Halligen Islands: a journey between rails, islets and the sea of an enchanted place

There is a small group of tiny islands up there facing Germany. They are the Halligen Islands and here every season means having to deal with the sea and climate change. These 10 islands are so low above sea level that at certain times of the year they are completely submerged and “reappear” after a few days.
A few dozen inhabitants live on each island but the risk that with climate change everything will be submerged forever is really high. However, these islands have a certain importance for several factors: first of all they protect the German coasts and, above all, they allow many species of birds to settle in these parts.

The regular floods that submerge these islands bring sediments that help the flora and fauna to feed. Elsewhere this would not be possible. It is for this and for other reasons that the coastal state of Schleswig-Holstein, which includes the Helingen Islands, is investing a lot of money so that here we can raise the level of the islands with respect to the sea while trying, at the same time, to also enlarge their surface.
According to the studies carried out by experts, each island would have to “grow” by about 4-5 mm every year to keep up with the sea level. So far only the island of Hooge, thanks to a closed dam that surrounds it, has managed to limit the floods, while Nordstrandischmoor only grows by 1-2 mm per year.

Vista aerea dell'Hallig Süderoog
Aerial view of Hallig Süderoog, Adobe Stock photo
The bird population

The Wadden Sea was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2009 and it is no coincidence that around 60,000 birds live on Halligen, which means more than half of the species found in Germany. Sea swallows, arctic terns, and gulls are the most common species here. On the Halligen islands they find an ideal place to nest away from predators who stay away thanks to the abundant winter floods.
Preserving the life of the people of this island therefore also means saving the life of a unique environment in the world where many animal species can proliferate and survive. This is why it would be important to continue with the conservation projects of this place

The railway lines
Lüttmoorsiel-Nordstrandischmoor railway line, Photo Adobe Stock

The Halligen Islands are connected by two railway lines: the first is the Lüttmoorsiel-Nordstrandischmoor, also known as the Lorenbahn. This first line is 3.6 km long and was built between 1933 and 1934.
It is used for the transport of goods, for mail and for the transport of building materials. Every resident of Nordstrandischmoor owns a wagon and must be at least 15 years old and have a license to drive it.
The second railway line is the Halligbahn, which runs along the Dagebüll – Oland – Langeneß line.
In Oland, there is only a small municipality with about fifteen houses and a church, while Langeneß is home to 58 families.

The hallig
  1. Nordstrandischmoor covers an area of approximately 1.9 square km and has four terps, a couple of schools and a restaurant. In 2010, 18 people lived here;
  2. Langeneß is today the largest Hallig of all and has a total length of 10 km. Its 134 inhabitants of which 113 in Langeneß are divided into 18 terp: Bandixwarf, Christianswarf, Honkenswarf, Ketelswarf, Kirchhofswarf, Kirchwarf, Hilligenley, Hunnenswarf, Mayenswarf, Neuwarf, Norderhörft, Peterhaitzwarf, Peterswarf, Rixithwarland, Törfwarland. The economic income of this Hallig comes partly from agriculture and partly from the state enterprise for the protection of the coasts;
  3. Gröde with 252 hectares, it is the third largest hallig on the island. Only 8 residents live here and there are two terps, one of which is uninhabited;
  4. Hamburger hallig owes its name to two Hamburg merchants who bought the island in the 17th century. This hallig is connected to the mainland and managed by the NABU (Nature Conservation Union) and has a bird keeper. Nobody lives here and its two terps are uninhabited.
  5. In Süderoog Nele Wree and Olger Spreer run an ecological farm. They are the only inhabitants of the island. In addition to many guests, seabird species such as knot and sandpiper also come here.
  6. Hooge is the second largest hallig and is protected by a stone dam that “defends” it from the biggest floods. Here live 95 people spread over 10 terp which are: Backenswarft, Hanswarft, Ipkenswarft, Kirchwarft, Lorenzwarft, Mitteltritt, Ockelützwarft, Ockenswarft, Volkertswarft and Westerwarft. In Hooge there are 2 schools, 5 restaurants, 2 bars and even 2 hotels, as well as various city services that are located in Hanswarft, the main hangar of the Hallig.
  7. Habel is undoubtedly an undisturbed territory of wild nature. This hallig is inhabited only by a bird keeper for the Jordsand and V. association and, in summer, also by a bird watchdog. The species of birds that come here are hardly counted..
  8. Norderoog,is also known as “Vogelhallig”. In 1909 the Jordsand and V association purchased this hallig with the intention of making it a bird sanctuary. Thanks to donations and the work of young volunteers, stone embankments have been built here and the constant risk of floods has slowed down. In Norderoog live about 14 species of nesting birds, 6 of which are endangered and, with them, also lived the legendary keeper of the hallig Jens Wand who after living here for 40 years has never returned from a walk in the muddy plains of the area.
  9. Oland covers an area of about 2 square kilometers and has about twenty residents distributed in 18 houses on a single terp. The peculiarity of this hallig is that here is the only lighthouse built in straw in all of Germany.
  10. Sudfall is the other hallig dominated by the presence of sea birds. The property has been part of the Jordsand association since 1957 and a limited number of day trips are allowed here. Only in the summer two inhabitants arrive: an engineer and his wife who keep company with 15 species of seabirds: herring gulls, arctic terns, just to name a couple.

Herrenhause Garten: the royal gardens of Hannover

The royal gardens of Hannover

Among the main attractions of Hanover the royal gardens of Herrenhause are, with over three hundred years of history behind it, symbol and almost untouched image of the culture and lifestyle of the royal dynasties of Hanover. The complex consists of four gardens with different dimensions and evoked atmospheres in which to get lost: the Großer Garten; the Georgengarten; the Berggarten and the Welfengarten. The first of these, also in terms of size, is not surprisingly called Giardino Grande, it is the Großer Garten, in the heart of the complex, it is particularly interesting to the many visitors who crowd the paths every year, since it has maintained the same structures of the time in which it was built, without having undergone invasive changes. It is one of the most famous and important baroque gardens of the old continent, offering visitors endless walks among the well-kept flower beds, hedges, sculptures and especially water games, in particular the Fontana Grande offers an excellent example with the its jet of water up to seventy meters high, which holds a real European record for the height of the range. The botanical garden of the University is located within the Berggarten, and houses over 2500 plants, particularly famous are the many different types of orchids. Inside the Georgengarten we find the castle of Wallmoden, which houses a museum entirely dedicated Wilhelm Busch, painter, humorist and German poet.

A bit of history

The royal gardens were not all designed in the same period, and the differences in style are clear evidence of this. The first of the gardens to be built was Großer Garten, referred to at the time as Grand Jardin de la Leine. The commission was commissioned by the Duchess Sofia of the Palatine Hill, daughter of the Bohemian Winter King, Frederick V, and Elizabeth Stuart. The duchess had gone to France, near the Palace of Versailles and was fascinated by it, in particular she was struck by the sumptuous gardens, a manifestation of the regal power and refinement of that culture. Not wanting to be less ordered the work for what is one of the most beautiful baroque gardens in Europe in 1666, and then undergo further expansion works between 1680 and 1710. To approach the French taste was called for the construction of the garden the master gardener Martin Charbonnier, a pupil of André Le Nôtre, the creator of the French garden and a friend of the Sun King Louis XIV. The Berggarten was created by Henry Perronet, in the same years in which the Großer Garten was extended, in fact the works began in 1677. Later than almost a century, on the other hand, the Georgengarten, after 1769, differs in the English style park.

Curiosity and events

Among the most interesting attractions of the gardens of Hannover, there is the cave of Niki de Saint Phalle, much more recent in style and artistic manners. Niki de Saint Phalle was in fact an eclectic French artist who worked mainly in the sixties and seventies of which are found in these caves the psychedelic shades, the games of mirrors and colored glass, which have made the cave one of the favorite destinations tourists from all over the world. Approaching the present and recurring events of the Herrenhause Garden, we must remember the KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen, or the exhibition of musical performances, concerts, theater and artistic installations held in May. While from May to September the gardens host the international pyrotechnic competition, with some of the performers of the best shows in the world. The mixture of music and drawings in the sky of pyrotechnics, in the magnificent setting of the gardens, will be a sight difficult to forget. Another event of great tourist attraction is the festival in the Großer Garten, where on summer evenings artists of various kinds, from pantomimes to musicians to acrobats, animate the avenues of the baroque garden. Usually it is the theater in the garden to host the main events of the summer season, while in winter the Orangery and the Galerie are the stages for classical music concerts and variety shows. Another curiosity about the Herrenhause Garden in Hannover concerns an important recognition received in 2015, these have in fact been awarded at the European level in the award dedicated to gardens, as the winners in the category “best renovation of a park or historic garden”, further proof of a perfect blend of a fascinating present and a glorious past.

Where, how, when

Opening time
Large parterre and bell fountain © Hassan Mahramzadeh
Great Parterre and Bell Fountain
Throughout the year, the gardens of Herrenhausen (including Großer Garten, Berggarten and the conservatories) open at 9:00 am, the Georgengarten is accessible at any time of the day.
The Schloss Herrenhausen museum opens from 27 March to 31 October every day from 11:00 to 18:00.
Last admission one hour before closing time.

For more info on winter closing times and entry ticket prices, you can consult the Web site dedicated to the gardens ( in english)