places are used for sports and tourism like mud flat hiking or land sailing.

Tidal flats are very important and rich ecosystems. Migratory shorebirds find there food here, crabs, fish and mollusks are living in the mud and for many other animals they are vital. Mud flats are also preventing coasts from erosion. The same the following marsh land with a great variation of herbaceous plants, shrubs and others. These mud flats exist in the whole world in many areas where there is open sea.

The Wadden Sea, like it is called along the North Sea coast, stretches from Den Helder in the Netherlands to Skallingen in Denmark and has a length of 500 km. Nearly everywhere you find dikes and causeways.

We have been to Sankt Peter Ording in Northern Germany for a few days and hiked there the mud flats and beaches. There are enormous beaches with fine, white sand, beach chairs and restaurants. If you go out on sand banks you can see harbor seals and walk also from island to island further north of SPO. I thought the salt marches are also very interesting and we had to walk several times on long boardwalks (2 kilometers and more) to go through the marshes and arrive at the beaches and/or mud flats.

The area is not that much anymore threatened by tourism (there are huge plans of conservation) but by invasive species like algae or plants.

I enjoyed very much just walking barefoot on the mud, soft, wet and wavy (because of the water moves at high tide). It feels really good and I would like to do it again. If you are interested: before you book a place where to stay (especially if you are there only for 1 or 2 days), take good information about the tides, they vary every day. You find them in the Internet. I would recommend the summer months as the water and wind are warmer. During the winter time you will get very cold feet. Of course you can walk also with wellies, but the fun is to feel actually the ground under your naked feet.

Wadden Sea:

For further information:
Website of the Wadden Sea World Heritage

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And Let it be Light – The Magic of Light Festival in Travemünde

The days are getting shorter and every day a few minutes earlier I have to switch on the light. So now the time starts for light festivals and soon I will witness again lanterns held by children going through the streets. This time there was a magic event: the Magic of Lights in the Godewindpark in Travemünde. Art and light coming together in a magical atmosphere.

A few days ago I have been at the Light Festival in the park in Travemünde. A friend of mine told me about it and said it is an annual event. As I am here only occasionally I never have seen it before and was curious about it.

I walked the night before the actual event through the park and took my pictures. It was still quiet and peaceful, perfect for the feeling of magic in the air. The two following nights were completely over-crowded and I didn’t go.

I didn’t see the performances nor the firework. For the first it was too packed with people that I got away before seeing anything and the second I stayed with my cat who was terrified by the loud fireworks they put on right in front of the house. She is not used to something like that.

I enjoyed the lights, most of the time in all colors, sometimes blinking, hidden behind bushes or high in the trees. I thought the gorilla in the swimming glass-house is funny and loved the play of the light reflections in the lake. It was a fantastic scenery and the sky put its own lights with millions of stars and a bright moon. Romantic-enchanted is a good description for the event.

Travemünde, Schleswig-Holstein/Germany:

For further information:
Here is a video about the Light Festival 2019, very pretty!

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Sleeping at the Dike

It has been decades that I’ve wanted to go to do some hiking in the mudflats, the North Sea Watt. It is something very special when the sea water level decreases and leaves the sea bottom without water, the also called tidal flats. I remember that from when I was a child and was there once with the school. I always wanted to go there again with my dog… and I never had the possibility when he was alive.

Now I don’t have a loving dog anymore to go with, but a loving man. And I took the occasion to show him something very special for the northern German area. I booked a room for two nights at Sankt Peter Ording, one of the strategical best places to go hiking at the North Sea.

I chose a place near to the sea but outside the very busy and touristic Sankt Peter Ording. I found a wonderful place at Tating, a one-minute walk to the dike and a 3-minute drive to SPO.

The house is an old farm house. High ceilings, beautiful entrance with a porch, big rooms… just the way I remember the houses in my childhood. The house is surrounded by barns, sheep in the garden work as lawn mowers, cows are grazing on the meadows and a horse was greeting us.

The people are very nice. A young woman came to show us the room, the little daughter looking at us newcomers. The mom explained how it works with the keys and how to go to SPO.

Personal experience:

The room was a little apartment. The entrance room had a little kitchen with all facilities one needs and a dining table. The living room area was nice and cozy. The big windows give a lot of light and views to the garden. A nice, clean and new bathroom – very important to me – and a nice little bedroom. Definitely a place where one can stay for vacation.

The Wi-Fi was good and my sweetie could use his smartphone which normally doesn’t work in Europe due to his payment plan.

I had a walk to the dike which is just a minute walk from the house. The sheep on the dike were all looking at me. I think they are very funny animals! Later we walked a little on the dike and relaxed in the middle of the sheep, looking over to the sea and enjoying the wind.

I recommend:

The North Sea is famous for its wind. To sit on the dike with the sheep and inhale the strong, fresh air, feeling the wind blowing in your hair knowing after that it will take ages to get out the mess, to watch the sun going down over the Watt… that is something special.

We had an afternoon in SPO just strolling around in the center. In the morning we had a wonderful walk along the beach. I think it is the largest beach at least in Europe, more than 2 kilometers just to arrive at the shore. As it is a protected area, you pay a fee to enter. But that is useful for many more things to do in the area.

The Info-Center is worth going to. Of course, they speak English, and they give you some good tips what to do in the town and also in the surroundings. We went in the evening to an organ concert in the local church. It was very nice.

If you need a supermarket: right at the beginning of SPO there is a shopping area on the right, with Lidl, Aldi, Rewe and the Kaufhaus Martin Stolz where you can find a lot of souvenirs for a better price than in the town center. We had a quick and yummy lunch at the Küstenkantine in the same place.

Tating, Schleswig-Holstein/Germany:

For further information:
A little bit about Sankt Peter Ording (in German)
Bauernhof (on Airbnb)

25881 Tating

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On the Path of the Vikings (2) – Haithabu Museum

This summer we were on the path of the Vikings who lived once in most of the parts of the nowadays Schleswig-Holstein region in northern Germany. Haithabu (or Hedeby) is a great place to discover more. Here there are re-constructed houses, a whole little village but also a very good museum. That’s the one I want to talk about, read here about the village.

Haithabu is one of the most researched sites in Germany. Only 5 % of the site is discovered until today but has already much to see. And the museum in its various rooms gives a great overview of the life more than a thousands years ago, when the place was an important trading center. There are exponents of the daily life but also of the trading business.

Most of the artifacts are displayed in show-cases and have also a little tag with some explanation what you see (German and Danish, you need the audio guide for English). Very impressive are the rune stones. I once learned about runes in school and was writing in runes for a long time. Childish things we all did.

I very much was interested in the jewelry, gold leafs and glass work. It is oftentimes so filigree and beautiful and very much similar to Byzantine jewelry.

In an extra room there is a display of a royal ship. It was once the fastest ship on the Baltic Sea and 31 meters long. It sank in the port of Haithabu. The trading ship is shorter, 22 meters, but had a load capacity of 60 tons (!). It was one of the largest trading vessels of the period. You get a good overview as well what a port was like around the 11th century.

In the little cinema you can follow two documentaries about what life was then.

The museum itself looks very modern from outside, but inside you feel like in the body of an ancient ship.

I would recommend an audio guide in the museum to have a better explanation of the objects you can see. There are also guided tours and programs, I don’t know if they are also in English. Handicapped people have no problem in the museum, it is possible to drive over to the village.

In the main museum house on the right, where you buy your tickets, you will find also a little gift shop with funny drinking horns, fake swords, t-shirts and books (in German obviously). When you buy the ticket don’t hesitate to pay the additional 2 € for the audio guide, you will need it to fully experience the life of the Vikings.

From here you can enter also the little restaurant which has really good food in a small choice. If you go downstairs you will find sanitary facilities and a room with lockers for your bags and rucksacks.

I also would recommend to do first the museum before you walk over to the village. That way you can dive better into the Viking life and the understanding is better than if you would go and not knowing what you are looking at.

Viking Museum Haithabu, Schleswig-Holstein/Germany:

For further information:
The official website of Haithabu

Open: all year round 10 am to 4 pm

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On the Path of the Vikings (1) – Haithabu Village

This summer I was at the Haithabu village near to Schleswig in the north of Germany to explore the life of more than a thousand years ago. Haithabu was an international trading center between the 8th and 11th century.

Heiðabýr was one of the first middle ages cities of the north and one of the most important trading centers between Scandinavia, West Europe and the two seas North and Baltic, but also east and south Europe. It was founded around 770 and destroyed completely after only 300 years. It is located on the Cimbrian or Jutland peninsula at the navigable inlet river Schlei and connected to the Baltic Sea. Just 15 kilometers from here there is the Treene river that is connected to the Eider river and this way to the North Sea. They overcame that land distance with the help of a corduroy road. In a certain way Lübeck later took over the role of Haithabu founding the Hanseatic League. After the destroying of the Viking city the surviving people founded Schleswig, just on the opposite side of the Schlei.

The name is translated heath-settlement. The place was first mentioned in 804 but already existed for longer. A key-role to the heyday of the place plays also the Daneverk, an earthen defensive system that has gone through the whole peninsula from east to west. A 9 meter high semi circular wall surrounded the city on the land side. It was one of the biggest cities of the Viking era which started and ended with Haithabu (remember that Leif Erikson explored the American continent already around 1000 AD)

The town was mentioned from people from England and the Mediterranean which let us see how international the trade and how famous the city was. The city even minted its own coins! Ships were going to far away places like Greece to bring back the goods. Haithabu was the forerunner to the later founded Hanseatic League with Lübeck as center.

The town houses were standing all near by each other, they were small and very simple and made of wood and straw. During excavations archaeologists found different kinds of sepulture which shows that many types of beliefs lived peacefully together. There was found also evidence of slave trade.

Harald Hardrada destroyed the city in 1066 and it was never rebuilt. The remaining people started a new life and town on the other side of the Schlei river: Schleswig.

Excavations of the long time forgotten place started in the late 19th century and are completed only of 5 % of the whole area of the city. The museum opened in 1985.

Haithabu is World Culture Heritage of the UNESCO since June 2018.

What I think? Definitely a MUST-SEE when you are in North Germany. It gives you an understanding of many things: about life in Denmark, life in Germany, about Vikings (who would not be interested in their life?) and where the Hanseatic League had its roots. Addtionally the landscape is beautiful, the place is ideal also and especially with children and you can easily spend a whole day in Haithabu. Don’t miss to buy a drink horn, it is really fun!

Viking Museum Haithabu, Schleswig-Holstein/Germany:

For further information:
The official website of Haithabu

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