They are all gone: the hole-in-the-wall on Alleestrasse where I ate my first luscious currywurst; the nearby café that usually was blaring “Monday, Monday” by the Momas and Papas as I walked by; the little bakery by city hall where I too often bought a huge nusskranz (wreath-shaped pastry) that should have lasted a week, but disappeared in a day.
|Hotel Nordseehalle from across the habor in front of it, 2016|
|The bottom left part of this postcard from the middle 1960s shows Hotel Nordseehalle from across the harbor; note|
the lawn in front of it
Yes, the Büsum I knew in 1966 as summer help for the Hotel Nordseehalle is not the same as it was fifty years ago. In late October, I found out during a visit there how much this small town on Germany’s North Sea coast has changed and what remains.
|Picture of the lighthouse taken from in front of the Hotel Nordseehalle in 2016|
|Picture of the lighthouse from a similar location as above, about 1965|
For one thing, the town is not so small any more: its boundaries have expanded and it has many more houses and people crammed into a small area. Among the post-1966 additions to the town are a large, intrusive bath house on the high ocean bank that serves as a seawall against flooding. Even worse is a huge skyscraper built along the ocean a couple of decades ago. It is a monument to bad taste and poor judgement, an ogre looming over this sedate village made up primarily of single family houses.
|North part of the beach at low tide with people walking in the mud flats, 2016. Note 20+ story building.|
|Postcard showing different parts of Büsum in about 1965|
Even with it changes, I still recognize Büsum. It seems the same in many regards as when I lived there for a couple of months fifty years ago. At low tide, people still walk on a vast expanse of mud to get from the beach to the water. People continue to stroll along the paved trails, stretching for miles, overlooking the North Sea. People still flock to the stores and restaurants on the main street that runs from the railroad station to the North Sea beach. Even on cool late-October days, the resort was packed with people walking here, walking there, eating ice cream, shopping, and dining on fresh fish.
Fortunately, Büsum still has its picturesque harbor with colorful working boats, some going daily to trawl for shrimp and fish, others taking tourists to Helgoland, to see the otters, or just to cruise around the area. For visitors who like fresh shrimp, they can buy them in cone-shaped bags at stands by the harbor. Also, freshly caught fish of all kinds can be purchased at scattered fish stores.
|Finger of harbor in front of Hotel Nordseehalle (to the left), 2016|
|Finger of habor in front of Hotel Nordseehalle, about 1965|
Away from the harbor, I was glad to find, amid all the construction of the past fifty years, some houses from the earlier years of the town. The most interesting ones have roofs made of straw. Others have tile roofs that are narrow inverted-V shapes. They all are distinctive reminders of the life during the old days of Schleswig-Holstein.
|Old house in Büsum|
Also, I revisited the house in which I lived with other temporary Hotel Nordseehalle staff members. It is located on a side street (Hohenzollernstrasse) off just the main street (Alleestrasse), a short walk from the hotel. In 1966, this street was lined with worn two-story residential buildings. Most of those buildings – including the place where I lived -- have been turned into upscale restaurants.
One other place I remembered from 1966 was a funky restaurant (Zur alten Schlosseri) up the street from Hotel Nordseehalle. This restaurant (whose name may have been different at the time) had an unhappy American female student working as its bartender for the summer. There I had my first taste of real bouillabaisse soup. Obviously, it was a memorable experience, since 50 years later I recall eating it. The restaurant still has lots of character, but it no longer has bouillabaisse soup on its menu.
After a fifty-year absence, I did not expect to find anyone who had been around Hotel Nordseehalle when I worked there, but I still had a vague hope that it would happen. When I checked in, I casually mentioned that I had worked at the hotel in 1966. The young man at the desk expressed very mild curiosity about that and let it drop. I also said some words about my experience at the hotel to the woman serving breakfast. Again, only mild curiosity.
After these dispiriting encounters, I gave up hope of finding some human link to the past, but as I was checking out, something about the woman at the desk seemed vaguely familiar. So, with nothing to lose, I again mentioned that I had worked for the hotel in 1966. This time I was surprised to find out that the woman had been at the hotel in 1966 and remembered the Americans (Fay and I) working there. She said she had fond memories of buying soft ice cream every day from an American. That was me!
It turned out this woman had not worked at the hotel in 1966; she had been only about ten years old at the time. However, her mother had worked for the hotel, and the girl had lived with her and her father in a small room there. (A little while after talking with this woman, I remembered her mother as the efficient, no-nonsense assistant to the hotel manager. We got along fine.) Finding our connection, we spent some time recalling details of the old days at the hotel and remembered how good the ice cream had tasted during the summer of 1966.
More pictures follow.
|Fish restaurant in downtown Büsum, 2016|
|Fish for sale|
|Restaurant Zur alten Post (The Old Post Office)|
|Old thatched roof house|
|Amother thatched roof house|
|Typical house with inverted-V roof|
|Another house with inverted-V roof and colorful external pattern|
|This post that stands behind the dyke shows how high the water rose during various flood years. The bottom|
band show the level at which a flood occurs. The highest water level was reached on January 3, 1976.
The second highest was in February 4, 1828
|Buesum's first lighthouse|
|Selling fresh shrimp by the harbor|
|My heart beats for Büsum|
|Harbor in front of Hotel Nordseehalle|