Sylt, Germany

Welcome to Sylt, We hope you enjoy your stay!I had a few days remaining in Europe before flying to Vancouver for the next leg and I thought it would be great to spend m shaped island in the north of Germany with 40 kilometres of beach. The island is constantly changing shape as the North and Wadden (a UNESCO site) seas lap and erode its shores. Sylt advertises itself as a resort island and culinary destination with many health spas and restaurants. Sylt is also home the Windsufing World Cup. The only access to the island is by train or ferry. If you want to bring your vehicle it can be loaded onto a train Niebüll.

The train stops at Westerland and the first thing that greets you there are weird green statues of a family on holiday. What makes the statues unusual is that their faces are mixed up and one is upside down. I have no idea what message this is supposed to send visitors, but it makes for an interesting entrance.

We rented a camping pitch at one of the campgrounds, Dünen Campingplatz, which was predominately for caravans but a short distance beyond the restaurant and showers were the dunes where our pitch was located. There were a number of tents scattered amongst the dunes and we found a small area that was reasonably quiet to set up in. Our three days here would be spent relaxing, walking, swimming and eating.

Sand Dunes stretch the entire coastline of SyltThe campground had an access to the beach over the dunes and our camping fee included beach access. I’m not used to the idea of paying to access a beach but I would guess the fee goes towards paying for the dredging that keeps the island from eroding to nothing. The beach is beautiful, around 50 metres of flat white sand being lapped at by the North Sea, skirted by sand dunes as far as the eye can see. The beach never seemed crowded while we were there, maybe because we were too early in the season or just because there is so much beach you only have to congregate if you want to.

We walked the beach enjoying the sun and stopping occasionally for a swim. We paused at one point, and while taking in the view of the North Sea, I noticed that many of the people were naked. I thought that I must have inadvertently come across the nude section but I couldn’t find a sign specifying it. As we continued our southerly walk I became aware that people were randomly naked. To the left I would see an elderly couple playing nude beach tennis while a few metres away a clothed family built sandcastles. Further along a person doing naked yoga while others played Frisbee. It was an altogether odd experience as in Australia I was used to nude beaches being clearly marked and a general prudishness to the beachgoers at nearby clothed beaches. Here, nobody seemed to notice and definitely nobody cared. It was quite liberating to walk amongst people that were enjoying themselves as they saw fit, not hurting anyone, and not have some prudes ruin the mood.

Just another day relaxing on the beach and swimming in the North SeaThe beaches are quite clean near the lifeguard towers but have the usual scattering of plastics between. We spent a bit of time collecting the trash and dropping at the frequently placed bins along the way and feeling a little disappointed that beachgoers here were so tardy with litter.

South of Westerland we came across some interesting thatch rooved buildings which marked the village of Kampener Heide. We wandered inland here to see what was there. We eventually found a café and had coffee and cake (a dish the Germans do very well). Looking for other nearby attractions we didn’t have much luck even though there were signs directing us.

On our final night we sat on the beach to watch the sunset at 10pm, and take a swim in the North Sea. The air on the beach was frigid, somewhere around 7 or 8 degrees and the wind was blowing make it feel even colder. The water however was great. Around 16 degrees, it felt like a cool bath compared to the beach. We swam for an hour or more under the moonlight trying to get dunked too harshly by the crashing waves of high tide before running madly across the beach to dry and get dressed before we were frozen by the wind.

Sunset on the North Sea

A nice little wood to walk in, Westerland, SyltAround Westerland there is the beach, a small wood to wander through, dozens of restaurants and hotels, and boutique stores selling chocolates, trinkets and souvenirs. The island is considered a culinary icon but personally I found the food to be rather plain. I was also disappointed that nowhere I looked could I find a take away that served fish and chips to eat on the beach. Westerland is a resort town, and doesn’t pretend to be anything else. If I came again, I would more than likely head north or south of Westerland into the less populated regions to spend my time and see what else the island has to offer.

We left Sylt and returned to Bremen in time for Germany to win their first match of the World Cup. The streets outside the Hbf were filled with cars and people cheering. It was surreal after being on a beach for three days. It made me wonder what it would be like to be here if Germany won the World Cup (which they did).The foreshore at Westerland, Sylt


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