Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ostfriesland! (East Frisia!)

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We drove south from Cuxhaven toward the small town of Midlum, mentioned in my friend's ancestry info. (Language bit: -um is a local equivalent of -heim! Midlum was south of Northum and north of Sorthum!) We were hoping to grab lunch there, too. We briefly admired their windmill and some interesting gravestones in their churchyard, then looked for food. Nothing was open, and some things looked as if they hadn't been open in years. So, onward toward our eventual goal, Greetsiel! Thankfully, we found a great bakery at the side of the highway somewhere south of the Jadebusen. Despite crappy weather, we made a quick sightseeing stop in Jever, home of a well-known (in Germany) beer. It was cute, bricks everywhere, kind of Dutch-looking. See the photos!
Midlum & Jever Okt 11

We arrived at our hotel in Uttum, south of Greetsiel, in early evening.  The place was called the Hexenstueberl, or "little witch room". I thought nothing of this name, as there seems to be a lot of witch imagery in Germany and it actually didn't occur to me to think of it as odd.  My friend, however, didn't realize what the name meant and thought it was a little creepy to arrive at a hotel decorated top-to-bottom in a witch theme!  Everyone there was extremely nice, and the breakfasts were fantastic - one morning there was chocolate mousse - so I'd recommend it to anyone.

We had dinner in Greetsiel at a restaurant where the patrons demonstrated the infamous German staring problem.  I haven't actually seen that in a while.  The place was really nice, though - my husband forgot something there and when we went back for it the next day they let us use the restrooms even though they weren't open, and gave us lots of tips and information.

The next morning we looked around town.  Greetsiel is cute and, like Jever, feels a lot like the Netherlands - it even had a little canal with a cute little bridge right in the center of town, surrounded by brick plazas and little brick buildings full of tea, ice cream, and t-shirt shops.  Its most famous attraction is its twin windmills, one of which is still used for milling (grain, I think).  The town is definitely a big tourist destination among Germans, but we never noticed any other international tourists there.  Greetsiel was in danger of losing its quaintness, however.  There were homemade signs hanging everywhere protesting a project called Greetland which would build a massive resort in Greetsiel and, according to locals against it, completely change the character of the town.  It looks like there's since been a vote stopping the park (but I can't get the links with details to pull up right now)!  Interestingly, many of the people against the building of the resort were actually business owners who make their money from tourism, who were afraid that their usual customers would stop coming and a "different" type of tourist would be attracted. 

In the early afternoon, we drove over to the shore near Pilsum to see one of the area's biggest landmarks, the Pilsum Lighthouse, adorably painted in yellow and red.  It looked cheery even in the terrible cloudy weather we had during our visit!  We also stopped in Pilsum itself, which is supposedly a Runddorf or Rundling - a town built on a round plan.  Many towns in the area were built on fake hills (Ostfriesland is flat!).  A church was put on top of the hill and then easily used as a fortress if anyone came by to stir up trouble.  We didn't notice the roundness of the town, or much of a hill for that matter, although the church was neat from the outside.  We did drive through a town called Eilsum a few times where the church-on-a-hill scheme was much more evident.

Greetsiel & Pilsum Okt 11

We couldn't find any lunch in Pilsum, so we went back to Greetsiel and had soup and tea at a bakery there.  While Germany is mostly a coffee-drinking nation, Ostfriesen drink tea.  It's kind of the Britain of Germany - crappy weather and tea, tea, tea.  The tea comes with big pieces of white rock candy called Kluntjes and cream with a very high fat content.  First you put the Kluntjes in your cup, then pour the hot tea over them, producing a nice, satisfying crackle.  Then you use a tiny ladle, pre-warmed in the tea, to carefully add cream to the top of the tea.  Now, supposedly, you drink it without stirring for a three-layer experience - the cream represents the sky, the tea the earth, and the sugar the sea.  Or something.  I like my dairy cut with something, so I prefer to stir.  The cups of tea are small and the Kluntjes are big, so they can be re-used with your next cup.  Very delicious.  Actually I think all three of us were guilty of just eating the tea-soaked leftover candy... yum.

In early evening the sun started to peek through and we were positively giddy about it, as if we hadn't seen the sun in ages when really it had only been a couple of days.  We decided to check out some other towns, finding Norden in a guidebook and stopping there to briefly see their empty Marktplatz and locked church before moving on to Norddeich to find a beach to watch the sun set!  The tide was out and the wind was intense.  I now see why Germans are known for building holes for themselves to sit in on the northern beaches.  It does take a bit to impress an Iowan with windiness, you know. ;)  (I remember being barely able to open the car door some days...)  There weren't too many people there, and it was gorgeous.

Norden & Norddeich Okt 11

Afterward we had a kind of terrible supper at some tourist joint nearby - everything else had closed - then headed back to Greetsiel just in time to see some guys singing sea shanties at a community center!  I cannot pass up old guys singing and this was one of those German experiences like you see on TV - long tables of retirees drinking and swaying back and forth.  We decided to go with it and do all the moves and people sort of laughed at us, and it was awesome.  Also I think the old guy we sat by was hitting on our friend. :D

Here's a blurry video of the festivities:

Photos embedded in this post were taken by my friend. Photos in Picasa albums were taken by me.

1 comment:

  1. omg best old german singers ever. when we go to neighborhood scandinavian events and old people are singing i pretty much die.


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