By Nancy Truman
Berlin, Munich and Hamburg top the 2018 Trip Advisor’s Travellers’ Choice Top 10 destinations in Germany, but a favourite location for business and media elite — Sylt — didn’t even make the list. That’s because few people outside Germany and its neighbours have heard of this beautiful Frisian island tucked in the northwest corner near the North Sea. As such, it’s 40-kilometre long, wide, white-sand beach, nearly the length of the island in some places, can resemble a private paradise.
The Frisian Islands — located off the coasts of Netherlands, Germany and Denmark — form the Wadden Sea National Park, one of the few remaining large-scale, intertidal ecosystems in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, the air is pristine and the water teems with sea life, including marine mammals such as the harbour seal, grey seal and harbour porpoise.
Sylt’s location continues to be a perfect spot for a year-round health and wellness destination for well-heeled Germans who, even in inclement weather, brace against the winds to walk nearly empty beaches as a means of reaping the benefits of trace elements of iodine and minerals in the air, or who dash naked from sauna huts hidden among the grassy dunes at List, Hornum and Rantum into the icy waters of the North Sea. In high season, though, visitors can be hard-pressed to find one of the blue-and-white strandkörbs (wicker beach chairs) that dot the popular beaches. No need to worry, however. They can always rent a bicycle, grab a towel and head to Ellenbogen, the nature reserve and beach on the northern tip of Sylt.
The location also influences the cuisine: Sylt’s chefs were using the amazing home-grown products long before farm-to-table was fashionable. The wait staff in the restaurants I visited were eager to point out that the corn bread was delivered daily from the local bakery chain; the sea salt was produced in List; the grass-fed lamb, raised on the dyke; the beef, goose, asparagus, strawberries, herbs, kale and potatoes were from local farms; and the oysters, fish and shrimps were pulled from the North Sea. It’s hard to choose from among the 200 restaurants, cafés and shops listed in the island’s guide, but I did have a few favourites.