A day later, we used the hire car and drove to Eiderstedt. We had been here once before, as we’d planned to move to Tönning when circumstances changed and we ended up in Bremen.
The peninsula was formed when two groups of islands, Utholm and Everschop, were connected to a smaller headland during the 14th and 15th centuries. Frisians had inhabited the islands from around the 8th century and defended them with low ring dykes and dwelling mounds. As dyke-building techniques improved, and particularly after the destruction of the Saint Marcellus flood of 1362, polders were created on the tidal inlets, drained by a series of ditches.
Reclamation continued until the 20th century. The latest polder (or “Koog” in the local language) was Tümlauer Koog, inaugurated in 1935 as the Hermann-Göring-Koog.
We visited the polder, which had been in the news in recent years because of its bell, known as the Kinderglocke, that was originally made for Göring’s visit for the inauguration. The bell had previously hung in a wooden tower and, I read, was originally intended to be rung to warn of floods. In practice, it was rung every time a child was born on the polder, earning its name “Kinderglocke”.
Due to cracks in the metal, it was removed from the tower in 2008 and moved to a pedestal by the war memorial, where it sat – inscribed with Göring’s name, swastikas, runes and a Third-Reich eagle – until a tourist complained to the regional authorities. On our visit, an unadorned replica of the bell sat in its place. Beside it, a memorial notice explained that the original bell was put into storage in 2012 after a “storm of public outrage”, and this replacement was donated by an anonymous benefactor.
It was slowly getting dark, and so we didn’t spend long before travelling the short distance to Sankt-Peter-Ording on the western tip of the island. Leaving from the multi-storey car park, we crossed a bridge over the dunes and on to the huge expanse of beach.
On our previous visit, it had been such heavy rain that we only managed to wade across the sand and climb into the nearest of the many cafes on stilts. Not only was the beach flooded but the air so heavy with water, we couldn’t see farther than a few metres in front of us. But today, despite being midwinter, it was clear and so walked to the water’s edge.
As darkness descended in the mid-afternoon, we sat outside a cafe and drank overpriced mulled wine. A few hours later, we returned the car in Bremen and took a tram home.