Katja Just

Eden Books

Some of the persons in the text are anonymous for reasons of protection of privacy.

Project Coordination: Nina Schumacher

All rights reserved. The work may only be reproduced - even in part - with the permission of the publisher.

"Love is eternal presence."

Stefan Branch


What is so exciting about my life story that I could write an entire book about it? I was born in Munich and spent my child and youth years in a modern terraced house estate in an idyllic Munich suburb. Today I live on Hallig Hooge in a listed thatched cottage that is over three hundred years old.

So what? Others were born in Berlin-Mitte and now live in Prien am Chiemsee and do not write a book about it. Okay, it was a big step when I turned my back on Munich at the age of 25 and moved to the almost six square kilometers large Hallig. Some said: "Still so young and then alone on an island with just a hundred inhabitants?" Or behind closed doors: "At the age of 25, away from Munich? I guess she's not ticking right." Either way, most people thought I was crazy.

I got to know Hallig Hooge with my family during my summer holidays. On my first visit, I was six or seven. Like all the little girls, I loved farm holidays. Stroking and feeding calves, riding out, watching countless birds fly and breed, being there while fishing. Roller-skating across the streets, using the wind in the jacket held over your head as the drive, and sinking into the dung heap in the most beautiful Sunday pants on the neighbouring farm - even if the latter is unplanned.

Although I wasn't on Hooge for several years after this fun time in my childhood, this Hallig took her firm place in my heart and in my dreams. Even as a child, I knew you'd move there someday. The thoughts of Hooge always brought with them the feeling of freedom, lightness and longing for infinite vastness.

Many years later I came back to Hooge because my mother and her second husband had bought a house there in the meantime. Whenever my time allowed, I visited her and got to know the Hallig from another side. Munich was the centre of my life, the Hallig remained my place of longing. But live there? On an island at the top of the north, in the middle of the North Sea? How this decision came about and how I live my life here, I would like to tell you about it. A life that is not determined by the rigid schedule of a clocked everyday life, but by the rhythm of ebb and flow. A life with its own heartbeat.

I am often asked: "What do you actually do on a Hallig?" - "What's the difference between living on a Hallig and living on the mainland?" - "When did you start to count yourself a Hooger?" I will try to answer these and similar questions.

However, anyone who hopes that I will divulge the secrets of Hallig life in this book or penetrate the privacy of others should not even begin to read it. This is all about my personal history, the path I began as a 25 year old and now look back on as a 42 year old. Whoever reads this book will get an insight into my life on Hooge and accompany me for a while on my way.

Feel invited to Hallig Hooge, in my house at the end of the country.


An oasis in the rough sea

It was in August 1995 when my mother called and said: "We can buy the house where we are spending our holidays! What do you think of that?"

"Well, that's a nice souvenir you want to bring back from your vacation. Something different," I said surprised. "Is this some kind of joke?"

No, it wasn't a joke!

My parents, by which I mean my mother and my stepfather, were once again guests at Hooge and this time they lived in a house on the Ockenswarft which they had discovered a year earlier during one of their walks. A small thatched house, over three hundred years old, with a large wild garden and a holiday home. The Ockenswarft is located in the east of the Hallig, far away from the hustle and bustle that can occur on a Hallig, at least during the summer months. A terp is an artificially raised mound of earth, mainly from clay soil, which looks like a round settlement hill, depending on how many houses stand on this hill, which is about six metres high. With around ten buildings, the Ockenswarft is one of the larger of the ten inhabited warps on Hooge.

My parents had just been on Hooge for a week when the landlady asked to go through the apartment with a real estate agent. She had to sell the house and therefore an expert opinion should be drawn up. So it was over with a quiet and relaxing holiday, because my parents had fallen in love with the house and were now considering buying this gem themselves. A decision that could turn her life upside down from now on.

In fact, my mother and my stepfather were making nails with heads. She had already stopped working and he accepted his employer's offer to take early retirement. The sale of the house in Munich was initiated and the move to the Hallig was organized for the beginning of January. For both it was not the first move, so nobody thought that this move would be different from the others. Also there were moves in the wintertime. But a move to a Hallig in the winter - in this case the people from the mainland are directly put to the first test. The ferry between Hooge and the mainland port of Schlüttsiel transports everything that has to go back and forth between the mainland and Hallig: Goods, merchandise, two- and four-legged pensioners and - as in our case - whole households.

Wind forecasts, tidal calendars, jetties - what role does it play when the wind blows from the east and the water level indicates that water is running out? That doesn't influence an established moving troop from Munich! But the fact that wind and water definitely have the last word was felt by the helpers on the ferry. The journey was almost complete, the truck was parked on the ferry and the first round of warming tea punch was ordered. The 75 minute crossing was a welcome break. Everyone had just made themselves comfortable when the captain stepped up to the table.

"We don't have enough water under the keel! This means that the truck on the Hallig cannot drive down from the ferry because the slope of the bridge will be too steep. You need to reload."

That was it with the longed-for break, because everyone was immediately clear what that meant. It was about an hour now to pack the cartons and furniture onto the trolleys carried by the ferry. A feat of strength! Exhausted and hungry, the squad grabbed the truck again and gradually moved out of the truck and onto the trailers. In spite of the time pressure nobody got into a sweat, because with the icy east wind that is usual here this is almost impossible.

Arriving at Hooge, my stepfather and I received the tired helpers and the fully loaded trolleys. Both of us had arrived a week earlier with my uncle to do the preparations. Sleeping and parking spaces had to be created. At the jetty a Hallig inhabitant came to our aid with his tractor. He drove the three fully loaded trolleys one after the other to Ockenswurft. On the way past the first two terps I sat high up on the car and tried to hold cartons, living room lamp, sofa and rubber tree at the same time. Until then, I had no idea how long the route from the jetty to the Ockenswarft could be. If we drove with the car otherwise only a few minutes, it took this time a felt eternity. I thought all the time Hopefully no one will see that, but you can confidently delete that sentence from your vocabulary if you pull on a Hallig. Half way the kitchen cupboard fell from the trailer, because the wind was not only icy, but blew with force six from east. Even if the piece of furniture had been within reach for me, I could probably only have moved in slow motion, my limbs had frozen so stiffly. So I made myself heard loudly and meant the helpful tractor driver to stop. The kitchen cupboard was lifted up once more and the adventurous journey continued. In the meantime it had become dark and dark means in winter on the Hallig very dark! There are no street lights and when the moon is not shining, sometimes you can't see your hand in front of your eyes. But since the cargo lay unprotected on the trailers, everything still had to be brought into the house, no matter how tired and frozen we were. Sometime late at night, my parents finally said, "Welcome to the house on Landsende." That was in January 1996.

It was to take another four years before I, too, would register my first residence on the Hallig. Until then, I visited my parents as often as possible. Sometimes I flew for a long weekend, sometimes I drove the route by car, together with a friend, and when I really wanted to enjoy it, I rode the bike.

In these four years I have witnessed how my parents' new home developed into a gem. With devotion my mother transformed the wild garden into a blooming idyll, based on a monastery garden. Box trees border a total of five flower beds, each with red, yellow, white or blue flowering plants. There's a stem rose in the middle and something always blooms. Thus over the years a real small oasis has developed. An oasis where guests of the house also like to spend their holidays when they spend their holidays in one of the two holiday apartments that have been extended on the first floor. "The Green one" already existed. However, it has been completely refurnished and decorated. This apartment is the larger one, it can accommodate up to four people. It is kept in a warm green, the ceiling is not quite as high, old wooden beams can be seen, which gives this apartment something cosy and cosy. Especially in the winter months. Two years after moving in, my parents extended "The Blue ones" and furnished them in the Gustavian style, i.e. with Swedish warmth and cool colours. Also here there are two alcoves, which offer place for two persons. Guests often ask me if one could sleep in such a closet as a couple.

"It all depends on how much you like each other," is my answer. It is rare to lie like a match in a box, so two metres long and one metre wide are actually sufficient. Even very tall guests give me feedback that they find the alcoves very comfortable. I love sleeping in the alcoves, and they're space-saving too. My parents have not only created a new home for themselves, but also a place where holiday guests feel at home.


In love, engaged, rejected

In love, engaged, married - that's probably how it would have happened if everything had come as planned. I was in love just before I moved to the Hallig, and a future together was within reach. An engagement would have been about time, as long as this out-of-fashion tradition was still actively lived. But in the end it didn't happen. The opposite was true. All plans rejected - I sat on the Hallig, 25 years young, all dreams of common future and family in the bucket, of being in love and an engagement no trace. Now what?

For now, there were only two choices: Either hold on to your dreams and wait for an apparent happy end to come after all, or look reality in the eye and throw yourself into new tasks. The happy ending thing was the wish of my heart! First of all, I actually wanted to hold on to it. But it quickly became clear to me that fairy tales and hallig life don't go together. Reality just looks different. So the mind had to do persuasion work - personified in my mother. She finally gave me the push in the right direction. That was anything but harmonious or even simple. With 25 years quasi back into the care of the parents. Out of freedom and independence, into dependence. That's actually how it felt at first. A new, rosy life was far away. Now it was all about finding myself new. To realize what love means to me and what I expect from it. Becoming aware of myself was one of my new tasks.

The new way led me first to the mainland again. For a few weeks I was able to work as an intern at the Hotel Rosenburg in Husum. I wanted to be active in the kitchen and learn from the bottom up what it takes to run a house with satisfied holiday guests. The professional cooperation of the team, the leadership by the superiors, the contacts to suppliers and customers - all this I could observe and experience from this angle. It was a great time, and I took a lot out of it.

In summer 2001 I went to Hanerau-Hademarschen for one year. In the vocational school for housekeeping in rural areas I wanted to build on the internship in the hotel. The school advertised with a pilot project at that time. For the first time she offered the qualification of a housekeeper with trainer qualification in a two-year training course. Theory and practice in the areas of food science, gardening and laundry care are intensively taught here. Normally one decides for this school either directly after the usual school education or after an education in the housekeeping or nursing area. I was not eligible for either of these preconditions. However, the headmistress at the time wanted to support me and put in a good word for me. I should start as a career changer. I was completely out of touch with practice, but the recognition of my previous activities meant that I was given a probationary period. So I went back to school at the age of 25, into the underclass III. The students of the parallel classes were on average 16 and also my class teacher was younger than me. That was already a challenge! My classmates were fortunately all a bit older, about twenty, because they had already completed their education, as were the students from the two upper classes. Although there were two male registrations for the start of school, we girls were finally among us. It was a stark contrast to my life situation, which I still had about a year earlier. Coming from Munich from the global Lufthansa Technik group, coming from a male domain, with a short stopover on Hooge, directly to the Landfrauenschule in Hanerau-Hademarschen - well, anyone can do it!

Since I had a very long journey coming from the Hallig, I was not interested in intermediate journeys. Renting an apartment was not a cheap solution for me either, so I was able to enjoy boarding school life late in the day. The old masonry with the mighty creaking wooden staircase, the large white windows and the pointed tower on the roof has its own charm. This school has now celebrated its centenary. Since I didn't go home every weekend and then stayed alone in the boarding school most of the time, I had the feeling from time to time that I was the hostess. It gave me pleasure to be able to walk alone through the huge corridors and absorb the pleasant peace. Normally the students went home on Friday afternoons and came back on Sunday afternoons or evenings. The weekly timetable started early in the morning, depending on whether you had a leading role for the week or not. The bosses always had to be the first in the kitchen, garden or laundry area. It started around six o'clock. The others arrived at 7.50 a.m., but breakfast had to be finished. The timetable was usually full to bursting until 17 o'clock. For lunch we sat together in the large dining room, in the evening it was only those who lived in the school.

I was very lucky with my classmates. Without this community I would not have been able to do the first year. We learned together, went out, spent some of the weekend together in the boarding school and one or the other visited me in the holidays on the Hallig and some contact has held until today. They gave me the nickname "grandma" and I was elected student representative. When it came to getting ready for a party or voting on who had the hottest Kalenderboy hanging on the wall in their own room, no differences were made. Besides a lot of learning material and the usual girl-fat wars there was also a lot of fun. My personal account life experience filled this year by a large amount. This does not only apply to subjects such as nutrition and health. All the formulas and detailed textures of various foods - that already bordered on ecotrophology. I learned a lot there.

To go back one step in my life was another new experience. Above all, however, I had to deal with the themes of letting go and serenity during the year. In the previous year I had let go of so many familiar and loved things that sometimes it hurt and I also felt alone. The school time distracted to a large extent, but there were also situations, there it caused exactly the opposite.

At the end of the year, after a good four months in school, I finally got the message that my certificates were accepted and that I had passed my probationary period. The different school systems of our federal states brought their difficulties with them even in the deepest Dithmarschen. So one came to the decision that I could complete the first year of the project, but that I was not allowed to go the way I had announced. Now it was time for me to do an eight-month internship in the hospitality industry after my first year at school. Then I could start the second school year and finish it with the qualification as a trainer. That was a setback! Hooge's absence of two years should now become almost three years. And I wouldn't be with my class in the second year of school anymore, in my eyes that wasn't possible at all. So that would not only have meant new comrades, but also that I would have been 28 and the others around 17, so I would have been promoted to "great-grandmother". The school was not interested, it decided that the degree as a career changer could not be achieved in two years. Period! Thus the project and the original goal had died for me. I was not prepared to take another step backwards, especially not without the support of my now familiar team, my class community. Added to this was the situation on Hooge. Our planning for the takeover was for two years and not three. To knock everything over again would not only have had a financial impact, but it would also have meant that my mother could not have cared for her mother, who at that time was gradually in need of care and whom she visited regularly on the mainland. So after one year I finished school with the degree of a state-certified economist.

With a large suitcase, two boxes and a basket filled with memories and experiences as well as the calendar page, from which the hot Augustboy I favoured winked encouragingly at me, I left my little room at school and now moved back to Hooge for a second time, back to the two-room apartment at Ockenswurft. It was only now that I could calmly review the past year and listen to what was changing and, above all, whether I had changed. The school days had been an excellent distraction. The heartache was no longer present, the open wounds healed slowly. Often I looked at my Augustboy and said to him: "Besides you there is also the Septemberboy, the Januaryboy, the Märzboy and so on". I could laugh again. Although all these calendar men did not exist in reality, because I lived now on a Hallig and not in Los Angeles, but I had managed to let go of my old love. The openness and desire for something new were there again. It would take quite a while before I would not only accept the situation, but also live it, but from now on I approached the subject of love more calmly.

About half a year later I had to move out of my flat and was asked to take care of my own needs. Of the two years that I had lived here, I had spent almost a year on the mainland, so I hadn't really settled here. It was packing boxes again. At that time there was no other rental apartment on the Hallig for me. The result was that I moved into my parents' house and turned the back room, the Pesel, into my room. My furniture came to Husum in the house where my grandmother now lived. My mother went to her more and more often, but she still had her life center on Hooge. My stepfather was currently still active in politics and so both did not yet want to withdraw completely from the house. That's how we came together. I stuck my August calendar man to the wall of the alcove in which I would now have my sleeping chamber for almost a year.

"It's a good thing you only exist on paper," I said to him. "If there were two of you, the alcoves would be too narrow in the long run."

The narrow cupboard bed has in contrast to those in the holiday apartments only a width of ninety centimeters and a length of one meter ninety. So I talked myself the situation nicely - being single also has its advantages!

Finally I registered at the IHK for a seminar for business start-ups, which took place on several weekends in Flensburg. So I was on the road a lot again and threw myself once more into the learning work. When that too was over and I had finally officially taken over the rental business of my parents, I sat there again, looked at my calendar man and took stock: My thirtieth birthday was approaching and I was still single.

"What on earth has happened in the last five years, where has time gone, where has my life gone and does everything here have any sense at all", I asked the man on the sheet on the wall, who of course, as always, gave me no answer. After a moment of reflection, it was me who winked at him because I had found my own answers and my upcoming birthday was the perfect date to graduate.

My life companions were invited to this special day. All of them stood for an outstanding phase in my life. Some phases reach to the present, others belong to the past. So there were friends, but also family members present and of course we celebrated in Munich. That was important to me. Unfortunately not everyone could accept the invitation, but most of them were there and it became for me the most beautiful and most intensive birthday I had so far. One week I was in Munich at that time, every day was something special.

One day, I was dating my ex-boyfriend. Actually we didn't have any contact anymore, but he didn't let me miss the opportunity to send me electronic birthday greetings by mail. I didn't like it, but I didn't have the guts to tell him that. And also no courage to finally cut the wafer-thin ribbon of our supposed solidarity. This time I answered him the same way and wrote: "If you really want to congratulate me sincerely, then do it personally! That's how the date came about. After five years, we went out for pizza. The pizza was good, the reunion rather strange. The feeling - neither so nor so. Today I don't even remember what we talked about. But I remember there were two moments when I actually had to swallow. I didn't ask him because the ring on his finger was answer enough. It was probably an engagement ring. Very similar to the one we had seen together through a shop window years before. He also wore a jacket that we had bought together. He certainly wasn't aware of that. It hurt me. However, it helped me to get a degree. We said goodbye and that was it. Finally I was able to close the door. There was still the anger about how he had gone through the separation years before, but not about the fact that it came to the separation.

After five years, I finally knew it had to come to this. Therefore the reunion in Munich was necessary. He was not the man for my life and vice versa I was not the woman for his life. We didn't belong together, because he had already found his queen of hearts. But that wasn't the only reason. Today I know better. I loved living with him and the seemingly endless possibilities we had in common. He felt welcome in my family and well, I enjoyed the trips to South Tyrol and the parties with his family. Together we had made wonderful motorcycle tours and visited our large circle of friends. At first sight we were a harmonious couple. Maybe we would have had a good time on Hooge for a while, maybe even had children. But we wouldn't have been happy. Neither individually nor together. Today I am convinced that he would have missed too much. I would never have been able to fill this gap, I should have been allowed to fill it and I would not have wanted to fill it at all! If you don't find yourself on Hooge, you can't be found by another person. I know he would never have felt as comfortable on Hooge as I do. He would have had his duties and he would certainly have done them excellently, but he would not have been happy there. To understand this, it took a few years and I had to understand and experience for myself what Hooge does to you. It took me five years to see it all so clearly and to accept it. With that I had managed to free myself from a constricting burden. I finally faced my own personal path that lay ahead of me. I deliberately let myself in for being selfish at times, and for being allowed to make mistakes as well. Even in love. Of course I made mistakes, but one thing I didn't question anymore: I wanted to go my way on Hooge and say yes to that way and be curious about what and who he had in store for me. And so, after I came back from my birthday trip to Munich, I consequently separated from my hot Augustboy.


The perfect plan and what came next

The plan was quite different. It was the famous "perfect plan" that we had developed together. My partner spoke of marriage and of children and a beautiful terraced house with garden in the Munich hinterland.

I grew up in Ismaning, a suburb of Munich, and spent the first 25 years of my life there. It was great growing up there. Rural, familiar and sheltered. In that little place they knew each other. In the terraced house settlement where I grew up, we children were a permanent clique. We regularly came up with plans and had some adventures. Our "territory" was huge, freedom seemed limitless. We were outside a lot, built stalls and "baked" sand cakes, which we of course tried extensively. During the time in primary school we were still close together, after that we went to different schools and the interests shifted. We haven't lost sight of each other until today, but we went very different ways.

My own led me to Lufthansa, where I completed a commercial apprenticeship and was subsequently hired. I moved from the parent company to Lufthansa Technik, directly at Munich Airport. There I also met my partner. He was the computer expert and had to solve problems in our department. He saw a motorbike suit hanging from my clothes stand and wanted to know if it was mine. Yes, it was mine, because I drove to work by motorbike every day, and so we got into conversation and very quickly also to the first joint ride, because he was himself a motorcyclist. That was our greatest common passion, as was mountain hiking. The love for nature was given on both sides.

I was in my early twenties when my partner talked about marriage and children. Ismaning was no longer the village where I had grown up. It had grown, became modern and a popular place to live for people who recognised early on the advantage of the constantly growing infrastructure around Munich. The village character was lost, which saddened me, even though I was able to recognize and understand the economic upswing that was slowly turning this small town into an exclusive suburb of Munich. The picture that had developed at the end of the nineties no longer had much in common with my childhood days. The offspring no longer went to school in groups of at least three or four children in wind and weather, but were driven individually by car to the school gate. They weren't cadets, bugs or r4s anymore. They were huge family coaches. Of course the children were also picked up again, because the afternoons were tightly clocked with additional courses, club visits or theatre rehearsals. Sure, we were also in the sports club or had music lessons at that time, but the time we spent together outside clearly prevailed.

All this was present when my partner confronted me with his desire to have children. My memories, which were only a few years old, stood opposite this wish. That made me insecure. Not because I am afraid of development or progress, both are important and existential, especially for the next generation. But the spirit of adventure and freedom that we were able to live out as children in the Munich foothills was hardly possible in the cities even then. It was clear to me that if I had children, they should be able to experience adventures in the great outdoors without having to worry about them all the time. I didn't want to raise children in the surrounding area of Munich and so I said unmistakably: "If children, then only on Hooge!

On the Hallig children can still experience nature to touch and enjoy a great deal of freedom. Although the infrastructure there is capable of expansion and the chance of good earning opportunities is limited, there is still much that can be developed and expanded. The sense of adventure that we have experienced in childhood is a commodity that cannot be produced and developed. Besides, it's priceless! If I hadn't known it then, I wouldn't know what it was today. You can't make up for it, you have to live it! That's exactly what I wanted to offer my children and my partner could understand.