Cycling the Hamptons of Germany

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A cycling tour of Sylt, Germany represents one of the travel industry’s hottest new trends for boomers—active travel. Today, Jeanine Barone from  J The Travel Authority, writes about the charms of a Sylt cycling tour.

Traditional Frisian house in Sylt, Germany

Massive sand dunes rise and dip beside my bicycle path, their surface brushed with purple from the dense covering of blooming heather. These walking dunes, as they’re called, used to shift quite a bit with the wind until they were planted with the brilliant flora. Ahead is List, the northern most tip of the 40-square-mile island of Sylt that’s often compared with New York City’s Hamptons or the French Riviera where affluent Germans flock for the sun, the spas and the sands. I’ve come for the cycling.

This glacially-formed island is networked with bicycle paths that wander along a dramatic landscape with giant boulders (glacial erratics), towering cliffs, protected mudflats teeming with zoo- and phytoplankton, and, of course, more than 25 miles of golden sands on the west coast.

On the way to the island’s capital, Westerland, I pedal through the resort town of Kampen to the Red Cliffs that rise almost 100 feet above the sands and the North Sea beyond. Below, hooded wicker two-person chairs, strandkorbs, cluster along the beachfront. Traditionally, these were once made of reeds.

In bustling Westerland, where the squawking of gulls predominates, I take a brief break from this cycling tour of Sylt to replenish my energy stores at Blum’s Seafood, a family-owned chain of fish restaurants noted for their creative herring and fish/shellfish salads. After choosing small sides of herring in mustard, red herring salad made with beets, crab salad with orange and pineapple, and curried baby shrimp with olives and pears, I head over to Cafe Wien Pastry, another family-owned establishment, for one of their cream-based pastries.

St. Severin Church

Another day, I bicycle east to Keitum, cycling past sheep and horses grazing in vast fields, and meadows blanketed with wildflowers. This village, the former capital from the 1800s, has the quaintest collection of the island’s Frisian houses, some from the 1700s, bearing the signature pointed gable over the entrance and thatch roofs. (Curiously, even the bus shelters I pass along my route are topped with reeds.) Past the art galleries, interior design shops and clothing stores, Kleine Teestube is a charming courtyard-centered cafe with teddy bears peaking from the windows overhead and two-person wicker beach chairs huddled under wide umbrellas. I park my bike beside the entrance and settle at one of the tables where I order a cup of green tea with aromatic orange essence and a slice of strawberry cake heaped with berries. And. while it’s easy to while away the afternoon here, listening to the twittering of birds and ordering a second slice of the creamy berry cake, I reluctantly say goodbye to the teddy bears and get back in the saddle.

Nearby is the whitewashed St. Severin Church that was built by sea captains of brick and stone blocks. (It may date from the 1400s.) The original brass door handle in the shape of a whale reflects the village’s past when the wealthy whaling captains once resided here.

Megalythic site on Sylt, Germany

The ubiquitous blossoms of the Sylt Rose, given the scientific name Rosa rugosa, trace a line along the mostly paved bike trails.  Ahead, a birdhouse perches on stilts with, what else, but a reed roof. The trails lead to Denghoog, one of several megalithic sights on Sylt. I leave my bike beside the original entrance (framed by thick stones) set in this grassy knoll that represents a 6,000-year-old tomb.  Instead, I enter via a steep set of steps and a short ladder. Inside the chamber are massive boulders weighing some 40,000 pounds. In this claustrophobic space I don’t linger. More trails and discoveries await.

Alan and I think a cycling tour of Sylt, Germany would make a fun boomer trip. Have you experienced this lovely German island? Join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook or send us an email to ask a question or share your experience.

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