We’re on Foehr, the island in the North Sea, where Martin’s parents spent their later years. Our kids used to call it the Snow White Island. Thatched-roofed cottages and fields dotted with lazy Friesian cows really do give it a fairy tale quality. The sea is flat, and at low tide recedes hundreds of metres, leaving the ‘Watt’ – the mud on the sea floor – exposed. The Watt (actually a National Park in its own right) is rich in microorganisms and minerals which promote blood circulation and other health-giving properties. Combine that with the clean, iodine rich air and it explains why this has long been a destination for people to take the ‘Kur’ or health resort vacation. And speaking of fairy tales, Hans Christian Anderson himself was a fan of this Kur island.

For Martin, the Foehr experience begins from the moment we board the ferry for the forty-five-minute trip from the mainland to Wyk, the largest town on the island (large being tiny). There’s just enough time to order a bockwurst and a beer, enabling him to shed his acquired Aussie skin and embrace local culture. Apart from sausages, his favourite thing is to eavesdrop on the local dialect, Plattdeutsch. And despite sounding like a mouthful of hard consonants, no words are wasted. He loves its efficiency; but more than that, to him it encapsulates a sort of North German pragmatism. It’s the master of understatement. A few words is enough to describe a situation, a mood, a view of life, the depth of meaning held just beneath the surface. Actually, Plattdeutsch is more than a dialect. The European Charter for Regional Languages officially recognises it as part of a cultural heritage that deserves protection like many other small languages.

In the decades since I learned German, when Martin and I lived in West Berlin (before the fall of the Berlin Wall), I have become so rusty that it takes all my concentration to keep up. Fortunately, my sister-in-law speaks good English, which is impressive since she rarely needs it. If she finds herself reaching for a word, she’ll sometimes unconsciously supply her own, often better than the correct one. My particular favourite is ‘spectaculous’, as in ‘The view of the harbour is spectaculous!’ Think about it. It’s almost triumphant, as it should be. My second favourite, and at the opposite end of the superlative spectrum, is ‘onlyest’, as in ‘It is the onlyest train you can take to the city.’ So much more only than only.

My onlyest regret (in the language arena) is that I did not keep up my German. But I intend to change that before our next visit. And if I were to also master Plattdeutsch, that would be spectaculous!

Oh hi there 👋
It’s nice to meet you.

Sign up to receive awesome content in your inbox, every month.

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments