Photos: A May Day outing to the East Friesian seaside

May 1st, i.e. International Workers’ Day, is a public holiday in Germany, so we took the opportunity for a day trip to the East Friesian seaside.

Now the people of East Friesia have (unfairly) been the butt of jokes for decades (though East Friesian jokes – yes, there is such a thing – have thankfully become less acceptable in recent years). The reason is probably that East Friesia is culturally distinct from the rest of North Germany and actually closer to the neighbouring Netherlands (the Dutch region on the other side of the border is West Friesia) to the point that landscape and architecture often seem more Dutch than German. There are lots of windmills, too.

The Friesian language has largely died out with the exception of Saterfriesich, which has approx. 1000 native speakers in the Southern part of East Friesia, though it has left its mark on the town names. Indeed, someone looking for epic fantasy names could do worse than mine East Friesian town and village names for material (and I’m totally going to do this one day). A lot of villages are also named for notable geographic features, so you get a lot of places with names ending in -siel (means “lock”), -fehn (means “moor” or “watery lowland”), -um (means “home”) and -groden (no idea).

East Friesia is traditionally an agircultural and fishing area. Nowadays, tourism plays a big role as well, particularly with regard to the East Friesian Islands, a chain of islands off the coast, which are close enough that you can walk there on foot, if the tide is low (though you should not do so without a guide). What is more, the Wadden Sea region is also a national park and UNESCO World Heritage site.

Of course, I also took along my camera and shot some photos of the vilages of Bensersiel, Westeraccumersiel and Dornum, which coincidentally is the hometown of Minnie Marx, né Miene Schönberg, mother of the Marx Brothers. There is a well known saying that all the best comedians are from East Friesia, since both Otto Waalkes and Minnie Marx, mother of the Marx Brothers, hail from there.

Unfortunately, the warm and sunny weather of the past few days had to break for May Day, so the photos look a tad gloomy:

Bensersiel harbour

A look across the harbour of Bensersiel with the island of Langeoog on the horizon

Bollard Bensersiel

A wooden bollard at the harbour of Bensersiel

Cutter Bensersiel

A wooden fishing cutter moored at the harbour of Bensersiel

Cutter Bensersiel

The “Möwe”, another fishing cutter, moored at the harbour of Bensersiel. Alas, this cutter is now longer in active service and now serves as a tour boat instead.

Sailing boat Bensersiel

A sailing boat on a trailer in the harbour of Bensersiel

Sailing boat Bensersiel

A sailing boat leaving the harbour of Bensersiel and likely headed for the island of Langeoog on the horizon.

Langeoog ferry Bensersiel

The harbour of Bensersiel is also the terminal for ferries leaving for the island of Langeoog just off the coast. This is one of the ferries serving Langeoog, a popular tourist destination. I visited Langeoog once back in the 1980s.

Langeoog cargo containers

Colourful cargo containers at the harbour of Bensersiel intended to carry supplies to the island of Langeoog.

Maypole Bensersiel

A maypole on the market square of Bensersiel. Maypoles are traditionally set up in the night before May1st by the young people of the respective village. The tradition is still very much alive in East Friesia and we saw several maypoles.

Maypole Westeraccumersiel

Another maypole, this time in the village of Westeraccumersiel. Again, it overlooks the market square. Also note the so-called “beach baskets”, woven seats which are ubiquituous on the German coasts.

Westeraccumersiel war monument

A monument to the dead of WWI and WWII in Westeraccumersiel. Note the two beach baskets in the garden of the house in the background.

Westeraccumersiel lock

A closed dyke gate in Westeraccumersiel. The glass-roofed structure in front of the gate is a model demonstrating the workings of a lock.

Rescue boat Westeraccumersiel

This decommissioned boat of the German maritime search and rescue service sits in a park in Westeraccumersiel. The steel ball in front is an old noval mine.

Westeraccumersiel harbour

A look across the harbour of Westeraccumersiel. This is a pure fishing harbour – unlike neighbouring Bensersiel, Westeraccumersiel does not have ferry traffic to the East Friesian islands.

Windmill Dornum

A historical windmill in the village of Dornum. As in the neighbouring Netherlands, windmills are nigh ubiquitous in East Friesia and were mostly used for drainage. This one is a post mill, which means that the entire mill revolves around a central post to better expose the sails to the wind.

White hawthorn

A white hawthorn bush in full bloom. White hawthorns are very common in this region.

Mixed fish platter

Finally, here is what I had for lunch, a mixed fish platter with rice and grilled vegetables. The fish pieces are fillet of red mullet, fillet of sea robin and fillet of Peter’s Fish a.k.a. John Dory. The fish platter was very tasty BTW. Also note the Delft tiled table. Tiled tables were very fashionable in the 1970s.

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2 Responses to Photos: A May Day outing to the East Friesian seaside

  1. Kaz Augustin says:

    Tiled tables were very fashionable in the 1970s.

    I don’t know why. Could you imagine cleaning the grouting if anything spilt on it? Frustrating plus tedious…I’m sure you Germans have a word for that! ;)

    Great photos, btw, although it looks a little cool and gloomy for spring…?

    • Cora says:

      The problem was very noticeable with this table, since you could see distinct brown edges around some of the tiles, where 40 years of what was most likely spilled tea (East Friesians are big on tea) had accumulated and simply couldn’t be washed off again. The restaurant was clean and nice otherwise, so it was definitely a problem with the tables.

      I had no idea why tiled tables ever were so fashionable either, though even my dollhouse (Christmas present in 1977) had them. I suspect it was actually viewed as a labour-saving device, since tablecloths had to be laundered, starched, ironed and mangled (postwar German housewives were insane). And simply using plain wodden surfaces was out as well, because spilling a drink onto a wooden table usually caused a great hue and cry as well as frantic wiping in the 1970s and 1980s. I suspect the lacquer and finishing used were not so good in those days and so spilled liquids left stains in the wood. Tiles must have seemed pleasantly easy to handle compared to that, since you could simply wipe them down – at least until the brown edges started to appear. Plus, they matched the so-called “Old German style” that was popular for living room furniture in the 1960s through 1980s.

      We had almost three weeks of solid warm weather (well, by German standards) and an early spring in general. Of course, May 1st had to be the first cold and gloomy day in weeks.

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