For the third time in three years, the author took a two-week trip to Flensburg and the surrounding area, but this time with some company. Some of the articles to come will deal with the summer trip.
Here is a question I have for those who love travelling or taking a vacation in the summer time, regardless of where you are living: What is your favorite travel destination in the summer time? And what was the most memorable trip you have ever taken (regardless of whether it was by yourself or with family)?
For many living in Germany, there are two favorite places to go in the year: the Alps in the winter time for skiing, rock climbing and having fun in the snow, and the Baltic Sea in the summer time, to cool off in the water, walk in the wild and visit the places of interest. While we spent a couple weeks on the island of Usedom last year (which features the key tourist communities of Ahlbeck, Bansin and Heringsdorf on the German side and Swinemunde on the Polish side, this year’s Baltic Sea trip took us to the other side of the Baltic sea coast, namely Flensburg and the peninsula of Holnis.
While there has been a lot to say about Flensburg based on my observations (and more to say about the city in the coming columns), what is so special about Holnis? The peninsula is approximately 8 km long and 3 km wide and is the northernmost tip of Germany, subtracting the island of Sylt, which is only accessible via train crossing a dam connecting it and the mainland. If one wants to try local specialties and enjoy fun on the beach without having to face overcrowding, then this is the place to be.
Holnis features the city of Gluecksburg, home of the castle which recently turned 425 years old and was built for a royal family, whose ties are link to Denmark, England and France. The city of 4,500 inhabitants also has a health spa and swimming complex in addition to its beaches on the western side and the port, where ships travelling to and from Flensburg come in. It also has a ranch on the southwestern end of the city, which provides people with a chance to go horseback riding. Gluecksburg used to have a rail line connecting it to Flensburg and Kappeln. Yet the line was discontinued in 1952 and the railway station was converted to a city library and bus station, where bus lines connecting Holnis, Wees and Flensburg stop there on the hour.
From there going to the end of the peninsula, one will run across villages, beaches and natural green areas that provide people with an opportunity to do whatever they want to. In Bockholm (2 km north of Gluecksburg), there is golfing possibilities nearby, even though golfing in Germany can be very expensive. I checked out the prices at the golf course, only to find that unless you have $250 for a round of 18 holes and people with as deep of pockets as you do, you are better off golfing in the States, where you can pay a tenth of the amount and still have fun. Bockholm has the lone general store where you can purchase virtually everything you need for food and supplies without having to travel to Gluecksburg or even Flensburg, even the ingredients for the Flensburg Flotilla drink (a recipe is enclosed below). Two kilometers to the west is Schausende, and its famous lighthouse- the only one on the west end of the peninsula that guides ships and yachts to and from Flensburg along the Fjord. The other ones can be found on the Danish side. Here in Schausende, one may see a lot of buildings resembling hotels and resorts. Sadly though, they are developed only from private residents with little beaches around for them to go swimming. While many do enjoy a good sunset, there is room for improvement. Going beyond Schausende, one will see natural habitats extending to the very tip of the western part of the peninsula. Much of it has been protected by federal law and there are even restrictions with regards to entering the natural habitats and breeding grounds, which are occupied by sea gulls and various forms of geese and ducks. But it does not mean one cannot walk or even bike in that area, for a trail exists both along along the west bank of the peninsula, going past North Bridge and the bogs, climbing up The Cliff, the highest point of the peninsula at 45 meters high.
If one wants to go swimming or enjoy the delicacies, one has to cross the main highway to the eastern end of the peninsula. There, all of the eating, recreational and even lodging and camping possibilities can be found in the villages of Drei and Holnis and along the six kilometer stretch of beach reaching the very tip of the eastern side of the peninsula. If one wants to stay in a cottage overlooking the lake, it is possible to do that without having to worry about the costs for renting that and the bikes that go along with that. We did just that and enjoyed the view of the beach, which was just two minutes away by foot. You can do a whole lot while at the beach apart from swimming, snorkeling and digging for shrimp and clam shells. One can take the paddle boat for an hour and go along the coastal area. The same applies when renting a four-wheel tandem bike and going along the bike trail. For sports extremists, there is wind and kite surfing (which I’ll write about in a separate column). And the most relaxing sport can be found in mini-golf, which is right next door to the cottages where we stayed.
However, one cannot do everything for free, especially going for a swim. The beaches of Holnis were the first ones I’ve seen where one has to pay in order to use it. Between 8:00 in the morning and 6:00 in the evening, one is required to pay up to 5 Euros per person per day to use the beach or use the Ostsee Card, a card where there are discounts for places to visit and other things to purchase. These are usually available through the campgrounds and cottage providers, as well as local stores in Gluecksburg. Those caught without proof (either the card or a beach payment for use receipt) face a fine of 25 Euros. While it is unimaginable to charge people to use the beach, the reason behind it is to stem the flow of tourists visiting the area, and with that, potential to alter the landscape of the area to one’s disadvantage. This includes overcrowding and littering, something that we saw at Usedom Island last year because of its popularity. The concept may be absurd, but it makes sense so that everyone can use the area and come away happy. It would not be surprising if other regions along the Baltic and North Seas, let alone other places outside of Germany either has a similar policy or will implement it in the future.
Local specialties are plentiful to find in this region. One can enjoy various plates dealing with fish, crab and shrimp, including eggs and shrimp platter, smoked fish and matjes filet sandwiches, the third of which is the flag ship specialty of Schleswig-Holstein. One will find them virtually everywhere, among them, the Faehrhaus Restaurant in Holnis, located only two kilometers from the eastern tip of the peninsula. The restaurant used to be a shipping port that existed in the 17oos before it was converted into a restaurant in the 1950s. But the most famous food in this region is roasted potatoes with onions and meat slices. It is usually fried in oil and can be eaten either alone or with other main dishes dealing with meat and fish. The Strand Pavilion in Drei is one of the restaurants in the region that serves the finest roasted potatoes. It is a family business that offers a wide array of entrees that are affordable for everyone, and whose owners are very friendly and do everything possible to make the customer happy.
But the trip to the region is not complete without seeing the sun rise and set, which presents a spectacular site for everyone to see. The best places to see them are at the eastern tip as well as along the western end south of The Cliff. One may be lucky to see the sun rise and set with a sailboat on the horizon. But that requires staying for some time and having some luck.
While there are a lot of photos worth showing of the island, I’ve picked out the top 25 photos worth seeing, six of which can be found here, with all of them being available via flickr, which can be viewed by clicking here. Information on the Flensburg Files’ availability on flickr can be found here. Hope you enjoy the pics. Maybe they will give you an incentive to consider travelling to the region sometime in the near future, especially in the summer time, when there is a lot going on. More articles on Flensburg, Gluecksburg and Holnis are on the way both here as well as in its sister column the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles.
Recipe for Flensburg Flotilla:
The beverage is in connection with the themes that are typical for Flensburg and the Holnis region: apples, beer and rum. Created in 2010, the recipe calls for the following:
1 beer mug
45% must have apple juice
45% must have beer (Flensburger or any beer that is pilsner (with herbs). Becks Beer is also useful).
10% must consist of Jamaica Rum (Pott, Hansen’s, or anything similar. No Captain Jack as it is too fizzy). Must be 40-proof.