On Thursday afternoon, we packed the car, picked up a coffee to go and a pack of Ikea hotdogs, crossed a border, hopped a ferry, and arrived on the island of Fanø some two and a half hours later. The first thing we saw when we drove off the ferry? Two seals sunning themselves on a sandbank. Then came acres of lush green paddocks, clusters of houses, some the classic wooden beach shacks inhabited entirey by Germans, some with those classic thatched roofs (presumably also inhabited entirely by Germans). The closer we got to the water, the longer and blonder the grass got, and the hillier the dunes. We found our little house just 80 metres back from the beach, nestled snugly in rabbit and hare-filled tussocks.
Because we do our best to embody the true north (as is the tagline of Schleswig-Holstein nowadays) Fanø marked the second time in as many months that we have driven up to Denmark, with an Ikea hotdog pack. Except last time, while beautiful, was unbelievably cold, both because it was April and because a nasty cold snap occurred at the precise moment we arrived. It meant an arschkalt wind that rendered us all sick and snotty for two weeks after we drove home. Consequently, I was wary of returning, despite it being June and glorious weather forecast. I am slowly learning all bets are off with the North Sea – she is a temperamental bastard.
Am I in Denmark or Far North Queensland?
What do you think the first thing we did was? We threw off our shoes (but threw on our jackets … that wind never dies) and wir sind im Watt gewandert. The North Sea, in keeping with her extreme behaviour, does a sort of low and high tide on crack thing. The low tide is so low as to reveal kilometres of seabed, which enables one to wattwandern … wander through the mud flat (the closest thing I can get from Google translate for ‘watt’. Super un-romantic. Perhaps tidal flat is better?).
We were a bit late, so the tide was pretty much in – but it was still only ankle deep for, quite possibly, two kilometres. Or three. It felt like a long distance of ankle deep water stretched ahead of us.
Fanø’s entire west coast is essentially one long beach, stretching for 15km. You can drive along a good portion of it, where you’ll pass campers, people in strange bike-like contraptions being pulled along by an attached kite (most likely Germans) birds pecking at a seal corpse, kids looking for amber, and all manner of other things.
The following day, there was great excitement in the house, because my father in law looked out the window and suggested these tiny specks on a sandbank were seals. Squinting through the binoculars, we couldn’t precisely confirm, but left the baby with Oma regardless, and made for the beach. There was no time to rug her up, the tide was against us!
As we walked, SG kept taking zoomed in photos to ensure we were headed for seals and not rocks. it was n awful long way to go for rocks. About halfway there, he said dejectedly, peering at the camera screen, ‘I am pretty sure they are rocks.’
We pressed on.
Definitely seals. Loads of them.
We went back the next day, a little earlier, so as to avoid the pressing issue of getting back to shore before the tide closed in. One seal was particularly curious.
Seals aren’t the only animal highlight, either. Fanø has an enormous amount of birds and is UNESCO World Heritage listed. Millions of migrating birds – something like 10-15 million – spend time on Fanø every year, as they pass through from or en route to their breeding grounds. The seabed, exposed by the low tide, provides an absolute feast.
Fanø is also home to actual hares, giant things, with faces like sheep, and deer. One casually bounded by our house one evening, as dusk fell. Which is when I looked around and idly wondered if I was on a film set and no one had told me.
In unrelated facts, Fanø also has around 300 Bunkers built by Nazis during WWII that are still dotted around its western coastline.
I’ll leave it there for now, but don’t think I don’t have more pictures to come …