After growing frustrated with unruly children, a German restaurant owner decided to ban them from his eatery and offer his guests "an oasis of peace." The man says his move is actually directed at ignorant parents.
A restaurant dubbed "Oma's Küche" (Grandma's Kitchen) is making waves in Germany with its decision to ban patrons under 14 years of age during dinnertime. Restaurant owner Rudolf Markl says the decision was a long time coming.
"We have somehow reached that point where you say: This just can't go on like this," he told the DPA news agency.
The breaking point, according to Markl, came when some unruly youths damaged the inventory in his restaurant on the German Baltic Sea island of Rügen. The rampage reportedly left antique photo stands in Oma's Küche damaged.
Parents smile, eat and 'don't care'
Long before that, however, Markl grew frustrated with children annoying other guests, pulling on tablecloths, and throwing around wine glasses as their parents looked on.
The parents "acknowledge it with a smile, keep on eating, and don't care at all," he said.
Markl claims his decision to ban children after 5 p.m. is not directed against the children themselves. Instead, it targets ignorant parents "who cannot control their children," he told the DPA news agency.
'Oasis of peace'
The move sparked a lot of criticism both in German media outlets and in online media, but Markl says many patrons cheered his decision. He also claims it will offer an "oasis of peace" to the visitors of his busy restaurant.
An increasing number of hotels and tour agencies worldwide are offering services that specifically rule out children, in an attempt to draw in new clients. Businesses are free to decide whether or not children are allowed on the premises, says Lars Schwarz, the head of the Hotel and Restaurant in the German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, which includes Rügen.
However, Schwarz added he was not very happy with the decision.
"In this state we aim to be friendly to children," he said.
Separately, Germany's Anti-discrimination Office said the decision raised legal concerns, as it might clash with the country's ban on age discrimination.
"The arguments such as the higher noise level that would disturb the guests are not necessarily enough for a wholesale ban on children below a certain age," says the office's head, Bernhard Franke, warning that the business is risking a lawsuit from clients. A better policy, according to Franke, would be to simply ask individual children and their parents to leave.
Speaking to Germany's public radio NDR, Markl said his new policy is not hostile to children, but rather friendly to grown-ups.
This is not the first time Markl grabbed the attention of the German media. In 2007, his restaurant became the first Rügen eatery to ban smoking on the premises, long before most German states implemented smoking bans.
Storm hiking on Rügen
Germany's biggest Island, Rügen is located off the Pomeranian coast in the Baltic Sea. It's quiet here during the winter as only few tourists visit. Nevertheless the island has much to offer: in the north you can take guided tours in stormy weather, in the southwest an ice rink entices you to skate. And for those who prefer it warmer they can enjoy the cozy delights of numerous wellness hotels.
Cross-country skiing on Usedom
In the winter tourists and locals can be seen heading to the beach with thick coats and cross-country skis instead of parasols and bathing suits. When there is snow on the German-Polish island of Usedom the beach turns into a cross-country ski track. Skiers are treated to some impressive sights: ice floes drifting by in the Baltic Sea, icicles under bridges and sea gulls settling on the ice.
Nature paradise on Hiddensee
Bertolt Brecht, Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein used to recuperate on Hiddensee. To the west of Rügen it is part of the West Pomeranian Bodden nature reserve. It provides a habitat for rare birds like sea eagles, which can be observed during the winter months. Hiddensee can only be reached by boat, and there are no cars on the island.
Go for a stroll on Sylt
During the summer there's a mass of traditional roofed wicker beach chairs stacked next to each other and tourists laying in the sun, but come winter Sylt turns into a long and empty beach. A fresh wind blows over the North Sea island, the waves crash and the air is clear. Only few people venture out to walk the beach but those that do are rewarded with an unimpeded sea view.
Hibernating on Amrum
Not far from Sylt is Amrum, with its broad Kniepsand beach. In the winter months the islanders are very much left alone to recover from the summer when as many as 8,000 visitors gather here. Amrum goes into hibernation. During the cold season, however, the island has its own charm: tranquility and solitude characterize the untouched dune landscape.
Submerged on the Halligen
The Halligen Islands are an attractive destination for adventurous people during the winter. The 10 small islands in the North Frisian Wadden Sea are subjected to severe sea weather. During "Landunter" the islands are very nearly submerged. Then the only things above the water are the manmade earth mounds known as warfts - on which the locals build their houses.
Baby seals on Helgoland
Helgoland is especially attractive in the wintertime. The small island in the North Sea, 60 kilometers off the mainland, looks a little like a fortress in the ocean. Some 1,500 inhabitants live here. In 1721 the original bigger island broke into two parts. On the smaller island, Düne, winter visitors can observe grey seals being born.
Sights to see on Norderney
Visitors to the East Frisian island of Norderney can enjoy long walks through deserted nature during the winter. They can also bird-watch Brent geese and Eurasian Wigeons. Those who don't like the cold outdoors can enjoy exploring buildings of interest like the Kurhaus from 1799, Nordeney's cultural center with a casino and town library.
Lighthouses on Borkum
The island of Borkum on the border to the Netherlands has an ocean climate: in the summer it isn't overly hot and the winters are mild. The air is very clean and enriched with iodine. Well-worth seeing on the island are the three lighthouses. The Kleine Leutturm, or small lighthouse, on the southern shore was built at the end of the 19th century and is Germany's first operated by electricity.
Winter magic on Mainau
Beautiful winter islands beyond the North or Baltic Sea can also be found on Germany's lakes. In the summer thousands of tourists flock to the flower island of Mainau on Lake Constance - in the winter it transforms into a tranquil nature park surrounded by glittering water. Soon, however, the early blossoming plants will awaken from their winter's rest and with them the tourists will also return.