The German North Sea Coast is often overlooked by international tourists, in fact, you will struggle to find anyone not speaking German on holiday here. When I was a child, slowly hitting puberty, the area started to seem somewhat backwards, stuck in time, just because of that. The same people every year, the same style of houses everywhere, the same things to do every time, never changing.
Yes, the area around Schillig, Wangerland in Lower Saxony, offers all that but there’s so much more. Farms and fields as far as the eye can see or until it reaches the embankment that stops the raging sea from swallowing the lands during winter storms. Here I was, convinced I had outgrown the family holidays of doing nothing but walking along the extensive beaches and nature reserves, that I had had enough of all the seafood, even of the constant smell of the sea and all it brought with it. Today I can see that I just wasn’t ready to appreciate the relaxation simply being in the moment brings – in fact I was still convinced I’d never go back until I reached the end of my postgrad life. But tackling stress can make you appreciate the small things, and all of a sudden, the sea air, the ever stronger growing winds, the sight of a lighthouse far away at sea let your worries slowly fade away.
At first, it wasn’t even my decision to travel to the place I had spent so much of my childhood in. My parents never stopped traveling there, and, upon seeing me so very exhausted, made the decision for me – though the mention of the whirlpool in their holiday flat might have helped to convince me. Arriving just in time to marvel at my first sunset back in Germany was all I could have wished for at the time, doing so in a flat with a perfect view of the ocean made it even better.
Thus my 2 weeks around Schillig and Horumersiel began, full of fresh air as I promised to myself upon arrival. Despite it already being October, the weather was mild and only the cold evening winds suggested the changing of the season. Eager to rediscover the area, I spent most of my time outside, wandering the beaches and undertaking trips to the towns close by. I never felt reinvigorated so quickly, though I should mention that all towns in the area are recognised resort and spa towns.
With nothing negative left to occupy my mind, I set out on my own. Even though my parents had invited me, they didn’t want to be stuck with me all day long and who can blame them. Renting a bike for the day, I took off in the general direction of ‘that way, because there’s only two options anyways’, which meant heading to Carolinensiel to explore the town’s historic harbour. With Schillig fading in the distance, there was nothing but green grass surrounding me for a while. Sheep, seemingly just as relaxed as I felt, lazed in the fields to take in the sunshine. It all seemed very quiet, just until a horseman bolted past me through the lush green. There’s not only one way to let loose after all.
Something that I quickly noticed on arriving in Carolinensiel was that many towns, despite being popular with tourists, do not appear overly hectic. In fact, the northern German way of life is full of sitting back and relaxing, most of the time with a cup of tea, exactly what I needed. After a stroll around the harbour and its various historic ships, I took a seat at Cafe Hafenblick, where I had a lovely view across the rhododendron bushes to observe the tour boats coming and going.
The next day was a designated family day, to be spent in a place I thought to be utterly fascinating – Leer. Not only is it not ‘leer’ (German for ’empty’) at all, there’s a lot on offer: Like many cities, Leer still bears the signs of merchant trade. Even today, one of the city’s best known company’s, Buenting, sells its tea all over Germany; it’s one of the reasons why Lower Saxony and tea are inseparable in German minds.
As tea lover, the Buenting Tea Museum was my must see for the day. Making my way along the small winding roads and colourful houses, I quickly reached my destination. Looking to showcase the social and historical importance of frisian tea culture (quite different to the British one), the museum is a treasure trove for any tea lover. From the basics of growing and exporting tea as part of Buenting’s trade to the tea ceremonies celebrated around the world, everything is covered. The best part? The tours starts and ends in the original Buenting general store from the 19th century and – in true style – you are offered a cup of tea. Be aware though, the only correct way to drink tea here is to add Kluntje (sugar lumps) and cream to the black tea mix. No stirring allowed!
On the way back, we stopped in a small village that had caught my eye. I hadn’t been up close to a traditional windmill for a long time and seeing one standing just next to a field of blooming rapeseed was a dream. If that wasn’t enough, I stopped by a local farm, where the owner very kindly allowed me to look around and take pictures. He very much agreed that his farm was the prettiest around and pointed out the best spots to take pictures, too. Frisian hospitality truly is as good as it gets – just after Scottish hospitality of course.
Have you been to the north of Germany before or is it one of those areas that has gone unnoticed for you as well?
See you around,
Horumersiel-Schillig is a spa and resort town in Ostfriesland, Lower Saxony, situated closely to Jever and Wilhelmshaven. The area is mostly popular with German tourists, so there is little English information available.
Carolinensiel’s historic harbour is free to visit all year round, and there are some museums and historic houses located close by as well. There’s a total of three harbours, all located along the same stretch of water and you can also catch the ferry from here to some of the small islands.
Leer is slightly bigger, with attractions spread out across the historic centre of the city. I very much recommend the tea museum: It’s open from 10am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday, and 2pm to 5pm on Sundays | Admission is 2,50€ and you can also book additional tea ceremonies if you want more than one cup of tea 😉