A Travellerspoint blog

August 2020

Bad Ems: Once an Imperial Spa

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Bad Ems is a small spa town on the river Lahn. It was the favourite summer resort of Emperor Wilhelm I, hence in the late 19th century it became the meeting point of royals and aristocracy, V.I.P.'s and wannabe-V.I-P.'s. At that time it played in the same league as Baden-Baden or Karlovy Vary, although it is much smaller. The appearance is still that of a belle époque spa.

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The 'life and soul' of the town is the river. The surrounding hills do not leave much room. The important buildings, the Kurpark and promenades are all lined up along the river banks, mirrored in the waters. A walk by the river is the best way to appreciate the architecture and spirit of the town.

Bad Ems actually consists of two parts: the spa area in the east and the old village centre further west. Its history dates back to the ancient Romans. The border between the Roman Empire and Germania ran right through here. We may well assume that the soldiers stationed in the castrum on the Limes have already enjoyed the natural hot springs.

The 'tourist' part of my visit to Bad Ems was short and rushed - in fact I was there for three days but most of that was filled with business. I had hardly two hours for a walk and a little sightseeing. During that walk I had and enjoyed the company, though, of someone who knew the place well and showed me round, so I learned quite a bit about the town and its history.

On the Roman Limes

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Its location right on the Limes makes Bad Ems a World Heritage site. In the 2nd century A. D. the border between the Roman Empire and Germania ran right through the present town centre. The border was fortified with a palisade and guarded by Roman soldiers. Their castellum was located where the centre of the old village and the protestant church of St Martin are standing now.

Various information boards, most of them fairly new, explain and depict the Roman history of the place and area.

On a hilltop on the southern side of the valley, named Wintersberg, next to Hotel am Limes, a Roman watchtower has been reconstructed. From its viewing platform you must have a fine view of the town and valley, I suppose (we did not make it up there).

Emperor Wilhelm I. and the Emser Depesche

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Bad Ems owes a lot of its fame to the fact that Wilhelm I, the Prussian King and from 1871 onwards German Emperor, loved this place and came for treatments regularly over almost six decades. Ems became the “imperial spa”; and a meeting point of the European aristocracy in that time.
A monument to Emperor Wilhelm I with his statue made from white marble was erected in the Kurpark in 1892.

Bad Ems made history in 1870 because of the Emser Depesche (Ems Dispatch), sent to inform Bismarck about the then still Prussian King Wilhelm’s encounter with the French ambassador concerning the sequel on the throne of Spain. The text of the telegram was then published in a shortened version which was to, and was indeed, taken as offence in France. The result was the French declaration of war, which led to the German-French war of 1870/71 and finally the proclamation of the German Empire and Wilhelm as Emperor.

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19th Century Architecture

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In addition to the spa buildings, the residential houses are worth a look. They represent Bad Ems’s golden era in the late 19th century.

Along the long street that connects the old village centre with the spa area (Römerstraße) you’ll find the finest examples, many of them were or still are hotels or guesthouses.

The quarter by the river around Victoriastraße has several fine villas from the late 19th century.

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Karlsburg: House of the Four Towers

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The so-called House of the Four Towers (Vier Türme), also named Karlsburg, is the oldest among the buildings of the spa area. It dates from the end of the 17th century.

It looks like a small palace with four towers on the corners.

Nowadays it is the seat of the Office of Statistics.

Badhaus – Old Bathhouse

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The first spa house was erected in 1715 as Nassauer Badehaus for the Dukes of Nassau.

Spa activities began already around 1700, although Bad Ems’s 'golden era’ took place more than 150 years later. The building is still used for spa treatments. It also hosts a restaurant.

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Spielbank Bad Ems

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The centre of spa life is the Casino and Kursaal building on the river bank next to Kurpark and the various springs. The complex was erected in the 1830s and unites various functions. In the west there is the casino, one of the oldest in Germany, and the theatre. The central part contains the Marmorsaal (marble hall), the magnificent festival hall, designed after the model of the renaissance Villa Farnesina in Rome. Attached towards the east there is an open colonnade with a café and restaurant.
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Bad Ems’s Walk of Fame

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The spa town indulges in its history and commemorates the many aristocratic and famous visitors who came to Bad Ems in the past, mostly in the 19th century. Along the northern side of the Casino and Kursaal building, a row of bronze platters is inserted into the pavement, each naming a famous personality. These include rulers like Emperor Wilhelm I and Tsar Alexander II of Russia, authors like Goethe (now show me a place where Goethe has not visited!) but also his Russian colleagues Turgenew and Dostojewskij, the opera singer Jenny Lind, composers (Richard Wagner, Jacques Offenbach, Clara Schumann) and many more.

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Kurhaus

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The Kurhaus is the most upscale location for treatments. Originally these were two separate buildings, one on Hassian and one on Nassau's ground as the border between both states ran right through here. In 1912/13 they were connected and united with a common facade.

The Kurhaus is not an upscale hotel with its own spa facilities. (What a pity that there was this ugly red crane right in front of it.)

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The Brunnenhalle (Spring Hall) on the ground floor is free to access. It contains two springs. One of them, the one in the niche underneath the stained glass windows, is the famous Emser Kränchen. The water is free to take but they have no free cups, just elegant glass cups that must be paid for. Bring a cup or small bottle if you have one.

Also note the furniture and design (I could not take photos inside) Far too posh for my taste...

Römerquelle

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The pavillion on the riverside promenade by the spa hotel and the bridge covers one of Bad Ems's healing springs.

Due to the town's historical origins it was named Römerquelle, although there is no obvious connection to the ancient Romans.

The water is free to take but you need to bring a cup or small bottle. Unlike others in town this one is a cold spring. The taste is - hmmm, but could have been worse.

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A few steps lead down to the fountain.

Seems it is only open and runnning in the warmer half of the year to avoid freezing, though.

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Robert-Kampe-Sprudel - The Big Spring

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The strongest spring in Bad Ems is named Robert-Kampe-Sprudel (no idea after whom). The artesian fountain exits with enormous natural pressure and can reach a height of up to 8 metres. At a temperature of 57 °C it is also the hottest among the local springs. The spring is covered by a modern hall by the entrance to the Kurhaus.

The waters are extremely rich in minerals. They are mostly used to cure asthma, katarrhs and other condiditons that affect the breathing apparatus. The concentrated minerals are on sale in pharmacies far beyond Germany's borders as as Emser Salz and Emser Pastillen. They are a popular remedy against colds and sore throats.

More about the healing waters of Bad Ems and how to use them for which medical conditions is described (in English) on the website of the Staatsbad: http://www.staatsbad-badems.de/EN/thermal_heilquellen.html Before you consume larger quantities, it may be wise to do a little reading about their effects…

Kurpark

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Every Kurort must have a Kurpark and Bad Ems makes no exception. Due to limited space in the narrow valley it is not big but pleasantly located on the bank of river Lahn. A long straight double alleyway with flower beds in the middle, sycamores by the river and linden trees along the street, symmetrically designed, extends from the casino to the monument of Emperor Wilhelm I. Further west a park with large trees surrounds the old bathhouse and the Four Towers house.

From Kurpark, we had the best view of some remarkable buildings on the opposite river bank.

Russian Church

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The many Russian visitors to the spa got their own church. The Russian Orthodox church of St Alexandra was built on the river bank opposite the Kurpark in 1874-1876. Its five onion-shaped domes, one gilded and four blue, add an exotic feature to the townscape.

The pretty half-timbered house next door with the large veranda was originally a guesthouse and café. The orthodox community recently bought it and uses it as parsonage for their priest and as community centre for their activities. This parish community has got a fine seat indeed.

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Balmoral Palace

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The white building on the slope behind the Russian church was owned by a Russian and named after a Scottish palace. The style is an example of the German Rundbogenstil, developed at the end of the era of classicism with some neorenaissance features. It dates from the 1860s. Originally it was named "Villa Diana";, but after a few years it was turned into a hotel, then it received the name Balmoral.

Nowadays Balmoral is an “artists house” which grants stipends to talented artists who can stay and work there for a certain time. Their works are then displayed in an exhibition once(?) per year.

Quellenturm

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This is not a medieval castle keep or watchtower. The so-called Spring Tower is not as old as it may appear – hardly more than 100 years, it was built in 1907. Nevertheless it is a beautiful landmark on the southern river bank. Together with the fountain in the river it is most photogenic from Kurpark - see my intro photo.

From closer by it is less romantic. Its grounds are nowadays occupied by a minigolf course.

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The best view of the spa buildings, however, can be enjoyed from the footpaths along the river banks. We crossed the river and walked the trail on the opposite side, too. From there we had the the panorama of Kurhaus and Casino. Here the trail is right on the river bank all the way.

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Posted by Kathrin_E 09:59 Archived in Germany Tagged spa rheinland-pfalz bad_ems Comments (4)

Five October Days in Lübeck

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The must-have postcard photo in perfect light: Holstentor, the steeple of St. Petri, and the salt storages

Lübeck had been on my mind for quite a while. I had visited previously, but always too shortly and superficially. It had been ages since I had last been to the North anyway. Travel fever struck, Bahn Bonus points called to be used to cover a long train ride. Money was only needed for accommodation, and a cheap rental apartment was available.

I arrived in the afternoon, and the rest of the first day would be needed to settle in, find a supermarket for the basics, and organize a rental bike. My walking abilities weren’t the best any more, certainly not good enough to cover as much ground as I wanted to cover, hence a two-wheeled means of transport was necessary. My landlady offered me a small folding bike but that thing was far too small for me and of no use. I asked her where to find a bike rental in town but she had no idea. How to figure that out? Either do a lengthy internet search and run around… or: hey, ask the tourist information, it’s their job to know about these things. My apartment was close to the central station and the tourist information was located more or less round the corner. And indeed, they were able to provide good advice.

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Hüxstraße, a cosy side street

There is only one bike rental in the city centre, although on the opposite side of the old town. I set off and, a walk and a coffee break later, arrived shortly before they were closing. They had a good bike for me for five days. I was not used to have a spring-loaded saddle but that turned out essential on Lübeck’s many cobblestone streets.

Woohoo, I was mobile! I decided to take the bike trail by the river, do some grocery shopping on the way back home, and set out for a night tour of old Lübeck later on.

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Lübeck at night

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Burgtor

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Heilig-Geist-Spital

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The spires of the Dom

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Bike tours in coastal areas ought to be planned carefully because they are highly dependent on the weather. One should never set too much trust in the professional liars, aka meteorologists, but I had little choice. Luckily they were right for once. The weather forecasts suggested this itinerary:

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Museum day!

Day 2: fine weather with offshore wind, i.e. wind from the southwest. Perfect for a bike tour to Travemünde. More in a separate blog entry.
Day 3: Again a fine day. As it was Sunday, I wanted to attend a church service, and I had a ticket for the theatre in the evening. That suggested staying in Lübeck and doing some sightseeing in town.
Day 4: had been preplanned. For a publication I needed photos of a certain church in Büchen and another in Lauenburg. In Büchen I had made an appointment, so this was set in stone. This tour also deserves a separate blog entry.
Day 5: The wise meteorologists predicted rain, rain, and more rain. Museum day!
Day 6: Back home.

Originally I had hoped to fit in a day trip to Kiel, for a walk down memory lane past Grandma’s house and through the streets and parks I so often roamed as a child, a boat tour to Laboe and whatnot. Time is always too short…

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Museum ships by night

I don't intend to write a complete guide to Lübeck, but I'll present a couple of sights and attractions that impressed me most.

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The Best Overview

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… over Lübeck is certainly from the steeple of St Peter’s church, the one showing in the intro photo. Kind people have installed an elevator, so it is easy to reach for bad walkers and lazy folks. St Peter’s is located close to Holstentor and market square with the city hall, then there are the other big churches in the background. The view gives an idea of the cityscape with rivers and canals around the island occupied by the old town. Let the images speak for themselves.

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The view north with Marienkirche
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The view south towards the Dom
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Holstentor and the medieval salt storages
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The city hall, a large complex with several wings

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===The City Hall===

Gothic architects and the medieval city council were showing off. There must have been an unwritten competition among the Hansa cities, who has the largest city hall. Lübeck is not the only one who has such open facades that make the building appear higher than it is.

The holes are there both for the effect and to let the wind through, the neverending coastal wind that would otherwise cause major problems concerning the static of a solid freestanding wall.

For embellishment, a renaissance facade was added in the Renaissance era.

The representative halls inside can be visited. Since I had done that during a previous visit, I did not go again this time, though.

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Typical gothic townhouses built from bricks

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The elegant Königstraße with neoclassical townhouses

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Buddenbrookhaus - this will ring a bell to connoisseurs of German literature.

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Sculptures by Ernst Barlach on the gable of Katharinenkloster

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Heiligen-Geist-Hospital

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Lübeck’s rich citizens did not forget charity for the poor. Heiligen-Geist-Hospital is a foundation of the 13th century. In the middle ages, hospitals took care not only of the sick but also of the poor and needy and of old people. Many cities had such institutions, and like most of them the Lübeck one is dedicated to the Holy Spirit. There is the church in the front hall, and behind, a large hall that accommodated the inmates. In the run of the centuries it became an old people’s home. The wide hall had four long rows of freestanding beds.

In the early 19th century the hall was divided into little individual chambers, called “Kabäusterchen”. Each chamber was 4 square metres big, or shall I say small, and provided room for a bed, a chest of drawers a night and a washing table. The top was open. Until 1970 they were inhabited.

Nowadays a modern old people’s home has been built in the grounds of the foundation. The historical building is a museum and used for events, the best-known being the artisans’ Christmas market.

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The church, the aisle with the rows of chambers, and a model of the complex

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Russell and I glimpse into a Kabäusterchen, which is now meant for visitors to show them how the old people used to live.

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Sunday Service in Marienkirche

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On Sunday morning I wanted to go to church, and I chose the largest and most remarkable of Lübeck’s churches. Marienkirche, the Church of Our Lady, counts as one of the biggest brick gothic churches around the whole Baltic Sea. At that time there had never been a church this high built entirely from bricks.

Marienkirche is the parish church of the city and the city council. She gives testimony of the rivalry between the free imperial city and the bishop, who had his seat at the southern end of the island. The new church had, at all costs, to be bigger and more impressive than the cathedral. I think they succeeded!

I arrived well in time for the 10 a. m. service and walked a bit round. It was a foggy morning, promising that the sun would break through later on. The spires of the church faded in the mist, it was a very special light and an almost mystic atmosphere around the big house of God.

I entered and found myself a seat. The wooden pews were hard and it was chilly inside the church. I envied some, so I thought, clever members of the congregation who had brought themselves woollen blankets from home. The blankets, however, were all of the same tartan pattern, and on one I saw a little sign stating that this blanket was property of Marienkirche parish. A little investigation took me to a large wooden chest by the entrance which was full of these blankets for people to borrow during the service. After this discovery I was much more comfortable in my pew.
A large church like this is best experienced during a service. Praising the Lord, that’s what the church was built for. It has a completely different feel from the usual opening hours with their tourist buzz.

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It was a Lutheran service with communion. To participate in the communion I was able to enter the high choir, an area that is usually roped off. I was also able to catch at least a glimpse at the precious gilded chalices, probably of medieval origin, that are still in use.

After the service the church opened for visitors, so I stayed inside to have a closer look at the various art works and take photos.

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Vaults

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The bronze baptismal font (1337)

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The Antwerp retable (1518)

The church suffered significant damage during the air raid of March 28/29, 1942 that destroyed one fifth of the old town. Many of its invaluable art works, organs and stained-glass windows are lost for good.

The bells crashed down. They were left in place just as they were, a sorry pile of broken metal. The chapel in the southern steeple where they lie was turned into a memorial.

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New stained-glass windows were designed and installed in the 1950s. The most interesting ones are, to me, the two windows in a side chapel depicting the Danse macabre. There is a little family story tied to them, to be precise, concerning the husband of my mother’s cousin. This man was a bit of a snob and his wife’s relatives weren’t considered worthy to be his relatives, too. Well, so be it. He often boasted with his father being depicted in this window. The artist was friends with said father, who was the director of the well-known jam factory in Bad Schwartau, and took him as the model for the figure of the merchant. And indeed, the chain round the merchant’s neck shows the logo of Schwartauer Marmeladenfabrik with the seven towers of Lübeck in white on red ground.

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The Air Raid of Palm Sunday 1942

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Details of a stained-glass window in Marienkirche

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Model of the old town in 1949:
The empty spaces mark the destroyed areas.

Lübeck’s fateful date in World War II is the night of March 28/29, 1942. British Air Force bomber planes dropped thousands of bombs onto the city centre. This was the first major air raid flown on a German city.
In the densely built old town the incensives created a firestorm, about the worst a city could experience. One fifth of the old town was destroyed, including three of the main churches. The most badly affected areas are the western and central quarters around Marienkirche and market square, and the southern part of the old town with the cathedral. Other parts remained unscathed and still have their pre-war architecture complete with medieval townhouses and narrow picturesque Gänge squeezed into the backyards.
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1950s houses behind Marienkirche

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The view from above betrays how much of this block is post-war.

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Eastward from St Petri, a quarter with mostly post-war buildings
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1950s staircase in the new part of the city hall

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Lübeck’s Gänge: The Hidden World of the Backyards

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In the streets of Lübeck, gables of stone houses are lined up, gables whose size and architecture tell of the wealth of their owners. Gothic brick gables are still frequent, interchanging with renaissance, baroque, neoclassical facades.

This is the street of the rich merchants, the well-to-do citizens.

But where did the poorer people live?

Behind the big townhouses in Lübeck’s streets, there is a whole hidden world that remains invisible to the fast tourists who do not take the time to poke their noses into the narrow passages between the house fronts.

Signs with street names are attached to dark covered passages. Some are closed with gates, others are open and accessible.

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Hövels Gang is an upscale example

In the narrow city, every patch of land was needed to build housing. Gardens are rare. The backyards are filled with tiny houses around narrow courtyards.

The Lübeck term for these is “Gänge”.

In the quarters that came through the war unscathed, mostly the northeast and the south of the old town, these structures still exist. Nowadays the courtyards are neatly paved and the houses refurbished.

Once the homes and workshops of the poor, they are now sought-after residential neighbourhoods.

The inhabitants have set up chairs and tables, flower pots and whatnot in the courtyards to create their little paradise.

Living so close together requires patience and openness. Some residents say they don’t have breakfast outside any more because saying “Good morning” fifty times is too tiresome. Visitors are welcome to enter and look around but they ought to respect the privacy of the inhabitants.

Here is a little collection of different Gänge that I found. There are many, many more.

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“Oliver” at the Theatre

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Solo travellers have no problem to keep themselves busy and happy during the day. It’s the evenings that need some planning. Sitting in a restaurant alone is almost as boring as sitting in the room staring at the wallpaper. Night life and clubbing isn’t my thing and has never been. So, what’s on at the theatre?

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I had checked in time from home and booked an online ticket for “Oliver”, a musical based on Dickens’s “Oliver Twist”. They had good singers and actors and the director added witty details to the plot – it was an enjoyable production altogether. From my seat in the front row of the second balcony I had a good view. An evening well spent.

The theatre building was worth a look, too. Opened in 1908, both the façade and the interior sport a fine art nouveau style.

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The theatre in Bäckergrube at daytime

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St Jakobi and the Pamir Memorial

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Often overlooked but perhaps the most interesting church in the old town: St Jakobi. Unlike Marienkirche and Dom, this church came through the war unscathed and has a completely preserved interior from the early modern era. This includes altarpiece and pulpit, the organs, tombstones and epitaphs, the bronze baptismal font and its ‘cage’.

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Preserved are also the wooden pews of the guilds and the wealthy members of the congregation; only in the nave modern benches have been put up. The oldest of the pews have dates inscribed from the 17th century. They are box-shaped, the surrounding wooden walls protecting the inmates from draught and chill. The woodwork shows elaborate carvings. Ship motives give testimony that St Jakobi was the church of the mariners and fishermen.

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These pews have small cabinets where people kept their hymn books in. These cabinets were the site of an extraordinary find: religious pamphlets with coloured woodcuts from the mid 17th century had been used as lining paper. One example is on display inside the church. The whole series has recently been published in a book.

The large organ has remarkably painted pipes with strange faces around the windhole.

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A side chapel contains a broken and shattered lifeboat as memorial to the tall ship “Pamir”, who sank in a hurricane on the Atlantic in 1957. Only six members of the crew survived. The names of the victims are listed on the floor.

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Malerwinkel

Every city or town must have a “painters’ angle”, a spot with an exceptionally picturesque view of the old town. Lübeck’s is on the river Trave by a small bridge. From there, the steeple of St Petri dominates the picture across the river. The spires of Marienkirche appear in the background. Historical houses are lined up along the road by the river and, light and weather permitting, are reflected in the water.

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Dom, the cathedral

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The Dom is the loser in the competition with Marienkirche, I’m afraid. Both when they were built and today. The Dom is located on the edge of the old town, rather away from buzzing life. It has an atmosphere of neglect, apart from the new baptismal chapel that has been installed in the choir behind the jube, it all could to with a renovation. The church appears cold, not only temperature-wise.

The best is the view over Mühlenteich with the reflection of the spires.

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Hansa Museum

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Part of a church pew with a Russian fur merchant

The new Hansa Museum is a recent addition to Lübeck’s many sightseeing attractions to visit, and it is one I highly recommend. It presents and explains the Hansa’s function as a medieval trade network and Lübeck’s role in it. Original pieces are combined with presentations of texts, maps, diagrams on large displays.

At the entrance you receive an electronic ticket. To read the displays, you have to hold the ticket under a scanner first to make texts etc. appear. At first I thought, what for, why don’t they simply show this text permanently, what’s the hassle for… until I noticed the people next to me reading the same text in Swedish. They programme the ticket at the cash desk with your preferred language. The scanner then selects said language and you are shown all texts in it. They have German, English, Swedish, and Russian – an indicator where the majority of their visitors may come from.

I’m not necessarily a fan of all this modern interactive stuff, but this here is brilliant. The explanations are very well done. It is up to you how much you read and over how many pages you proceed.

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The light is rather dim in most rooms, hence I have no photos of the new part.

The museum also includes the historical rooms of the so-called Burgkloster, once a monastery of the Dominicans. Parts of the building were transformed into a law court in the 19th century.

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St Annen Museum Quarter

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The former convent of St Annen hosts the historical museum and art gallery of Lübeck. While the Hansa museum is dedicated to economy and international trade, this here presents the life of the citizens within their houses and their city.

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Inner courtyard with the original sculptures from Puppenbrücke

I admit that I did not devote enough attention to this museum as I was already tired. I would like to revisit another time, with fresh powers. This is a museum to explore and discover.

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Biedermeier interior in rich townhouses
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The Diele, the main hall, was the centre of the house. It served, depending on the profession of the owner, as office, trading room, workshop, but also as dining hall and meeting point for the whole household.

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Niederegger

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Enough culture, time for a sweet treat. Lübecker Marzipan has become a term for a certain type of marzipan (opposed to, for example, Königsberger Marzipan). There are other producers in the city but one is ubiquitous and omnipresent in any sweets shop all over the country: Niederegger.

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In need of a typical local gift for your loved ones at home? No problem in Lübeck: get some marzipan and you’re done with the problem.
Niederegger runs a big shop in the centre of the city, right by the city hall. A paradise for any sweet tooth.

The shop windows are also worth a closer look. They have historical buildings and scenes from fairy tales, all made from marzipan.

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Holstentor scene
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Frau Holle shaking her duvet to make it snow on Lübeck

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Upstairs they have a café with the famous Marzipantorte and many other cakes. For anyone who likes sweet things this place is a must.

I had the wombats with me and politely asked whether I could take photos with them. The waitresses did not even blink an eye. Obviously they are used to crazy tourists…

Posted by Kathrin_E 09:37 Archived in Germany Tagged churches lübeck schleswig-holstein Comments (0)

Bike Tour to Travemünde

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Travemünde is officially a suburb of Lübeck but has a long history as a seaside resort and harbour for the ferries to Scandinavia, Finland and the Baltics. Everyone would consider it a separate municipality of its own. The distance from central Lübeck is given as 18 kilometres, a fine distance for a bike tour – although the return trip, 36 kilometres, among them 18 against the wind, felt too much for my taste. I’d return by train or perhaps by boat.

I set off under a cloudy sky but the clouds soon lifted. The wind was in my favour, blowing nicely from behind. Offshore wind does not happen too often on the Baltic Sea coast so I considered myself lucky.

Signposts for cyclists point the way. I left the old town through Burgtor gate across the bridge, then through the northern suburbs along Travemünder Allee. That promised to be a long, boring ride by a straight busy highway. A detour to the left seemed more interesting.

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On the shore of river Trave there is a tiny suburb named Gothmund, once a fishermen’s village. Little houses with thatched roofs are still there, also a small harbour.

The location is so remote and hidden that Napoleon’s troops simply missed it and never called. Today, I assume, most of the houses serve as weekend and holiday homes.

The lanes are small and twisted, meant for pedestrians only. I pushed my bike. It was strange, though. It seemed that visiting intruders weren’t wanted. Access to the harbour was not allowed, and the few people I saw gazed at me as if I was not supposed to be there.

The photos look much friendlier than the village actually is.

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I soon left and continued along a sandy trail through a bit of forest and then further along the river bank. Signposts were there, so I knew I had not lost my way.

At Herreninsel I hit the main road again. To be honest, I had not wasted much thought on the simple fact that I was on the right bank of the river and Travemünde was on the left bank. Somehow all this water had to be crossed. On the map the road continued. I had probably imagined some kind of bridge. But there was no bridge. There was a car tunnel, off-bounds to cyclists. Was this the end? But the signposts would not lie?

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Then I saw a bus standing there. The front display said something like, “Bicycle shuttle Herrentunnel”. I asked the driver, and indeed, this bus served for transporting bicycles and their riders through the tunnel and dropping them off on the other side, and the best: it is free. Inside the bus is equipped with metal mounts to hold the bikes safely. I boarded, put the bike into a holder, found a seat, and in no time we were at the exit of the tunnel on the Travemünde side.

It was still a long way to go. The marked trail lead along country roads without the view of the Trave I had hoped for. The grounds of the ferry port are widely fenced off, and this is a long stretch of land that had to be passed.

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But then, finally, I ended up in the old heart of Travemünde. The village grew around the church and the picturesque square in front. This must have been the old market place. Nowadays life happens at the beach resort by the coast, though, and this area is quiet.

The church would have interested me but it was closed. I cycled on and reached the promenade by the mouth of the Trave. The street named Vorderreihe, the front row, is the busiest part of Travemünde. Shops and restaurants are lined up landside while the water side is open to the promenade walk.

After all this pedalling I was thoroughly and honestly hungry! I chained my bike to a free lamp post – there were many bikes around so it was not easy to find a suitable free parking spot -and chose one of the restaurants by the river.

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Lunch with a view

A simple hearty meal, baked fish and fried potatoes, together with an alcohol-free beer revived my spirits. The restaurant was built over the waterline, ship watching was inclusive.

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The huge ferries passed. Modern ship design, I am sorry to say so, is probably the worst in history. No sense of form and proportion. Form follows function, all right. But do these roll on-roll off ferries really have to be this ugly?

I felt sorry for this vessel. In addition to its ugly looks it also has an ugly name. Finnlines name all their ferries with Finn-, I also saw Finnsun and Finntide later on – but Finnpulp, are you serious?

Compare to an old tall ship like the Passat. After sailing around the world twice and surrounding Cape Hoorn 39 times, she is now retired and permanently in port here. She is a museum ship. Might have been interesting, but I did not want to do the time-consuming ferry crossing to the opposite bank and back.

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Vorderreihe

Time for some shopping. There was one shop I had planned to visit, that’s the Wind fashion shop. They do fashion for leisure, carefully designed in an unusual ‘maritime’ style, all in excellent quality and 100% cotton. I have pieces that are 15+ years old and look as if they came straight from the shop. (They could give me a voucher for this promotion, couldn’t they?) Their shops are to be found only in seaside and mountain resorts, and whenever I come near one, I must check what they are having. Of course they have an online shop, but wouldn’t that be lame?

Anyway, I own a new hoodie in light pink with black stripes. I got the bike and walked along the promenade, which is for pedestrians only, towards the Trave mouth and the beach.

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Of course I had the wombats with me. This is one of my favourite “wombats on tour” photos!

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Maritim’s highrise building is the landmark of Travemünde. Its construction at this prominent spot lead to some resistance in the local population as well as among visiting tourists. People tend to hate everything that is new and modern and unexpected. In the meantime its existence has been accepted.

The round brick tower in front is Travemünde's old lighthouse. It almost disappears next to the huge Maritime building but deserves a honourable mentioning: dating back to 1539, it is a technical monument and the oldest preserved lighthouse on the German Baltic Sea coast. Its present neoclassical appearance is due to refurbishments after a fire in 1827. It lost its function after the construction of the Maritim in 1972. A new light has been installed on top of the highrise.

So, respect for this tower, please.

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The Maritim building is even visible from the air, as this photo proves, which I took during a flight from Stockholm to Frankfurt.

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The green and white lighthouse marks the mouth of the river.

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Reaching the beach, it was time to search for another convenient lamp post for the bike. It was October, certainly not beach weather, but a walk and a rest in the sand had to be. Due to the offshore wind there was practically no surf that day. The waves that “crashed” on the beach were a few centimetres high.

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The Baltic Sea, flat as a tablecloth that day

This was Billy Joe’s first time he saw the sea. Luckily he has a big brother who knows. Russell showed him how to behave and what to do on a beach:
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Watching sea and clouds and listen to the sound of the waves (which was absent that day)

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Digging in the sand, wombat’s favourite pastime

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Basking in the sun

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The train station has a huge display on the tower, visible from the beach. It announces the next departure to Lübeck. Very useful.

Now what. Biking back home was out of the question. Checking out the timetable of the boats, I decided not to take the train but return to Lübeck on the waterway. I even had enough time left for coffee and cake in a cosy little café next to the boat landing.

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I found a place on the top deck because I wanted views and photos. The wind was freezing cold up there, all other passengers had sooner or later disappeared. It was October, after all, and on open water it is always colder than on land.

I withstood for most of the ride but at some point I was broken and went down into the warm belly of the boat to warm up.

In time for arrival in Lübeck I was back on deck, though. Again, let the photos speak for themselves.

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Old Travemünde

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Skandinavienkai, the ferry terminal

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Impressions

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Passing Gothmund

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Lübeck's harbour under the moon

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Arriving in Lübeck in style
Seafarers of past centuries must have seen almost the same skyline.

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The boat and my bike

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Sunset over the Trave

Posted by Kathrin_E 10:31 Archived in Germany Tagged beaches biking lübeck schleswig-holstein Comments (0)

Büchen, Lauenburg, and Ratzeburg by Train and Bike

This was a weird tour that no tourist would select among the many day trip options from Lübeck. You may well think that those art historians are crazy… all this for a photo of one painting in a remote country church, and another photo of the inscription over the portal of another church. Why and what for I needed these photos, now that is a long story and connected to my research about the churches of Hadeln.

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The church in Büchen has no regular opening hours. This required making an appointment with the parish office, something I had already organized from home. This date, Monday 10 a.m., was set in stone. Büchen is something between a village and a tiny town, once located by the Iron Curtain and known as border station for the railway to West Berlin through the GDR. That’s about all it ever gained fame for. Thanks to all this, it has a railway station with regular local train connections to and from Lübeck. The parish centre is located conveniently close to the station. The church, however, is not. It is about 3 kms away in the old part of the village. Here the bike came handy.

They gave me the key for the church, and I cycled over. I always enjoy seeing a church all by myself with no one else around. Even if it took me a while to figure out where all the switches for the light were!

The church of Büchen is quite interesting for the medieval frescoes in the two vaults of the oldest part. These depict the martyrdoms of eight different apostles and saints. In the middle ages this was a local pilgrimage centre with a sanctuary dedicated to the virgin Mary. The baptismal font is also medieval.

All these weren’t my topic, though. The painting I wanted is hanging on the southern wall, stupidly behind a pillar so it is impossible to take a photo in a straight line.
The resulting images required a lot of photoshopping to set the perspective straight.

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The painting depicts Duke Franz II of Saxony-Lauenburg together with his second spouse Maria and their children. The two babies represent children who died at a very young age.

This painting originates from the palace chapel in nearby Franzhagen, where it is said to have served as altarpiece to commemorate the founders, In the early 18th century the palace was demolished and the painting transferred to Büchen.

The pulpit also originates from Franzhagen palace chapel.

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Of course the boys were with me

After seeing the church, my plan was proceeding to Lauenburg. Trains on this line run hourly and I would just have missed one. The lovely Golden October weather suggested continuing by bike. The distance is about 18 kms, doable if the route is not too hilly. The wind had changed direction and was blowing rather strong from a northern direction, in other words, from behind. I asked the kind lady at the parish office when I returned the key, and she said, yes, there is a nice flat bike trail along the canal that leads straight to Lauenburg.

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“The canal” is the so-called Elbe-Lübeck-Kanal that connects, you guessed it, the port of Lübeck with the river Elbe. The canal uses parts of the Trave and some lakes along the way, and reaches the Elbe at Lauenburg.

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The trail runs along the bank of the canal all the way. It is unpaved but okay to ride.

I did not see a single ship passing, though. I wonder how economical this waterway is?

The wind was my helper. How strong it actually blew, I did not realize until I missed one turn and had to return a few 100 metres against the wind. Phew!

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Before Lauenburg the trail crossed the canal on a bridge and continued on the opposite bank. It became narrower and narrower until it was no more than a path with the width of one wheel. It ran behind the fences of the canal lock and I was worried, what if it suddenly ends before a closed gate or a railway track. The worries turned out unfounded, and the trail took me to Lauenburg station. A big and busy car bridge crossed the canal into the centre of Lauenburg. What a change from the deserted bike path.

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Arrival!
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Where the canal enters the Elbe

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Lauenburg is a medium-sized town on the Elbe. The river bank is very steep at this point. The old town sits on the lower terrace while newer quarters were built on higher ground. It is a steep ascent that you would not expect in proverbially flat Northern Germany. The old town is super-cute and quaint with its brick and half-timbered houses and cobblestone alleys. A bike is completely useless here. I found a convenient lamp post to chain the bike to, and continued on foot.

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The church, and the portal with the inscription that I so badly wanted a photo of. It refers once more to Duke Franz II of Saxony-Lauenburg. This little town was the capital of the duchy.

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The former castle on the hilltop is preserved only in parts and it does not leave much impression. The most interesting bit is the round tower from the 15th century. The baroque building called “palace” nowadays used to be the seat of the bailiff. From the terrace behind you have a wide view over the Elbe valley.

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The lower part of the old town was built close to the river bank. Too close, although the bank is steep and it is a few metres higher than the river’s usual level. The Elbe is an unregulated river and prone to floods. So far the old town is still awaiting a flood-protecting system. Seeing the flood marks from the Elbe bank is scary.

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Some places invite to select a topic and assemble a collection of images. My Lauenburg theme is doors and gates:

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I had taken my time, both for the bike tour and in Lauenburg. There were two attractive destinations on the way home, namely Mölln and Ratzeburg, but daylight would not last for both, probably it was already rather late even for one of them. I left the train in Ratzeburg and headed for the old town. It was a long downhill ride and I was not looking forward to the way back to the station.

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Ratzeburg is almost entirely surrounded by lakes. I am not sure whether it is really an island or there is a small bit of land connecting it with the lake bank. This makes the cityscape unique. Already in the early middle ages there was a Slavic town and castle in this place. Then Duke Henry the Lion founded the bishopric of Ratzeburg in the 12th century.

After an almost complete destruction in 1693, the old town was rebuilt on a regular baroque ground plan. This explains why it des not have a quaint appearance like Lauenburg or Mölln.

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In the centre they have one church that I would have liked to see from inside. St Petri, or the town church, was built in 1787-1791. It is a neoclassical transversal church, don’t get me started or I’ll come up with a lengthy lecture. Unfortunately I was too late and the church had already closed.

The train schedule dictated mine. I granted myself two hours in total for Ratzeburg, including a quick and much-needed coffee break at a bakery.

The cathedral is Ratzeburg’s main sight. it is located on the outmost tip of the island, overlooking the lake. Of course it was already closed, too. The setting sun gave it a fantastic lighting, only the scaffolding round the steeple disturbed the picture.

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The bronze lion is a 19th century copy of the medieval one in Braunschweig. Since Braunschweig is not only the hometown of Ratzeburg’s founder Henry the Lion, but also mine, this felt like meeting an old acquaintance.

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At sunset I walked the lake shore, then tackled the long ascent back to the station. Now does a day trip just for two photos still sound silly? To me, it was a well-filled day!

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Posted by Kathrin_E 05:38 Archived in Germany Tagged biking lübeck schleswig-holstein Comments (2)

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