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Travels in Germany - Overview and Content

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Shop window in Munich

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This blog is meant to assemble my many bigger and smaller trips within Germany. It might also include the occasional hop across the border into the neighbouring countries. A lot of it is based on material I had on the defunct Virtualtourist and then on the soon-to-be-defunct Travbuddy.

The start photo sums up the cliché that many international tourists have about our country: football and beer, Dirndl and Lederhosen, and Germany equals Bavaria and hardly more than Bavaria. Oh well...

I hope to show you that there is much, much more.

Trips and places

Cuxhaven and surroundings based on three visits in 2007, 2013, and 2015
including a day trip to Helgoland

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Posted by Kathrin_E 09:57 Archived in Germany Comments (4)

Cuxhaven

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Cuxhaven is my favourite place on the shores of the North Sea. It is one on the few places on the mainland where the mudflats are sandy and solid, thus can be walked safely. About 10-15 kms of sea bottom fall dry at low tide, so no matter how crowded the beach has been, you'll be on your own when you set out. The tidelands are part of the Nationalpark Deutsches Wattenmeer and full of life. For those who are interested in nature, there is a lot to discover. At the same time the town is big enough to offer all kinds of infrastructure and shopping. Train connections both to Hamburg and Bremen are all right, so the place is easy to reach without a car.

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Stickenbüttel

In late spring 2007 I spent three weeks in Cuxhaven and found it the PERFECT place for my purposes: I needed a quiet place far away from my phone, internet, the usual hassle and the usual time-consuming bad habits to write/finish a book, and I wanted it to be close to the sea. There is nothing more relaxing to me than walking along a beach with my bare feet in the water, feeling the wind and the sun. Since I was little I have always been fascinated by big ships, so that was another plus. At the same time I wanted a place with enough infrastructure for emergency: computer store in case of laptop trouble (which I did not need, luckily), library in case of need for more information (which I used indeed), good train connections, etc.

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Lüdingworth

I rented a self-catered apartment in the suburb of Stickenbüttel in the house of a wonderful elderly couple who were always ready for a chat, rented a bicycle and divided my time between writing and outdoor activities depending on weather, daylight hours, tides (and momentary laziness). I even discovered a jewel that made it into my book: the church of Lüdingworth.

I had long wanted to return and in summer 2013 I finally made it back. I rented an apartment in Döse this time, five minutes walk from the dyke and the beach. I stayed for 10 days, most of which were spent with my favourite pastime, i.e. tideland walks, tides permitting. But I also took the chance to go on day trips to Helgoland and Stade.

In March 2015 I spent two weeks in Otterndorf for research reasons, and I gave myself a day off for a hop over to Cuxhaven. At that time the beach was still empty, and it was too chilly for mudflat walking. A completely different experience.

Kugelbake

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Kugelbake is Cuxhaven's landmark. The wooden structure was erected as a navigational aid. Already in the early 18. century the original one was erected, but it had to be renewed every 30 years or so. The present structure dates from after 1945. There are many of these all along the North Sea coast and islands. They all have different shapes, so they could be identified with the help of strong binoculars and helped sailors to navigate. In the age of radar and GPS navigation it serves no practical purpose any more but it is maintined as a historical monument and Cuxhaven's iconic symbol. Nowadays it is popular with tourists as a viewpoint. Access is free, and open any time.

Geographically, Kugelbake marks the very point where the Elbe estuary ends and the North Sea begins. The coastline does a sharp bend in a right angle from Northwest to Southwest here. This spot is the official end of the river.

The Stone Dam

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While the mudflats in front of the beaches fall dry, the Elbe river keeps enough water to allow ships to travel. A 10 km long stone dam that begins next to the Kugelbake separates the mudflats from the river. On the left you can walk on solid sandy ground at low tide, on the right you have the deep shipping channel. Never even think of going swimming there, currents and waves caused by passing ships are far too dangerous.

Beach and Beach Promenade

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Beach life 1

The beaches along Döse, Duhnen and Sahlenburg are popular for sunbathing and all kinds of beach activities in the summer season. They are also the starting points for walks into the mudflats.

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Beach life 2

Strandkörbe (beach baskets) can be rented per day or for a longer time depending on the duration of your stay. Strandkörbe are a typical German beach item. The first one was created by a basket-maker in Rostock in the 19th century. On the beaches of Baltic Sea and North Sea the weather is not always reliable. The wind can be unpleasantly chilly even if the sun is shining brightly. The basket can be turned into the optimal direction to protect you from the wind but let the sun in, or to shade you from the sun, just as you like. The back reclines and foot rests can be pulled out. A Strandkorb usually seats two people. The front is closed with a wooden grid and locked with a padlock, so you can store your beach stuff inside overnight.

The sandy beach is fine, the waters are calm, but swimming the sea is hardly possible. At high tide the water is too shallow even far out. I tried "just because" and managed to swim a bit but always had to keep my knees from getting stuck on the sea bottom. Real swimming is only possible
a) at the grass beaches of Grimmershörn and Altenbruch along the Elbe at rising tide
b) in the pretty big sea water spa in Duhnen
c) in the open air sea water pool among the dunes in Döse (Freibad Steinmarne).

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A favourite pastime on German beaches is building sand castles. Digging holes and canals in the wet ground just off the beach is also popular. Sand and mud invite to dig. Some people build huge ramparts around their Strandkorb and decorate them with shells or whatever they find on the beach. Here is a particularly fine sand architecture, probably done with castle-shaped moulds for "sandcake baking". Showels, moulds and everything you and your kids need to play in the sand can be obtained from each and every souvenir shop on and behind the dyke. However, building huge sand castles around your Strandkorb, as it was popular some decades ago, is not allowed any more nowadays. There are certain rules concerning the size and extension of sand castles now.

All kids, big and small (and also some very big kids;-)), enjoy playing in the mud at low tide. Schlick surfing is a low-tide beach entertainment that looks like big fun... You need a flat board that looks like a small surfboard; these are on sale in all the souvenir shops along the beach for a few Euros. Throw the board into a muddy puddle in front of you, run a few steps and jump onto the board. Then you “surf” on the mud – how far, depends on your speed and your balance. (Splash! But no worries, there are showers along the beach.)

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A smoothly paved promenade extends all the way along the beach. It has benches, showers and taps to wash muddy feet, a couple of eateries and souvenir shops along the way and free toilets in several spots - everything that you need on the beach. The cleaning squad is on duty every day. The promenade is suitable for wheelchairs, walkers, prams and strollers and toddlers' tricycles. The ramps over dyke and dunes prove the only problem that people with walking difficulties have to cope with. Bicycles, however, are strictly banned from the busiest part between the bay of Grimmershörn and the thermal spa in Duhnen. Cyclists have to use the bike trail behind the dyke on this stretch.

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The walk is very pleasant. If you find it too long, you can use the beach train. This is not a train on rails but a motor vehicle in the shape of a train. It runs along the beach promenad, starting at the Western end of the beach in Duhnen and ending at Alte Liebe in the port, with several stops along the way. It runs right on the beach promenade. If you can't or don't want to walk long distances, this "train" is a fun alternative to experience the beach landscapes and the views of the sea, tidelands and the Elbe.

Strandhaus is a popular spot on the beach in Döse. It was built right on the dyke in the 1950s. The architecture of the building and the stage shell are typical for that era, unspoilt, and will raise the spirits of every 1950s fan. The upper floor hosts an upscale restaurant with large panorama windows. The ground floor has a souvenir shop and snack bar, and on the meadow in front they have a large self-service beer garden. Part of the outdoor seating is inside a tent with heaters.

From Wednesday to Sunday they have live music on the concert stage outside – the quality of the bands and musicians varies. Some are quite good, the two guys who did the “Kölsche Abend” one night, however, deserve a “Warnings and Dangers” tip... Their sound can be heard in half of Döse, so it is hard to escape them. Anyway, if you want to enjoy a beer with beach view, this is the place to go. Prepare for prices higher than average, though.

The playground by the beach promenade next to Strandhaus Döse has this huge pirate ship. Two wooden figures represent the town mascots Jan Cux and Cuxi dressed up as pirates. The ship must be fun to play on for kids, and it makes a nice subject for photos.

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Grimmershörn Bay

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From Kugelbake towards the port, the coastline changes its face completely. The stretch along Grimmershörn bay is called a "beach", but it is a green beach, i.e. grassy ground. Strandkörbe are placed here just like on the beaches of Duhnen and Döse. The advantage: no sandy feet and no sand in your bags, on your sandwiches and everywhere. The disadvantage: less beach flair, and reaching the water requires using metal ladders and stairs down the stone wall. The water is deep enough here for swimming. The tides must nevertheless be observed because of the currents.
The view is best from the path on top of the dyke. There are no dunes here, so the full dimensions of the dyke are visible. Due to frequent storm surges, such strong dykes are necessary to protect the land behind.

The Beach Off Season

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So far I had seen the beach always in high season, all filled with beach baskets and wind-protecting fences in between. In March, still off-season, the beach was wide and empty and undivided. Outside Duhnen they had already cleaned it and brought in fresh sand. There were no wooden benches on the promenade and the showers and taps to wash dirty feet were not yet installed. One or two of the snack bars were open, the others still closed. The bonus point is that there was no tax charged for access to the beach.

The new season was approaching and preparations were in full swing. In one spot the very first beach baskets had just been put up and people enjoyed the spring sun, well wrapped up in warm jackets. The horse-drawn carriages to Neuwerk had just opened the new season, there were four or five on tour - in late spring there will be 40 per day, during the summer holidays even twice as many.

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Sunsets

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An evening walk on the beach promenade is rewarding. The main beaches of Döse, Duhnen and Sahlenburg face northwest. The beach promenade and the stone dams are the perfect balcony to enjoy the sunset show over the mudflats. The colours and reflections are amazing. Let the photos speak for themselves!

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Posted by Kathrin_E 13:17 Archived in Germany Tagged north_sea cuxhaven niedersachsen lower_saxony Comments (0)

Wattwandern - Walking the Tidal Mudflats

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There is nothing more relaxing than a walk on the soft ground underneath a big big sky, feeling the wind and watching out for all those little animals that live in the mudflats - and, which is singular for Cuxhaven, watching the big ships entering or leaving the river Elbe. The mudflats are part of the "Nationalpark Deutsches Wattenmeer", thus a protected piece of nature.

10-15 kms of dry sea bottom can be walked at low tide. You can walk out from the beaches outside Duhnen and Döse and also from Sahlenburg. There ground is solid. However, avoid the part between Duhnen and Sahlenburg where the salt meadows are, there it is soft and muddy and dangerous.

Wind and sunlight and clouds put on a show for free over the tidelands. The sky looks always different, often dramatic. The photos here are just random examples. I carried my camera whenever I was walking to the seashore...

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What is so fascinating about walking the muddy tidelands? A question I am often asked. Isn’t it boring?

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No it isn’t, at least to me. It is one of the most relaxing activities on Earth. It appeals to all senses.

Looking at the big big sky and the often dramatic clouds, and the endless horizon. Feeling the wind and the splashing shallow water that quickly warms up with the sun.

Smelling and tasting the fresh salty sea air. Feeling the ground around your feet – sometimes soft and muddy, sometimes sandy, sometimes more solid with a pattern of little ripples or waves, sometimes a tickle from a baby fish or shrimp.

Hearing the wind and the screams of the birds.

The tidelands tell of eternal change. Panta rhei, everything is flowing.

The water is constantly rising and falling and changes the structures of the ground and the water currents within minutes. Animals move with the changing tides. The only permanent structures are those that humans built. In the nature of the tidelands, nothing ever stays the same.

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Safety Issues

Walking the mudflats is safe during low tide and good weather if, and only if, you observe a few rules:

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Tide calendar on the beach promenade

1. Check the tide calendar, take a watch and observe the hours!!! The time of the next high tide (Hochwasser) and low tide (Niedrigwasser) as well as the hours for swimming/bathing (Badezeit) and tideland hiking (Wattlaufzeit) are displayed on blackboards as in photo 2 everywhere at the entrances to the beach. Check because the hours of the tides change daily.

The end of walking time the calendar states is the hour of the lowest tide. You've still got some time till the water returns, but get back to the land side of the last Priel soon. The water comes faster than you imagine. Printouts of the tide calendar or blackboards with the up to date information are on display at all beach entrances. Make sure you understand what it says.

2. If the ground feels too muddy, turn around. Avoid the area outside the salty meadows between Duhnen and Sahlenburg.

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Priel at low tide

3. Take care when crossing a Priel, the waterflows where the water leaves last and comes back first. Take care when crossing a Priel (water current), the current may be strong. If the water becomes too deep, better not continue.

3. Watch your steps. Broken shells have sharp corners, and some crabs might show a nasty sense of humour.

4. Do not set out on foggy or rainy days with bad visibility or if a thunderstorm is approaching.

5. Don't go too far unless you're with a local who knows.

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When the red balls on the beach are pulled up, it is time to turn back towards the shore. At the life-saving stations on the beach, a red ball is pulled up when the tides change to call tideland hikers back to the shore. They pull it up right after low tide has reached its lowest level. If you are far out, this means it is time to turn round and return. Close to the beach you can still keep walking for a while, but don’t go too far, don't cross any Priel in outward direction any more.
The red ball can also indicate dangerous weather conditions that do not permit bathing or tideland walking. It is the official warning.

Just in case...

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Pricken (bushes of birch twigs) mark the route towards the shore.

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Big signpost by a main Priel pointing the directions to the shore and to the rescue baskets

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Rescue baskets are put up far out, in case someone gets stuck beyond the Priels. The water out there will go up to the red or even the green ring on the pole! The basket is supposed to hold up to 7 people. Not exactly comfortable!

The life saver guys are on the watch. But if they have to come and get you and it's your own fault, you'll face a nice big bill!

The Flood Rolling In

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The effect of the rising flood is rather impressive. The water pulls in at the speed of a walking person. This isn't dangerous close to shore as the water is still shallow and you can easily walk back to the beach with the flood.

However, you cannot see how deep the water actually is. In the sandy water you do not see Priele or holes any more, and stumbling into these deeper water currents can cause distress or even drowning.

So turn around in time, and make sure you are landside from the last Priel before the water rises.

After observing the rising of the flood once, you'll understand why it is so important to know the times of the changing tides.

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Wildlife in the Mudflats

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Don't step on me!

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There is always something for hungry beaks

At first sight, the mudflats look like a boring patch of flat brownish mud, and nothing else. But they are full of life. Worms and shells, little snails, shrimps, fish larvae, crabs, jellyfish populate it. Various specieses of water birds feed on them. In spring and autumn millions of wandering birds use the tidelands for a rest during their long journey. Guided tours in the mudflats (Wattführungen) are a great way to learn more about the amazing variety of life in this delicate ecosystem. There are guided tours of all kinds, for kids, families, or adults, and even guided hiking tours across to the island of Neuwerk. Visit the tourist information office - there is one in each suburb - for details and times.

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You will notice all this life very soon. During your first walks in the mudflats you will probably, just like I did, panic when something tickles your feet. The idea of a crab catching your toes with its pincers isn't too pleasant. In 99% of the cases, the causer is completely harmless and almost invisible. The shallow waters near the beach are full of tiny baby shrimps in late spring, and hardly bigger baby fish during the summer.

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Look carefully - there are four baby shrimps in this picture

Stranded Goods

The ancient law of the sea says: finders keepers. Stranded goods belong to whoever finds them. Modern legislation has a different approach concerning the load of stranded ships. Most likely you won’t find a whole super tanker full of petrol on the beach, though. When small items are concerned, this old law is still common usage and opinion. Our Wattwagen coachman told me that he has a whole collection of hats and baseball caps that he picked up on his regular rides to Neuwerk. My own best find was a watch. Quite far out in the tidelands I spotted something glittering among the mud. There was no one in sight who could have lost it, so it must have been there since at least the previous low tide. It is a pretty watch, a standard brand and not too valuable, and it kept running perfectly, and since then I have been wearing it almost every day for more than ten years.

The Salt Meadows Nature Reserve

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The stretch of sea shore between Duhnen and Sahlenburg has no beach but salt meadows. At high tide they are partly flooded, at low tide they fall dry.

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Queller, a typical plant
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The plants that grow here are specialists for salty water and ground. They are a favourite nesting area for many sea birds and a protected nature reserve. In spring and summer, during nesting season, they are totally closed off with fence and gate to have a quiet zone for the birds and their chicks. The paved bike trail that leads through them is not accessible then, you have to take a detour behind the dyke.

Do not try to approach this area from the tidelands either. While the sea bottom outside both Duhnen and Sahlenburg is solid sand, in this area you have pure Schlick, deep soft mud, which is really dangerous. Keep out of the mudflats here.

Posted by Kathrin_E 10:27 Archived in Germany Tagged north_sea cuxhaven niedersachsen lower_saxony Comments (0)

Wattwagenfahrt to Neuwerk with Bärbel and Anni

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A ride in a horse-drawn carriage across 13 kms of dry sea bottom to the island of Neuwerk is the most amazing and unique experience Cuxhaven has to offer. A marked solid trail leads through 13 kms of mudflats and through a couple of Priele (water flows). The carriages make it to Neuwerk with one hour stay in the island and then back to Duhnen or Sahlenburg during one single low tide. This is impossible to achieve for pedestrian hikers because on foot you’d need about three hours one way.

The tours start every day from spring to autumn, if the weather allows. The hours change according to the tides. The tourist office provides a list of addresses but won't be of any help booking the tours - this has to be done directly with the stables. Tours depart from Duhnen and from Sahlenburg. There are at least a dozen stables that offer these tours, which have to be booked directly with them. Their advertising in the streets is difficult to miss, so you'll find them. Book the tour at least one day in advance, during peak season earlier.

These carriages were especially built for their purpose. They are high so passengers won’t get wet if the cart has to pass through a deep Priel. The reins are made from ropes because leather would rot in the wet and salty surroundings. The benches on top are loose. In case a cart gets stuck and the water returns, people can hold on to them. All safety measures are taken to avoid trouble, and such incidents happen rarely to never. They leave in time when the tide is lowest in order to have enough time for the way back even if there is a problem, they never go alone, and everyone would help each other when necessary. Then there is also the DLRG keeping watch.

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After checking the weather forecast carefully, I tried my luck with a stable in Duhnen and got a place for the next day. I arrived in due time for boarding. Staff assigned the seats in order to avoid quarrels among the passengers, an excellent idea. Each carriage seats 7 or 8 people plus the coachman, so trouble might occur if the choice of seats was left to the passengers. The decision was very much in my favour: I don’t know how I deserved it, but I was given the seat in front next to the coachman. Perhaps because I was the only single traveller on our cart. So I was able to take fine photos without anyone’s head getting in the way, talkt o the coachman and watch the horses. He even let me hold the reins for a little while.

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Bärbel and Anni are getting dressed for work

Each carriage is drawn by two horses. Ours were two mares named Bärbel and Anni.

Dun-coloured Bärbel was an Ardenner, I’d say, while white Anni was of undefinable race.

I learned that each coachman has two pairs of horses. They work every second day, taking turns, so they have a day off to rest in between. Due to the saltwater they run in all the time, they all have very healthy legs and hooves.

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We rode through the centre of Duhnen, crossed the dyke and entered the mudflats from the ramp at Duhnen beach. Then we travelled first parallel to the beach, then in a wide curve towards Neuwerk. The direct line would not be safe, a certain detour has to be made. The route is checked and re-marked every spring. Since the sea bottom and the run of the Priele changes, the route may also change. The safe trail to Neuwerk, nicknamed the „Mudflat Highway“, is marked with Pricken, bushes of birch twigs. Pedestrians, too, have to follow this marked trail if they want to do the whole hike from the mainland to the island.

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The carriages set out as early as the lowering water allows. In some places the water is still quite deep, that's why the carriages are built that high. The horses have to cross several Priele. Sometimes the water is up to their belly.

Halfway we encountered oncoming traffic from Neuwerk. Going either by ferry or per Wattwagen is the only way to reach the island.

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Neuwerk gets its share of holiday makers, usually people who want it simple and down-to-earth, close to nature. There is camping and there are some farms that offer accommodation.

After about an hour we reached Neuwerk. Just like in Duhnen, a paved ramp provides an easy exit for the carriages onto solid land and across the dyke. We proceeded to the lighthouse where all carriages stopped and let their passengers get off. On this day in May about 25 Wattwagen assembled in the parking lot. In peak season there will be 40 to 50.

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Neuwerk parking lot

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We had one hour of spare time on the island, which is not very much but allows seeing the lighthouse and going for a short walk. There were of course some people who wasted their precious time with lunch at the (very low-key) eatery next to the parking lot. I had taken provisions and ate my rolls on a sunny bench on the dyke.

Neuwerk’s most important attraction is the lighthouse, a mighty brick tower that dates from the 14th century. Since Neuwerk belongs to Hamburg, the 14th century lighthouse is in fact Hamburg's oldest preserved building. All families who live on the island own a room inside the lighthouse as a refuge in case of storm and spring tide.

The lighthouse can (and should) be climbed. The gallery on top offers an amazing view over the whole island, the surrounding wadden sea, the coastline and the bird islands of Scharhörn and Nigehörn. These small islands are protected nature reserves and off-bounds to everyone except the ornithological warden.

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I still had time, so I went for a walk over to the small cemetery. This was quite moving. The so-called Cemetery of the Unknown holds the graves of nameless sailors whose corpses were carried to the shores of the island. Even if nobody knew who they were, they were to rest in proper graves in sacred soil. The inhabitants of the island take good care of the graveyard.

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Back in Duhnen

Then it was time to get back on board. The carriages set out for the return journey when the tide is lowest. This gives them enough time to make it back to shore even if anything unexpected happens on the way. The return is much less spectacular. The water is at its lowest level. What used to be deep Priele on the way out, were shallow puddles now. So we reached Duhnen at relaxed pace. The horses were glad that their working day was over. They were looking forward to their pasture and a day off.

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In the evening I went for a little walk along the stream near Stickenbüttel. By chance I found the pasture where Anni and Bärbel and their colleagues from the same stable were grazing. The horses have worked hard, pulling the carriages to Neuwerk and back. Now they had time to relax, clean their legs and fur in the grass, and eat. They obviously enjoyed their dinner.

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Posted by Kathrin_E 14:18 Archived in Germany Tagged animals hamburg north_sea cuxhaven niedersachsen lower_saxony Comments (4)

Ship Watching and Seal Spotting in the Mouth of the Elbe

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The mouth of the Elbe is one of the world's most frequented water 'highways'. All ships both to/from Hamburg and to/from the Kiel Canal (Nord-Ostsee-Kanal) have to pass here.

The navigable channel in the mouth of the Elbe runs very close to Kugelbake and Cuxhaven port. Huge container carriers, up to 400 metres long, pass directly in front of you. These vessels ARE impressive!

Ever since I was a little girl I have been fascinated with ships. Not so much about the idea to be on board myself and travel the seas, but watching these huge things moving on the water.

My Grandma lived in Kiel, and Dad and I were well known visitors to the canal locks then. While everyone else had to stay safely on the visitors' platform, we were allowed to sit on a bollard on the quay!

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This fascination has always remained very much alive in me. I live far away from the sea, but whenever I am on the coast or in a port city I stare at the huge vessels with the same amazement as the four-year-old kid once did. I hope I'll still do when I'm 94!

The combination of beach and mudflat walking together with ship watching is what makes Cuxhaven a unique experience.

Ship spotting requires the right timing. The largest vessels can only travel the river at high tide or the water will be too shallow for them. They plan their timetables according to the tides and travel with the highest. Not only to mudflat walkers but also to ship spotters the tide calendar is of highest interest.

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Some tricks of perspective can create funny snapshots. My favourite ship photo is the one with the Airbus carrier. A ship that transports an airplane is running on top of the dyke... or is it?

Alte Liebe

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In the port area, most quays are off-bounds to visitors. The best viewing point that takes you right onto the waterfront is known as "Alte Liebe". The platform is perhaps the best place to observe the ships on the Elbe, as they are passing really close by.

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The romantic name "Alte Liebe" (old love) derives from one of three old shipwrecks that were used as a foundation of the construction. It also refers to people waving the last Goodbye to their loved ones who left Germany for good on an emigrant ship to the new world.

This is the tourist part of the port. Here is where the boats depart for the port tours and the seal spotting tours depart, as well as the boats to Neuwerk island and the Katamaran to Helgoland. The modern building next to Alte Liebe hosts souvenir shops, a restaurant and facilities.

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The Semaphor: Weather Forecast Anno 1904

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The Semaphor is a technical monument in the port next to Alte Liebe. Like an optical telegraph it delivers data about the wind situation, which can be read with a looking-glass from passing ships. The North Sea is known to be tricky and dangerous. Knowing what weather conditions to expect out there was important to outgoing ships. A first semaphor was erected already in the 1880s but destroyed in a gale in 1903.

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The present one, originally preserved, dates from 1904. In times of radar, satellites and digital media it is not needed any more but kept in operation by a private association.

How does it work? The mystic thing provides data about the wind around Borkum ("B", left side) and Helgoland ("H", right side). The arrows in the large circles point in the direction of the wind. The strength of the wind is indicated by the "arms" or "signals" at the top of the mast. Each arm means two wind powers, so here we have force 4 winds at both islands.

Light vessel (Feuerschiff) Elbe 1

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The light vessel “Elbe 1” spent decades moored far out in the North Sea waters to show incoming ships the right way. It has been turned into a museum and is waiting for visitors next to Alte Liebe. You can explore the ship on your own and poke your nose into all decks and cabins.

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You could even get married on board; civil weddings are done in the former officers' mass (not spontaneously, of course). Open Tuesday to Sunday 11.00-16.00 (not in winter).

The Strange Box in the Distance

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The view from the shore, given clear conditions, often reveals a strange “box” far out at sea on the horizon which does not move.

This is an oil-drilling platform on the so-called Mittelplate, a sea area where the water is rather shallow. The platform brings up oil from a depth of about 2000 metres. The oil is then delivered through a pipeline to the port of Brunsbüttel.

Harbour Cruise and the Seal Sandbanks (Seehundsbänke)

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Cuxhaven's harbour is not too big, but a visit would be incomplete without seeing it from the waterside. Harbour cruises on small ships depart at Alte Liebe. They take you round the different harbour bassins and out onto the Elbe mouth.

The harbour hosts mostly smaller ships. Fishing is still a predominant business here.

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Some harbour cruises visit, in addition to touring the port, a sandbank where seals are resting. This can only be done at low tide because these sandbanks fall dry for two or three hours, hence it is not included in all cruises. Check the tide calendar for the hours of low tide, and watch out for signs that mention something about “Seehundsbänke”. There are three different companies and boats which do the trip, it does not matter which one you take.

The Seehund is the most popular and more or less emblematic animal of the North Sea. Seal souvenirs of all varieties are available in any souvenir shops. They are probably the cutest of all seal specieses with their big dark eyes and spotted fur. Unfortunately they are critically endangered. Seeing live wild ones requires knowing where, and caution not to scare them. At low tide they rest on certain remote sandbanks far out in the Wattenmeer. The cruise boats take you past such a sandbank out in the Elbe, approaching to about 20 metres which is the closest the boat can get without scaring the seals. As the boat goes against the current, find a place on the left side of the boat.

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Important: Instructions are given how to behave while the boat is close to the seals, but these instructions are in German only, so I am repeating them here. Observing them is important, otherwise the animals will disappear in the water in an instant, be stressed and perhaps even hurt themselves.

No sudden moves. No screaming or loud talking - talk in whispers only. No smoking or perfumes because they smell it. Take as many photos as you want but strictly no flash. These are wild animals and easily frightened, if anything looks dangerous to them they will panic and flee into the water, maybe even injure themselves, so plase take these rules seriously. The boat captains know exactly how close they can go without disturbing the animals in their well-needed rest.

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Posted by Kathrin_E 04:38 Archived in Germany Tagged wildlife north_sea cuxhaven niedersachsen lower_saxony Comments (0)

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