Thursday, August 27, 2009

Friedrichstadt, the North Sea, and a little bit of Denmark

We had booked a room in Friedrichstadt, way up in Schleswig-Holstein, for that night, so we had a ways to go. The GPS took us right through Hamburg, which is always awesome because you get to see glimpses of the big port there!

As we went further north, it started to feel more and more like the end of the the earth - lots of empty country. Friedrichstadt sits on the Eider river, pretty near to the North Sea coast. (To be fair, Schleswig-Holstein is pretty narrow, so pretty much everything is sort of near the coast.) We can credit a combination of Regensblog and PapaScott - based on this post and its comments - for the idea to visit this town. I'd originally been looking along the coast and was having a hard time finding something cheap and available. That was no problem in Friedrichstadt.

Friedrichstadt was actually settled by the Dutch and is very different from the other towns we'd seen. It's full of canals and the main part of town is a perfect grid of perfect brick houses on perfect brick sidewalks with perfect stone streets.

Friedrichstadt Aug 09

We stayed at Gästehaus Mertens, in a sort of 50s-looking neighborhood outside the oldest part of Friedrichstadt, but still within easy walking distance of it. The room was only 17 EUR per person per night because the bathroom is shared, but it's only shared with one other room and is a really nice bathroom! I would definitely recommend staying there. The whole neighborhood appears to be populated by retirees who rent out their rooms for something to do.

It was way too humid in Friedrichstadt, but Frau Mertens told us that in Heidelberg the weather was in the upper 30s, so we were happy to be away from there!! (When we returned to HD there was a lot of dead grass along the river - guess it really did get hot!) We walked around town and found what appeared to be the cheapest non-doener meal in town at a place called Black and White.

The following morning we had a nice breakfast - the only problem being that I prefer hard-boiled eggs to soft-boiled, and you never know what you are going to get at a German Pension. I think Germans prefer soft-boiled. I know that every time I open an egg to the disappointment of finding it soft-boiled, a German is opening his or her egg and is filled with glee to find it soft-boiled. In another only-in-Germany moment, we discovered there weren't salt and pepper shakers on the table - only salt and salt!! :D

We decided to go cross the Danish border to find a town I had just learned was the hometown of one of my great-great-great-grandfathers on my mom's side. It looked to be only about an hour away according to the GPS, so why not? The town, Abkaer, turned out to be really small and barely a town. It kind of reminded me of a lot of places near where I'm from, except that it had no bar or cafe or postbox. We also visited nearby Haderslev, where we walked around the center hoping to find a bakery, but had no luck. The center was completely dead and closed down, as it was Sunday. We did find a bakery on the drive out of town, though! Delicious baked goods ending up being lunch!

Abkaer, Haderslev, & More Aug 09

We came back to Germany and put Nordstrand in the GPS. We thought it was the name of a town, but I guess it's only the name of an island, because the GPS took us right to the heart of a town called England in the middle of an island connected to land by a wide causeway covered with grazing sheep. The town even flew English and UK flags! They had some kind of minor festival going on, so we decided to stop.

Ahoj ahoj ahoj ahoj ahoj! After leaving England, we wandered over to the waterfront at Norderhafen, which wasn't much of a waterfront at all! The tide was low, and it was mud flats as far as the eye could see. Cool!

More Schleswig-Holstein + A Couple in Hamburg Aug 09

There's not much in Norderhafen - some resorty-looking giant buildings, and some small restaurants. We moved back to the mainland to check out the Eidersperrwerk, flood gates between the Eider River and the North Sea to prevent flooding and the buildup of silt along the Eider. By the way, the whole time it was windy as hell. Considering all the wind turbines, I'm guessing that's a permanent state in Schleswig-Holstein! We watched a little tiny sailboat go through the locks on the flood gates to return to the Eider and they seemed to be having a bit of trouble in all the wind!

We then moved on to St-Peter-Ording, hoping to find food. We never found it. St-Peter-Ording probably has some interesting spots in it, but they must have been on the other side of the dike*, and we never made it that far. It's the type of town I dread finding out I've planned to visit, only to discover it is a resort town with nothing historically interesting at all....only lots of new and uninspired buildings, summer houses, expensive restaurants, and hordes upon hordes upon hordes upon hordes upon hordes of slow, ice-cream-eating tourists. Auuugh!!! (Damon wasn't so harsh on it, though.) We went back to Friedrichstadt for dinner at the Hollaendische Stube, which was not too exciting but pretty alright - and we got a complimentary appetizer. :)

*The whole peninsula on which SPO sits was land created from mud flats by building dikes all around it! So there is something historically interesting, but you don't need to go to SPO to appreciate that, since the peninsula is big and has plenty of other stuff.

By the way, there is this really adorable blue and white china pattern which seems to be endemic throughout northern Germany - there are copies of it all over. It's interesting that it seems to be so widespread and copied. Anyone know anything about it? Here's a picture - but this is actually from England, so I guess it might not even be a German pattern. Here's another.

The next morning, it was time to turn in the car and hop on the train for the next leg of our adventure - so it was off to Hamburg Hbf (train station)!!


  1. my MIL has that same china pattern! - tons of the stuff - she's from N. Germany but lives near us now. We're visiting on Sunday and I'll ask her about it. I know she inherited it from her mother and isn't in love with it, but uses it b/c of family history. I'll check it out and get back to you.

  2. Nice pictures :)

    That pattern is called "Indisch Blau" (indian blue) and is especially popular in northern Germany (as you may have already guess). As to why it is - I have no idea.

    I grew up with these decors, as my mother is from Bremen and loves it. Always feels like home for me. I still have two cutting boards with that design.

  3. My mom is from Schleswig-Holstein and I spent 6 months in Ploen when I was 18. I loved it. And I fell in love with the same china pattern and have collected some over the years. Not sure what the history is, but you do find it everywhere there.

  4. Yes, Indisch blau. It's all over the place. I have no idea what it's all about but this company says they've been producing it for over 100 years.

  5. Beside the pattern "Indisch Blau" there is a similar pattern "Dresmer Blau" which sometimes is called as "Friesisch Blau" (frisian blue).


  7. Thanks for all the info on the china! There are lots of slight variants of it - sometimes the circles in the flower overlap with intersecting lines, sometimes they overlap without intersecting lines, sometimes they don't overlap at all - just as an example. It's really cute!! (Last thing I need is more dishes, though...damn!)

    Sara: Aren't they awesome!! (Some might beg to differ on the assessment of 'old' though! :) )

  8. so i'm an idiot- it's a totally different pattern she has, but she actually had 1 plate of this pattern and told me a)duh, it's common up north, esp in the Frisian Islands area and b) the little round circles are supposed to represent onions. She couldn't recall much more than that. Interesting though!


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