Cultural Entities 


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1. Overview


Juist or Töwerland (Frisian for “Magic Land“), Aurich district, federal state of Niedersachsen


The island of Juist is bordered by the Haaksgat, a side branch of the Osterems, in the west and the Kalfamergat in the east.


Approx. 16.43 km2

Location - map:

Juist is sited in the national park of Wattenmeer, off the German coast of Lower Saxony. The geographic position of the island lies at: 53° 39΄ and 53° 41΄ northern latitude/ 6° 51΄ and 7° 06΄ eastern longitude.

Origin of name:

The name Juist is first mentioned in an official document in 1398 and probably derives from the word güst meaning barren.

Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:

There are cultural historic links with the islands of the Netherlands to the west, which share similar living conditions and traditions, e.g. traditional costumes, language or building styles.

Characteristic elements and ensembles:

The characteristic features of the landscape of Juist are still preserved today. It is a typically maritime landscape with its dikes. Lighthouse, harbour, former railway.

2. Geology and geography

2.1 General
The North Sea Island of Juist is one of seven inhabited East Frisian Islands; it lies between the islands of Norderney (to the east) and Borkum (to the west). The geological structure of the island consists of a Geest core on which sand drifts have agglomerated assisted by tides in the course of the rise of the sea level during the Holocene.
Today the island stretches over a length of 17km from west to east and is sited c. eight km offshore. In the middle, where the Juist or alternatively called the “village” lies, between the mudflat and the beach the island has a width of only 500m. In the west, at the Domäne Bill, at its widest part it spans hardly more than 800m. With this shape and an overall size of c. 16.43 km2 Juist is the longest and at the same time the narrowest East Frisian Island.
The main settlement activity focuses, protected by a line of dunes, on the centre of the island. The western settlement part Loog which lies 1.5km further west now belongs to the actual village.

2.2 Present landscape
The island of Juist is a holiday island in the national park Wattenmeer. During the main season the picture of the landscape is strongly influenced by the presence of the tourists. The landscape is characterised by a long sandy beach, wide green spaces, the chain of dunes in the north of the island and the small island of Memmert in the south which lies between Juist and the mainland.
Because of the tidal range, the areas towards the mainland which are protected by the island are frequently exposed, thus creating the mudflats. In the process the island of Juist, just like its neighbouring islands to the east and west, acts as a barrier island in front of the mainland coast.

3. Landscape and settlement history 

The work of the district archaeologists and geologists on the island of Juist, as well as the entire Wadden Sea, has helped illuminate the origin and settlement history of the island. Their work is restricted only by the North Sea which, due to its sometimes unpredictable currents, can make the search for historic information difficult or even impossible.

3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times
10,000 years ago, roughly at the end of the last ice age, large areas of the present North Sea between Great Britain and the European mainland were still dry land, because of the amount of water locked up in the glaciers. The coastal line ran c. 300km to the north along the rim of the Dogger- and Jütlandbank. It can therefore be assumed that Palaeolithic and Mesolithic foragers frequented the area between the Doggerbank to the north and the present North Sea coast. It can be anticipated that maintenance works on the sea lanes for the shipping as well as excavations, especially between Juist and the coastal landscape of Lower Saxony, will come upon cultural layers of those ages.
With the end of the last ice age and the melting of the glaciers the region between the British Isles and the European mainland was flooded, until c. 5.500 B.C. the present coastal line was reached. The rising water, combined with storm-tides, deposited sand on the higher Geest ridges. Over time these sand banks grew into large areas, the so-called Platen, which were not endangered even by high tides. Sea couch grass was one of the first pioneer plants on Juist, reinforcing the ground with its roots.
With the development of Juist, all possible former settlement areas, as well as all traces of prehistoric activity on the island were buried beneath the island in the mudflat. Thus there is little evidence of human settlement for the millennia before the medieval period, although historic sources do mention an island which was located at the area of present-day Juist.
The first written evidence for the existence of the island of Juist is found in a document from 1398 A.D. The first church of the island, however, was only built in 1464. It was situated c. 300-400 m north of the Hammerdeich, in a place which today is part of the mudflat. By this time, at the end of the 15th century, Juist had an entirely different shape. The island was then only half as long but twice as wide. This phenomenon of the continuing westward shifting of the island is explained by the east-western current of the English Channel. This current has a major impact on the shape of the island, especially in the form of strong water movements during the autumn storms.
During medieval times the people on Juist lived on fishing and subsistence agriculture.

3.2 Early Modern Times
From 1526 A.D. a busy sea trade relating to Juist is documented. With fishing, agriculture and the exposed situation for merchant shipping, the course was set for future prosperity. This meant the end of the natural isolation of the island of Juist. With the emerging trade and the resulting contacts with other merchants the island dwellers began to take part in the social life of the mainland. Nevertheless life on the North Sea Island remained hard because Juist, like all other East Frisian Islands, was constantly threatened by heavy storm tides.
Due to such natural disasters the village had to be repeatedly shifted to the east. In 1651 a storm tore the island in two, and only 277 years later at the beginning of the 20th century were these two parts re-linked by large-scale dune constructions with bush fences and sand deposits.
The people, however, had not only to fight against nature: during the Napoleonic Wars there were plenty of political problems to cope with as well. The peace treaty of Tilsit forced Prussia to cede all areas west of the Elbe to France. From this time on Juist, like all other neighbouring islands, belonged to the “Department Oostvriesland“ of the Netherlands which in turn was ruled by France. The new political situations called for new sources of income. So when in 1806 the Continental System disrupted the sea trade the people of Juist became smugglers.

3.3 Modern Times
In the years between 1928 and1932 an effort was made to re-link the two parts of the island which had been torn apart by a heavy storm in 1651. When, in the course of the repairs, another storm flood took place, the 30ha Hammersee emerged at the place where the dune construction had already commenced. Today the lake is fed by the freshwater lens under the island of Juist. In response to the repeated storms and storm tides another dyke was built in 1885 to protect the village.
An economic problem of this time was the decline in agriculture which, next to fishing, had been a safe means on income for the island dwellers. When merchant shipping declined in the 19th century as well, the economic existence of the inhabitants of the island was under serious threat. This situation only changed with the opening of the seaside resort in 1840 when tourism became the dominant economic factor on Juist.
The most important requirements for the change from a predominately agricultural island towards a recreational centre were the setting up of a permanent ferry connection to Emden, as well as supplying electricity for the island from the mainland. In the cold winter of 1917 the airship “Zeppelin 16“ was employed to secure the connection with the island. The landing place was sited near the Kalfamer at the eastern end of the island.
Following this the island dwellers began to open up the island to tourism. The road network was extended as well as the number of overnight accommodation in hotels and guesthouses. Nevertheless, due to the shortness of the season, a maximum of 14 weeks of the year, the economic existence of the people of Juist remained uncertain. As a consequence seafaring remained an important economic factor on the island until the middle of the 20th century, even as the number of tourists kept rising.
In 1986 the national park regulation became effective which turned large parts of Juist into a reserve area. From this moment on the people of Juist lived mainly on tourism.

4. Modern development and planning

The island of Juist in the East Frisian Wadden Sea is a landscape which in its development is largely dominated by tourism and in the future is likely to be even further influenced by human interference. If this trend is not regulated in some way then it is going to have a negative impact on the fragile ecosystem of the island.

4.1 Land use
The East Frisian Island of Juist is a dune landscape with a percentage of 90-95% grassland which in parts is used by various types of birds as a retreat. Too much tourism would lead to an increase in landscape problems since the destruction of the grass landscape, caused by construction works and environmental pollution, might effect the preservation of the dunes. These changes to the island landscape are certainly going to pose a danger for the inhabitants and tourists which will be reflected in the rising costs for protective measures.
Therefore the intensification of the tourism is closely monitored and regulated by the national park administration. An effort is made to consolidate the tourist usage of the island with the preservation and expansion of the nature reserve and coastal protection measures. This way the possibility of a further usage of the eco-system of the mudflats and therefore of the island of Juist is guaranteed for the following generations.

4.2 Settlement development
Today Juist has c. 1.500 inhabitants who depend on the c. 90.000-100.000 guests, who come either as daytime visitors or spend their holidays on the island. Despite the high number of visitors, the island has remained car-free. The only means of transportation for guests, luggage and goods are horse carriages and bicycles, this helps to protect the fragile eco-system of the island of Juist. Presently there is not a pressing danger from the impact on the natural environment by tourism. Nature- and landscape preservation laws limit an expansion of the settled areas which amount to ca. 7% and thus regulate the further settlement development and tourism. This way it was, and will be, possible to consider the competing claims for land both by tourism and the inhabitants of Juist and to preserve a fair balance.

The island of Juist, like her sisters in the Wadden Sea, offers many possibilities for recreation. On the many artificial paths through the dune landscape the visitor can explore the island; guided tours are also offered to those who are interested in getting to know the nature and the fragile eco-system. The protected areas of the national park are divided into three zones: I. The quiet zone, the zone under the strictest protection where the most valuable animal and plant species are found; II. The intermediate zone which shows the character of the Wadden Sea with the mudflats off the beaches, the beach segments east and west of the bathing beach and the region of the dyke foreshore which may only be accessed outside of the brooding season; III. The recreational zone with the bathing beaches. When the weather does not suit the outdoor activities then the guests can visit the salt water adventure pool with its many activity areas. This way the visitors can find recreation and rest which make for a well-balanced vacation.
One way to explore the history of the island, especially during bad weather, is visiting the coastal museum of Juist. Here the history and problems of the seafaring, ecology and the overall coastal area of East Frisia are illustrated. Special exhibitions about maritime art which also deals with the North Sea complete the picture.

4.3 Industry and energy
On the island of Juist there are no wind farms or other energy-producing facilities since the households are provided with electricity by a sea cable from the coast of Lower Saxony. This way no high structures affect the appearance of the landscape of the island.
An annual volume of c. 300.000 m³ water, which is mainly needed for tourism, is provided by 25 wells which tap the freshwater lens beneath the island. This freshwater reservoir is fed only by the annual rainfall which amounts to 675 to 700 mm per square metre and thus is ca. 100 mm above national average.
The only large facility is that of the fully biological wastewater treatment plant in the west of the island. Two pump stations in Loog and Dorf take care of the disposal of the waste-water.

4.4 Infrastructure
The island is linked to the mainland by water and air. Access by water has been used since the first settlement of the island and therefore presents the first and oldest way to reach the island. Since the 19th century ferries have commuted to Juist from the coast of Lower Saxony, first from Emden and today from Norddeich. The ferries are not only a means of transportation for tourists and locals but also secure the transport of essential goods. The departures are subject to the table of the tides of the Wadden Sea.
The other way to reach the island of Juist is to use a plane. There are year round flights of visitors and their luggage from Hamburg, Emden and Norddeich by three airlines. The air service is also used for sightseeing flights over the island and the mudflats. The transport from the airport in the east of the island to the accommodation is provided by horse-drawn carriages.

5. Legal and spatial planning aspects

The community of Juist belongs to the administrative district of Aurich in the federal state of Lower Saxony. With regard to land use planning the community is subject to the regional planning of the federal state of Lower Saxony, that is the landscape framework plan and the land use utilisation plan of the community. In addition, there is the regional planning concept for the coastal sea of Lower Saxony (ROKK). The territory of the community ends at the MTHW line (line of the Average High Tide). The coastal sea below the MTHW line is a community-free area. Accordingly, the regional and building plan only applies to the land but not to the marine area.

In the Wadden Sea regions of Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark wind energy farms are not permitted. The area of the national park is registered at the EU for the Fauna Flora Habitat directive (FFH) and almost the entire Wadden Sea area is a bird sanctuary. It belongs to the biotope network system Natura 2000. In 1996 the Wadden Sea area within the borders of the national park was recognised by the UNESCO as biosphere reservation in the context of the program “Man and Biosphere“.

6. Vulnerabilities

6.1 Settlement
Larger building projects could disrupt the islands ecological structures and would impact negatively on the landscape and potentially damage the below and above ground cultural heritage. One focal point has to be the economic pollution by man who, despite all efforts to maintain the ecologic system of the national park, can easily upset the ecological balance simply with the production of waste water. This aspect will inevitably lead to higher costs for the disposal of waste which in turn will put increased financial strain on community funds.

6.2 Nature Conservation
The islands designation as part of the Wattenmeer National Park and the emphasis on management of the natural environment could lead to conflicts with the management of the cultural heritage.

6.3 Tourism
In the future the biggest problem for the island of Juist is going to be an increase in the number of tourists and the facilities required by them. Unlimited access to the ecologically fragile areas of the dune landscape might also interfere with the natural environment and cultural landscape. It is therefore necessary to maintain the balance between the tourist use of the island and the ecological equilibrium. Problems resulting from increased tourism could also affect the historical structures of the island and its inhabitants. Century-old living habits would inevitably be changed by too great an infiltration of tourists and changes that would result. Historic monuments, below or above ground, could be destroyed by construction works. All this would cause significant and irreversible changes in the visual appearance of the island as well as of the typical regional culture. However, since Juist’s economy is based mainly on tourism its competitive position with its neighbours also has to be taken into consideration. The desired prosperity would also be accompanied by rising demands on space which has to be reconciled with the regulations of the national park Wattenmeer. To find the balance between economic growth and nature preservation will be the challenge of the future for this island.

6.4 Infrastructure
With 40,000 arrivals and departures the island airport is, next to the airport of Hanover-Langenhagen, one of the most frequented airports of Lower Saxony. Besides the exhaust gas pollution there is also the noise pollution which poses a big problem to the animal life, to tourists and to visually to the wider landscape. It can be anticipated that maintenance and dredging works on the sea lanes for shipping, especially between Juist and the coastal landscape of Lower Saxony, will disturb prehistoric cultural layers.

6.5 Natural processes
The island is exposed to continuing processes of coastal erosion which could lead to the loss of elements of the cultural heritage located in the adjacent mud flats.

6.6 Coastal protection
The costal protection of Juist is going to involve increasing financial cost due to present and future climate changes. Heavy storm tides flooding the island with salt water could render the freshwater lens beneath the island useless. This would endanger the independent water supply of the island and necessitate an expensive construction of a freshwater supply line from the mainland. This illustrates how fragile the ecological structures of the island of Juist are. Coastal protection measures could also cause significant damage to the cultural heritage and have a negative impact on the wider landscape.

7. Potentials

7.1 Settlement
Restrictions placed on the development of the island because of the natural environment, should serve to limit the impact of new buildings and associated works on the cultural heritage.

7.2 Management of the cultural heritage
From time to time evidence of the cultural heritage is going to surface in the mudflats or on the island itself. The new insights gained from the archaeological finds will complete the knowledge of the former living conditions of the island dwellers and will be presented to visitors to the island in the coastal museum.

7.3 Nature conservation
There is the opportunity to integrate nature conservation management with the cultural heritage in order to derive enhancement and positive management of both.

7.4 Tourism
Life on the island of Juist is dominated strongly by the weather situation of the North Sea, just as it has been for centuries. On the one hand this asks for a high level of flexibility on the side of the island dwellers, on the other hand the climatic situation of the island opens a chance for the future. The mild annual average temperature and the long late summers make the island of Juist, with its dust- and germfree air, an especially attractive destination for tourists from urban centres. The most influencing factor on the life of the inhabitants of Juist are the visitors which at the same time present the economic potential of the island. The island’s cultural heritage has the potential to be further promoted for the purposes of tourism to benefit the economic situation of the island. In turn, an element of the wealth generated could be used towards the benign management of the cultural heritage and the increased economic importance attached to it could lead to a better appreciation of its importance.

8. Sources

Author: Thomas Wignanek

Bärenfänger, R. (Bearb. u. Red.; 1999): Ostfriesland. Führer zu archäologischen Denkmälern in Deutschland 35. Stuttgart.

Bundesamt für Bauwesen und Raumordnung (BBR; 2005): Raumordnungsbericht 2005. Berichte 21, Bonn.

Feldmann, R. W. (1991): Grüße aus Juist. Borkum.

Loock-Braun, M. (2002): Unterwegs auf Juist. Naturkundlicher und kulturhistorischer Inselspaziergang. Husum.

Lozán, J. L., Rachor, E., Reise, K., Weternhagen, H. von und Lenz, W. (Hrsg.; 1994): Warnsignale aus dem Wattenmeer. Berlin.

Raumordungskonzept für das niedersächsische Küstenmeer (ROKK). Herausgegeben vom Niedersächsisches Ministerium für den ländlichen Raum, Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucherschutz - Regierungsvertretung Oldenburg - Landesentwicklung, Raumordnung. Stand 2005.

Streif, H. (1990): Das ostfriesische Küstengebiet – Nordsee, Inseln, Watten und Marschen. Sammlung Geologischer Führer 57. Berlin und Stuttgart.

Streif, H. (2002) Nordsee und Küstenlandschaft – Beispiel einer dynamischen Landschaftsentwicklung. Hannover, 134–149.

Thieme, H. (1997): Älteres Paläolithikum aus dem Gebiet zwischen Weser und Elbe. In: L. Fiedler [Hrsg.], Archäologie der ältesten Kultur in Deutschland. Materialien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte von Hessen 18, 328–356.

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