by Thomas Abeltshauser
It does not always have to be Gran Canaria or Mykonos. Germany’s most northern island of Sylt has a lot to offer for your summer holiday.
Arriving from the mainland is not exactly inviting. The motorail takes you over Hindenburgdamm and terminates in Westerland, rather a collection of architectural atrocities from the nineteen-sixties than a town. But you should neither be deterred by this nor by any recurring tabloid hype about some celebs’ excesses during summer. Sylt can also be amazingly beautiful. You only have to know where to go. Your first call after dropping your bags should be to the sea. Down the pedestrianised street you reach the beach with a view on the North Sea that compensates for everything else. And we are not talking about a stretch of rocky surface that would not deserve the name ‘beach’ at all, but about 40 kilometres of finest sand. The sky is bright blue and the breeze is strong enough to let some guys kitesurf over the sand.
Tripadvisor has declared Sylt’s nudist beach second best in the world. It was the first official nude beach on the island, dedicated more than 90 years ago. The life-guards, on the other hand, are dressed in shorts and t-shirts with the logo “Naturbursche”. You reach the section “Oasis to the sun” two kilometres down the beach from Westerland with its beautiful beach and high, unspoilt dunes, where you can enjoy cruising in summer. The gastronomy on Sylt is also outstanding, the island has the highest star density in Germany with Söl’ring Hof, Fährhaus Munkmarsch, La Mer and other star restaurants. But also the star-less gastronomy has delicacies to offer.
The hub of Sylt High Society is and remains the Sansibar. The beach stall is hopelessly overcrowded in summer and a popular stage for all kinds of self-promoters, but you should visit it once all the same. The cuisine really deserves its reputation. Sansibar has just opened a branch at Adlon Hotel in Berlin. Fisch Fiete in Keitum is the island’s best fish restaurant. The menu has been modernised considerably for the coming season. In addition to the classics, you can now also find an excellent tuna carpaccio and Asian-European fusion cuisine. The most beautiful spots in the garden are in strong demand in beautiful weather, it is best to make a reservation. You can also relax in a beach chair in the bistro next door in the afternoon. Alte Friesenstube in Westerland, founded in 1648, also offers excellent cuisine at reasonable prices. The interior walls are decorated with painted tiles and lots of wood, typical of the area. Tip: Try the monkfish in a Serrano ham coat on tomato risotto.
Rotes Kliff is perfect for a romantic stroll in the evening sun, a 30-metre-high cliff located between Wenningstedt and Kampen. Those who prefer to be on their own during the day can walk through the heath on the mud flat side for hours and only meet like-minded people from time to time. Or you could start a long walk towards the northernmost tip of the island. There is a beautiful deserted beach in the nature reserve up there, where you can find mussels and crabs and also spot the coast of Denmark.
Close by, at the port of List you not only find Germany’s northernmost fish stall, Gosch Sylt , but can also have a good meal, no matter that it belongs to a restaurant chain. Sounding bizarre, but surprisingly tasty are the ice cream desserts with fish, such as eel on plum ice cream. The branch in Wenningstedt (Strandstr. 27) also offers a breathtaking view, especially at sunset.
When the breeze blows quite stiffly and the rain hits you horizontalyl, which can even happen in summer, there is actually no better place than Kupferkanne at the edge of the town Kampen. The sculptor Günter Rieck had opened his studio here after WWII in a former bunker surrounded by pine trees, half set into the ground, with a view of the Wadden Sea. It became an artists’ café in 1950. Rieck had transformed the interior into a labyrinth of corridors and grottoes, which is so quaint and cozy that you would not mind not to find your way out. When you feel like more action again, you’ll always find a crowd in partying mood at Buhne 16, an institution on Sylt next to the Sansinbar.
You find the gay scene mainly in Westerland, the island’s hub. A few pubs like Nanu (Strandstr. 23) or Gatz (Strandstr. 12) can be found in the pedestrianised area. Everybody seems to know everbody else, German hits by Marianne Rosenberg & Co. are blaring from the loudspeakers. The same music, but a more mixed crowd (i.e. also pissed heteros) can be found in Wunderbar (Paulstr. 6). KC, Kleist Casino, (Elisabethstr. 1a) is an institution for more than 30 years, a small disco, where drag queen Olivia Jones or Hella von Sinnen might end up in high season. Core audience are middle-aged men that love to get highlights at their hairdressers’ and still wear moustaches as the latest fashion. Hipsters from Hamburg and Berlin also show up occasionally here in summer. There is also one gay sauna on Sylt, Westerland Beach Club (Bötticherstr. 3) in the centre of Westerland, featuring three saunas and cruising area, also offering daily specials.
For those who are less interested in getting in touch with others than in sports and wellness, Sylter Welle leisure pool with its swimming pool, outdoor pool, fun slide and huge sauna area is the perfect place. And for those who fancy a bit of culture, the Meerkabarett hosts concerts throughout the summer by artists also popular with gays – for example Malediva, Gayle Tufts, Maren Kroymann and Ursli & Toni Pfister. They all performed here in the 2012 season. Whatever you’re looking for – sun, relaxation, hustle and bustle or all kinds of pleasures – you’ll find on Sylt what you’re looking for. You just might want tohurry up as the island is shrinking. Over a million cubic metres of sand are washed into the North Sea every year. So: Visit Sylt while it is still standing.
All information on Germany’s famous holiday island.