Moin

That’s how you say hello on Sylt, a holiday island that’s been compared to Martha’s Vineyard on the North Sea. In fact, ‘moin’ (pronounced mo-een) is a local way to say good morning, hello and goodbye all over northern Germany.

It’s a surprising place for many reasons. Why? Way up north near the border with Denmark, the island is a mix of Danish and German history, ferry boats, dunes and white sand beaches. It is almost entirely flat, making it a complete change from our usual mountains. It had been two years since I’d seen the sea and we wanted to stay within train’s reach of Switzerland before venturing further afield again. (The train was another story: dedicated post to come!)

We began with a few days in the port city of Hamburg. I’d certainly never spent much time in Germany, even less on holiday, so it was a bit of a discovery. But this city holds a special place in the history our relationship, as the Frenchman spent several months working there in between our initial romance in Canada and my decision to join him in France.

It’s a very green city with a lot of red brick, and interesting contrasts of old and new architecture. Overall, Hamburg reminded me of my hometown, Toronto (before it grew into a megalopolis).

A walking tour was a great way to get to know the city and its history. We lucked into one with an entertaining and informative guide who showed us around the key spots of the port city and brought its history to life for us. We are reluctant tourists who rarely take the time to learn any of this stuff on our own. Mostly we like to wander around and stumble upon stuff. We did that too when we checked out the ultramodern Elbphilharmonie in the Hafen (harbour) district. We booked dinner that night on the terrace of a restaurant just overlooking a live jazz concert in Hamburg’s Hope’n Air series. It was a chilly night but the concert was amazing.

(BTW, I’m adding the links for info rather than any promotional consideration. I find reading other people’s experiences is the best way to get travel tips. If you plan to visit, enjoy!)

We arrived on Sylt (pronounced: zœlt; it seems the ‘y’ in the middle of a word makes a sound like the French ‘œuf’) where the sun was playing hide and seek with a lot of cloud. Unfortunately it did that most of our week there. I’m not complaining: you don’t go to the North Sea for Mediterranean weather, and after the hot summer we had last year, we were ready for some fresh temperatures. However, we hadn’t quite bargained on how wet our own summer in Switzerland would be, so it was a little disappointing to see so much cloud.

Still, we got enough sun to catch the beach a couple of times. One day we rented bikes and went around the north end of the island where we were staying in List all the way through the dunes to Kampen. This is the ritziest part of the island and the cars on the road are proof of it: an uninterrupted stream of Porsche, Audi, Mercedes….and many classic cars. This is one of the humbler ones.

The Germans certainly love their cars. All those big engines with their clouds of exhaust are in stark contrast to the national mania for recycling and ecology. It was certainly odd to be on the island where all of the dunes are protected as nature reserves and can only be accessed via designated cycling and pedestrian paths, while the big cars filled all the parking lots. Even funnier is that cars can only get to the island by train. We saw one train stacked with cars, the drivers and their passengers inside, as they made their way from the mainland to the island.

Two outstanding features of Sylt were the thatched-roof houses and the strandkorb beach chairs. I can forget about owning a house like that; even if I could afford it, I’m not sure how well I’d sleep at night with the risk of the roof burning down. Many of these houses had a system of rods and wires around the roof to prevent fire from lighting. Still, there are some very nice rentals available and if we return, we would definitely go that route.

The beach chairs are another story. These ingenious ‘strandkorbe’ provide shelter from the elements and have little drawers that come out to put up your feet. Unfortunately none was available for rent when we were there. Many of the local restaurants even use this concept to provide patio seating for outdoor dining.

At the end of a week of wind, cloud and rain, we finally got one beautiful day to dip into the North Sea. I love the waves and the salt water. Feeling my toes in the powdery sand again was liberating.

I can understand why this wild and windswept place has attracted people despite the unstable weather. With just a little more sun, it’s the perfect spot to unwind.

The icing on the cake? Cake. We found a little restaurant in Kampen that had a steady stream of people coming in and disappearing into the back. A few minutes later they left with flat paper packages. I discovered the cake counter hidden near the kitchen with a myriad of treats from plum pie to apple strudel — even cheescake!

Moin moin.

How do you say hello?

22 comments

  1. Ally Bean · July 29

    My hello is a good old midwestern “hi!” Not all that surprising, I suppose. I love your photos and am smiling here because I think the same thing as you when I see thatched-roof houses. I’d never sleep well at night if I lived in one.

    • MELewis · July 30

      Hi was always my standard greeting too, until the world start saying ‘hey’ instead. Now I’m never sure! Sounds like we are fellow worry warts. 😅

  2. midihideaways · July 29

    It all looks wonderful – I especially like the cheesecake picture!! 🙂 Cherries or raspberries??

    • MELewis · July 30

      Raspberries. They added a nice bit of tang. It was wonderful, thanks! ☺️

  3. Dale · July 29

    Moin! The Northern German version of Ciao, I’m thinking 🙂
    Lovely photos. It’s always a bummer when the weather does not collaborate, isn’t it? Still, you did manage to get some lovely images 🙂

    • MELewis · July 30

      Yes, I guess it is like ciao! Although I did hear a lot of ‘tschuss’ for goodbyes. It’s funny how other languages borrow from each other. If I’m not mistaken, I often hear people saying ‘sorry’ in German, so maybe our Canadian influence is spreading? 😂

      • Dale · July 30

        Tschuss… almost sounds like they’re shushing you!!
        Oh yeah. So many languages intermingle. And haha! Love it!

  4. margaret21 · July 29

    What a wonderful break. And I’m a big fan of walking tours, particularly those that are slightly under the radar and don’t promote a Sanitised City History.

    • MELewis · July 30

      It was a good break — only 10 days but felt longer. A complete change is good for the soul. Just catching up on my blogs and see you’re back from a month in Spain. Glad you were able to meet your granddaughter after all this time! 😊

      • margaret21 · July 30

        If you felt good after 10 days, imagine how good we felt after a month! Despite all the Covid stuff, which was super-stressful.

  5. davidprosser · July 30

    Such a rich history Hamburg has but this is the first time I’ve ever actually seen pictures of some of the buildings. They’re beautiful. I’m glad you were able to get a walking tour with a good guide. Those beach chairs fascinate me, I’ve never seen anything like them. I wish the weather had been a bit kinder to you to allow more than just the one dipping of the toes. Beautiful Pictures Mel.
    Massive Hugs

    • MELewis · July 31

      It is an interesting city, and worthy of its own post. I posted more pix on Instagram if you’re on there by any chance…? (Somehow, I doubt it!) The beach chairs are quite neat and as for the weather, well, it is what it is. At this point, just grateful to have been able to get away and see new horizons! Hope you’re enjoying summer, David. Grosses bises xo

  6. Vanessa in France · August 1

    Sounds like a great break. It does one good to have a change, which we could certainly do with. I barely know Germany at all. Hamburg looks interesting. A bucket list item for when/if we can travel more easily.

    My husband is Swedish. Like most languages, there are several ways to say hello. The most common is hej! Goodbye is hej då.

    • MELewis · August 2

      I certainly hope that easier travel will be part of life again soon. A change of scene is always welcome and one of the things we love about living here is the proximity to other borders. How interesting that your husband is Swedish! Have you spent much time there? Scandinavia is definitely on our bucket list and close enough to home that I hope we’ll be able to visit before too long. Hej då!

  7. acflory · August 1

    Brrrr…that water must have been cold! The cake, however, looks delectable. Very fond of cheesecake, I am. 😀

    • MELewis · August 2

      Ha! I know you’re no fan of the cold, Meeks, so you may want to give the North Sea a miss if you ever visit. To me it was invigorating, but I have the polar bear genes plus plenty of cheesecake on me bones! 😂

      • acflory · August 2

        lmao! Oh I love that. Do all Canadians have polar bear genes? And trust me, if I ever get the opportunity to travel to Europe again, I’m heading SOUTH! 😀 😀

  8. Kiki · August 1

    I get (sometimes) a bit short with HH when he says: Tschüss instead of Sali (salut)…… I quite like a long drawn Hoooooyi (Hoi), the voice climbing a bit at the end of oooyi. 🙂

    • MELewis · August 2

      Ooh, I’m going to have to work on that ‘Hoi,’ Kiki, it sounds like fun! Never heard anyone say ‘Sali’ though. When we were in Hamburg they had a local campaign saying something like, ‘in Hamburg, we say ‘tschüss’.’ I didn’t really get it but husband said it was meant to say they are friendly and less formal. Around here everyone says ‘addé’ for goodbye. guess that’s like ‘adieu’?

      • Kiki · August 2

        Yes, Adée is in fact Adieu! Only, you never say adieu (in french), as it means You’ll never see them again, sort of Go with God (and die). When HH’s mum died on May 31st, HH visited her the night before and they parted with a heart-felt Au Revoir…. that’s the stuff!
        And then YOU asked for greetings when meeting someone, Adiö in Swiss German is formal for ‘separating’ from the person you talked to.

  9. Suzanne et Pierre · September 5

    I am falling behind in reading blog posts I followed. As I don’t have much to post on my own blog I tend to forget to go read others…but that will change soon as we have done a few local trips which will deserve a few posts on our blog.

    We visited Hamburg in 2014 and loved it. It is a very surprising city and we had lots of fun walking around the various neighbourhood. We didn’t venture outside of Hamburg as we only had a few days but I see that we should have planned a few days to do just that. Take care…

    • MELewis · September 7

      No worries, Suzanne! I frequently fall behind on reading my regular blogs as, like you, I am negligent in keeping up when not posting myself. Somehow lately I’ve found it hard to get back to weekly posting.
      Glad you enjoyed Hamburg, too. It certainly is an interesting city and I’m pleased we finally made it there. Northern Germany really is my favourite part of the country, along with Berlin.
      Looking forward to your future photographic essays!

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