The region of Dithmarschen is one of two west coast districts in the most northern German state. Just as the state of Schleswig-Holstein is “embraced by the sea”, this district is surrounded by water: in the north there is the course of the river Eider, in the east there is the North Sea – Baltic Sea Canal, in the South there is the river Elbe and in the west there is the North Sea. The easiest way to describe our location to visitors is to say that Dithmarschen/North Sea lies between Hamburg and the island of Sylt.
After 400 years of separation, the northern and southern sub-districts were again amalgamated under a local authority reform carried out in 1970 to form the district of Dithmarschen.
1,404 square kilometres of Dithmarschen – that accounts for about nine per cent of the total area of the state of Schleswig-Holstein. About 137,000 inhabitants – or five per cent of the population of Schleswig-Holstein – live in the 112 boroughs and five towns that make up this rural district. The population density of 94 inhabitants per square kilometre is considerably lower than the state’s average (170).
110 boroughs divided into 12 parishes for administrative purposes and one non-parish borough are run by honorary officers, with one borough associated with a parish being run by salaried officers.
People in Dithmarschen are proud of their history: however, visitors will search in vain for any castles or palaces in what was once a free farmers’ republic. In the 12th and 13th century the peasants secured their political freedom, dispensing with noble rulers. Lavish churches and museums remain as testaments to former agricultural wealth.
Landscape with character
Dithmarschen is a landscape with character The countryside here is marked by the attractive contrasts between the rough sea, the fertile green marsh and the delightful sandy moorland – the Geest – with its hills and forests; between industry and agriculture which is still the dominant feature of this rural area, even though the number of farming establishments has halved over the last 30 years.
Industry and agriculture
One of the busiest modern industrial estates of Schleswig-Holstein is located in the commercial area of Brunsbüttel in the district of Dithmarschen. The lock-keeping town at one end of the 98.73 kilometre North Sea – Baltic Sea Canal has one of the highest turnovers of any port in Germany, which makes it an important bridgehead for trade and commerce with Scandinavia and the other Baltic littoral states.
Agriculture and fishing
These are traditional activities in the district of Dithmarschen. That is why food-processing companies, processing both domestic and foreign produce, are of great importance. Vegetables and meat from the marshes and moorlands, fish from the ports of Friedrichskoog and Büsum, the famous Beugelbuddelbier from the old Hinz family brewery in Marne, as well as the finest chocolates from Brunsbüttel are marketed internationally. Major players in the chemical and electronic industries have set up plants here. A wide range of mainly small and medium-sized businesses are active in mechanical engineering, printing, the construction and woodworking industries, and there are many efficient service-providers.
Farming country and holiday destination
Today farming country and holiday destinations are closely intertwined. Dithmarschen tourist centre registers about 2 million overnight stays a year. Holidaymakers enjoy the fresh air and countryside in the two large North Sea spa towns of Büsum and Friedrichskoog, the towns and villages and “holidays on the farm”. The concept of “gentle tourism” is also in keeping with the nature reserve of Dithmarschen and its unique national park and Wattenmeer (mud-flats) biosphere reserve. The region is keen to promote holidays that offer quality rather than quantity.
One of the great attractions in north Germany is the Dithmarscher Kohltage – Dithmarschen Cabbage Days – heralded as the north’s answer to the wine festivals of the south. Europe’s largest area devoted solely to cabbage growing is found in this district and covers almost 7000 acres. Each year about 80 million cabbages are harvested here. The healthy vegetable has become the advertising medium and quality symbol of the region.
In Dithmarschen country life also includes a busy cultural scene. Museums in Wesselburen and Heide cherish the memory of two local poets, Friedrich Hebbel and Klaus Groth. The Brahms House in the district town bears witness to Johannes Brahms’ roots in Dithmarschen. Carsten Niebuhr, famous for his exploration of Arabia, has become a legend in his own right. The old state capital of Meldorf, with its historic city centre, the imposing “Dithmarschen Cathedral” and some of major museums in Schleswig-Holstein are the ideal starting point for a culture tour that also includes galleries, traditional craft centres and churches of great cultural and historical significance.
The district is always concerned to maintain a rural environment in which intact social communities can survive, in which people can live and work locally. This involves developing the commercial infrastructure as well as promoting a modern, varied vocational training system.
Culture and education
In addition to having a wide range of schools providing an all-round education, Dithmarschen is where Germany’s newest university for applied sciences, the West Coast University (FHW), the education centre for health care professionals at the West Coast Clinic in Heide and the Vocational Training Centre at Meldorf are located.
The word Kunstgriff (literally “art grip”, but also signifying “artifice”) has been chosen by artists resident in Dithmarschen (professionals and amateurs) as an umbrella organisation to advertise their activities and creations. The multi-facetted interplay between the many different aspects of the arts confers a special character on local culture in terms of words, image and sound: Dithmarschen culture. KUNSTGRIFF is an identifiable and memorable trademark. It draws attention to the unique area between Hamburg and Sylt where adventures are waiting to happen. The places where art and culture draw the public into a dialogue are indeed varied: open studios, archaeological islands, banks, local authorities, book shops, theatres, galleries, restaurants, department stores, churches, museums, schools, workshops, and many more. These venues are just as varied as the artists involved in KUNSTGRIFF, who personally present their works, themes and artistic interpretations to an interested public. Artists, businesses, associations, institutions, groups, initiatives and individuals are all involved in promoting their home-grown talent. Dithmarschen likes to present itself with its cultural variety and to provide insights into the work carried out in the region and beyond it.
Excellent transport connections
Dithmarschen lies to the north-west of Hamburg and can be reached via the west coast motorway, the A 23, in just under an hour. The airports of Büsum and Hopen, the railway link from Hamburg to Westerland, several major roads and a closely knit regional traffic network all ensure excellent transport connections. Since Dithmarschen is located on the North Sea, the banks of the river Elbe and the North Sea – Baltic Sea Canal, it is connected both to international ocean transport routes and to the European inland waterways system. This makes the west coast district a very attractive area as a business location.
Region with prospects
The past and present blend into one harmonious unit in Dithmarschen: churches and windmills are characteristic features in these unmistakable villages. At the same time there are efficient wind farms that symbolise a region with prospects. The largest German Internet survey on “German Perspectives”, which was initiated by McKinsey business consultants, stern.de and T-Online, gave the population of Dithmarschen very high marks for shared social responsibility. And when it comes to setting up one’s own business, Dithmarschen is the German number one. A sense of get-up-and-go and commitment is very noticeable in Dithmarschen.