Sylt, Germany

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Sylt, Germany

Closer to home

The windswept island of Sylt, littered with sand dunes and thatched villages, lies just off the Jutland peninsula in the North Sea. Surrounded by 40 kilometres of fine beaches, it’s a popular destination for Germany’s holidaying families.

But its wide range of activities, friendly atmosphere and improved flight connections mean that it’s attracting more and more tourists from further afield too.

The strandkörbe, or ‘beach baskets’, are one of its great icons. Twelve thousand of these blue-and-white striped seats are dotted along the wide open sands in summer months. They provide shelter from the persistent winds which make the island a favourite with wind-surfers. Inland, the climb to the top of sand dunes offers a fine view over the heather and bracken toward such villages as Kampen, where fine luxury goods stores line the picturesque streets.

The gardens of Keitum bring a burst of colour to this quiet, thatched village – possibly the oldest settlement on the island and today certainly its most beautiful. It is the perfect starting point for a walk or cycle along the Rantum-becken – a reservoir attracting 50 local bird species.

To end your day, try the island’s oysters, washed down with your choice of wines from the thousands of bottles in the famous Sansibar restaurant cellar.

Local low-down

The secret ‘national sport’ on the island is the game of Boßel. The Frisians play this in their typical friendly and informal manner. Teams of four players are given a wooden ball with a heavy metal centre, which they have to throw through a forest, avoiding streams, trees and other natural hazards.

They have to throw it from wherever it lands – even inside a bush or pond. The fastest team wins. In a final twist, the team playing catch-up have to pull a cart full of ‘target water’– beer or something stronger – that must be consumed every 20 minutes or so.

Don’t Miss…

List Germany’s most northerly settlement is also home to its only oyster farm, which is open to curious tourists keen to see the process and sample the product.

Mud flats These tidal shallows of apparently lifeless grey silt are one of the last extensive natural landscapes in central Europe, and home to many thousands of mussels and snails.

Sansibar restaurant The island’s most famous eaterie, where the rich and the ordinary rub shoulders over incredible turbot. Downstairs a cellar stocks more than 30,000 bottles of the world’s best wines.

First published: Traveller magazine, Spring 2008
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