Ten nature reserves and 250 restaurants – a fine combination.
This is a miracle that visitors can feel on their own skin, the miracle of Sylt – that wonderful feeling of being brushed and caressed by the salty gusts of the North Sea wind. A bit too romantic? Perhaps, but the narrow, 38-kilometre-long North Frisian island has you hooked and happy at the same time. It also puts you in a serene mood. Just like the 18,500 islanders themselves, who appear easygoing and laid-back. They don’t mind that much has changed since the heyday of nudist beach culture, which rose to cult status in the 1960s, not least thanks to Gunter Sachs and Brigitte Bardot arriving with their infamous entourage of merrymakers. After all, demand for the almost 55,000 guest beds on Sylt is higher than ever. Once a sanctuary for poets like Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann or the painter Emil Nolde, the island with its endless sandy beaches and the only wandering dune in Germany has become a paradise for walkers, cyclists, golfers, kite surfers and especially foodies. Ten nature reserves on one side, 250 restaurants on the other – a fine combination, to be sure. And one that is true to the motto that adorns the striped Frisian flag, “Rüm Hart, klaar Kiming”: “Open heart, clear horizon.” Hear, hear!
Mr Seckler, you are the island’s most famous restaurateur and about to celebrate 40 years of Sansibar at the beachfront on Sylt. What makes this island so attractive and special?
First of all, I’m not going to celebrate. I have never been one to celebrate myself. I leave the celebrating to my guests. Secondly, it’s very simple: Sylt is a mystical place. There is no other place like it in the world. The iodine-rich air ensures a restful sleep; it just feels right. And if I’m ever out of sorts, I walk down to the beach and back. That’s all it takes.
What accounts for Sansibar’s incredible success? When you took it over 40 years ago, it was nothing more than a snack bar; today you serve up to 4,000 meals a day in the peak season.
I think we are successful because we do everything with a passion, and we work as a team. We all help each other out. That’s important. I have a fantastic team of employees, some of whom have been with us for ages or keep coming back to the Sansibar. You have to realise that serving 4,000 meals a day, given the space in our restaurant, is a logistical feat. But our team pulls it off – every time.
You’ve lived on Sylt for 40 years now. Do you consider yourself an islander?
I came from the Swabian Alb in southern Germany, started working here, was often hungry and quite desperate, because business wasn’t good. I was a poor newcomer at the time, no one took any interest in me. Then things started to look up and, suddenly, I was famous. But for the people here I’ll always be an outsider, even though I feel at home.
You are said to be the biggest wine merchant in northern Germany, and your wines are supposed to be superb …
I’m not sure I’m the largest merchant, but yes, our cellars definitely hold some fine wines. Here, directly beneath the Sansibar, there is a cellar with 40,000 bottles of wine. And altogether there must be close to a million bottles …
What is your favourite place on Sylt?
My garden, it’s beautiful. Over the years, I’ve invested more in the garden than I have in the house. I enjoy it all the more.
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