Ready for a break - an island holiday to get away from it all? Hallig Hooge, one of Germany's ten islands known as Halligen, is an ideal place. It's laid-back, peaceful and tucked away from fast-paced city life.
Surrounded as they are by water, people naturally think of the Halligen in the Wadden Sea as islands. But from a strictly geological point of view, they are stretches of low-lying land often flooded over by the tides. The name Halligen derives from the Frisian word "Hal" for salt and "lig" for lying flat.
Few people inhabit the islands on a permanent basis, and only on select Halligen. Hooge - the second-largest Hallig after Langeness - boasts a size of about 6 square kilometers. Strolling along the 11 kilometer-long (7 mile-long) outer dike, a visitor can walk Hooge's perimeter in three hours. The mainland stretches eastward, and to the south, neighboring Pellworm Island with its church steeple seems close enough to touch.
Hallig Langeness and the islands of Föhr und Amrum are north of Hallig Hooge - to the west, there's nothing but the North Sea waves rolling in.
Actual North Sea islands like Sylt or Amrum rest on firm rock.
The Halligen, however, were formed by a major storm tide that separated large parts of the western coast from the mainland in 1362.
This landscape of tidal flats hasn't changed much since it was hit by the last big storm tide in 1634. The constant threat of storm tides is a fact of life for Hooge residents even today. Their houses are built on ten man-made hills, known as "Warften." When tides are high and the Hallig is flooded, they still jut out of the water.
Fit for a king
A visit to Hooge would not be complete without an invigorating walk across the tidal flats to uninhabited Hallig Norderoog or to Japsand - but always with a local guide, given the incalculable terrain and weather conditions. Other Hallig highlights include the Museum of Local History and the historic "Königspesel." In 1825, Denmark's King Frederick VI spent the night in this impressive, tiled parlor in a farmer's house, caught on the tiny Hallig by a storm tide.
Beware of Ekke-Nekkepenn
Low and high tides, coming and going, in and out - the ocean's eternal cycle plays a major role on Germany's Halligen - in real life as well as in legends.
According to one tale, the bells of Rungholt, a town that sank in the 1362 storm tide, can be heard during a full moon - rung by Ekke-Nekkepenn, a goblin who lives at the bottom of the North Sea. Local residents erected a small statue in the creature's honor on Hallig Hooge where Ekke-Nekkepenn, they say, still plays tricks on people today. After all, life on the Halligen might just be too quiet otherwise.
Author: Pia Gram / db
Editor: Greg Wiser