Lufthansa Highlights Sylt: Pleasure island
A moment ago the day was bright and calm with a gentle breeze rippling the surface of the North Sea. Suddenly the wind stiffens, roaring from the southeast across the land and out to sea in gusts that flatten the trembling pale green grass against the dunes. Within a matter of minutes, gray clouds loom over Listland, darkening the lonely heath landscape. Better find shelter from the rain fast, I think to myself.
Abrupt weather changes like this don’t worry people like Randolph Kohns. The tall IT expert from Hanover pushes back his baseball cap, surveys the sky and pronounces confidently: “It will soon pass.” He knows what he’s talking about, and so he should because Randolph Kohns has been coming to the island of Sylt for over 20 years. A quarter of an hour later, the clouds have disappeared, the sky is clear and blue as if washed clean. This North Frisian island has its own special microclimate, and it’s a benevolent one.
Compared with the German mainland, Sylt has less cloud cover, more sunshine and fewer rainy days. I meet Kohns again in the evening, sitting with his wife in Johannes King’s Söl’ring Hof in Rantum, one of the two two-star restaurants on Sylt. He likes to indulge in at least one “starry” meal during each visit to the island, as he says. Sometimes he goes to King’s, where the master chef presides over an open, country kitchen, greets his guests personally and bids them farewell when they leave.
Other times, Kohns will pay a visit to Jörg Müller in Westerland (one star), who serves a perfect fusion of South German, Mediterranean and North Frisian cuisine; or to Landhaus Stricker in Tinnum, where Holger Bodendorft produces creative Mediterranean fare (one star). Then again, he also has the choice of Alexandro Pape’s restaurant in the Fährhaus hotel in Munkmarsch (two stars), where the chef is given to exceptionally exotic compositions, like caramelized duck foie gras and Andalusian sardines, or wild garlic lassi on calamari and potato salad. “To me, this is all part and parcel of Sylt,” says Kohns. “Nowhere can you work up an appetite as pleasantly as here while taking long walks through deep sand and watching the waves come rolling in.”
So off I trudge again at the end of my opulent dinner. On this bright, moonlit night, I see it for the first time: noctuiluca miliaris, large, planktonic organisms that make the sea glow blue-black. I stand for a long while, gazing out over the glittering waves before heading home. My feet leave gleaming prints in the sand that blur after a few seconds. What a wonderful end to a blustery day: stars on my plate followed by a luminescent sea.
Change of scene. Morsum Cliff a the most easterly point of the island. A centuries-old, violet-brown landscape of heath and pasture, grazing cows and sheep, farms and dikes. The air is pungent with grass and earth, dung and summer flowers. This is the tranquil, mudflat side of the island, where the idyllic villages of Morsum, Archsum and Keitum, with their old and new thatched Frisian houses, crouch behind stone walls overgrown with grass.
The Petersens are a family of ship owners from Hamburg, who have an old holiday home in Keitum, which the grandfather bought back in the early 1960s. Three generations have spent their summer vacation here since then, at least four weeks at a stretch. “Everyone knows everyone – even though we only come once or twice a year,” says Ulrich Petersen. “Our parents like it here and our children still do. Why go anywhere else?”
From Keitum, it’s just three kilometers to Munkmarsch, where the ferries from the mainland used to tie up before the Hindenburgdamm causeway was built, and visitors would continue on to Westerland aboard the island train. Sailboats rock in the blue-green waters of tiny Munkmarsch harbor, flags flap, steel halyards knock against masts and gulls screech for all they are worth.
As I cast my eye over the shimmering mudflats, the words of author Ludwig Harig come to mind: “On the island of Sylt, nothing is as one knows it. There are windy days with rain, windy days without rain, misty days, foggy days, days filled with sunshine; but one always has the feeling that the rain is rainier, the mist mistier, and the fog foggier than anywhere else, and that when the sun shines, it’s sunnier here than the sunniest place in the world.”