It's the same sea, but the coastline could hardly be more different - sandy beaches stretch out in front of Cuxhaven, Land Wursten has a green beach on the dike - and Germany's only deep-sea island, Helgoland, is completely different: Red rocks rise out of the sea and right next to them are flat beach dunes.
What unites the entire German North Sea coast between the mouth of the Ems and Sylt? The crab haul. But where the best crabs are to be found is a matter of debate. The Wurster North Sea coast is almost always in the draw. From time immemorial, crabbing has been a miserable finger exercise. As is well known, a large part of the animals is now transported to low-wage countries and returned ready-pulled. The attempt to mechanically shell North Sea shrimp, on the other hand, seems to be more of a story of failure. The crux of mechanical processing is the difference in size between the small male and female inhabitants of the mudflats. Shrimper Alwin Kocken from Spieka-Neufeld spent 14 years tinkering until he was halfway satisfied with the result in 1986. Since then, more than 1,000 tons of "garnet" have been shelled in his operation. His advantage: The sea creatures are not transported through the history of the world, but arrive freshly caught on the plate or between two halves of a bun.
Defiantly it towers for more than 700 years, the lighthouse of the tidal island Neuwerk, off Cuxhaven. In 1299, Hamburg asked the Duke of Saxony to allow it to build a defense tower on the island, which was still uninhabited at the time, to secure the mouth of the Elbe against pirates. The Saxons gave their consent, and eleven years later the 39-meter-high bulwark was completed - making it Hamburg's oldest building, as the island is politically part of Hamburg's Mitte district. Neuwerk has many loyal friends who want to soak up the special atmosphere of the island along with the North Sea air. Here you can let your soul dangle. This can be done over coffee and cake or relaxing on the dikes. It never gets boring, because the North Sea constantly changes its face in the course of the tides. If you can't stand so much idleness, you can go on a tour around the island, which takes about an hour. With luck you can watch seals. With a little bad luck - or maybe even more luck - you will miss the last ferry to the mainland. Because the only thing that can top a day trip is to spend the night on Neuwerk. The best place is the lighthouse, once reserved for Hamburg's senators.
Nowhere else you can get as close to the big ships and the dream ships as you can at the "Alte Liebe," the historic pier in Cuxhaven with its wooden viewing platform. It was built in 1733 as protection against the North Sea tides; three shipwrecks were filled with stones, sunk and secured with piles. The bulwark was later given the name "Old Love". How the tourist magnet got this name, however, is disputed. The most authentic-sounding variant is that one of the ships was called "Olivia" - in Low German "Ol Liev", and translated back into High German it became "Alte Liebe".
On New Year's Day 1721 the raging North Sea proved too powerful. Meter-high waves carved up Helgoland. A few years ago, reunification almost came about, and then one could even have played golf on Germany's only deep-sea island. A green was to be built as well as luxury hotels, had the plans of investor Arne Weber been put into practice. What initially sounded like a crazy idea in 2008 turned out to be a bold vision to boost the limping tourism on the "Fuselfelsen". His plan was to build a sheet pile wall about a kilometer long, fill the strait with sand and thus reunite the dune and the main island. Weber, the child of a native Helgolander, was not planning a Disneyland in the North Sea. His vision included environmental protection measures, the construction of wind turbines, photovoltaic systems and a tidal power plant. In mid-2010, however, politicians shot down the plans, and a majority of the people of Helgoland also voted against them. Nevertheless, a lot has happened on the island: the new adventure promenade has been completed, a Welcome Center welcomes guests, and the new, comfortable and completely barrier-free "MS Helgoland," in service since fall 2015, has a permanent berth in Helgoland Harbor, unlike the other seaside ships.
The agriculturally used, 3.3 km² island (40 inhabitants) in the southwest of the Elbe estuary belongs politically to Hamburg. The neighboring islands of Scharhörn and Nigehörn are refuges for numerous bird species; only Scharhörn may be visited on official guided tours. Especially recommended:
The landmark of Neuwerk is the lighthouse, which was built as early as 1300 as a defense tower in the fight against piracy. Initially, a tower crew of eleven men was responsible for securing the mouth of the Elbe. In 1556 a dike was built around the tower, and since then the islanders have always found refuge here during storm tides. Numerous ships ran aground on the shallow sandbanks near Neuwerk, so in 1644 a simple scaffold was erected as a navigation mark with a coal fire. In 1814, the lighthouse took over this function. It has been a listed building since 1924. The National Park House presents an interesting exhibition on the history of the island, the Wadden Sea and the topic of Wadden Sea protection and offers excursions (www.nationalpark-wattenmeer.de).
A very special experience are the trips with waders to Neuwerk. The horse-drawn wagons take about 75 min. from the mainland to the island. They start in Duhnen or Sahlenburg.
The "city by the sea" (pop. 48,000) at the northern tip of Lower Saxony attracts millions of tourists every year. The beaches and the coast are magnificent, and so day or vacation guests enjoy themselves mainly in the districts of Duhnen, Döse and Sahlenburg - at low tide in the mudflats and at high tide in the North Sea waves. Many visitors to Cuxhaven also come to indulge in their hobby of "watching the pots". Cuxhaven received city rights at the beginning of the 20th century. The highlights:
Cuxhaven exudes maritime flair. The crowd puller is the Old love: jetty, viewing platform and 1733, built as a bulwark and breakwater from three shipwrecks. Nearby, the bright red lightship has Elbe 1 moored; from 1948 to 1988 as a floating lighthouse in position, it now serves as a museum ship and excursion steamer (tel. 04721 424 38 20, www.feuerschiff-elbe1.de). The landmark of Cuxhaven is the wooden Ball Beaconwhich marks the transition from the Elbe into the North Sea. Also worth seeing Ritzebüttel CastleOne of the oldest secular buildings (14th century) of the North German brick Gothic (Schlossgarten 8, www.schlossverein-ritzebuettel.de).
The Wreck Museum and the Fishing Museum are united under one roof as Wind Force 10 (Ohlroggestraße 1, www.windstaerke10.net); the museum presents numerous exhibits on deep-sea fishing and shipwrecks. The only Ringelnatz Museum Germany presents works by the painter Joachim Ringelnatz, who is otherwise better known as a poet (Südersteinstraße 44, www.ringelnatzstiftung.de). From the historical Hapag Halls (1911-1913), thousands of emigrants once set out for the New World; the former Steubenhöft reception building houses the permanent exhibition "Farewell to America" (guided tours 10:30 a.m., dates on www.hapaghalle-cuxhaven.de).
A North Sea vacation is incomplete without Mudflat hike - it is also available as a night variant. Several shipping companies offer trips to the seal banks, Neuwerk and Helgoland, as well as harbor tours.
The Aeronauticum in Nordholz offers an insight into the history of German naval aviation (www.aeronauticum.de). Worth seeing churches in the Cuxland are the "Bauerndome" St. Jacobi in Lüdingworth (origin 11th century; southeast) and St. Nicolai in Altenbruch (origin 13th century; southeast). For nature lovers, a detour to the Altenwalder Küstenheide (south) is worthwhile.
"Green is the land, red is the cant, white is the beach. These are the colors of Helgoland." The flag also reflects the island slogan of Germany's only offshore island, which is about 250 million years old and, since the New Year's tide in 1721, actually consists of two islands: the sandstone cliff with a 61-meter-high steep coast and the 0.7-square-kilometer bathing dune with the finest sand. Helgoland (1500 inhabitants), which covers a total area of 1.7 square kilometers, is known for its healthy climate. The most famous Helgolander is the author James Krüss (1926 to 1997), who wrote children's book classics with "Timm Thaler" and "Mein Urgroßvater und ich". Helgoland is car-free. On the dune, the bathing island, you can watch seals as well as grey seals. If you are lucky, you may also see harbor porpoises on the trip to the island or on a tour around the island.
Arrival: In the past, the disembarkation with Börtebooten was an integral part of the arrival with the seaside resort ship. In the meantime, some ships and the fast catamarans (from Cuxhaven approx. 75 min.) sail directly to the new southern harbor. However, for many visitors to Helgoland, disembarkation is an essential part of a vacation on the island, and so the old harbor is still used. There they change to the 10 m long and 3 m wide Börteboote. Trips are offered from Cuxhaven, Hamburg, Wedel and Büsum, among other places. Ships of the shipping company Cassen Eils start daily at 10.00 o'clock (www.cassen-eils.de) from Cuxhaven.
Worth seeing: Helgoland's landmark is the Long Anna, a red sandstone rock rising almost 50 m from the sea. The colorful lobster stalls at the inland port have become the tourist center of the island.
At the Helgoland Museum the island's eventful history is made vivid (spa promenade, www.museum-helgoland.de). Also worth a visit is the adjacent museum courtyard, where you can find, among other things, the James Krüss lobster stalls.
Bathing pleasures are offered by the seawater pool of the Mare Frisicum Spa Helgoland with indoor pool and summer pool. An island tour with the Börte boat brings the island and dune closer (Tel. 04725 8 13 70).
Cover photo: Always with the wind - kitesurfers on the beach of Cuxhaven © picture alliance / DUMONT Bildarchiv | Toma Babovic
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