Explore northern Germany with my family and experience Denmark with Philipp's family.
With German Mother's Day (9th of May) and Father's Day (13th of May) approaching, I want to use this blogpost to honor our vacations with our respective parents and parents-in-law. When you google "travel with family in law" you'll get plenty of "how to survive" guides. This blogpost is a different genre: This is solely an account of our great holidays with our beloved parents and parents-in-law.
Our family has been exploring our home state of Lower Saxony for generations. My favorite family holiday took us to Neuharlingersiel at the North Sea, where we revisited places from my grandparents' holidays, my parents' holidays, and my childhood holidays with three generations of the family. My family is very much into sightseeing so here are some of our favorite spots. Come to East Frisia with us, the northwesternmost part of Germany right on the North Sea coast.
We based ourselves in the quaint little town of Neuherlingersiel, which is the perfect base to explore the surrounding North Sea coast. There's a cute little harbour with loads of fishing boats (don't miss the statue of the old and young fisherman when you're here), a beach, a typical northern German dike, and a Buddelschiff museum (literally a "ship in a bottle" museum – miniature ships, which are constructed inside a bottle with loads of craftsmanship and delicacy). Additionally, it's close to the East Frisian Islands which are definitely worth a visit. The ferry to Spiekeroog runs directly from Neuharlingersiel!
We indulged ourselves in the northern German cuisine. Many people only think about the southern German cuisine with its Schnitzel, sausages, roast meats, and other heavy meaty dishes. But there's another side to German cuisine. Close to the sea, you get loads of fish and seafood dishes like shrimps, fish rolls, and marinated herring – and Labskaus, a dish made from corned beef, potatoes, onion, beetroot, and pickled gherkin.
A real highlight is the Ostfriesentee or East Frisian tea ceremony. You might think about places like Japan when you hear tea ceremony but we in Germany do have our very own version! The tea is a black tea that is mixed from more than 20 types of black tea, with mostly Assam tea. First, you put a Kluntje (a giant – and I mean giant – piece of rock candy) in your cup – listen to the crackling of the sugar when you pour the hot tea over it. Second, add rich cream – but don't ever stir tea! Every sip of tea tastes different whether you're closer to the creamy top or the sugary bottom.
The Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park has an area of about 345,800 hectares (1,335 sq mi). It is a large area of tidal flats in the North Sea which dry out twice a day during the low tide period (ebb) and are flooded during the high tide period. It is the second most productive ecosystem of the world after the tropical rainforest. Watch out for the typical lugworm, which lives in a U-shaped tube under the surface of the mud.
Every visit our family puts on their rubber boots and explores the areas close to the coast. If you want to go deeper into the Wadden Sea, you can take a guided tour. There are many tidal creeks, channels in which the water runs from low tide to high tide, which form rapidly and can get deep and dangerous quickly. You can even do a guided hike all the way to the East Frisian islands like Spiekeroog – an 8 km (5 miles) hike. If you prefer a boat tour to a hike, you can spot many seals on the sandbanks of the Wadden Sea.
Carolinensiel: This town is only 8 km (5 miles) away from Neuharlingersiel. I have very fond memories of my holidays there. The historical museum harbour is super cool. Don't forget to check out Christian Janssen's shop. In this historic little grocery store, you'll find East Frisian goods in an original 50s interior with personal service only – just like your grandma shopped. You can walk or bike 2 kilometers (1.3 miles) along the Harle river to Harlesiel, where you'll find the local beach.
Emden: This is the biggest town in East Frisia. With 1200 years of history, this port city has loads to offer. You can hire a boat and explore the various canals, visit the East Frisian museum, or explore the city center with its typical red brick houses. A special highlight is the Otto Huus – a museum dedicated to one of Germany's most famous comedians – Otto Waalkes. Additionally, you can find Germany's walk of fame – the Hands of Fame – here. It was great fun to compare our hands to soccer player Uwe Seeler, Schlager (a distinctly german version of pop music – love it or hate it) singer Andrea Berg, or – you guessed it – comedian Otto.
Not only the Netherlands has windmills. East Frisia, which borders the Netherlands, does have around 80 windmills itself. One of my favorites is the Seriem windmill. You can visit the mill for free and learn more about the former operation of the windmill. Additionally, there's a Cafe, where you can have an excellent East Frisian tea ceremony.
Denmark has been Philipp's family's go-to holiday destination for decades. Philipp is the second oldest of five siblings, so a lot of family vacations to Denmark still took place after we moved out - so why not go with them? This year, the first trip to Denmark with the youngest member of our family, our nephew, is going to take place!
These trips are rarely about sightseeing but rather about experiencing the rough Danish weather, the beautiful nature, the delicious foods, and the overall togetherness. Many rituals have formed over the years:
At least once every trip we would walk along the Fjord to the town center of Lemvig. We would stroll through the quaint little streets, have a little snack, and do a little shopping – at least one scarf comes home with us on every trip. On the way, we would walk by the cute little harbour with its picturesque fishing boats. This is also the perfect spot to buy some freshly caught fish for dinner!
The family often rents a big house with a sauna and a whirlpool close to the fjord so you can warm up after a day in the Danish rough weather before you jump in the ice-cold water of the fjord to cool down again - interrupted by shots of Akvavit schnaps for the adults.
Lemvig itself is located at the Limfjord, but it's also super close to the North Sea. A highlight on the coastline is a series of World War II bunkers in Thyborøn. They were constructed by the German occupiers to protect the entrance of the Limfjord. This place offers a great combination of history to touch with an endlessly long beach. Somehow every time the family visits some members end up frolicking in the cold and rough North Sea waves.
Every year, the whole family visits the same candle manufacture to hand draw their candles for the coming year. It's always great fun and a perfect souvenir to remember the holiday by. But the candles also need a candle holder. For that purpose, the family pays a visit to a beach with a lot of course rocks. Some of the flintstones there already have holes in them and hence serve as the perfect natural candleholder.
My personal highlight of each trip are the sweets and pastries. We would have heaps of Danish rolls every breakfast and other Danish pastries like Kanelsnegl, Småkager, or Pandekager for every afternoon tea. On every trip to the grocery store, we would visit their candy bar and load up on huge amounts of licorice and wine gums. And of course, we take several bags of Skolekridt, Snöre, and Salmiak home with us.
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