Partying, weekends away with mates – and lots of alcohol. That used to be my perception of Norderney back in the eighties when I was a teenager. This East Frisian island on Germany’s North Sea coast had a reputation of being a party island; late nights, and not always happy outcomes. Thankfully, this is no longer true, and the island has drastically changed (in my opinion) for the better. Let me take you to another beautiful German island, and I’ll explain how it differs from my favourite island of Juist.
Norderney – a party hotspot back in the eighties
Norderney’s reputation in the eighties was comparable to Magaluf, a resort on the Spanish island of Majorca. At that time, it was a popular destination for bowling clubs in Germany to visit this small island to have some party fun. I can hear yourself ask, ‘bowling clubs?’ In fact, bowling has always had a strong tradition in Germany, which goes back to the early 19th century when the first bowling clubs were founded.
Germany’s club culture
Germans like clubs. There are clubs for everything from allotment communities, gardeners, cyclists, and artists, to marksmen, to name a few. According to the Haus der Geschichte museum in Bonn (literally meaning ‘House of history’), there are around 600,000 clubs in Germany. The museum’s current exhibition (‘My Club’) is on until 25th August 2019, and is all about the club phenomenon in Germany. Germans particularly enjoy the social aspect of the club culture, with ten-pin bowling clubs (Kegelclub) being a popular choice for many.
However, I do get the feeling that the younger generation are moving away from this club culture. And I was never that interested in joining any kind of club, and neither were my parents. What I do like about them though, is the social aspect, and taking the time to regularly get together. Nowadays, maybe gaming, Pokémon or knitting clubs are the latest thing! Are you a member of a club in Germany? It would be interesting to know what kind of clubs are popular at the moment.
I don’t know what will happen to our clubs in the future, or whether or not bowling clubs will struggle to find new members. Maybe I’ll write about this in another blog. Anyway – back to Norderney.
My first visit to Norderney certainly had the ‘wow’ factor
I went to Norderney island for the first time in June 2014 with my mum, and my (then) four-year-old son. We were both really impressed by how beautiful this 14km island was. However, I must admit, I was a little sceptical at first, as I had already fallen in love with Juist island. Many people say that if you love Juist, then you won’t like Norderney as much.
Two islands – different atmospheres
Juist island is completely car-free, and has no tall buildings. Whereas, Norderney allows cars in certain parts of the island, so it feels more urban. The only form of transport you get on Juist are the horse-drawn carriages (apart from a few electric cars to transport goods around). Due to the traffic, Norderney just seems busier. That alone creates a completely different feel.
On Juist, I enjoy the calm, peaceful atmosphere; being able to walk and cycle around without the noise and pollution of the traffic. When we went to Norderney, we actually took our car across to the island. In hindsight, it’s not worth paying the extra to take the car on the ferry (currently between 76€ – 99€ in 2019). There are plenty of places to hire bikes and trailers if you don’t have your own bike, and the public transport is also good.
Norderney’s architecture differs quite considerably from the other islands. The buildings are much taller, particularly in the city centre – making it feel much busier. Although, I am rather partial to a nice city centre that has a good selection of shops, cafés and restaurants.
My mum certainly enjoyed having a browse around the shops, and watching the world go by at one of the many ice-cream parlours. Milchbar was our favourite place to go in the afternoon or evening, as it was the best spot to relax, and watch the sunset while my son enjoyed playing with the other children on the promenade. For me, there was nothing better than having an Aperol spritz; overlooking the sea, and listening to some chilled-out music while chatting to my mum. It really was the perfect place to just enjoy the moment!
The nature on Norderney is just as beautiful as it is on all the other East and North Frisian Islands. The wide sandy beaches, dunes, as well as the lovely walking paths across the island are simply stunning. If you want to escape the busyness of the island’s centre, you won’t need to go far to be surrounded by the magnificent landscape, where you can just be with yourself.
Many of the hotels and apartments are close to the beach
Our self-catering apartment was right in the centre, and not far from the beach. The city centre is really clean, and many of the places looked like they had recently been refurbished. We noticed some nice, new hotels, like the Seesteg hotel just next to the Milchbar café. I looked at the Seesteg hotel’s website, and spotted a fantastic corner room for two that had impressive views over the sea. The Inselloft hotel also caught my eye, with its modern, stylish and minimalistic look. I also had a look at the Georgshöhe hotel on the promenade, which is more traditional, and has lots of spa facilities.
Climate change has brought a lot of challenges to the islands
Norderney’s promenade was renovated between 2001 and 2008, and has now become a popular attraction for visitors. However, the primary reason for this renovation was to provide a flood defence system to protect the island’s coastline from the annual storm surges. Norderney is not the only island that is affected by these strong north-westerly winds. Sylt island, situated in the far north of Germany, is in danger of losing more and more of its coastline due to climate change.
If you’re interested in learning more about how Sylt’s coastline is being protected, watch this video by Deutsche Welle: https://www.dw.com/en/sylt-improving-coastal-protection/av-19452177
Thalassotherapy and the benefits of sea water
Despite the challenges that the weather brings, the islands still attract more and more visitors every year. Being exposed to the healthy sea air on the North Sea coast is particularly good for anyone suffering from respiratory diseases.
Visitors to Norderney have a large selection of thalassotherapy treatments available in the Badehaus public swimming pool, and its spa area, as well as in the spa hotels. Thalassotherapy uses sea water in its treatments, and is found to be beneficial for the skin and joints. I tried thalassotherapy when I was on Borkum island, but now I’m in my forties, I’m really tempted to try it again. I’d certainly like to have more treatments to see how they can benefit my health.
Events on Norderney island
Every year around the Whitsun (Pfingsten) bank holiday (10th June 2019, 1st June in 2020), Germans tend to plan a long weekend away, with Norderney island being a popular destination. The White Sands festival is held on this bank holiday weekend, and is well-known amongst beach volley ball players, as well as wind and kite surfers. Tournaments are held on the beach, and everyone can enjoy the chilled-out atmosphere while sampling the food and drink at the many stalls that line the promenade.
I’ve also added some events, and information on things you can do on Norderney island in my event calendar. If I can help with any aspect of organising a break to the island, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can message me on Facebook, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Norderney events in calendar:
Food & Feel Festival (20th – 23rd June 2019)
Summertime (24th– 28th July 2019)
Wine festival (8th – 12th August 2019)
IslandMan Triathlon (7th September 2019)