Since we have the awesome opportunity to enjoy a 3-day weekend every weekend for the next couple of weeks, we tend to make the best of it. And since summer is (or at least should be) coming, we thought of visiting the German north coast again. I was never in Cuxhaven and so, we had our goal. And as I googled Helgoland, this WILD TINY ISLAND 40 km OFFSHORE Gin told me about, it was a done deal – we booked a little wooden house with a terrace close to the beach in Sahlenburg (Cuxhaven) and hoped for good weather on Saturday so that we could do a day trip to Helgoland, Germany´s smallest nature reserve. The whole weekend turned out to be just great and Helgoland blew us (especially me) away! That´s also why it deserves its own post 😉
HOW TO GET THERE
The easiest way to reach the island is by boat, or by a small plane. You can CATCH A BOAT from Büsum, Cuxhaven, Bremerhaven or Wilhelmshaven – we took the one from Cuxhaven and it took us a little over 2 hrs to get there. The MS Helgoland ship left the port at 10:15 and we returned around 18:30, so we had around 4 hours of time on the island. Sounds not much, but the island is really not big. Although I have to say, spending a night there would have been also nice! The whole thing is not exactly cheap – return ticket for adults was 44€ and for kids 24€ (4 years and older), but it´s really worth every cent!
WHAT WE SAW & DID
Helgoland and the surrounding islands were under Danish and British possessions in the past and were considered a seaside spa for the upper class already back in 1826. The island attracted WRITERS and ARTISTS – the song which parts of are used as German national anthem was also written here. In 1890 Britain gave up these small but strategic very important islands in exchange for German rights in the Zanzibar region in Africa, allowing the Brits to gain control of East Africa. Today, there are a little over 1000 INHABITANTS which speak a special dialect living on the islands. The main island (where the ships and boats from the mainland dock) is famous for its red rock cliffs with birds nesting on them and the little one (the Düne) for its white sandy beaches and marine animals.
Once you reach it, you embark in the port and walk along CHARMING COLOURFUL WOODEN HOUSES, which used to be work sheds of the lobster fishers, towards the town centre. On the way there are now some shops in those sheds (oh, I forgot to mention – the whole island is a DUTY FREE ZONE, meaning you can get a lot of tax free shopping done here as well) and street restaurants offering fish sandwiches, ice cream and similar. It really does not look like Germany, more like Norway, or Iceland!
We were aiming to do the ROUND THE ISLAND CLIFF HIKING TRAIL (Klippenrandweg) which is only around 3km LONG, so we decided to do this first. We were really lucky with the weather, the forecast predicted worse, but we had even a little sunshine and it was nice and warm. So we soon turned left at the ice cream shop and started to walk uphill. Halfway up there was a wonderful view over the port.
The island consist of a SINGLE RED SANDSTONE ROCK, its steep red and white layered cliffs make it a spectacular sight in a combination with the blue sea and green grassy fields on top. The trail is nicely paved and suitable for kids strollers, basically everyone can do the walk and there are enough benches and viewing platforms for a short rest along the way.
Along the trail you pass most of the island´s attractions – the church, lighthouse, bird rock, bomb craters, sandy beach and Helgoland´s landmark – LANGE ANNA. Lange Anna is a famous 47 metres tall free standing sandstone cliff at the northern tip of the island, on which many bird species have found a NESTING PLACE. On the way there are several pyramid shaped information boards which explain natural and historical facts about the island.
I have an extra lens for my camera which I had not used for ages! Travelling with kids is a great thing to do, but you simply do not have the time to photograph every little detail you see and also, exchanging lenses all the time seems impossible. But I decided to take it with me this time and it really paid off! I really took my time and observed the BIRDS (mostly gennets and seagulls, but there are numerous other species), how they bring the algae to the nests, “fight” with each other and take care for the little ones. If you are not into photography, bring a binocular and you won´t regret it!
PLASTIC TRASH is a huge problem and as we saw, the birds are using parts of plastic and fishing nets for building their nests – might seem practical at first sight, but those plastic parts are too often the reason for a long painful death for many of these beautiful birds.
Once we passed the Lange Anna, the views on the small neighbouring island Düne have opened up – and the sandy beaches under us, beautiful flowers and SHEEP. And of course, a football field practically directly on the beach!
More SEAGULLS which by the way were not shy at all. No wonder, by the numerous tourists which often leave some crumbs behind.
Every half hour there are smaller boats connecting the main island with DÜNE, the smaller one. Unfortunately, 4 hours were not enough for everything so we gave that a pass. If you do go there, you can observe seals and other marine animals from up close! Instead, we chose to have lunch in the sun and did some shopping on the way through the town ;).
The most famous meal you can order is the so called “KNIEPER” crab. And that is what I actually wanted to try, but had to order something else in the end, because the crab would take 45 minutes to prepare and we might have missed our boat back. Sooo, next time! The little shrimps were also fine ;). Still, we can say we tried the crab, because we had a crab sandwich as soon as we got off the boat – to prevent getting hungry on the round trail :).
Time to return to the mainland – the MS HELGOLAND BOAT was amazing by the way. True, we had calm seas, I´ve heard stories where it can get so rough that most of the passengers throw up at some point. The two hours went by very quickly and Lu had its fun playing board games which were integrated in the furniture, playing the huge memory and trying to make some boating knots. All in all worth its money!
Back in CUXHAVEN we ended the wonderful day and were so happy we did this day trip instead of just spending time on the beach (which we did a day before anyway). It was also the first time on Helgoland for Gin and he was clearly impressed also. All I can say is – Germany keeps on surprising me/us!
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