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Cycling by the Windmills of Friesland

Cycling by the Windmills of Friesland

The country is crisscrossed by long alleys, drainage ditches, and cycle paths. Sheep, cows, and horses graze on pastures, divided by dikes that were thrown up to wrest land away from the sea. Neat brick houses and churches line streets and canals, and even sidewalks are paved with red bricks. A fresh breeze makes sailboats and yachts gently pitch from side to side in the waterfronts.

Jever, a picturesque place of about fourteen thousand inhabitants, is the perfect starting point for exploring the region of Friesland. The place got a town charter in 1536 and has been the center of this area since the days of yore.  Jever Castle with its onion-shaped cap and viewing platform rises 220 feet over the town.
Surrounded by a moat and an English garden, the castle is one of the most beautiful historical monuments in Friesland. Today it houses the local museum with magnificent rooms and chambers, decorated with carved ceilings, red tapestry and fine parquet floorings. The exhibition rooms show medieval paintings, sumptuous clothes of the eighteenth century and collections of Faience, china, and silver.Only a few yards away, a carillon over the entrance of the restaurant Hof Oldenburg attracts visitors with its melody when every full hour, two gates open to let out the figures of former local rulers. Across the street, the bronze figures of the fountain on Jever’s market place tell the sayings of the region.

All the figures have ball joints, and kids enjoy turning their heads, arms, and legs. At the other end of the market place, a bronze bull lies in front of a pharmacy, indicating that the square once was the cattle market of the town. Besides the castle and Jever’s town church, the 100-feet-tall steel towers of the Friesische Brauhaus (Friesian brewery) characterize the skyline of the town. It was established in 1848 and with its futuristic and reflecting glass front, it has become another symbol of the town these days.

The brewery produces a traditional Pilsner of the highest quality according to the German purity law of 1516. As brewing beer is no secret anymore today, visitors are welcome to take a swig and see the brewery and its museum.


West of Jade Bay at the German North Sea coast, there is Jever Land – a region where locals greet you with a friendly “moin, moin” (good morning) even in the afternoon.

Friesland is ideal cycling and the North Sea Cycle Route, which leads through Jever, is just one option for a ride through the country. On the outskirts of town, the two-story Dutch gallery windmill and the agriculture museum mark the starting point of the Friesian Windmill Tour.  From there, you can go for a cycling tour, to nine other windmills around Jade Bay.

The nearest windmill in the small village of Accum was built in 1746 and is covered with reed. Small doors lead on to the gallery, on which the miller pulls canvas over two of the wooden vanes to catch more wind. The surface of the other two can be adjusted – similar to Venetian blinds – by ropes.

With the help of an additional wheel on the cap, the vanes are turned into the wind. The miller enjoys welcoming visitors and willingly explains the machinery and how the cogwheels transform the energy of wind into vertical rotation of the main shaft that drives a pair of millstones.

The cycle path leads on to Wilhelmshaven, a Prussian seaport in the nineteenth century. After passing the Kopperhörner windmill and the Church of Christ, built of red bricks in 1882, you get to the historical Kaiser-Wilhelm-Brücke (Emperor Wilhelm bridge), which still is the biggest revolving bridge in Europe. It was built in 1906 and leads over a harbor canal to the wharves. From there, you might go for an excursion to Helgoland, whose red sandstone cliffs rise up to 160 feet out of the North Sea.

The island was once a hiding place of pirates at the end of the fourteenth century before it went to the rulers of Denmark later. From 1814 to 1889, it belonged to the British Empire but the English exchanged Helgoland to Zanzibar in 1890, and the German Emperor Wilhelm II made Helgoland a military outpost.

From Wilhelmshaven, the cycle path follows the bay to the south and leads to the small town of Varel. A steep flight of well-trodden stairs leads up to the cap of the local windmill, built in 1847.

With its height of almost one hundred feet and vanes of seventy feet in diameter, it is the biggest windmill in Germany. It used to have two peeling machines and four large sets of millstones that were used to grind wheat and rye. The biggest millstone weighs almost four tons and measures 6.7 feet in diameter.

The cycling way passed further windmills and took us through several small villages with thatched cottages and neat guesthouses that welcome visitors with their solid, tasty Frisian cuisine. After visiting the local museum in Neuhardingersiel, where we learned how sailing ships get into a glass bottle, we went aboard a ferry to the island of Spiekeroog to have a swim in the North Sea and a rest from our trip. And while we enjoyed a gentle breeze on the island’s unspoiled and sandy beaches, we already made plans for another cycle through Jever Land in Friesland, Germany.

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