Booking a taxi to Pellworm doesn’t work like anywhere else. “Yeah, I’m do!” Says the man on the phone and doesn’t want to know his cell phone number or name. After the arrival of the ferry, the transfer is still waiting at the island harbor: no taxi, but a kind of substitute bus service in the eight-seater. For the next three days, the minibus will always come when you need it, at least according to the island’s sense of time. Just like for the biikennnen on the same evening.
Biike, which means “fire sign” in North Frisian. According to the tradition of the Schleswig-Holstein North Sea coast, winter and the evil spirits are to be driven away with huge fires – whether on the Halligen, the islands or on the mainland. More and more visitors want to be there. The custom is of pagan as well as Christian origin and also has to do with seafaring – with the departure of the whalers: fires light up or send a greeting afterwards.
There are fires in nine locations on Sylt, five on Amrum and only one on Pellworm. And that’s where the whole island meets. A marquee is set up, there is kale, it is washed down with beer and schnapps. In the chip shop next door, a whiskey menu advertises about 40 varieties. Christmas trees, driftwood and hedge trimmings protrude from the stake. The island does not have much more to offer – a few windswept knicks are the only grove.
If you are a city dweller in the cold season of the North or Baltic Sea, you want one thing above all: deceleration. Quiet. Relaxation. And Pellworm can. The lighthouse is the most outstanding building on the third largest North Frisian island, which is about one meter below sea level. A dike leads around the country. And that’s it, from a landscape point of view. The greeting at the ferry pier is: “Welcome in the middle of the mudflats”.
All around – on the beach or dike
If you always walk around in the same direction on the outside, you should engage reverse gear in between. Otherwise, the hips and knees protest on the continuously sloping surface. The path is perfect at low tide: Then tidal creeks meander through the mudflats, muddy black surfaces reflect the sunlight, and thousands of oystercatchers and seagulls clash loudly with their bellies.
At high tide, the interior of the island is more interesting for walkers. Cars are rarely on the small roads, and the asphalt that has cracked on the soft ground also forces slow driving. Cyclists and pedestrians can also be seen from afar.
A pellworm circuit can also lead over the top of the dike. The view is then clear of the mudflats and the interior of the island. Thatched-roof houses crouch in the slipstream of the dyke or stand on small hills, the mounds, a little raised above the meadows with ditches.
In addition to the lighthouse in the south, the ruins of the old church tower in the west are the destination of cyclists and hikers. It collapsed in the 17th century because the soft ground did not hold the foundations. The remains are the symbol of the island and watch over the famous Arp Schnitger organ in the church next to it. The new tower is more modest, very low and made of wood.
Warm up in the sauna barrel
The day after the biike fire, the islanders devote themselves to another tradition: bathing at the lighthouse. About 30 brave people in disguise then plunge into the rising, waist-high and only five degrees cold water and endure it for a surprisingly long time. The waiting ambulance will hopefully not be needed, but a lot of hot tea and the mobile sauna barrel will be needed.
The path across the dike back to the hotel at the old church tower is seven kilometers long. The sun slowly moves towards the horizon and bathes the red brick in warm light. Hardly any more deceleration.