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Current Affairs

Welcome, Party-Poopers!

Munich has Oktoberfest. Cologne has Carnival. And Helgoland, a German island in the North Sea has a fun-free zone for grumps wishing to escape winter festivities.

A fool-proof island come Carnival

A fool-proof island come Carnival

Many tourist destinations use their natural beauty, historical landmarks or famous annual festivals to draw tourists. But in Helgoland, officials said they wanted to attract locals of other hotspots who are tired of the drinking and litter.

Karneval in Köln hat begonnen

Carnival fans kicked off Germany's "fifth season" on Nov. 11 at 11:11 a.m.

From Feb. 5 to Feb. 8, the last day of Carnival, the island is offering a special package featuring accommodations, a boat trip, visits to attractions such as the aquarium and sand dunes and stress-free time in a swimming pool and sauna. They hope to lure visitors with a €199 ($258) price tag.

Threatened with extinction

Helgoland attracts about 500,000 visitors annually with its dramatic red sandstone cliffs, duty-free status and fresh air. In past years, the island of about 1,600 has been losing their population, particularly as young residents flee to the mainland for better opportunities in education and employment.

"They leave for school because you can't complete a college prep degree here," Mayor Frank Botter told DW-WORLD. "They have to go to the mainland and they usually don't come back."

That leaves islanders little choice but to get creative.

Last year, island leaders began tackling Helgoland's expensive and tight real estate market by partially funding a project that will offer inexpensive housing to young workers.

Die roten Felsen von Helgoland mit Thumbnail

Helgoland's signature red sandstone cliffs

And even though demand often exceeds supply regarding workers, the jobs available are usually low-end service jobs. But officials have been negotiating with the European Union coast guard, the German Federal Border Guard and environmental protection agencies to relocate their operations which would bring more professional jobs - and workers.

Frisian as official language

And recently, regional officials announced that Frisian, a Celtic language used in the region, would join German as an official language and law would be translated into the language. By doing so, they hope to attract people back to the language and the region.

"This will have a highly symbolic meaning for the Frisians," said Heide Simonis, premier of the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, which includes the island.

Helgoland Steilküste und Lange Anna

Helgoland's landmark, the "Long Anna," a monolith sitting just off the island's cliffs.

Helgoland has been a renowned for centuries, attracting poets, scientists as well as tourists. During World War II, Hitler expanded the island to become a major war port, and the island was almost bombed into extinction by the allies.

These days, tourists bring in €85 million annually to the island which measures one square kilometer (0.4 square miles). But local officials want more to stave off extinction so they are trying to tap into an untouched market -- by attracting those who long to escape the big lights and festivities of other more popular destinations.

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