As always, the only thing linking the two items mentioned in this post in my mind is that they both start with the same letter of the alphabet.
(photos by my mom)
Having grown up on the banks of one of Germany’s largest rivers, the Rhine, I love all bodies of water — but none more so than the world’s mighty oceans.
The trip to Spain mentioned in an earlier post in this series on which my parents took me when I was 2 1/2 was to have far-reaching consequences: I instantly became enthusiastic about the sea and about playing on the beach, to the point that henceforth nothing would do but more seaside vacations in the following summers. (Not that my mom would have objected.) So Spain was followed by the French Riviera — where I learned to maneuver a pedal boat — and the Dutch North Sea Coast, and we also spent a first vacation on one of the Northern Frisian Islands (Sylt), in one of the area’s characteristic thatched cottages.
Yet, it was another stay in Northern Frisia (or actually, two of them) that would really set me on my course towards loving this world’s oceans the way I do now. The beginnings were anything but auspicious: My doctor had diagnosed that one of my tonsils was permanently swollen; and as an alternative to surgery, he recommended a six-to-eight week stay in a children’s vacation home on the North Sea Coast (to be followed by another such stay the next summer), as the climate up there has long been known to be beneficial in curing respiratory conditions. On the recommendation of an aunt of mine, whose kids were afflicted with even worse respiratory conditions than I, my mom chose a place on the island of Föhr. Now, as a kid I was of course every bit an introvert as I am now — so imagine me, thrown together with a few dozen other kids whom I had never before seen in my life and without any place whatsoever where to withdraw and find solitude, as we were not only in each others’ company all day long but we also shared bedrooms in groups of three or four kids! The first couple of days were sheer torture, and even after that it took a minor eternity for me to adjust; or at least, that’s what it felt like to me. (The vacation home’s owner-managers would later tell my grandma, when she came to pick me up at the end of my first stay, that they had never seen a kid who was so perfectly happy playing all by herself or just finding a quiet corner where to read a book.)
However, while I was busy learning how to make my way in a group where, unlike when starting out in kindergarten and elementary school, I was completely surrounded by strangers, my mom and my grandparents had very much taken to Föhr, and my grandparents decided to buy a little holiday condo there … and it was from this condo that, in the years to come, we would explore the world of the Northern Frisian islands: the Wadden Sea (Wattenmeer), which at low tide allows you to walk from Föhr to its neighboring island of Amrum (if you know where you are going — it’s not advisable to do this on your own, outside of a guided tour), Föhr’s mighty dyke, Amrum and Sylt’s vast sand dunes, the islands’ thatched cottages and sturdy, red brick medieval churches (built in a style known as Backsteingotik, or red brick Gothic), and the Halligen (marsh islands), which unlike “real” islands do not have a dyke but huge mounds (“Warften“) on which all dwellings are built: During storm tides, a Hallig is flooded entirely, with only the dwelling mounds / Warften remaining above the surface of the water — you just have to admire the ingenuity that has brought forth this form of survival, even though it obviously only works for small places such as the Northern Frisian Halligen. Long story short: once back to vacationing with my family, it didn’t take long for me to completely fall in love with that corner of Germany, and to this day it holds a very special place in my heart.
From there, and tying in my already existing childhood passion for the seaside, my love of the sea quickly grew to encompass virtually every one of the world’s oceans; the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean as much as the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean and, perhaps most of all, the Pacific. Few of the many summer vacations I’ve been lucky to enjoy ever since have not included at least a day or two at the seaside, even if these days I try to balance beach days with sightseeing and other forms of exploration, which by and large may even take considerably more time than the beach experience. — Yet with all that, actually living, as I did for a few precious years in Southern California, literally in walking distance of the Pacific Ocean was a dream come true and a memory I will treasure forever.
There is so much I love about oceans — their vastness, and the vastness of the sky above, which together make the horizon almost vanish in the distance, making you feel like you could go on forever and ever once you set out; and also making you realize the immensity of the natural world that surrounds us. I love to watch the waves washing against the shore or against a cliff: there are few other sights that are as beautiful while, at the same time, leaving no doubt about the awesome power of the natural forces at work — in the immediate interplay of sea and sand or rock as much as in the way in which the sea shapes the shoreline over the course of time. Moreover, the oceans are home to a staggeringly rich and beautiful underwater world of fish and shellfish, coral reefs, mammals, and other creatures: I am no diver, but I could spend hours and hours in an aquarium or on a glass bottom boat excursion admiring it all (or watching “sea life” documentary). Last but not least, as by far the largest part of the Earth’s surface consists of water, our planet’s oceans are now also one of the most important indicators of climate change, from changes of the oceans’ temperature, alterations of their currents and the shocking amount of plastic particle pollution and endangered marine species to, of course, the oceans’ rising surface (which should ring alarm bells not only with the people living on the reefs and islands most proximately threatened to be submerged some day soon but with all of us — as should, in fact, all the warning signs mentioned here).
The Northern Frisian Islands:
Wadden Sea tidal flats and a baby sea lion
A fishing boat off the Föhr coastline, ‘
and a dwelling mound (Warft) on the Hallig (marsh island) of Hooge
Greater Los Angeles area, Southern California:
Marina del Rey
Redondo Beach LA […]
Everybody’s gone surfin’ — Surfin’ U.S.A
(except for the top 7 images and the 2 maps, all photos in this section of the post, mine)
Which, given that my “like” entry for the letter O are oceans, is probably not all that much of a surprise. And since on this one I am in complete agreement with BeetleyPete, rather than replicating everything he wrote, for once I’m just going to direct you to his post and be done with it! 🙂