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East Frisia (Ostfriesland)

a quick getaway towards this northern region


View East Frisia - 2013 on Ils1976's travel map.

09/11/13 Moin Moin!

It is 5 AM in the morning when I suddenly wake up by the annoying sounds of my alarm clock. I don’t know what is actually happening to me these last few months but it seems there is sort of a constant battle between me and this tiny little thing, but today it is for the better. Ever since the beginning of the year I am looking forward to this trip.

Me and my parents tried to book it last year, but it was completely sold out, so this year we wanted to be smart and booked it in February. To our surprise, we found out that most of the trips were again fully booked and it seemed for one reason or another that this was one heck of a popular trip. 

Because of a cancellation of 2 people, we were lucky enough to have seats on the trip leaving on the 9th of November and although this mend we had to wait almost an entire year, I didn’t mind one bit, I can be patient if I want! :)

The main reason for booking this trip in the first place, was to see the Meyer shipyard, the place to be if you want to know a little bit more about how a cruise ship comes to “live” as well as other not so small boats!

So, not totally awake yet, I rolled out of my bed, got dressed, managed to eat a small piece of bread with a rather large cup of coffee, searched for my stuff and wisely gave my keys of the car to my dad so that he could drive to the agreed pick-up point where we arrived about an hour later.

We were the first ones to arrive on the scene, but as soon as we unpacked our luggage, others arrived as well and as we all said “HI” to each other, it soon was more than obvious that I was going to be the youngest of the whole bunch! What was I thinking!?

After waiting for about 10 to 15 minutes in the freezing cold, our bus suddenly arrived with the rest of our group. It seemed that almost the complete bus was occupied with a group of friends who called themselves “de sjoekes”. Roughly translated this means “the sweethearts” and although I had my thoughts in the beginning about this bicycle group of all ages, after knowing them a few hours, they turned out to be just that!  

It took me a few seconds to find my seat on the bus, but as soon as I sat down, I was welcomed by some members of the group with fruit gin which I refused in a friendly manner.

For heaven’s sake, it was not even 7 AM yet! 

To my pleasure I also noticed a little girl a few seats in front of me. I was no longer the Benjamin of the group and to my surprise I even noticed a few people of my own age. I was over the moon and glad to see that this bus wasn’t only filled with people of 60 years and older!

As soon as everyone was seated, our driver Jean-Michel introduced himself and told us our guide for the next days was going to be picked up along the way together with another couple who lived in Tongeren. It was still dark when we left the coach company in Mol and as for me this was the ideal situation to close my eyes again for just a couple of hours or should I say minutes cuz as soon as we reached the meeting point with our guide, all lights were on again! 

Marcel, an older chap of about 70 years I guess, stepped inside together with the last couple who were going to join us and as soon as they were seated, he introduced himself to all of us and told us a bit about what we were going to see in the next couple of days.

The minute the lights were off again, I turned my music on for the second time around and tried to close my eyes. The latter wasn’t for very long I must say because as we were driving through The Netherlands, all the typical sceneries along the way caught my eye and although the weather wasn’t all that great, once in a while I even saw a few magnificent rainbows. Nature is really beautiful, you just have to look!

Before we crossed the border with Germany, we first had a quick toilet stop in Holten. It was nice to stretch my legs for a while, but since it was still so cold outside, I hurried inside the roadhouse and went for a cup of hot chocolate. It really does the trick for cold bones!

Once on the road again, we still had a couple of hours of driving ahead of us but before I knew it, we arrived at the little town of Wiesmoor, our home base for the next couple of days.

Check-in went very smoothly thanks to our guide Marcel who arranged the keys to be ready upon our arrival and as soon as we got rid of our luggage we had lunch in the restaurant of our hotel.

I was a bit overwhelmed because of the many choices of the buffet which was in front of us, but despite my indecision, I still managed to walk away with a full plate. Lunch was more than fine in my book!

After dessert there was some time to freshen up a bit or in mine and my parents’ case this simply meant changing into another pair of shoes, walking shoes this time.

Marcel arranged a walking tour through the area for the ones interested and I must say that I was a bit surprised to see the entire group outside the hotel at about 2 PM!

Before we started our walk, we first got a short introduction of the region and then it was time to do some sightseeing, but after just mere minutes we already lost half of our group in favor of the local “Biergarten”. We were walking for about half an hour when we arrived at the “Peat and Settlement museum” which was unfortunately closed. According to our guide there is always someone there when the weather is fine, but although it wasn’t raining at the moment, we still found ourselves before closed doors.

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This small museum is dedicated to keeping the history of Wiesmoor and its surrounding villages alive.

This entire region is known for its peat stabbing and at this small museum you get a better picture about this important product which in its glory days was frequently used as fuel. Since we couldn’t get into the museum, we walked further along some pastures, following a few footpaths near residential areas, but not before we said goodbye to another bunch of our group who were going to take a shortcut back to the hotel.

I guess with only about 17 people left, we walked on towards the “ Ottermeer”, the biggest lake in Wiesmoor. Due to the season, the campground was closed and although everything looked a bit abandoned, the view on the lake was more than amazing.

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We walked a bit alongside it and from here you could clearly see the very dark color. According to our guide it looks a bit like coffee grounds and after a closer inspection of the water, I have to agree with the guy! 

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Once back in civilization, it was but a short walk to the “Blumenhalle”. It is said to be a beautiful place where you can see all kinds of plants and flowers, but like all things here it is closed. Lucky for us, the café is still open and after an hour walking in the cold it is nice to be inside a warm place. I was really craving for something hot and after waiting for just a few minutes, my hot fluid arrived.

I ordered some East Frisian tea and although it doesn’t differ all that much from other tea, taste wise that is, the ceremony around it is so amazing that I am but a bit jealous that we don’t have something like that. These people really enjoy their tea and take time for it as well. Me like this so much! It is almost like having an English Afternoon tea but without the scones and so on.

It goes without saying that by the time that I finished my tea, other members of the “sjoekes” already consumed many pints of beer. Boy, these guys can really drink and I am only looking at the older generation!

When everyone is ready and finished his/her drink, we slowly walked back to the hotel where we arrived about 5 PM. It’s already quite dark outside, so there is nothing left for us to do than go upstairs and take a nice long hot shower to warm up. In my case that is!

Dinner is at 7.30 PM, but because we are a bit early, the three of us decide to go and have a look at the bar. Some people of our group are already there and I am a bit surprised that the bar is so small. I am wondering if we could all fit in, but not half an hour later I got my answer.

As soon as the last ones of our group arrived of which a few of them are completely under the weather I might add, there is no room to move anymore. I already gave up my place at the bar, wisely finished my glass of wine in the process and stood there for just a few minutes side by side with more than 40 other people before I decided to leave. I am not really claustrophobic, but after being in that tiny place for minutes, I was on my way to become one!

The staff wisely opened the doors to the restaurant and as soon as the three of us got out, many followed as well.

Dinner is once again in buffet style and as soon as we finished our soup, we could go and have a look at all the delicious things. So many choices!
It goes without saying that things were a success once again and although it still remains a sort of catering food … it was served with a bit of style!
After dessert, the three of us had one last nightcap before we went back to our room. It was a little after 10 PM but I was tired as hell and more than eager to close my eyes!
 
10/11/13 Hail, rain and a bit of sunshine!

I must say that after a day of early rise and shine, it is nice to have sort of a sleep-in the next day!

Although I slept quite well, I still managed to wake up at about 7 AM by the sound of the many birds in the neighborhood, so who needs an alarm clock when you are in East Frisia!

Breakfast was going to be served at 7.30 AM and after I had a quick shower, I got dressed and felt ready to start the day. I was really looking forward to it. The sun was shining, the birds were singing … what could possibly go wrong ???

When the three of us entered the restaurant, we were a bit surprised to see almost our entire group running around. It looked like we weren’t the only hungry ones! I was even amazed to see a couple of guys, who were really drunk last night, happily putting one piece of bacon after another in their mouth. It looks like they can really hold their liquor!

Looking at all that food made me more hungry than I already was, so instead of gazing at it, I just simply followed my fellow group members and sort of attacked all that deliciously looking food. It was all just so yummy!

At exactly 8.30 AM we were going to leave with our bus for a day of sightseeing. With a little bit of time to spare, I ran upstairs again to put on my walking shoes and as soon as I got my backpack, I was ready to go and explore this East Frisian region.

It took a while for everyone to get seated but after a few minutes, our guide Marcel could finally do the talking. We were first going to visit the “Emssperrwerke”, where we arrived after about half an hour of driving. 

This weir is build on the river Ems and flows into the Westerems, which is basically the lower part of the river. Although initially designed as a storm surge, this whole construction made it also possible that ships with a greater depth could pass and this in turn is of major importance for the Meyer shipyard. 

It goes without saying that not everyone was happy with this project, because it could damage the marine life in the tidal area and there was also a concern that the rapidly rising of the water could lead to the destruction of the bird nests or even worse, the drowning of young birds in the breeding season.

But after a bit of discussion they came up with a solution that worked for both parties and nowadays the storm surge is used 2 times a year, so in the end everybody is happy … I hope so anyway!?

As soon as I got out, the cold really hit me. My god, it was just freaking cold outside and unlike most of our group, I walked all the way towards the other end in the hope to get a bit warmer as well as to have a better view on this huge construction. Sadly enough nothing much was really happening and although we had a nice view on a village on the other side of the river, we had to move on.

Next on our agenda is Emden, which is known for having its most western seaport throughout the country, but on a cold and dreary Sunday like today, nothing much is happening here as well. As we are walking through the main shopping street, I even get the feeling of standing in a real ghost city, but I guess most people are still sound asleep!

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We only have a short walk through the city and although there are a few interesting sights like the city hall and the old lighthouse boat, the “main attraction” seems to be the Great Church of Emden, which nowadays serves as a library and houses thousands of religious as well as historical books, but unfortunately even this church is closed for us since they are renovating the building. Bummer!!!

To me it looks like this city is slowly getting ready for its hibernation which isn’t really that strange considering this time of year.

As we get a bit of free time on our hands, the three of us walk a little bit more through the many empty streets and found ourselves back at the beginning of the city where we noticed a few old wooden boats. From here we were meters away from the harbor, but once we arrived at the spot, the weather changed from cloudy to dark and seconds later I even got my first hailstorm of the year and not even small ones either, they were relatively big.

Since we were close to the centre of the city, we hurried back to the main square and went inside in the first pub we came across. To our surprise, we noticed that our entire group was there as well.

Luckily enough there were still a few free tables and as soon as the waitress came, I was more than happy to order something warm.

In the mean time even our guide Marcel joined us as well. We all started talking about past travels and particularly weather related ones, when we suddenly noticed our bus passing by. This was as good a sign as ever to tell us it was time to move on.

Sadly enough it was still raining outside, so I was but a bit glad to be back on the bus again!

This time Jean-Michel and our 4star coach were going to bring us to Greetsiel, a small fishing town with lots of picturesque houses and a very, very old church located in the centre of town.

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As soon as we arrived, we were lucky that the weather changed a bit and although there were still many clouds, at least the rain was gone. 

Normally we should be welcomed by the beautiful sight of the twin mills, but because of a huge storm a little over a week ago, one of the mills lost its roof and wicks. Although the city is planning to restore the mill, the price tag is immensely high, so it is going to take at least a couple of years or even more for them to actually succeed.

In the meantime, we have to do with only one mill and a half so to speak, but nevertheless, the sight of the twin mills is impressive enough with or without a roof and wicks!

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As we are walking into the small town, we first had lunch at one of the many fish restaurants and afterwards we had some free time to have a look around town.

First, the three of us walked towards the harbor to have a look at the many fishing boats, but as the weather changed again, it was time to open our umbrellas and have a closer look at the many small houses and church. According to our guide, most of the houses are about 300 years old and to me that is quite astonishing! 

Luckily it is but a small rain shower and as we are walking towards the outskirts of town, we notice the mills again and decide to have a closer look at the one without a roof.

Although they made sure that nothing else could come off anymore , it is but a frightening idea that something like that can end up in your backyard. I am just glad to hear that no-one got hurt!

Walking a little bit further down the road, we came across the second mill which also had a small shop and an eatery. The shop was closed, but the eatery wasn’t so … I can’t help it, but this was definitely a sign in my book. 

After having a quick lunch there is always room for dessert and that’s just what we had!

I have to admit, we stayed inside for quite a while and I guess that’s because it was just such a cozy place, but sadly enough we had to walk back to the parking lot since it was time to leave again. Just in the nick of time we made it at the designated spot and although we all had to wait a few minutes for our bus to arrive, we more than glad to see it arrive as dark clouds were hovering over the city again.

This time we went on our way again towards Wiesmoor, but not before we had one last stop in Suurhusen.

On itself this is but a small village like so many others in Germany, except when it comes to its church tower, because in this village the church tower is crooked!

You won’t believe it until you see it for yourself! It is quite amazing and impressive to say the least!
In 1929, this 27 meter high church tower was only one meter off the lead, but nowadays it is already 2.5 meters. Luckily they stabilized the whole church so it wouldn’t sink any deeper, but nevertheless, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, this is the most crooked tower in the world … Pisa eat your heart out!

As we were driving back to our home base, it was getting darker and darker, but about an hour later we saw our hotel again.

Dinner was yet again at 7.30 PM and since we still had some time left, we decided to walk around town for a little bit, not that there was lots to see after dark, but still, it’s always fun to check out a local supermarket.

Once back at the hotel, there was still enough time to enjoy the warm water of the shower and after a change of clothes we were more than ready for another delicious buffet meal.

Since this was our last evening together, our guide Marcel arranged for some life music for the whole group. I was a bit reluctant for this dance evening and didn’t know what to expect, but I have to admit that in the end it wasn’t all that bad, although I have to say that the guy really did an awfull Elvis impersonation. At a given moment I thought the King himself would return from the death to give him a good kick in the xxx. For heaven’s sake, how on earth can you ruin such beautiful songs!

It was a little past midnight when we called it a night and said goodnight to a few remaining members of our group. Once back in our room, it didn’t take me long to get to dreamland, I was really knackered!


 11/11/13 It’s all about boats

Unlike yesterday, I had the night from hell and this all thanks to my dad! I never knew that he could snore that much, but boy … it sounded like he was cutting down an entire forest! It was just unbelievable!

I guess the glasses of red wine had something to do with that, so I have to remember for next time not to feed wine to my dad … check! 

Totally feeling like a zombie, I managed to drag myself to the bathroom and I must say that the hot shower did the trick in waking me up and as soon as I got dressed, I was more than ready to start the day cuz today was the day I was looking forward to the most, a visit to the Meyer Shipyard.

I read so many things about this family business and although I am not exactly brave when it comes to boats and water, still, the whole process of building such a vessel really intrigues me. I guess I have that from my dad, he is just the same … hence the reason why we are on this trip together! 

Breakfast was once again more than worthwhile and as soon as we were all finished, we had some time left to organize or stuff and put it all in our shiny yellow coach.

It was already after 9 AM when we left Wiesmoor behind us and not even an hour later we were almost in the vicinity of Papenburg. According to our guide Marcel, we were in luck because the shipyard just finished a cruise ship of the Norwegian Cruise Line, to be more specific, the Norwegian Getaway which was going to set sail next week. 

Upon our arrival I didn’t even notice the cruise ship right away. I was a bit confused because they were constantly saying that it was in front of us, but the only thing I saw was a tall apartment building. I know that my eye sight isn’t what it used to be, but hey … how can I possibly miss a whole cruise ship???

As we came closer and closer, I noticed the vibrant colors painted on the vessel and I have to admit that I was a bit overwhelmed. I honestly never saw such a large vessel in all my live! 

It seemed we were a bit early to meet our guide Annie, but due to safety precautions we couldn’t leave our bus, so there was nothing else for us to do than sit and wait and most of all, enjoy the view of the new cruise ship in front of us.

We didn’t really had to wait all that long, about 5 to 10 minutes when all of a sudden Annie appeared in front of us and from the minute she introduced herself, I knew this was a pleasant woman and an ideal guide and not even half an hour later I was more than sure.

She basically took us all under her wings!

She already told us back in the bus that we were first going to watch a short introductory movie at the visitors center so that we could get a better picture of the Meyer shipyard and the people working at this place. Furthermore, we even got a nice overview of the history of the company as well as a look at the most important vessels on scale which they build throughout the years. I was even amazed to see an entire Disney section! I never in the back of my mind realized that there was even a demand for something like that, but nevertheless, it was all very interesting.

At a given point we left the exhibit behind us and after walking through several hallways and staircases, we ended up at the large covered dry dock where they were already starting to build other parts of another cruise ship as well as a small river boat cruise. It was a shame that we had to look at all the work behind glass, but I can imagine just because of all the safety laws that something like this is necessary, you’ll never know what is going to happen! We also made a short walk towards the other smaller dry dock where they were building the new Deep Sea Research vessel “Sonne”, the old version needs to be replaced and hopefully when all goes according to plan, the new one will be finished in 2015, so keep up the good work I would say!

Time really flies when you have fun and after being at the shipyard for already a few hours, it was time to say goodbye to our lovely East Frisian guide as well as to the new cruise ship Norwegian Getaway, but hey … maybe someday our paths will cross again since it is heading for the Caribbean and to me this sounds like a very appealing holiday destination! You’ll never know of course!

As soon as everyone is satisfied with the many pictures taken of this huge vessel, it was time for us to move on again. Since it was already lunch time, our driver Jean-Michel took us to the centre of Papenburg. Marcel already told us in the beginning of the trip that on the last day we were going to try a typical East Frisian dish called “Snirtje-Braten”. 

I really don’t know if I wrote it down correctly, but this is basically put pork meat coming from the neck and shoulder of the animal. It is served together with red cabbage and salted potatoes and although I am not really a big meat lover, I must admit that it was edible. I have eaten worse things in my life and when you know that there was even ice cream for dessert, I don’t have to explain to no-one that I was basically one happy camper! 

After lunch we didn’t exactly had a program anymore so we drove back home. It was a pity really because on the way towards the centre of Papenburg I noticed another peat museum which looked interesting, but since we were travelling in group, there was no time to stop here. Something I must keep in mind for my next trip to this region and I am sure that one day this is going to happen.

Once back on the highway again, I resorted to listening some music and of course like I always do when I am on a bus … sleeping! Sorry, can’t help it, that’s just me!

When I opened my eyes again it was already quite dark and Marcel announced that we were going to have a break in a short moment, but for some reason that moment never came. 

It seemed our driver had a bit of a problem getting off the highway ??? and this meant we had to drive all the way towards Eindhoven for a possible chance to stop and have a break. To me this sounded a bit like bullshit in my ears, sorry for saying this out loud, but hey, Eindhoven has a great roadhouse as well so … I resorted to closing my eyes again, but not an hour later when I opened them again, I was surprised to see that he was on the wrong lane for getting off in Eindhoven and this time I wasn’t the only one noticing this … some people were really starting to get worried, I on the other hand not so much.

We were only one hour’s drive away from home so … why not drive all the way towards Mol, but then it hit me … he was driving for more than 4 hours straight, so he needed a break of at least 45 minutes according to Belgian law. My gosh, this is not good and since he didn’t got off in Eindhoven, he needed to go somewhere with at least a bit of facilities for the rest of us, I was really beginning to think that our driver Jean-Michel was a first timer instead of an experienced one like he repeatedly mentioned!

After a bit of consulting with the entire group, he managed to drive us to the centre of Valkenswaard so that some people could go to the toilet or have a bite to eat and 45 minutes later we were back on the road again, homewards it is!!!

It was already way past 8 PM when we finally said goodbye to the rest of the group, it was quite an interesting day, but I have to admit that I was glad to be back home again and after a nice long hot bath it was time again to worry about the daily things in life … this quick getaway was really over and another working week was awaiting me!

Posted by Ils1976 03:05 Archived in Germany Tagged landscapes churches boats food rain desert road_trip nature culture bus lake walk city holiday family sightseeing wine forest sights europe group mill drinks cold grey_weather

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I only read the first entry and I can't stop laughing actually! Gee, reminds me of those days on TB when I read your blogs! Will come back again to read the rest...

by pasyandoraCMay

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