The Strandkorb – Distinctly German

August is beach season, and a “sun-sand-sea-and-wind holiday”on Germany’s North Sea and Baltic beaches almost always involves renting a Strandkorb. These distinctly German beach baskets allow their occupants to soak up the sun while avoiding the scouring sand that frequently travels the windswept beaches. Besides, a Strandkorb quickly becomes “home away from home” when beachgoers build a low wall of sand–called a castle–around their basket and decorate it with seashells. For generations, Germany’s beaches have been dotted with legions of these beach baskets each summer.

What is a Strandkorb?

A Strandkorb is a sturdy, adjustable armchair for two, made from wicker, cane and/or wood and allows its occupants to curl up in the basket’s interior or to soak up the sun’s last rays while all stretched out. A small built-in table makes it possible to lunch or dine at water’s edge. But the Strandkorb is much more than a utilitarian piece of furniture. It is a uniquely constructed piece of art that comes with many options, such as drawers at the base that serve as foot rests and storage, backward-tilting roofs, armrests with foldaway trays, heated seats and rainproof covers. There are even special models for children and pets.

Strandkorb around 1950 , Photo © J. Elke Ertle 2014, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Strandkorb around 1950 Photo © J. Elke Ertle 2014, www.walled-in-berlin.com

Strandkorb History

In 1882, the noble woman Elfriede von Maltzahn asked Wilhelm Bartelmann, chief basket maker to the Imperial Court of Emperor Wilhelm I, to built her a beach chair.  She asked for protection from excessive sun and wind while accommodating her rheumatism. Mr. Bartelmann designed a large, canopied, single-seated armchair. Considering that beach furniture was unheard of prior to 1882, Mrs. von Maltzahn’s Strandkorb became the envy of beachgoers in Warnemuende that year, the sea resort on the Baltic Sea she frequented. Encouraged by the enthusiastic reception of his armchair, Bartelmann designed a two-seater the following year, and his wife opened a beach basket rental service. Since then, the Strandkorb hasn’t left the German beach scene.

The Strandkorb Today

Todays Baltic and North Sea beaches are dotted with more than 70,000 of these covered wicker beach baskets. Two distinct variations have evolved: The straight angular North Sea Strandkorb and the rounded Baltic Sea model. But these beach baskets are no longer relegated exclusively to the beach. You also see them on balconies and patios. A friend of mine received a Strandkorb as a retirement present and uses it to relax in her garden. Despite their weight (up to 200 lbs), the baskets are shipped all over the world. It takes around $700-$3,000 plus shipping costs to become the proud owner of a Strandkorb.

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

 

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