Germany’s ‘forgotten’ Halligen islands where houses are built on handmade mounds

The Halligen are small islands only a few feet above sea level. There are ten halligen in the North Frisian Wadden Sea, just off the northwest coast of Germany. Only five of them are inhabited. The rest are part of the Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer National Park. The name comes from the Celtic word hal, meaning “salt”, a reference to the low-lying land in the region which is often flooded over with saltwater by the tides. The very existence of the Halligen is a result of frequent floods and poor coastal protection. Dwellings and commercial buildings are built upon meter-high, man-made mounds, called Warften, to guard against storm tides.

Schleswig Holsteinisches Wattenmeer – Zitrone34 [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Ralf Roletschek (talk) – Fahrradtechnik auf [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], from Wikimedia Commons

Thatched roofs – Michael Schroeren [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons

Schleswig Holsteinisches Wattenmeer – Michael Schroeren [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons)

View to the Backenswarft on Hallig Hooge. The Hallig Hooge is the second largest of the ten islets in the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea. Hallig Hooge is surrounded by an approximately 1.20 meters high stone dyke and is thus protected from light storm surges. Nevertheless Hallig Hooge is flooded completely two to five times a year. The Houses are built on high mounds.

Michael Gäbler [CC BY 3.0]

Jürgen Hamann [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons/

Oland is a small hallig which is connected by a narrow gauge railway to the mainland and to hallig Langeneß. Germany’s smallest lighthouse is located here, being also the only one with a thatched roof.

Markus Trienke [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Oland lighthouse (By Thanzime (talk) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, Link)

Lorendamm Oland – Langeneß (By Markus TrienkeLorendamm Oland – Langeneß, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link)

Langeneß itself has 16 Warften and is the largest Hallig.

By Ralf RoletschekOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Gröde With only 9 inhabitant, has the smallest population of any municipality in Germany.

Joachim Müllerchen [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

© Michael Gäbler / Wikimedia Commons

Nordstrandischmoor’s link with the mainland is the Lüttmoorsiel-Nordstrandischmoor island railway. At high tide, ships can also dock. At low tide the Hallig may also be reached on foot over the mudflats.

Railway to Hallig Nordstrandischmoor (Goegeo [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons)


5 thoughts on “Germany’s ‘forgotten’ Halligen islands where houses are built on handmade mounds

  1. Immagini straordinarie e ricche di fascino, che ho molto apprezzatp
    Buona domenica e un saluto,silvia

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