February’s Biikebrennen festival is meant to “beckon spring” with its many large bonfires. // © 2016 Gunter Pump
Feature image (above): Although the origin of this tradition is unknown, the bonfires were added to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage Sites in Germany in 2014. // © 2016 Kurund Tourism Service Pellworm
The skies over Germany will blaze this February as residents celebrate the annual festival of Biikebrennen. Massive bonfires will light up the night on Feb. 21 in an attempt to beckon spring. Traditionally a custom in North Frisian, the celebration has become popular over time in areas of Schleswig-Holstein. In 2014, the Biikebrennen bonfires were added to the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage Sites in Germany.
The origin of Biikebrennen is unclear, but it is an annual event where nearly all North Frisian towns, and many isolated farmhouses, light their own bonfires just after sunset. The ritual varies by destination, but the tradition lives on year after year.
If in Germany for the event, one of the best places to view the bonfires is Sylt, a German island known for its spa tradition. Head to the villages of Archsum or Morsum, where Biikebrennen is celebrated with torchlight processions to the bonfire. In Westerland, there is a procession accompanied by a local marching band. Book a stay at the four-star Dorint Strandresort & Spa Sylt/Westerland, which sits directly on the beach. The 78-room hotel is about a 20-minute drive from Archsum and Morsum and has a spa with a sauna and an indoor pool.
Sylt is only 24 miles long, but it is home to three Michelin-starred restaurants, among 200 other places to eat. Fahrhaus Sylt has two Michelin stars and is housed in a spa hotel overlooking the sea. Restaurant Kai3 is a one-star Michelin restaurant inside Budersand, a modern, upscale boutique hotel with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean.
The Hallig islands are another location to witness the fiery affair. These are 10 small islands, seven of which are inhabited. Thirty times per year, these islands, which are undyked, are completely inaccessible because they are submerged in water. The five largest are part of the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea and Hallig Islands Biosphere Reserve, and these islands celebrate Biikebrennen with massive bonfires.
Book a stay at Anker’s Horn, a four-star property that was the first hotel on any of the Hallig islands. The modern hotel threads elements of the islands’ Nordic past into its design, and every room has views of the water. Each guestroom is 236 square feet and features a minibar, satellite television and Wi-Fi access. The hotel has an on-site restaurant and a spa area with a whirlpool and sauna.