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A Walk and a Wine on the Romantic Rhine

Spring Evening in Bacharach

Rhine valley at Bacharach

Rhine promenade

After touring the Saar and Mosel valley all day, going straight home seemed rather lame. A stopover in the Middle Rhine Gorge would complete the three-river tour. Timetable research suggested Bacharach as a viable destination.

The chapel ruin

Said and done. It was already late afternoon and we faced another three hours on local trains, which gave us about one and a half hours in Bacharach. Not enough for thorough sightseeing, but the idea of a walk on the Rhine bank and through the old town, a light dinner and a glass of local wine sounded pleasant.

Bacharach is one of the finest among the small wine towns in the Middle Rhine Gorge. The steep slopes around are covered in vineyards. Its landmarks are Stahleck Castle above the town, now a youth hostel, and the ruin of the gothic Werner chapel on a terrace halfway up the slope. The town centre includes a Romanesque church, historical half-timbered houses, and a town wall with a row of towers.

Stahleck castle

Town wall and towers

Houses in market square


The era of romanticism has shaped its appearance, though. Not everything is as old as it pretends to be. In the 19th century the world discovered the “Romantic Rhine”. Like most of the towns and villages on the Middle Rhine, Bacharach was refurbished according to contemporary taste and fantasies of the middle ages. The castle ruin was rebuilt, the towers and wall were repaired and completed, and many townhouses sport the features of 19th century historism. The result is certainly charming!

Half-timbered houses in the old town, and the parish church

The problem.
Imagine having your hotel room next to this, or worse, living next to this.


Bacharach’s charms are slightly disturbed, though, by the railway line that runs along the river and cuts off the old town. A problem that about all towns and villages in the Middle Rhine Gorge are sharing: the noise from train, road and ship traffic in the narrow valley. On both sides of the valley there are major railway routes, the one here on the left bank being the busiest, with passenger and cargo trains running through at short intervals, day and night. They seem to have a campaign running to ban at least cargo trains during the night. I see little hope for success, though.

Main street in the old town

The town is and a popular tourist destination. On this Monday evening in April, though, it was quiet, and many places were closed. A few people were enjoying the last bits of afternoon sunshine on the benches of the river promenade, and a handful of tourists roamed the streets in search of a place for dinner.



A few steps from the market square we spotted a friendly sunny terrace with tables on a street corner. The sign saying “Gutsausschank” above the door indicated that this restaurant was run by a local winery.

The rest of “we”, by the way, was Russell the Wombat. We celebrated his 10th birthday that day. A drink to his health was definitely called for.
Studying the wine list on the menu, it slowly slowly dawned on me that I heard my Dad talk about this place, their wines, and his meeting with the winemaker. In other words, by coincidence (or maybe instinct?) I had found one of the best wineries in town – Dad is a wine expert and would not visit any random winery.


It feels good to have made the right choice…

Russell tastes a Riesling that grew on the steep slopes above the town, a fine dry wine with fruit flavours and rich in minerals from the slate rocks underneath. Again, I did something right in choosing this wine. It went perfectly with the spicy, tasty potato soup I had for dinner.

Posted by Kathrin_E 03:13 Archived in Germany Tagged rheinland-pfalz Comments (2)

A Weekend in Luxembourg City

View from the train upon arrival


Now we are jumping across the borders of Germany... Luxembourg had long been on my wish list, as the last of our neighbouring countries that was still blank on my travel map. Hotel rooms in Luxembourg City are horrendously expensive, in particular during the week, which limited my stay to one long weekend.


For convenience I booked at the Best Western Hotel in Place de la Gare, right opposite the railway station. It turned out to be a good choice. I had the cheapest room category, one that faced the inner courtyard or rather light shaft. No views, but also no street noise! The station quarter does not have the best of reputations, but so what. I used the bus stops in the square and the main streets, and did not see much of red light district and such.


I arrived on Friday in the early evening. The weather forecasts were very promising for the whole weekend. The plan involved a full day of sightseeing in Luxembourg City on Saturday and some kind of day trip on Sunday, in order to see more of the country than just its capital. Originally I had chosen Clerf/Clervaux because it can be reached by train. I dislike long bus rides, which ruled out Vianden and Echternach.

That was the plan, but Luxembourg Railways were against me: track works scheduled for that very weekend between Ettelbruck and Clervaux, trains substituted by buses... one hour on winding roads through the hills of the Ardennes. Not my idea of fun. In the end, Vianden won. But more about that later.

Luxembourg's beautiful central station

My favourite view, taken from Bock casemates


Luxembourg’s cityscape is really something. The centre occupies a plateau surrounded by the valleys of two small rivers called Alzette and Pétrusse. These valleys are framed by almost vertical cliffs. Its geographical and topographical situation gave Luxembourg a high strategic significance.

Starting with the first castle on the point of Bock rock, step by step the fortifications were extended into one of the largest fortresses in Europe. In those times Luxembourg was nicknamed the “Gibraltar of the North”. 90% of the fortifications were demolished in the 19th century. The leftovers are still enormous. The fortress as a whole must have been gigantic.

High bridges span over the deep-cut valleys: Pont d’Adolphe and Passerelle or Old Bridge from the station quarter, the so-called Red Bridge to Kirchberg, the railway viaduct. The city consists of two layers, and usually one moves on the upper level without descending into the valleys.

On the first evening I had no particular plans. Just see what the city is like. I set out on foot from the hotel and walked across the Old Bridge towards the old town. The bridge reaches the town plateau at a huge bulwark called the bastion of the Holy Spirit. A war memorial with an eternal flame recalls Luxembourg’s difficult history in World War II and the many victims.

The tip of the plateau is known as Cité de la Justice. The vast complex of buildings is the seat of various law courts. Behind, the Corniche begins: a balcony-like promenade walk on the edge of the cliff which offers the finest view of the rocks and the valley below, the valley suburbs of Grund and Clausen and the monasteries down by the stream.



I did not proceed further that evening, though, but meandered through the old town, past the palace of the Granddukes, and across Place d’Armes. The sun was already setting. It was a mild evening. All restaurants and street cafes were buzzing. I was hungry, too, but finding a table and sitting all by myself would not work. My hotel had a bar that also served small dishes, and I had a light dinner there, rested my tired legs and turned in early.

Place d'Armes

Saturday: Exploring Luxembourg City

Bock rock with the casemates







Saturday was my main sightseeing day in Luxembourg City. In the morning I jumped on a city bus that took me straight to Bock casemates. I arrived there shortly before they opened, so I spent some time enjoying the view from the top in the morning sun. This is the place where Luxembourg’s history started, with the construction of the first castle in the 10th century. The tip of the plateau overlooks and guards the valleys below and has always been of highest strategic significance.


Bock rock is like a Swiss cheese. During the construction of the fortress, a system of tunnels and casemates was dug and drilled into the rocks underneath the city. Only small parts are still accessible. The casemates served entirely for military purposes, as covered and protected cannon stands, storages, connecting tunnels.

A visit to Bock casemates begins with a small exhibition about their history. Maps explain the growth of the fortress in the run of the centuries. Spaniards, French, Austrians, Prussians added theirs. It is hard to imagine that the impressive walls, bulwarks, towers and forts that we see nowadays are hardly 10% of the original fortress.


The visitors are free to explore the casemates to their liking. Cannons are placed in the openings, which offer great views into the valleys. (Parts of the tunnels are dimly lit, take care walking on the uneven ground.)

The exit leads across the lower level of the 18th century Schlossbrücke that connects Bock rock with the old town. The German name Schlossbrücke is written on it, that’s why I am using it. – Leaving the casemates, you end up at the beginning of the Corniche.
The wombats enjoyed exploring the tunnels

Riding Pétrusse Express



There are two ‘tourist transports’ in Luxembourg, both operated by the same company: the Hop on Hop off bus, and the green choo-choo train named Pétrusse Express. The HOHO bus is, in my humble opinion, of little use because it does not go anywhere else than the normal city buses, and its stops are rather far from many attractions. That bit of superficial commentary you’d get does not justify three times the price of a normal day ticket for public transport.

However, I do recommend the Pétrusse Express. The little “road trains” have their starting point on top of Bock rock, hence a ride can easily be combined with a visit to the casemates. They go down into the valley to Clausen, then up on the opposite side to Plateau du Rham, down again to Grund and the bottom of Pétrusse valley, up Montée Pétrusse and across the bridge, through the old town and back to the starting point.

The ride gives an idea of Luxembourg’s topography, shows various parts of the fortifications and the old quarters down in the valleys – in other words, it saves a LOT of walking and climbing.

Plateau du Rham

The commentary is available in about ten different languages. It is a conversation between a man and a child, quite well done. I tried it in Letzebuergisch, and found that with knowledge of German and some idea of the Rhineland dialects, this language is understandable!

Pétrusse Valley

The choo-choo train runs at slow speed (and annoys all the cars behind), so taking photos during the ride is possible. I was snapping along all the time and caught many...

Hint: The best seat for photographers is the bench at the back of the last train car, in order to have an undisturbed view backwards.

Corniche, Luxembourg's "balcony"

After the ride I sat down on a bench on the Corniche, ate my apple, and wondered what to do next. The views down into the valley, to Grund, Neumünster abbey, the little bridge by the wall and tower, the gardens... were far too tempting to leave this unexplored. My legs said, yes, we can. So I walked along Corniche and then ventured downhill.








Grund is a picturesque quarter at the bottom of the valley. It has several small restaurants and pubs and looks like a popular hangout. Pétrusse river runs right through. The stone bridge seems to be the centre of the quarter.

Two former monasteries are lined up by the river. The small convent is now the seat of the museum of natural history.

The much larger Neumünster has been turned into a cultural centre. The church was open, and I had it all to myself... I could not resist singing an Easter hymn. Fine acoustics. The vaults answered and threw back my song...

After the closing of the convent the grounds had been used for military purposes. Arsenal buildings surround the wide courtyard behind the church.

Two Australian tourists in front of Bock rock

From here, the small bridge that I had seen from above leads across the river. The monastery gardens on the river bank are still well taken care of. They even include a tiny vineyard.


A footpath leads along the river at the foot of Bock rock, and then slowly uphill. Passing underneath Schlossbrücke I finally reached the old town, passing a historical town gate called the Three Towers, and found myself opposite the National Museum.

Schlossbrücke and Three Towers

National Museum of Art and History


Now I really needed a rest, a drink, a coffee and some food. The cafe inside the museum looked promising. I had already taken in enough sunlight that morning, so I chose a table inside. The cafe offers salads and other small dishes as well as pastry and desserts. Their white cheese with chestnut puree is to die for!

Batteries reloaded, I went to see the museum. The National Museum of Art and History is herewith highly recommended! Since I was already rather tired, my visit was somehow superficial. I saw just a few parts that particularly caught my attention. One could easily spend hours in there.

On the ground floor they have an introductory exhibition on the history and concept of the museum itself. Its present building is rather new. The presentations begin on the lowest floor of the basement with prehistory, then continues over several floors with the ancient Romans, the middle ages, the early modern, industrial and contemporary era. The pieces that fascinated me most were the archaeological finds from the ancient Roman era, including large mosaics from the floors of a Roman villa. A gallery of Luxembourgian art occupies the top floor. There is also room for temporary exhibitions; they currently had one on the Etruscans.


Three adjacent historical townhouses are attached to the museum and part of the permanent exhibition. They present the rooms, pieces of furniture and household equipment and, first of all, the history of the families who once owned these houses. The former inhabitants come to life, as representants of the citizens of Luxembourg. Including a very moving love story from the 17th century!

Entry to the museum is free, by the way. It is open daily except Monday.

Website: http://www.mnha.lu/en/MNHA



There was one last entry left on my “Want to see” list for the day: the cathedral.

Luxembourg’s cathedral is a gothic building that has been extended and refurbished over and over again in the run of the centuries.

The pillars of the nave, for example, are covered in Renaissance ornaments.

The stained glass windows date partly from the 19th century, partly from the post-war era.



The crypt underneath contains the burial vault of the Granddukes. Since the dynasty came into existence only in 1890, there are still few graves.

The most prominent one is the tomb of Grandduchess Charlotte, who was elected as the country’s ruler (Luxembourg is an elective monarchy) after World War II and the liberation.


Evening on Kirchberg



After a necessary and, I’d say, well-deserved rest at my hotel I set out again in the late afternoon. I wanted to see Kirchberg, the modern quarter on the opposite side of Alzette valley where the institutions of the EU have their seat. This is a different world!

I went up by bus across the Red Bridge and along till Luxexpo fairground at the far end of Kirchberg, already close to the airport. This is the eastern terminus of the tram line that runs across Kirchberg. The area is too vast to be explored on foot, so the tram came handy.


I got off the tram at the buildings of the European parliament. While the seat of the parliament is actually Strasbourg, the presidency and administration have their offices here. The flags of the EU and all 27 member countries add a sea of colours to the otherwise sober office buildings.


The largest and most important institution in Kirchberg is the Law Court of the EU. Their seat is a huge and terribly ugly box-shaped building. The central wing, not visible from the street, contains the trial halls. It is surrounded by a rectangular frame that contains the offices, built on pillars and covered in a facade of dark glass. More offices are located in the tall golden towers next to it. Two towers of about 25 storeys each are in use, a third one is currently under construction. Bureaucracy is expanding.


There are more construction works going on in this part of Kirchberg, I do not know what for. This quarter appears as one big construction site. In addition to the EU institutions, many large companies have their seat here, there are hotels, there is infrastructure, for example a supermarket for EU employees only.

Cultural institutions are located on Kirchberg, too. The round white building on the other sid of the main street is the Philharmonie, a large concert hall. Walking downhill towards the tip of the plateau, one reaches the Museum of Modern Art (MUDAM), a futuristic glass building. It was built into the ramparts of a fort from the Prussian era, called the Three Acorns after its three round stumpy towers. The fort is a museum, too.


The bulwarks on the edge must offer a splendid panoramic view of the old town and the valley, but my walking abilities were really at their end... With some effort and pain I made it back to the tram stop, then onto the bus and back to my hotel. Time to call it a day!


Some Remarks about the Public Transport Network


Luxembourg’s public transport is easy to use. They have but two types of tickets: a short-term ticket for 2 € which is valid for two hours, and a day ticket for 4 € - no matter where you go, in the whole country.

The city’s public transport network is mostly operated by buses. A modern tram line is currently being built. Elegant, shiny new trams they are. So far, the tram runs only across Kirchberg and ends at the Red Bridge. The line is projected to continue through the city centre all the way to the central station.

On Saturdays the city buses are even free. I made extensive use of them. One big disadvantage, though, is that bus stops are relatively infrequent. The old town in particular does hardly have any bus stops in its vicinity. Coming from the central station, all buses take the same route along Avenue de la Liberté and Pont Adolphe. There are no buses at all that would run across the Old Bridge and Place de la Constitution, which would have been useful to reach the old town.

Trilingual Sunday Service at the Protestant Church



On Sunday morning I wanted to go to church. The protestant parish community of Luxembourg City, a united evangelical community, occupies a former convent church, I don’t know of which order, in a side lane behind the cathedral. Luxembourg is predominantly Roman-Catholic. A protestant community was founded only in the 19th century, originally for the Prussian military.

The most prominent members of the community are the Granddukes themselves: They are the descendants of the house of Nassau-Weilburg, which is of Lutheran denomination. They have their seats in the box net to the altar. However, they very rarely appear in person. I heard that their major-domo shows up occasionally as their representant, though.

The community is trilingual, just like the country. Their service is trilingual, too. The sermon is done half in German, half in French. Printouts with the translation in the other language are available. Of the hymns, we sang two verses in French and two verses in German. The lectures were done in Lëtzebuergesch. Prayers and Credo were said by everyone in their own language. The liturgical chants were in Latin, chants from Taizé in fact – just like we have them at our church in Karlsruhe.

The congregation was smallish. But somehow I felt at home there immediately. Afterwards there was coffee and tea, and a chat with the preacher and some nice ladies. Very friendly people. They wanted to keep me to join their choir... but unfortunately I was already leaving the following day.

Bilingual street signs

Being a language freak, I am fascinated by this country’s multilinguality that locals handle so naturally. Luxembourg has three official languages: Lëtzebuergesch, French and German. People constantly switch between them. Usually French is the first choice. (Mine is rather limited, but I happily tried it, as speaking German seemed too lame in these polyglot surroundings.) In recent years Lëtzebuergesch has become more and more popular. Most people also speak good English. Given the international crowd that work for the EU, the many banks and other businesses, a multitude of languages is heard and understood.

Posted by Kathrin_E 14:07 Archived in Luxembourg Tagged luxembourg Comments (3)

Vianden Castle


Luxembourg is more than just its capital. On Sunday afternoon I intended to do a side trip to a smaller town on order to see more of the country. I wanted a place that is reachable by train, since I am uncomfortable with longer bus rides. That limited my options. I chose Clervaux, the town and castle up in the forests of the Ardennes hills.


However, Luxembourg Railways spoilt my plans. The northbound railway line was to be closed due to construction works, substitute buses would be running from Ettelbruck onwards… about an hour on smallish, winding country roads, as a look in the map revealed. Not my idea of fun.

I changed my plans and decided to go to Vianden instead, which meant a much shorter bus ride. Vianden castle had originally been at the top of my wish list anyway.

I caught a regional train to Ettelbruck and changed to a bus there. Timetables are well connected; the change works smoothly without spending time waiting. This means, however, that one should not linger on the way. It’s also good to know that the bus number is 570 and that as final destination it has Stolzembourg written on the display, in order to find the right one quickly among the many bus stops. I did not even have time to take a photo.


Vianden is a small town in the valley of the river Our, practically on the German border. Its main attraction is the huge castle, which sits on top of the hill above the town as if it had just landed from space. It is a popular day trip destination not only among Luxembourgians but also among people from the adjacent areas of Belgium and Germany. Motorbikers love the winding side roads in the hills on both sides of the border. The little town was accordingly busy on that sunny, warm spring Sunday.



The bus dropped me off by the river next to the bridge. From there, the castle looks high, high up. The slope towards the river is steep and covered in forest. The easiest way up is following the main street of the old town. It leads steadily uphill into the side valley behind castle hill. The ascent is not necessarily gentle. I think there is not a single bit of street in old Vianden that is horizontal – at least not in the old part. Locals are certainly well trained in climbing these hillsides all the time.

Old Vianden has fine historical houses. The main street does a wide curve with some windings, following the topography of the valley. The number of restaurants and cafes indicates the place’s popularity as a tourist destination.

Halfway up the street passes the gothic parish church. They must have had the First Holy Communion that morning: I saw several family parties with dressed-up kids, and the interior of the church was decorated for the occasion. The church consists, which is quite unusual, of two naves of equal height. The left nave contains the elaborate stone tomb of a Countess from 1400.



Then the street leads further up. It was warm and very sunny, the cobblestone pavement is anything but smooth – it was a strenuous walk. But at the upper end of the main street, the major part of the ascent was already behind me. A bit further up and around a corner, and there it was: the castle.












The ancient Romans had already built a fortified castellum on this hilltop. The present castle was built from the 11th to the 14th century with a couple of later additions. Until the 15th century it belonged to the Counts of Vianden, a dynasty of wealth and political influence and, as their residential home proves, ambition. Then, by heritage, it became property of the house of Nassau, in particular the line of Nassau-Orange, Oranje-Nassau, in other words, the very same dynasty who are now the Kings and Queens of the Netherlands.


The silhouette of the castle is somehow unusual, because it lacks the main keep which we consider a typical feature of a medieval castle. The highest point is the turret on top of the chapel wing. It is an intact castle and claims to be one of the largest and most important preserved castles in Europe.

However, we should not let ourselves be fooled: It is not entirely original. The two largest wings were partly taken down and fell into ruins in the 19th century. Rebuilding started only in 1977, since the castle has been property of the state of Luxembourg.

The castle is open daily; hours depend on the season. Please refer to the website for all details, entrance fees etc.: http://www.castle-vianden.lu/english/index.html

The kitchen

Visitors explore the castle on their own. A circuit is signposted, and it is wise to follow it in order to see everything without losing your way. An audioguide can be obtained at the cash desk, but there are also enough written explanations to understand without clinging to an electronic chatterbox. The tour is not suitable for people with walking difficulties due to the many stairs.

A side wing was added in the 17th century. Its rooms are furnished in the style of those times.


The living room, or shall we call it a salon, was probably used for long evenings spent in the company of friends and dedicated to the consumption of alcoholic beverages, as the images on the mantelpiece indicate...


Dogs are not allowed in. The rules say nothing about wombats, though.



The most impressive room inside is, to me, the late Romanesque palace chapel. It is a double chapel, like many castles had: The upper chapel is meant for the counts and their noble entourage, the lower chapel for the servants. The altar is placed on the upper floor. An opening in the middle connects them so that those in the lower chapel can hear the priest and listen to mass. The lower chapel is currently (2018) undergoing profound restoration works and thus not accessible. The connecting hole in the middle is hidden under a cover, too – please believe me that it is there.

The views from the castle are spectacular: the town of Vianden in the Our valley

In addition to the castle, Vianden’s old towns still has its ring of town walls and towers.

Aussie tourists and the castle

After a pit stop at the castle cafe I walked down into town, downhill along the main street and back to the bus stop on very tired legs...

Posted by Kathrin_E 14:15 Archived in Luxembourg Tagged castles luxembourg vianden Comments (0)

Schwerin: Neuschwanstein of the North, They Say



Does anyone have a clue how many lakes surround Schwerin? I have counted 11 different lake names on my town map but there must be more outside the map's borders. The landscape with the open waters, big and small, makes the town unique.

A small island between Burgsee and Schweriner see, the largest of the lakes, carries the palace. Postcard views are available in abundance. Unfortunately I was not granted postcard weather - all right, at least it stayed dry despite the dark grey clouds.

For those of you who are interested in architecture, Schwerin is a textbook of 19th century styles. Large parts of the town and its buildings were designed or redesigned in neoclassical, neogothic, neorenaissance and any other of historism's „neo“ styles.

I started from the train station. On the way to Pfaffenteich I passed a house covered in fascinating graffiti. The depths of the oceans have risen to the surface on this house. Must have been a graffiti artist with a lot of imagination. I particularly like the trick picture of the whale and the penguins.

My first destination was Schelfviertel because I wanted to see the church (don‘t ask or I’ll give you a lecture on protestant church architecture and one of the most inportant architects, LOL). To save myself a bit of walking, I took the little ferry across Pfaffenteich. Then I walked through Schelfviertel with its baroque and 19th century architecture and over to the palace on the little island. It was Monday so the palace museum was closed, but I was able to see the palace chapel and the grounds. The way back to the station lead me through the neoclassical government quarter, to the market square and the cathedral and then back along Pfaffenteich.

My visit to Schwerin was short, all I had was a stopover of 3 1/2 hours on the way from home to Wismar. This was enough for a walk of the town and around the palace but not enough to see, for example, the palace museum, enjoy the historical gardens, or do a cruise on the big lake - things I would have liked to do and will definitely do next time.


Mini Cruise on Pfaffenteich



Pfaffenteich is an artificial, rectangular lake between the train station and the old town. The lake is surrounded by linden alleys and elegant 19th century buildings. A ferry, nicknamed „Pfaffenteich cruiser“, does the round on the lake. You can board and disembark at five different landings.

To be honest, the lake is tiny and one could easily walk around it instead of waiting for the ferry to cross it. On the other hand the little boat is so cute in its uselessness that it is fun to do the mini cruise. The captain looks like a real Seebär with white beard and uniform.


Fare: adults 1 €, kids 0.50 € (that was in 2009, not sure if it's still the same)
Operating hours: 10.00-14.00 and 14.30-18.00. No fixed timetable, the ferry will come when someone is standing on the landing. It ran for me alone, in fact...

There are some interesting 19th century building around Pfaffenteich. The large orange-coloured, castle-like building at the southwestern corner was built as arsenal for the grandducal arms in 1840-1844. Court architect Georg Adolph Demmler designed it in the style of English Tudor gothic. Today it hosts offices of civil authorities.

The neogothic church of St Paul west of Pfaffenteich was built in the 1860s as part of a new residential quarter. The surrounding streets run towards the church and create nice street views.

A cute fountain can be found on the southern bank of Pfaffenteich. The two kids with the umbrella remind visitors never to travel without rain gear in Northern Germany...


Schelfstadt and Schelfkirche

Mix of styles in Schelfstadt


The suburb named Schelfstadt between Schweriner See and Pfaffenteich, north of the town centre, used to be a separate town until 1832. Planned shortly after 1700, the quarter shows baroque design.

This part of the town is not spectacular but quite pretty for a stroll. Many old houses have been well restored in the meantime. A close look reveals that the facades may be made of stone and plaster but the construction behind is cheap half-timbered framework.


The centre of the quarter is the rectangular market square round the church. The neogothic building on the corner is entitled as „Ersparnis-Anstalt“. This was a precedessor of today's savings banks, the building is actually used by the Sparkasse now. Opened in 1821, the institution moved into this neo-gothic building next to Schelfkirche in 1857. The building sports a fancy facade with many details in elaborate stonemasonry.



The plan for the new quarter included a parish church which was begun in 1708 and finished five years later. It is officially named St Nikolai but usually known as Schelfkirche. The vault underneath the altar is the burial place of the Granddukes and Grandduchesses of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

To art historians specialized on protestant church architecture, this church is a well-known landmark. The original interior was designed by court architect Leonhard Christoph Sturm who then wrote an essay on church design based on this project, entitled Architectonisches Bedencken von protestantischer kleinen Kirchen Figur und Einrichtung (Architectoinic reflections on protestant small churches' form and furnishing).

I won't bore the rest of you with more details, those who should know will know what I am talking about. Infortunately Sturm's interior was removed and destroyed in the 19th century and substituted by a historistic design.


Schloss - the Palace



Schwerin's most famous and most romantic sight: the palace on an island among the lakes. Tourist marketing likes to call it „the Neuschwanstein of Northern Germany“. Bridges connect it to the government quarter and town centre and to the historical gardens on the opposite side of the lake. The fairy-tale style of the facades derives from 19th century historism and hides a building that has grown over centuries. Five wings form an irregular pentagon around the central courtyard.

The chapel on the eastern corner of the palace was built in the 1560s and belongs to those early protestant chapels built shortly after the introduction of the reformation - as such it will be interesting to art historians. The interior has seen a thorough refurbishment in the 19th century, though. The neogothic choir was also added at the same time. All the others will enjoy the general appearance of the church room underneath the golden stars on the blue vault. For sure this church is popular for weddings. It is hard to imagine a more romantic location than this one.



The palace museum can be entered from the southwestern wing next to the bridge to the gardens. It shows some historical rooms in the former residence of the Granddukes of Mecklenburg and art collections. Unfortunately I did not have time to see the museum, which I regretted a lot.
The parliament of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern occupies another large part of the palace which is not open to the public.


The prettiest part of the gardens on the island is the Orangeriegarden by Peter Joseph Lenné on the eastern side. The architect turned parts of the old and now unused fortifications into an orangerie and colonnades around a central parterre.

The Siegessäule (Victory Column) in the park in front of the Schloss was erected in 1874 to recall Germany’s victory over France in the war of 1870/71 which lead to the foundation of the second Empire. The sculptor Hermann Willebrand designed it after ancient Roman models.

Schwerin's Ghost: Petermännchen


Every old castle or palace needs a ghost on duty and of course Schwerin has one, too...

Petermännchen is a well-meaning but dangerous-looking little goblin who lives in the huge cellar vaults underneath Schwerin palace. He rewards the honest and the good but chases away burglars and intruders. He used to wake soldiers who fell asleep during night watch by rattling his keys to save them from punishment.

The legend tells that the island where the palace is now standing used to be the temple of a pagan god. When christianity arrived the pagan god fled into the depths of the ocean and his servants followed him. Only one remained.

Petermännchen appears in different shapes and outfis, for example as an old man in a long black robe, or as a medieval knight, or a rider with a big moustache. He often changed the colour of his clothing: under normal circumstances he was wearing a grey garment, a red one if war was due, black if someone had died.

The picture of the ghost has been adopted by Schwerin's tourist office - the figure in the photo is put up at the tourist information in Marktplatz. They sell Petermännchen souvenirs and you can even do a guided tour of the old town with him.

Schwerin’s Government Quarter



Schlossstraße, the street that connects the town centre and the palace, is the seat of the government - once of the Grandducate of Mecklenburg, now of the Federal State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

The big neoclassical buildings along Schloßstraße host the Staatskanzlei i.e. the seat of the Prime Minister, and several ministries. The Landtag, the parliament of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, occupies a part of the palace.

Art Museum Schwerin


The neoclassical villa had first been designed as a palais for the Dukes in 1877 but then dedicated to the Ducal art collection. It is now part of Staatliches Museum Schwerin and hosts the largest art gallery in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Sorry to admit that I did not have enough time to enter, the collection seems remarkable.

Schweriner Dom - the Cathedral



The Dom, seat of the Bishop until 1648 and since then the parish church of the old town, was built in 1270-1416. Although the construction works took almost 150 years the interior shows a uniform high gothic appearance. The colours of vaults and walls, white ground with green, pink and dark red lines, have been renewed according to rests of medieval paint. The furnishing has partly been renewed in the late 19th century and is mostly neo-gothic.

The steeple which dominates Schwerin's silhouette is a 19th century addition, it was erected in 1889-1892. It can be climbed (220 steps), the view of the town and the lakes must be amazing.

Vaults in the Dom

Markt, Town Hall and Neues Gebäude – Schwerin’s Centre


The market square between Dom and town hall is the heart of the old town.

The so-called „New Building“ in front of the choir of the Dom, built in 1783-1785, originally served as a market hall. The white neoclassical building now hosts a cafe and restaurant.


The medieval old town hall in market square was described as „looking like a barn“ in the 19th century and did not seem suitable for the residential town of a Grandduke. The magistrate hired court architect Demmler to design a more representative facade. Demmler selected the English Tudor gothic, just like for the arsenal on Pfaffenteich, to give the building a more representative face.

The facade hides the much older building - its back front in Schlachtermarkt gives an idea of its former shape. A passageway underneath the town hall connects Markt and Schlachtermarkt.

Schlachtermarkt and Mr. Parson's Cow


Schlachtermarkt, butchers' market, is the name of the smaller market square behind the old town hall. It now has a little food and knickknack market. A passageway through the old town hall connects it with the main market square.


The house of the free masons in Schlachtermarkt was designed and donated by court architect Georg Adolph Demmler who himself was a member of the loge „Harpokrates zur Morgenröthe“. After the fall of the DDR regime which banned all associations of this kind, the loge has been refounded in 1992 and is again using the house together with a second loge which has been founded one year later.

The fountain in the square, 1980 by Stephan Horota, depicts a famous Mecklenburg folk song: „Herrn Pastor sien Kauh“ (Mr. Parson's Cow). It tells in a humoristic way how the cow has died and everybody in town gets a piece. The song has at least a hundred verses and new ones are invented all the time.




Posted by Kathrin_E 15:50 Archived in Germany Tagged schwerin mecklenburg-vorpommern Comments (0)

Wismar, My Favourite Hanseatic City



Wismar is my personal favourite among the Hansa cities on the Baltic Sea coast. Time stood still here. The well preserved old town covers a large area. It has maintained its medieval and early modern structure, including the old port basin and the canal that runs through the town. World War II bombs have hit the industrial areas and destroyed two of the three medieval churches but spared most of the old town. There is still a lot of restoration work to do. Anyway, the pre-war ambience is still there.

You may find more spectacular individual architectures in other Hansa cities like Lübeck or Stralsund. In Wismar, it is the ensemble that matters, and that made the town UNESCO World Heritage. Despite this status I found the place pleasantly untouristy. That‘s why it has this authentic feel.


My hotel was located next to Wassertor. They gave me a room on the second floor right on the corner next to the medieval gate tower. So I had both the view ot to the harbour and, on the other side, into the old town. The harbour view from my bathroom window at 4 a.m. in the morning (sometimes you’ve got to go, eh) was unforgettable. Dawn was already creeping in as the first fishing boat left the harbour under a velvet-blue sky.

4 a.m. in the morning

Wassertor is the only one left of originally five gate towers in the medieval fortification. The gate tower was erected around 1450. The inner side stills hows the late gothic brick gable while the outer side has been redesigned around 1600.


I stayed for one night in Wismar on my way to our family holiday in Kühlungsborn. Since the holiday with Grandma would be slow-paced due to her walking difficulties, I left home one day earlier in order to have the chance to see more places. After a stopover in Schwerin on the way I arrived in Wismar in the late afternoon. I had almost 24 hours to play with until I was expected in Kühlungsborn the following afternoon. This timeframe is about right to cover Wismar’s sights and attractions.

The old town of Wismar has maintained its medieval and early modern structure, including the old port basin and the canal that runs through the town. World War II bombs have hit the industrial areas and destroyed two of the three medieval churches but spared most of the old town.

You may find more spectacular individual architectures in other Hansa cities like Lübeck or Stralsund. In Wismar, it is the ensemble that matters, and that made the town UNESCO World Heritage.


Scheuerstraße has a remarkable amount of medieval and renaissance merchants’ houses with the characteristic stepped gables. Most of these served as trade offices and storages, some still have cranes at their gables. This street is off the usual tourist path and so far hardly any restoration has been done. The facades are secured but they are in urgent need of plaster and paint. This street breathes the spirit of past decades, if not centuries, even more if you overlook the modern cars parked here.



Time stood still in Wismar. If you keep your eyes open you can still spot the signs and advertisements of shops and companies that have long ceased to exist. Some may date before the First World War.

The store in Spiegelberg (photo on the left) produced and sold sails, waterproof clothing, ropes, nautical maps, and about everything else a sailor needed. The style of the scripture points to the 1920s, if not even pre-World War I.

Below, from left to right:

The workshop of a mechanic in Scheuerstraße advertises repairs on cars and motorbikes.

Heinerich Peters produced smoked eel and other fish in Neustadt.

The „Steam Washing and Ironing Institute“ (in other words: laundry) was located next to Marienkirche.



Spiegelberg is one of many off the beaten path streets with remarkable architecture in urgent need of repair and restoration.

Seeing 17th century facades of once beautiful, now empty and decaying houses, their ground floor windows closed with bricks, makes me hurt. Others have already been done and look great, so let’s hope it will be the miserable houses’ turn some day, too.

A lot depends on the owners...


4579635-Muehlengrube_Wismar.jpg4579632-Grube_Wismar.jpg Grube


„Grube“ (pit) is the name of an artificial watercourse that leads through the old town. This canal was built in the 13th century. It is part of a system of canals that connects the Lake of Schwerin with the Baltic Sea. It supplied freshwater, moved the wheels of the water mills, and provided water for fire-fighting.


The so-called „Gewölbe“ („vault“), a half-timbered house on top of a low bridge with two arches. was built across the end of the Grube canal towards the harbour. It used to be part of the city’s fortification. The pretty half-timbered building dates from around 1650, shortly after the end of the 30 Years War.

Lübische Straße

Lübische Straße is the main street to the west. It was named after the direction it leads to. Lübsch, lübisch is the adjective that refers to the city of Lübeck. The wide street is accompanied by the typical gable facades from all eras, some painted in bright colours. Heilig-Geist-Hospital is the main sight in this street.


Krämerstraße, Hinter dem Rathaus and Altwismarstraße are the city’s shopping streets and pedestrian zone. There is a lot of old architecture along these streets mixed with modern buildings. Here is the liveliest part of the city and the streets have smooth stone pavement instead of the usual cobblestone.

Wismar‘s Harbour


The old harbour basin closest to the old town is still about the same size as in the middle ages. The harbour has extended, the outer parts are now a small but modern cargo port for wood, grain, chemicals and other goods.

Then there are the shipyards. The economical crisis has hit Wismar’s harbour with full force. Wismar’s shipyards build medium-size container vessels. „Cynthia“ was their latest ‘baby’ in June 2009, almost ready to set out for the oceans. The huge pale-blue hall by the harbour serves as indoor dock. The company feels the economical crisis, rumours about them being bankrupt are around. Since they are an important employer in town, let’s hope best for them.



Baumhaus, the „tree house“, was the house of an important official in the harbour who was in charge of opening and closing the „tree“. The „tree“ was a long wooden beam which was attached to two poles to close the harbour basin at night and in danger to keep ship from entering and exiting.


The two poles in the harbour that held the „tree“ were decorated with two woodcarved Schwedenköpfe (Swedish heads). They resemble figures on old ships and are supposed to depict Hercules wearing the lion fur on his head - although these are VERY folkloristic images... They have become a popular symbol in Wismar. The original heads can be admired in the museum Schabbellhaus. Copies have been put up beside the portal of the Baumhaus in the harbour. New copies can also be found far out in the bay by the shipping lane into the harbour. Some pubs in town, including Alter Schwede, present copies of one or both heads.



Walk the promenade along the old harbour basin for views of the harbour, the bay and the old town skyline. If you are lucky the Wismaria is in.

She adds a lot to the harbour’s flair: the reconstructed Hansekogge „Wismaria“. This is what the sailing ships looked like that the Hansa’s wealth was based upon. These ships transported the merchants’ goods on the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. Imagine dozens of them in the old harbour basin in front of Wismar’s skyline with the three mighty gothic churches...


A club of fans is maintaining the ship and doing day cruises out into the bay of Wismar and the Baltic Sea for passengers. In the harbour in the evenings while the crew is still on board there is „open ship“ and you can board and look around for a small donation. Since she is all black, taking photos of her is difficult…

Harbour cruises depart from the old harbour basin near the Baumhaus. They last about an hour. The harbour of Wismar is, I admit, not as impressive as, for example, the one in Hamburg. On the other hand, the cruise takes you out into the bay and you get an impression of the coastlines and the islands Poel and Walfisch outside the bay.


The best is the view of old Wismar from the bay. Storage halls and cranes of the harbour frame the old town silhouette which has not changed much for centuries. The three huge churches still dominate the skyline just as they did since the middle ages, only that the nave of St Marien is missing.


Market Square



The wide square has a size of 100 x 100 m. The historical buildings around it were already restored and kept in good shape in DDR times. Notable buildings around market square: the neoclassical city hall, the gothic house named „alter Schwede“, and the renaissance water reservoir known as Wasserkunst. A farmers’ market takes place on Saturday mornings.


The renaissance building in the southeastern corner of market square was the centre of old Wismar’s supply of drinking water. It was built by a Dutch architect between 1580 and 1602. Water pipes lead from here to the public fountains in the streets and into the ‘better’ houses. The inscriptions in Latin and German tell about the water system in former times.



Wismar’s oldest house, known as „Alter Schwede“, was built around 1380. In the middle ages the lower floors contained living rooms and offices, the attics served as storage. In 1878 the building became a pub which was named the „Old Swede“, referring to Wismar’s history under Swedish government from 1648 to 1803. Its name is also a pun, because „Alter Schwede!“ is also a popular exclamation to express astonishment.


The house next door was built around 1900 when Jugendstil (art nouveau) was en vogue. The architect tried to adapt shape and proportions to its much older next-door neighbour but at the same time use the then modern style. Its stepped gable is an interesting translation of Hanseatic brick gothic architecture into the language of art nouveau.


The town hall occupies the whole northern side of the square. After one wing of the medieval town hall had collapsed, the present building was erected in neoclassical style in 1817-1819. Remains of the medieval building, especially the gothic vaulted cellars, were integrated in the new one. The cellars contain the permanent exhibition „Wismar - Pictures of a City“ about the history of the city.

Blue hour in market square

Nikolaikirche - Church of St Nikolai




Only one of the three brick gothic churches in Wismar is completely preserved and in full use. Nikolai church and the surrounding quarter have remained more or less unharmed during the war, unlike Marienkirche and Georgenkirche. It is an impressive building already from its sheer size. The steeple used to end in a slender spire which collapsed in a gale in 1703 and damaged the church badly. The building was repaired and the furnishing renewed in baroque style. The gables and portals present elaborate ornaments made of glazed bricks.

The huge church is even more impressive from inside. The central nave is 37 m high and one of the highest in Germany. This structure is completely built from bricks.


Nikolai hosts several art works that belong to the two other, destroyed churches, Marienkirche and Georgenkirche. Unlike those the building is intact and fully functional as a church, so it gets less attention, but St Nikolai is in urgent need of restoration, too.

The Steeple of Marienkirche



The Church of Our Lady used to be the main parish church of the city. The nave must have been even bigger and more impressive then the still standing church of St Nikolai. Allied bomb raids in April 1945, a few weeks before the end of the war, hit the church heavily. The ruin could have been saved and rebuilt but this was not wanted. Like other churches in the DDR, the ruin was blown up for political reasons in August 1960. Only the steeple remained as a torso. The foundation of the walls and pillars give an impression how large the church used to be.

The people of Wismar dream of rebuilding Marienkirche. The surrounding walls and pillars have already been rebuilt up to a height of about 1 metre. If you want to help to make the impossible come true, you can support the project by donating a brick. For 10 € you receive a certificate and a brick which you can sign with the date and your name or whatever you want to write on it. These bricks will be used for building so your signature will remain in the church wall forever.


I donated one in the name of my little Australian travel companion...

An exhibition in and around the steeple shows more about the history of Marienkirche, a model of what it looked like, historical building machinery and a brickmaker’s workshop.

Georgenkirche - Church of St George



The Church of St George, another huge brick gothic building, was severely damaged by World War II bombs. The DDR administration did not bother with rebuilding the ruin. At least it was not blown up like Marienkirche. The outer walls and arcades were still standing but without a roof. They were left as they were for 40 years.

In 1990 construction works began. In the meantime the vaults and the roofs have been closed and the facades repaired. An altar has been put up in the choir, which is already used for church services. The rest of the interior is still a construction site. Works are in progress, though. There is hope for this impressive building.


Neue Kirche – Wismar‘s Post-War Notkirche


The New Church next to the ruin of Marienkirche takes us back to the times of destruction and need right after the end of the war. Among the debris, people needed consolation and prayed for a better future. Rebuilding Marienkirche and Georgenkirche was (and still is) a distant dream. As a substitute the small Neue Kirche was built next to the ruin of Marienkirche in 1951. Provisories often have a long life...


The parishes needed new churches that were cheap, easy to build and didn't look too much like barracks. In 1948 the architect Otto Bartning, famous for his protestant church architecture since the 1920s, developed a construction kit, a skeleton of prefabricated wooden frames that could be set up in a day or two. The walls were then filled with bricks from the debris, a work the parish people could do by themselves. Windows and doors were again prefabricated.

About 50 of these so-called „Notkirchen“ were built all over Germany in the years from 1948 to 1951 (so Wismar is one of the latest). They show the architect's genius even more than his big pre-war buildings. From practically nothing he created rooms of timeless beauty. Wood and bricks make a warm, homely atmosphere.

The altar and the bronze baptismal font are medieval pieces from Marienkirche that have been saved. They were transferred into the new church and are still in use.

Fürstenhof - the Ducal Palace


The Ducal palace was the seat of the Dukes of Mecklenburg until 1648. The building has an L-shape. The western wing is the older, it was built in 1512-1513 and still shows gothic ‘curtain’ windows.

The northern wing was built in 1553-1555 and adopts the Italian renaissance, thus the ‘modern’ style of those times. Its facade is richly decorated with figures and ornaments in limestone and terracotta.

After Wismar became property of Sweden in 1648, the building became the seat of the highest Swedish law court for the North-German possessions. Nowadays it hosts the regional law court.

Schabbellhaus and Historical Museum

Wismar’s mayor Hinrich Schabbell had the house and brewery built in 1596-1571. He employed the same Dutch architect who designed the Wasserkunst a few years later. This was one of the earliest renaissance buildings along the Baltic Sea coast and shows the typical Dutch „bacon layer“ design with white limestone ornaments in the red brick (now plastered and painted) wall.


The building hosts the historical museum which presents the culture and history of the city and its surroundings. The original Schwedenköpfe can be admired here, as well as Nix und Nixe* from the Wasserkunst. The medieval past as member of the Hansa is presented, another part of the exhibition presents the Swedish era. The art collection of an adventurous sailor from Wismar who travelled the whole world and finally settled in Australia together with his two sisters is shown. The industry is represented by the shipyards and the train factory. Etc.

  • Nix and Nixe, a male and a female water spirit, served as water taps inside the Wasserkunst, later they were transferred to the outside. In the 19th century they were removed „for reasons of morality“ - hmmm, understandable...

The museum is not big, you can comfortably see everything in 30-60 minutes. For English speaking visitors there are booklets with explanations about the more important pieces to be borrowed in every room.


The bridge across the Grube next to Nikolai church and Schabbellhaus is named Schweinsbrücke („pig bridge“). In accordance with its name it was recently decorated with four cute bronze piglets.

The Wismarians - an Endangered Species?


A running gag in the German TV landscape. A popular, and actually quite good, detective series on ZDF is set in Wismar. SOKO Wismar is broadcasted daily on weekdays (okay, with some repetitions but let's ignore that). Wismar is a small town and if ZDF murders a dozen or so of its inhabitants per week, then some day the Wismarians will be on the brink of extinction...

The fictive police headquarters in the series is, by the way, the Hospital of the Holy Spirit. A lot of the old town, the port and the surrounding landscape is shown. The characters are interesting people - the head of the team, for example, is a typical Mecklenburger, stubborn and always calm, sometimes appearing a bit slow and thus underestimated, but very smart and always in control of the situation. The cases are full of suspense but SOKO Wismar is not one of those hardcore, blood-spilled thrillers, rather a witty and sometimes funny riddle with intelligent stories. To people who are looking for some German TV to watch for language practice, this series is herewith recommended.

Heiligen-Geist-Hospital - Hospital of the Holy Spirit



„Hospitals“ in former times were more old people’s homes than places where sick people were cured. A door in the back of the church allows a glimpse into the corridor of the old hospital building with the cells of the inhabitants built in timberwork.

The small 15th century church is a little gem. Its unique treasure is the painted wooden ceiling, dated 1687, that shows scenes from the Old Testament. In the middle ages the church was open towards the hall so that the patients could follow the masses from their beds. Only after the reformation the separating wall was installed.


The courtyard of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit is a popular setting for wedding photos - that says it all. It can be entered through the gate in Neustadt, round the corner from the church. You’ll find a pretty garden surrounded by brick buildings of different eras, most romantic when the roses are in bloom.

And by the way, in the abovementioned TV series ”SOKO Wismar” the buildings of Heilig-Geist-Hospital play an important role as seat of the police headquarters. So if you spot a police sign above the door, they are probably filming a new episode.


A Collection of Doors

This town is photographer's heaven. Photo options are at every street corner and even when you pass the same spot for the fifth time you will discover a new picture to take.

It invites to find a theme and collect details. Fore example, here is my collection of doors.


Posted by Kathrin_E 00:51 Archived in Germany Tagged wismar mecklenburg-vorpommern hansa Comments (0)

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