Wednesday, 22 February 2017

What Was Once Holy Land

While the South of Holland goes all crazy about this costume party carnival, the rest just celebrates the start of new spring with a short school break. The birth of spring back in '89 came together with my birth. For my 18th birthday, my father took me to Stockholm – I keep yelling that I was born in the Winter so 'let it snow' after all. Ever since, my birthday was spent abroad and this year my mom and I are going to an island once called Holy Land

A Trip to Heligoland

This German archipelago belonged to the East-Frisians and was like a holy land while at sea. A place for feeling away & free for all those seamen. The Danish lay their hands on it and holy land became Heligoland.
But “Holy land” was won from Denmark in 1814 and thus became British Heligoland. Later, in 1890, it was traded for Zanzibar with Germany. During the second world war, William II turned it into a German marine post and all its citizens had to leave. Although Holy Land survived, water did split the little island Düne from Heligo and was never one again. In 1952, all the citizens got a chance to return to the island.

Heligoland lies 70km off shore and is 100 times smaller than the Dutch grandest island Texel.
This island dune has an airport, but sea-loving as I am, I chose to take the boat. There are many places that have airlines flying to Heligoland, but now being the winter season, only Cuxhaven offers flights to this place. Plane or ferry, the weather forecast crew has given warning of a storm – so I have crossed my fingers.

Tomorrow after work at around 4 pm, we will drive our little van to Bremen. While there, we will stay at an autohof for the night then on Friday morning, we will drive to Cuxhaven where the ship company Cassen Eils will bring us to what was once Holy Land. I look forward to seeing its animals, nature, sea and wind. 

A little windstorm hit my country the afternoon we left. Blasts with rain flashed off the road up to our van. Somewhat scary... but an adventure that I will never forget. At Bremerhave, 50km before Cuxhaven, we parked at a MacDonalds and stayed over night. We had an amazing difference in weather the next morning.

'Ihr siehe aus wie Helgoland,' was what a lady told us when we were on our way to the boat in Cuxhaven. We looked like we were going to Heligoland – so that's possible! To look at a person, and just by that know his destination? Amazing! And I'm glad she did, because we were not going on the right way. 'Vielen Dank!' we said. Yes, much thanks indeed, because we were already late. Despite the blue sky and the sun, I endured the wind getting to my head and stomach during the 2 and a half hour passage. The boat brought us from Cuxhaven to Heligoland, and around lunch, we were at our destination.
If only we had known that the following days wouldn't be so sunny!Too bad, but I didn't let it spoil my adventure. Just that the pictures that I took have a little less blue sky than I had hoped for, but the animals, nature, sea and wind are enough. There was rain as well. Still, it's the wind that defined our whole stay and what I will always remember.

This island has an upland area, a middle and a lowland (Oberland, Unterland and Mittelland). The famous red sea stack 'Tall Anna' is of course up, and also with 61.3 meters being the highest place at this island, Pinneberg. Around the sight-seeing path towards Anna, there is plenty of nature and animals. But people have built their houses on the low or middle area.

Stairs take people to the high grounds. Locks hang aside on the railing, just like with Ponts des Arts at Paris once. For 60 cents an elevator can take you up as well.

The colours of the Heligoland flag actually have a meaning “Grün ist das Land, rot ist die Kant, weiß ist der Sand. Das sinden die Farben von Heligoland” Green for land, red for the coast and white for the sand.

Grün ist das Land.

Yes, green is the land. Maybe not as much this time of year, but still. Goat, cow, rabbit, sheep – they are all together at the green land. Also, the stones to be found here are fascinating in colour. The red fire-stone is said to be only found here. I looked but couldn't find it.

Rot ist die Kant

Yes, red is the stack. And we fought our way through the wind to Tall Anna. The sea stack may be famous for the red colour and hight of 47 meter, but I thought the birds on the cliffs to be way more impressive. Hundreds of them have made the red 'buntsandstein' their home. Nests they make with lost fishing nets they found at sea. The big northern gannet alongside the little penguin-looking bird common murre.

Weiß ist der Sand

Maybe a little too poetic, but white is the beach. For just 5euro's the little boat 'Witte Kliff' (white cliff) will take you one mile over sea where an amazing day at Düne awaits. Yes, Düne, the little baby of Heligoland. On New Year's Eve 1721 a big storm surge separated the Dünes from Heligoland. Therefore, the island that arose was called Düne (Düne) This protected nature area called Helgoländer Felssockel (Heligoland rock core ) is where the actual white beach can be found. Once part of Heligoland, but now a beautifull little island, filled with nature – and the airport. This may sound kind of weird and impossible. But its airport really fades away to nothing with such amount of seals. These seals are such cute models! They smile, wave and are all just gracing a perfect picture. So, at the end of the day I made of course dozens of pictures.

The boat took us on Monday at 4:00 p.m. back to shore. We could leave our stuff at the apartment till 3:00 pm, so we made a last visit to Düne and said goodbye to Anna.  

Friday, 10 February 2017

Tourist Etiquette

Say what? Yes, you heard it right. There is a famous business saying, ‘The customer is always right.’ This is not always the case. In many instances, a customer can be wrong but since he who pays the piper plays the tune, the seller is left with no option but to give in to what the customer wants. Tourism is an experiential industry. 

While in buying goods we carry them home, a tourist carries the experience.  One cannot throw it away or give it to a neighbour or relative, it is yours for keeps. While the host destination or attraction managers are the ones largely responsible for creating a wonderful experience for tourist, a tourist can go a long way in making his or her experience even better.

Respect the locals
A tourist leaves his or her home, town or country to visit something that is not found in their locality. Many attractions a found in places where people have a different lifestyle from ours, level of education or world view. While we may not agree with some of the things that the locals do, it is always important to be respectful. Instead of saying “I will not participate in your barbarian practices”, or, “I will dress in what I want”, one can say, “No, thank you” or “I am sorry I do not have any outfit that is more appropriate”. This can also give you an opportunity to improvise in a thing or two.  It does not hurt to say “excuse me”, “please” and “thank you”. It does not matter how much one is paying for the services, being respectful or lack of it will make the difference between a tourist who will be treated like royalty, or have coffee spilt on them ‘accidentally’.

Do not Show Off
More often than not, our tourism adventure leads us to low income areas with amazing beauty and attraction. In certain instances, we visit places where on only the who’s who visit. Whether we are at a high end or low income attraction, do not show off. You will have a chance when you get back home to show off to your friends, colleagues or competitors.
Showing often demeans the locals and often makes them hostile to not only you as a tourist but to future tourists as well. You do not what to be a spoiler now, do you? The greater consequence of this is that you will get robbed clean. If you have enough to show off carelessly, someone will be ‘generous enough’ to show you that many more people are in need or what you have. Modesty, modesty, modesty.

Listen to Your Guide

This has become one of the biggest issues with tourists. With so much information on the internet from countless people and studies that we have made before hand, we often feel like experts. “What is this fool telling me, hasn’t he read…”, “Doesn’t he know that …”, “Oh, but I read something different on Tripadvisor”. While it is important to find out as much information as possible about a destination before visiting it, not all the information is accurate. People often write based on their knowledge, experience and world view.
Two people can go on the same trip, be in the same team, get the same services and have a totally different experience. When a tour guide says that one should not go beyond a certain point, touch certain things or take pictures in certain places, please listen to them. It does not matter whether you are a professor, doctor in animal psychology or Nobel Peace Prize winner in whatever field. You are under the care of the guide. When things go wrong, the guide will be more willing to help you out when he or she knows that you have followed all the instruction, than if you thought that you know better than the locals. 
There have been cases of animal attacks, tourists falling off slippery gorges, among other accidents. Better safe than sorry. 

In the end, whether you are paying for your tourism experience or getting it for free, you have the chance to make or break it. Some things are beyond our control, but if we are a little bit more sensitive to the hosts, we can have beautiful memories that we will keep for the rest of our lives.
If we get an opportunity to visit the same place again, we will be received like royalty, friends or even family members. The hosts will go out of their way to make sure that we get what we need and are comfortable. Money can buy most things but a good heart can take us through almost every situation. Try it out, it works!

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