Germany’s smallest nature reserve vonsists of one single rock. It is a it is a huge condo, densely occupied. Five specieses of sea birds nest here: guillemots (Trottellumme, Uria aalge) and the closely related razorbill (Tordalk, Alca torda), kittywake (Dreizehenmöwe, Rissa tridactyla), a small seagull), fulmar (Eissturmvogel, Fulmarus glacialis) and Northern gannet (Basstölpel, Sula bassana).
The vertical rock is a densely populated condominium. Every niche and every tiny protruding bit of rock has at least one nest on it. The birds are used to tourists and happily ignore us. They know that the vertical rock, the air and the sea are theirs and that we cannot climb down to their nests.
When I visited in early August, only the gannets and the seagulls still had chicks in their nests, the others were already out. It’s hard to imagine even more nests on the rock as every suitable spot seems to be occupied by these two specieses. The gannets with their clown faces, light colours and elegant style of flying were my favourites. Their chicks looked like big fluffy balls of cotton.
Options for bird-watching and photography are plenty from the comfortable trail. You get several views onto the sides of the rock. A good zoom is useful to have for closeups. The cliff trail even takes you very close to the top floor of the condo, where you are just a few metres away from the highest nests.
Some seagulls even sit on the edge of the trail as if they were posing for photos, and hoping for a treat in return.
More bird photos in the travelogues!
The protestant church in the middle of Oberland settlement dates from 1959. It contains a couple of art works from the old church, like ship models, tombstones and a chandelier. Helgoland was christianized already in the 8th century. The old patron saint of merchants and sailors, St Nikolaus, is still the namesake of the protestant church. The church is surrounded by the modern cemetery.
I could not see the interior, unfortunately, because there was a funeral service going on inside and I did not have time to wait. I would have liked to see it. Usually it is open in the daytime.
Due to the complete destruction of 1947, everything on the island was rebuilt from scratch in the post-war era. After Britain had returned Helgoland to Germany in 1952, the local population was able to return. They had to reinvent their home. Instead of “wild” building, careful urban planning was applied and a functional settlement was designed. The architecture was influenced by Bauhaus and Scandinavian models. The colours which we now consider so typical are the result of this 1950s planning. Helgoland is about the only settlement in Germany which is more or less completely preserved in the style of the 1950s and a protected monument of post-war architecture.
I have no idea what a race this is! I assume it is an old, almost extinct one. These cows are whiteish and rather small. They have a curly, almost woolly fur which makes them look like big sheep. Three of them, a bull and two heifers, were in a pasture in Oberland by the round walk (close to the public toilets and the allotment gardens). They looked like gentle, easy to handle animals from the distance – I did not seek a closer acquaintance with them, though.
Helgoland consists of two islands: the sandstone rock as the main island, and the small sandy one called Düne (dune). The existence of one single solitary rock in the middle of the sea is amazing enough, but I am even more astonished about the persistence of this patch of sand. Düne is the beach of Helgoland with white sands and clear waters for swimming. A ferry boat connects both islands every 30 minutes. There is an airstrip, a lighthouse, some holiday villages and campgrounds, a couple of restaurants. Düne is also known as home of a colony of seals (Kegelrobben). Unfortunately I did not have time to go over during my day visit.
At the southernmost point of Oberland the statue of a standing bear is overlooking the sea towards Southeast. The inscription on the pedestal says it’s 456 kilometres to Berlin. A piece of nostalgy from cold war times – many cities and towns in West Germany had such bear statues indicating the distance to Berlin.
Helgoland consists of one single rock of red sandstone. Its layers show all shades of deep red with some white in between. The layers are slightly inclined, which explains the shape of the island with the steep cliffs in the North a dn West and the lower part in the Southeast. The layers of rock form a striped pattern that continues over all the cuts and breaks caused by erosion.
A walk along the Klippenrandweg around the edges of Oberland is a must. To reach it from the port you can either take the elevator or climb one of the three stairways. Its total lenght is approximately 3 kilometres, but plan enough time, I’d estimate about one and a half hours. There are plenty of viewpoints to all sides. The views of the cliffs and the sea are spectacular. As soon as you are at the top the walk is easy. The trail is smoothly paved with bricks and has very few short ups and downs. A shorter round is even marked as barrier-free.
The round walk takes you past all attractions on Oberland, including Lange Anna at the far end, the bird rock, the lighthouse, the bomb craters etc. Pyramid.shaped information boards tell about Helgoland’s history, the landscape and nature.
The rock pillar named Lange Anna is Helgoland’s landmark and most famous attraction. At the Northern tip of the sandstone cliffs this freestanding tower remained while the rocks around crumbled about 140 years ago. Some day it will crumble, too, although the bottom is protected by concrete barriers. The total height is 47 metres. The rock is a scyscraper for birds.
To see it you have to walk to the far end of the island on the cliff walk. From the viewpoints you have a good view. The best view is of course from sea. There seem to be tours in small boats from the port but I do not know any details.
Helgoland is a duty-free zone. Instead of the usual souvenir shops which would usually assemble in tourist hotspots like this one, you have duty-free shops with cigarets and tobacco, alcoholic beverages, perfumes, chocolate and such, and a just small selection of souvenirs. The highest density ca be found around the port and in the centre of Unterland, and around the top end of the elevator in Oberland. Impossible to miss.
Shop to your heart’s content but observe the limits for import set by German customs, as these apply although Helgoland is part of German territory: www.zoll.de Sometimes there are checks on the ship or in the ports of arrival.
The colourful shacks that are lined up in a long row along the quay once were the work sheds of the lobster fishers where they kept their tools and traps. The lobsters have become rare around Helgoland recently, though, and the trade is down. According to a documentary I recently saw on TV there is one single fisherman left who still uses his shack for the original purpose. He delivers most of his catch to the Biological Institute fro breeding, as to reestablish the species in the wild.
Nowadays new uses for the shacks have been found. They contain little shops, art galleries, eateries and such, and have become the first tourist attraction you come across when arriving on the island.
Price is cheap, just 2 euro per adult, and for children 1 euro.
It is a very nice museum near the pier.
You will learn about the history of the island, the first inhabitants. There are many fishing artefacts.
It is a must in Helgoland Island.
Being a small isle with an upper and lower level, and one which can be traversed entirely within 2 hours walking time, Helgoland is ideal for a daily exercise program of light trekking, a jog along the beach, or meditating at "The Big Red Rock". To get from upper to lower level on the isle, there is an elevator provided offering single or roundtrip tickets, but most people choose to brave out the stairs that take you from the coast to the upper level of the island. After a 6 day stay in 2004, I found that I managed to lose 4lbs from the amount of physical activity I got just from walking and climbing stairs, added to a heart healthy diet of locally caught fish. My summer clothes fit more comfortably and my heart felt just a little bit stronger by the time I left!
When visiting Northern germany and having the possibility to go to Helgoland, one should take it immediately. From Cuxhaven the easiest way is taking a boat to Helgoland, which is also a great trip in itself. The Helgoland regatta (every year around Whit-sunday / Pfingsten) is the best time to go, though you will not be the only one. The hundreds and hundreds of sails going over the wild waters around the island is a magnificent sight.
Well, it's a small museum, but if you want to know more about helgoland, the best opportunity to find out whatever you want to know. It tells about the former occupying forces (Vikings, Pirates, Danes, English and Germans) and many other historical as wel as geological facts and figures. Quite intresting after a wonderful walk around the island and it's steep dropping red cliffs.
To the East of the main island there is a small sandy sister. Being under protection of the current that runs from the opposit side of Helgoland, here a microclimat dune-landscape excist. Only to be reached by special boat.