““When I made the film The Invention of Lying, they gave me a private jet for getting back and forth between New York and London. I thought, ‘I will never use it’ but I ended up using it every weekend. You turn up, right, and the airport is completely empty. I mean, there’s just someone at the desk and then the pilot, who says, ‘Are you ready to go?’ and you say, ‘Don’t you want to see my passport?’ and he goes, ‘Oh yeah, I suppose I’d better.’” ”
The Jutland Peninsula–which Germany and Denmark share and which separates the North Sea from the Baltic–includes a region that was once the independent kingdom of Angle. This is where the English language originated and the Danish Vikings headquartered. On top of its colorful past, however, Angle has an enjoyable present. There are abundant opportunities for recreation as well as a selection of five-star spa-resorts. And in June of each year you'll find the world's largest gathering of yachtsmen engaged in one of Europe's largest festivals.
The time will come–after the Jagel military airfield has been modified to handle civil traffic–when you'll be able to land your private jet right in the heart of Angle. For now, your best bet is to fly to Hamburg or Lübeck, each about 80 miles south. Another option is to book a flight to the island of Sylt on the peninsula's North Sea coast, itself the home of five-star resorts that are popular with Germany's elite.
We arrived in Angeln (as the area encompassing the former kingdom is known in German) in late morning. After looking through the replica village of Hedeby, the largest and most important trading city in the Viking era, we visited its on-site museum and a larger museum across the bay in Schleswig. Both are indeed interesting. But even for those of us who relish this sort of thing, curiosity is fairly well sated after a few hours of rune stones, burial relics and bog bodies.
At lunchtime we opted for a place nearby the Hedeby historical site, the Altes Fährhaus (Old Ferry House) in Fahrdorf. Its specialty, naturally, is seafood. The location offers excellent views across the Schlei [an inlet of theBaltic Sea] and both indoor and terrace dining. While the variety of seafood on the menu might not impress someone from the coastal regions of the U.S., especially with regard to shellfish, there's definitely more here than you'll find in inland Germany. Our choice was a mixed-seafood plate, and the freshness and preparation were excellent. Aside from some small shrimp, the Baltic catch includes cod, turbot, flounder and other whitefish.
There are lots of ongoing archeological digs in the area around Hedeby, including those along the Danewirk portage route from Hedeby to Hollingstedt. Desiring to stretch our legs a bit, we walked along that ancient rampart, following steps the Vikings took a dozen centuries ago. Archeology aside, it's an enjoyable hike through bucolic countryside (although a serious hiker might call it more of a stroll). The path leads eventually to the place where the Vikings boarded longboats for trips downriver to the North Sea. Along the way there's a noticeable change in landscape, the gently rolling terrain of Angle giving way to the flat marshy lowlands of North Friesland.
With the kinks of a long air trip well walked out, we opted for a tour of the region by car. The root word of "Angle" and "English" is said to be eng, meaning "narrow" and probably referring to the long Schlei inlet that runs from the city of Schleswig out to the Baltic. Driving east along the shores of the Schlei, we passed through coastal villages in the traditional homeland of the Angles. The Schilf reeds that grow abundantly around the shores of the Schlei are used in making thatched roofs, which are to be seen more in this area than in other parts of Germany, giving the place a storybook ambiance.
As you might expect from an area surrounded by water, sailing on the Schlei and the Baltic is a popular local pastime. Bare-boat and crewed charters are widely available, including larger craft capable of cruising comfortably and dining sumptuously. Some classic tall ships based in the harbor at Eckernfoerde are offered for charter with talented chefs and comfortable accommodations.
One fine example is the Dutch-flagged Pedro Doncker, a 112-foot triple-masted barquentine with a steel hull and superstructure and a wood deck. Owned and operated by Amsterdam-based Reederij Vlaun/V&S Charters, she travels to ports on the German, Danish and Swedish coasts. Nine countries have frontage on the Baltic, making for a fascinating mix of cultural possibilities, if you have time for extended cruising. The yachts sail by some superb Baltic scenery including the white chalk cliffs of the island of Rügen.
Nearby to Angle, the port city of Kiel hosts the annual Kieler Woche, the world's largest sailing event, with 5,000 yachting enthusiasts from 50 countries in 2,000 vessels participating in 40 events. In fact, Kieler Woche is the largest annual festival of any kind in Germany, drawing even more people than Munich's Oktoberfest. There are multiple stages for folk singers and dancers; rock, pop and classical musical performances; plus clowns, acrobats, jugglers and magicians. It all takes place over nine days from a Saturday to a Sunday in mid-June. For 2012, the start date is June 16. If you wish to participate in Kieler Woche sea events on a chartered yacht, you'd be wise to book early.
Angle and the surrounding area are rich in five-star seaside spa-hotels. The traditional northern boundary of Angle is the Flensburg Fjord, and a couple of the better lodging options are there. Flensburg is about an hour's drive northwest of Kiel (although it is closer than that to Hedeby). An hour's drive in the opposite direction from Kiel brings you to Timmendorfer Strand, location of several five-star resorts and a favorite destination of Germany's political, social and industrial elite.
Angle is a place that would hold some historical fascination for any English speaker. Even without that aspect, it's a great place to get away from it all–relaxing in a thatched-roof, storybook cottage or sailing on a classic tall ship in the Baltic. For those who prefer to be in the middle of activity, consider planning your visit for mid-June to coincide with Kieler Woche.
The Angles were a tough bunch of fighters. In the fifth century, this tribe, known as Angeln in German, migrated en masse to Britain along with some of their Saxon neighbors. The Anglo-Saxons, as they came to be called, had been invited by a warlord (probably Vortigern) to help defend the region that eventually came to be named after them: England.
Their mass exodus left a vacuum that Danes eventually filled. Unlike the Angles, the Danish Vikings prized Angle's location primarily for its strategic nautical value. From their market town of Hedeby, largest of all Viking settlements, they had only to sail their longboats eastward out the length of the Schlei inlet to the Baltic or, after a relatively short portage, westward down the river Treene to the North Sea.
During the Viking Age, the Danes conquered and occupied a huge swath of eastern Britain. What made this territory, the Danelaw, unique was that it was governed by and named for a set of laws rather than the decrees of a particular ruler. This is thought to be the origin of the concept of "a nation of laws" and the laws themselves evolved into the basics of British and American law.
Considering the Angles and later the Danes, it is fair to say that the ancient inhabitants of this little patch of land contributed almost as much to our language, laws and culture as the peoples of Athens, Rome and Jerusalem.
Traveler Fast Facts
WHAT IT IS: A small peninsula in northern Germany that was originally the Kingdom of Angle. On the east it has beaches on the Bay of Kiel in the Baltic Sea.
AMBIANCE: Quaint fishing villages with thatch-roofed cottages dot the landscape and there is everywhere a strong awareness of the sea. To own a sailboat is as common as having a second car. Traditional tall ships and other large sailing yachts dominate the bays.
WHERE TO STAY: In Flensburg, the Alter Meierhof Vitalhotel (Uferstrasse 1, 24960 Glücksburg; +49 4631 6199-0; email@example.com) offers rooms and suites in the $900-per-night range and features sailing, golf, fitness facilities and health and beauty treatments. Nearby is the Strandhotel Glücksburg (Kirstenstrasse 6, 24960 Glücksburg; +49 (0) 4631 6141 0; firstname.lastname@example.org). Housed in an elegant example of classic architecture beside a beach, it boasts spa facilities; spacious rooms and suites; and a restaurant that has been a favorite of gourmets for decades. In Timmendorfer Strand, consider Grand Hotel Seeschlösschen Spa and Golf Resort (Strandallee 141, 23669 Timmendorfer Strand; +49 (0)4503/601-334; email@example.com), where you'll find four restaurants and a sea-facing penthouse suite runs around $1,000 a night.
SAILING: Reederij Vlaun/V&S Charters (www.vscharters.com) offers crewed tall ship cruises in the $8,000-to-$14,000-per-week range for full charter with individual accommodations in the $1,500-per-week range. Happy Charter (www.happycharter.com/en) is a portal site for bareboat and crewed yachts with links to partner sites. Rentabo (www.rentabo.com/home.html) provides an intermediary with online booking of bareboat and crewed yachts. Private Charter Ostsee (www.pc-ostsee.de/Bareboat-Yacht-charter-Baltic-Sea) offers bareboat charters only. Note that you'll need a sailing license to contract a bareboat charter. A license from your home country is OK, but an International Certificate of Competence is recommended.
Traveler Report Card
You'll likely want to raise this grade to an A if you stay at one of the five-star resorts on the shore of the Flensburger Foerde or at Timmendorfer Strand. Also interesting are four-star hotels in Eckernfoerde, Maasholm and Kiel, located on the waterfront with access to charter yachts and beaches. If you're willing to forgo a couple of stars in favor of charm and solitude, consider the thatch-roofed inns and vacation houses in some of the more remote locations that look as if they came right out of fairy tales.
That grade is for those who have a palate for seafood; otherwise a solid B applies. Note that Germans aren't big consumers of shellfish, so you shouldn't expect lobster and such, although you'll find local fresh
shrimp on some menus.
If you're interested in yachting, golf, windsurfing, tennis, swimming or Nordic walking, you won't be disappointed here. Yachting can mean anything from sport sailing to luxury cruising. Across on the western side of the Jutland peninsula, the resort island of Sylt offers five-star resort hotels and beaches on the North Sea with swimming and surfing (albeit on waves a Hawaiian might consider mere ripples).
Except for the cities of Flensburg, Schleswig and Eckernfoerde, this is an exceptionally quiet region. And even those cities are quite laid back when you compare them with Hamburg, Berlin or Munich. Around the Baltic shore are numerous sandy beaches. Some will be lightly populated; others, though easily accessible by car, will be virtually empty. Depending on your choice of lodging, it's possible to get away from it all quite successfully in this region.