In response to my last blog post I had a number of questions about the colourful little squares that appear to litter the beach on one of the pictures of the seafront on Borkum - those are beach baskets and beach tents, or, as they are actually called, Strandkoerbe und Strandzelte. As far as I know there is no equivalent for them in the UK or other English-speaking countries, so there is no actual translation either. The term beach basket is a literal translation of the German word, but it does sound more than a little bit odd.
Although I think they are also occasionally used in Denmark for example, Strandkoerbe are predominantly used in Germany as their country of origin, and are a very common sight on German beaches, both at the North Sea and at the Baltic Sea. There are a few minor stylistic differences depending on the coast (curves rather than edges on the handles, that type of thing...), but nothing major, and they are very recognisable.
They were invented in Germany towards the end of the 19th century and quickly became very popular as a way of enjoying the seaside on the often very windy North Sea and Baltic Sea beaches. (if you want more info you can find it HERE) The baskets can be moved to position them to protect people sitting in them from the wind, and to either catch the sun or to provide shade. They are also cushioned, and can also be tipped backwards so people can lie in them, and footrests can be pulled out from underneath. Often, little tables are attached for drinks or a book. All in all they are a pretty nifty thing, and provide a lot of comfort from the elements and a generally cozy place to sit on the beach. You generally rent them for either the day or for the duration of your stay at the seaside from one of the many rental places dotted around the beaches. As they can be locked overnight they are also a useful place to stash sand toys, wind breaks and the like so you don't have to carry them back and forth every day.
Beach tents are something quite similar in look and function, but while the beach baskets are common on all the beaches around Germany the beach tents are specific to the island of Borkum, where they were invented around the same time as the baskets. Unlike the beach baskets they never took off outside Borkum, but until very recently they were the only type of beach shelter available on the island - it's only the recent years that the beach baskets have also been introduced. They look fairly similar in that they are little boxes with a bench in them but they are a lot more simple, with a fairly light but sturdy wooden frame and fixed bench and canvas roof and sides. Rental also includes a deckchair or two, provided with the beach tent.
After contemplating for a few days we've decided to rent a beach tent for the remainder of our stay and so far it's been great - the boys love having a place to return to and have already started building a series of holes in the sand all around the tent, and it's so much more comortable to sit in the tent or in one of the deckchairs than to crouch in the sand, especially on more windy days. The position is great too - we are only 10 metres or so from a beach playground with its own saltwater water pump so the boys have been back and forth to play and get buckets of water for their intricate sand constructions.
So there you go, a little history of the German beach basket and the Borkum beach tent! :)