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Schwerin: Neuschwanstein of the North, They Say

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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.
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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.

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Mini Cruise on Pfaffenteich

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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.

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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...

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Schelfstadt and Schelfkirche

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Mix of styles in Schelfstadt

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Schloss - the Palace

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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Vaults in the Dom

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

Wismar, My Favourite Hanseatic City

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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„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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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.

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Market Square

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Blue hour in market square

Nikolaikirche - Church of St Nikolai

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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Neue Kirche – Wismar‘s Post-War Notkirche

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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...

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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

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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
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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.

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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.

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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?

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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

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„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.

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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.

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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.

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

Family Holiday in Kühlungsborn

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Around the turn from the 18th to the 19th century, doctors discovered how healthy a holiday at the sea is for both body and soul. The oldest seaside resort in Germany, Heiligendamm, was founded a few kms east of Kühlungsborn. Other villages by the sea wanted to participate in the boom but transporting visitors on horse-drawn carriages was a nuisance. Only after the railway line from Bad Doberan to Heiligendamm was extended further west, the villages on the coast became busy seaside resorts.

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Kühlungsborn actually consists of three old villages: Brunshaupten and Arendsee on the coast and Fulgen further inland. In 1938 they were united and named Kühlungsborn. Brunshaupten became Kühlungsborn-Ost, Arendsee became Kühlungsborn-West.

The new town got its name after the Kühlung, a nearby chain of hills a chain of hills located a few kms inland. This is a popular area for hiking with beech forests and viewpoints. The highest 'peak' reaches a height of some 130 m above sea level.

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Kühlungsborn still has two centres. Strandstraße is the main street of Kühlungsborn-Ost. Here is where the souvenir, clothes and beach stuff shops are, and also several restaurants and cafes. Kühlungsborn-West has its busiest area around Kolonnaden and Hermannstraße.

The two village centres are connected by a long beach promenade and a street along which many hotels and guesthouses established. Many of them sport the so-called „Bäderarchitektur“ which is so typical for the seaside resorts on the coast of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

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Dedicated to Omi
On the way to the post office, she kindly transports
the pack with my laundry on her walker...

Right behind there is the Stadtwald. Kühlungsborn’s green heart covers about one square kilometre. The town has grown around this piece of forest. The shady paved trails are popular for biking, walking, and all kinds of exercise. There are playgrounds, a rope climbing garden, sports fields and many other outdoor activities.

Grandma had invited my parents and myself for a one-week family holiday. Years earlier she had visited Kühlungsborn, still with now defunct Grandpa, and she had long wanted to return. Due to her walking difficulties – she had to use a walker – she needed assistance which she secured by inviting us.

We stayed at a fine hotel right on the beach promenade where we also had breakfast and dinner. Since our activity levels differed, they kindly gave me some time off for more sightseeing and for a day trip to Rostock. But we spent a lot of quality time together. Thank you Omi for the holiday!

Omi died in 2012, three years later, so writing this here involves quite some memories.

The Beach

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Kühlungsborn is, first of all, a beach resort. The beach is several kilometres long, equipped with Strandkörbe for rent, very clean and suitable for children. You can but are not obliged to rent a Strandkorb (those German-style basket beach chairs).

However, everyone has to pay Kurtaxe - 2 € per day in high season, 1 € per day in low season. People who stay in Kühlungsborn pay the tax with their hotel bill. Day visitors have to pay a ticket when entering the beach. Yes, there are controls.

The beach is mostly sandy further up but rather pebbly along the water line. Walking along the water line is exhausting because the sand-pebble ground is soft. Out in the water, the ground is sandy again. This is an acceptable beach although not the best along the Baltic Sea coast.
Dogs are only allowed on those stretches that are marked as dog beaches („Hundestrand“). There are a few so your four-legged darling has the chance to swim and play in the water. Outside the dog beaches, however, it's humans only.

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Swimming in the sea can of course be done. The Baltic Sea has no notable tides so you can swim any time. How pleasant it is depends on current weather conditions. The weather along the coast cannot be relied upon. Water (Wasser) and air (Luft) temperature, wind direction and strength are written on amall boards at all beach entrances every day. However, the figure 16 for water temperature seemed optimistic the first day. It felt much colder at first, but after a few minutes it was fine. The weather then improved and the water warmed to 18 °C, probably more the following, very hot weekend when I had already left. Water temperature in the Baltic Sea hardly exceeds 20 or 21 °C. I heard that at 20 °C the algae start blooming and there are all those little plant things swimming on the surface which are not dangerous at all but annoying. Warm currents also bring jellyfish in. In other words, light wind, sun and 18 °C water were perfect swimming conditions.

DLRG (Deutsche Lebensrettungsgesellschaft, German Life Savers’ Association) are keeping watch on the beach. At certain intervals you see their sheds with a lookout on top. When they are on duty the red and yellow flag is waving. In those areas you can swim without any worry. If weather conditions turn bad there will be signals: a plain yellow flag means swimming is dangerous, a red flag means no swimming at all.

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Families: The beach is a bit pebbly close to the water line but in the water the ground is sandy and smooth. The water stays knee to thigh deep for several metres but there is a 'step' in first. Kids can bathe safely as long as wind and waves are not too strong. Babies and toddlers best splash around in the puddles on the beach.

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Visitors with walking difficulties and even visitors in wheelchairs have possibilities to enjoy the beach and swim in the sea. There are two beach accesses suitable for handicapped guests, one near the marina and the other one at beach entrance 8 next to Konzertgarten Kühlungsborn-Ost, the one we used because of Grandma and her walking difficulties.

A ramp leads from the parking lot down to the beach promenade. Entrance 8 has a wooden boardwalk that leads to a row of Strandkörbe and further down the beach to the water. At the end of the boardwalk some steps lead into the water, wheelchair users will need an assistant to help them into the sea.

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Jellyfish appear at the beaches frequently. In German they are named Quallen - doesn’t that sound like a lovely glibbery handful of jelly? It is startling to be touched by something glibbery in the water but most of them are completely harmless. As long as the four rings are white, pink, blue or dark violet there is nothing to worry about. Sometimes you’ll see kids throwing them at each other for fun. Watch its elegant movements if you meet one in shallow water. There is, however, a bright red or orange variety called Feuerqualle (fire jellyfish) which ought to be avoided because they burn. These are rare but in case you spot one, stay away. They won’t kill you but they give painful burns which take some days to heal.

Rent a Strandkorb

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Strandkörbe are a typical German beach item. The first one was created by a basket-maker in Rostock in the 19th century.

On the beaches of Baltic Sea and North Sea the weather is not always reliable. The wind can be unpleasantly chilly even if the sun is shining brightly.

The basket can be turned into the optimal direction to protect you from the wind but let the sun in, or to shade you from the sun, just as you like. The back reclines and foot rests can be pulled out.

A Strandkorb usually seats two people. The front is closed with a wooden grid and locked with a padlock, so you can store your beach stuff inside overnight.

You can rent a Strandkorb per day or per week. There is a rental at about every entrance to the beach in the town area. You receive the key for the padlock, and at the end of your rental period you throw the key into a box at the rental.

Beach Promenade

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Kühlungsborn’s beach promenade has a total length of about 4 kms. It leads along the dunes and the beach, is smoothly paved, wheelchair accessible, and clean enough to walk barefoot if you want. The promenade is for pedestrians only, cycling is not allowed.

Little thatched houses copying the regional farm house style have been built every few 100 metres. Some of these contain souvenir shops, some cafes, icecream or fast-food places, but each of them also holds free and well-maintained public toilets.

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Each of the two beach suburbs, West and Ost, has a „concert garden“ with a stage and benches for the audience. About once or twice a week musical events take place in the late afternoon or early evening. Entrance is usually free.

Most of these are directed at a 60+ audience, though. The programme is on display on placards along the beach promenade and available at the tourist information, probably also at most hotels.

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A ferris wheel is erected on the beach promenade in Kühlungsborn-West during the summer months. The views of the coastline, the town, the sea and the hinterland must be great - yours truly apologizes for being too scared of heights to ride this thing...

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The bronze Sailor’s Wife is looking out for her husband’s ship from the beach promenade in Kühlungsborn-West, hoping for him to return to shore soon safe and sound. She represents the fate of the women in the villages and towns whose husbands (boyfriends, fathers, sons) are away for weeks and months at a time. The women have to cope with the struggles of daily life at home, take care of the children and everything, always in fear that a ship might sink and their men might never return.

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Kühlungsborn’s Seesteg - the Jetty

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A seaside resort on the Baltic Sea needs a Seesteg. Their main purpose is being a jetty where cruise boats can land. However, these jetties or piers are most popular as walkways from where people can enjoy the view of the sea and the coastline, and see the beach front of the town from a different angle.

Kühlungsborn used to have one since around 1900 but the old one had disappeared after the war and 40 years of socialism. Kühlungsborn-Ost’s pride and joy, the new Seesteg, has been opened in 1995. It has a total length of 240 metres.

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Yachthafen Kühlungsborn-Ost and the New Quarter Around

In DDR times there used to be one big holiday accommodation in Kühlungsborn-Ost for the state police, and not much else in this area. In recent years new hotels, shops and restaurants have been built. Right now a big indoor swimming pool and spa is under construction, and next to it another huge hotel complex. In a few years this area will be much more crowded than it already is...

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The modern catholic church has also been built in this quarter, completed and consecrated in 2000. Its architecture is supposed to resemble sails and the construction of a boat.

The new marina in Kühlungsborn-Ost has been established after the reunification, so everything is new and modern. The Baltic Sea is popular for sailing trips and the marina is open to short-term visitors.

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Protestant Parish Church and Cemetery

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The protestant church is by far the oldest building in the whole of Kühlungsborn. The nuns in a nearby convent founded the parish in the middle ages and had the first small church built from field stones. The church has been extended a couple of times in the run of the centuries. The furnishing of the interior is a mix of eras and styles. Together with the surrounding cemetery it is an off the beaten path sight that I recommend visiting.

The cemetery around the old protestant parish church has been in use for centuries.

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Kühlungsborn’s deceased rest in a romantic spot underneath old trees. The narrow paths among old and new graves, hedges, wildflowers, shrubs and trees resemble more a maze than any regular layout. The main path in the middle is a shady alley, formed by old linden and birch trees. If you visit the church, don’t miss a stroll along the cemetery.

Location: in the far southwestern corner of Kühlungsborn on the edge of the town. South of Kühlungsborn-Mitte train station. About 25 minutes walk from the beach promenade in Kühlungsborn-Ost, more from Kühlungsborn-West. If you have a bike at hand, use it.

Tour Kühlungsborn with EMIL

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EMIL, short for „Elektrisch Mobil Ins Land“, is a small electric bus that does tours of Kühlungsborn. It is a quiet and pollution-free way of transport. The vehicle seats max. 13 people, so if you prefer being in a small group this is better than the Bäderbahn. We were 6 and had lots of space. Since we had our grandma with us who was not that good at walking any more, so this was the perfect way of seeing more of the place with her.

Tours depart from the tourist information building in Ostseeallee every two hours and last about 90 minutes.

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There is no need to prebook, you just P1040880.JPGshow up before departure and buy tickets from the driver. You get to see the whole town. You will be taken around Kühlungsborn Ost to the Marina, where you have some 20 minutes to walk around a bit, then via Mitte and south of the Stadtwald round Kühlungsborn West and back to where the tour started. The driver (whose name is not Emil;-)) gives explanations during the ride and can provide a lot of practical tips for your visit.

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Sunset with Seagull

A Little Wombat's First Time by the Sea

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Young Russell saw the sea for the very first time. This was an adventure for a little wombat!

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First, the beach had to be explored. Then the water caught his attention.

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This is scary! Run, Russell, run!

A quiet spot for relaxation and recovery was needed after this. Russell enjoyed our beach basket.

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Posted by Kathrin_E 13:59 Archived in Germany Tagged beaches mecklenburg-vorpommern Comments (1)

Heiligendamm: The White Town by the Sea

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Duke Friedrich Franz von Mecklenburg founded Heiligendamm as Germany’s first seaside resort in 1793. In those times the healthy effects of sea water and sea air were discovered and praised. The Mecklenburg court spent the summers in Bad Doberan. The distance to the beach in Heiligendamm was first covered by horse-drawn carriages, but these were too slow and not efficient enough for the increasing number of visitors.

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In 1886 a train connection from Bad Doberan to Heiligendamm was established. At first the trains operated only during the summer months. Since the railway line has been extended westward to Brunshaupten and Arendsee, now Kühlungsborn, trains run all year round. You can still travel like people did 100 years ago on the Molli train, a narrow gauge steam railway. The historical early 20th century steam locomotives and train cars are still running. „The Molli“ is still the only train connection to Heiligendamm and Kühlungsborn.

Most buildings of Heiligendamm have been erected in the first half of the 19th century. The settlement has preserved its neoclassical appearance. Visiting Heiligendamm is worthwhile for people who are interested in history and architecture. Otherwise, there is not much to see and one hour is enough, to be honest.

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The main buildings belong to the Grand Hotel and are well restored. ‘Ordinary people’ have no access to the premises of the Grand Hotel.

Rumours that the whole of Heiligendamm is fenced off are not true, though. You can walk the beach promenade, walk the pier, and use the beach east of the pier (Kurtaxe is to be paid).However, there are better beaches along Mecklenburg’s coast than this one.

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Note the contrast...

While the Grand Hotel buildings are shining white and polished, the other villas are empty and in a miserable state. The investor does not care about them. Large parts of the „white town by the sea“ are not white but grey. You need some imagination to see how beautiful they used to be, and could be again.

Only one building has also been restored, it contains a restaurant and icecream parlour that cater for the type of visitors who do not stay at the Grand Hotel.

It. Is. A. Shame.

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The villas in the forest look even worse than those along the beach promenade. The contrast is impossible to overlook.

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The previous photos were taken in 2009. I revisited in 2014: The fence is new. Otherwise not much has happened in those five years.

Did I already say it is a shame?

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The Grand Hotel

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In the 1990s the buildings of Heiligendamm were sold to an investor who planned to turn them into a five star luxury hotel. They received a lot of financial support of the state, but they restored only the buildings for the Grand Hotel, the rest, the row of villas along the beach, has not been taken care of. In the meantime the first investor has given up and new owners are searched. The location is too remote, the beach too pebbly and the Baltic Sea weather too unreliable to attract enough of the Upper 10,000 to make the business a success. Let’s see…

The „Society, Dance and Dining House“ of 1816, now part of the Grand Hotel, is the most beautiful among Heiligendamm’s buildings. The facade presents the Latin inscription: „HEIC TE LAETITIA INVITAT POST BALNEA SANUM“ (Here joy is expecting you when you are healthy after the bath - or something like that, the Latin is a bit strange).

The premises of the Grand Hotel are for hotel guests only and taboo for 'ordinary' passers-by like yours truly. If you are interested in the hotel, check out their website.

Beach Promenade

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The panorama of Heiligendamm, the white Grand Hotel buildings and the row of greyed neoclassical villas which could look just as beautiful if they were restored, is best to be seen from the beach promenade. This is also the closest you will get to the Grand Hotel (unless you can afford staying there).

The easternmost building closest to the promenade, which is white and restored unlike the other small villas, hosts a ‘normal’ restaurant and an ice-cream parlour. If you want a meal, a coffee, an ice-cream for a reasonable price this is about your only option in Heiligendamm.

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Seesteg - Heiligendamm Pier

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No Baltic Sea resort could be without a Seesteg, a jetty or pier. The pier is open to the public and accessible for free. It has a totel length of about 200 metres. From here the panoramic view of the coastline with the row of buildings is best.

It is also the arrival and departure point of MS Baltica, the ship that does the (not too frequent) ferry cruises along the coast between Warnemünde and Kühlungsborn.

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The Beach

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The beach in Heiligendamm is rather pebbly and definitely not the best beach along the Baltic Sea coast.

19th century bathers used wooden carts that were pulled out into the shallow water. People changed into their bathing clothes inside the carts and then went straight into the water, so the state of the beach was not very important to them.

To us nowadays, however, it is. Better go to Kühlungsborn or Warnemünde if you want to spend a day on the beach than to Heiligendamm.

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Boardwalk and Steep Coast off Heiligendamm

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The coastline west of Heiligendamm has steep sand bluffs and a forest on top of the cliff - a typical shape on the Baltic Sea coast. The granite boulders, the steep slope and the forest on top make this beach quite picturesque. This part is rather a beach for walking than for swimming because of the boulders in the water and because it has no security. Again further west a part of the beach is declared „Kinderstrand“,
beach for children (seems they do not want the noisy little monsters on the main beach next to the Grandhotel...)

Connection between the main beach and promenade and the steep coast is done, since there is no walkable beach on the stretch in between, by a boardwalk a few metres above the wather. To reach the boardwalk you'll nevertheless have to climb over a few rocks and step into the edge of the water. Best, take off your shoes and roll up your pant legs.

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Posted by Kathrin_E 06:00 Archived in Germany Tagged beaches mecklenburg-vorpommern Comments (4)

Bad Doberan: A Brick Gothic Miracle and a Steam Train

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According to legends Duke Heinrich Borwin I. of Mecklenburg had vowed the foundation of a monastery in the very spot where the first stag would be killed on the next hunting trip. While the hunting party were still discussing the suitability of the location, a swan flew by and called, „dobr, dobr“ - the Slavic word for „good“. Stag and swan are depicted in the town's crest. Sculptures of the swan, wearing a crown round his neck, can be seen in front of and inside the church.

In 1186 Cistercian monks founded the abbey, which is the core of today's town. Their church is one of the most remarkable examples of brick gothic on the Baltic Sea coast. Its pure, carefully restored architecture offers fascinating perspectives. It is hard to find the proper superlatives to describe it.

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Prinzenpalais

In the late 18th century Doberan became the summer residence of the Granddukes of Mecklenburg. A Ducal palace and other buildings to accommodate them and their escort were built and the settlement became a fashionable spa town. The palaces from that time are standing in a row along Alexandrinenplatz and August-Bebel-Straße. Prinzenpalais is nowadays a (upscale) hotel.

Many buildings in the town centre date from those times, including the Chinese pavillons in the park. The triangular park in the town centre, named Kamp, contains two pavillons in 'Chinese' style, built in 1808/09. The 'red' pavillon is now used for art exhibitions. The 'white' pavillon hosts a cafe.

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Bad Doberan's second famous attraction is „the Molli“, a historical narrow gauge steam train that runs to the seaside resorts of Heiligendamm and Kühlungsborn. The Molli runs right through the streets of the town. The photo of the train in the rather narrow street is a must-have, all visitors will go „Molli spotting“ at some point to catch it.

The family went over to Bad Doberan for half a day by car, though. The train would have caused severe problems for Grandma.

Münster - the Abbey Church

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If people say “brick gothic”, the first image that crosses their mind is this church. It is perhaps the purest preserved building in this style.

The monastery was founded in 1186 but the present church was begun more than a century later. It is all built of bricks and is one of the finest example of brick gothic architecture which is so typical for the Baltic Sea coast. The building corresponds with the rules of Cistercian architecture, i. e. no steeple and generally plain without too much decoration, but these rules were pushed to their borders. The church is impressive and was meant to be impressive.

The medieval furnishing of the church is well preserved and still more or less complete. Take your time to admire the art treasures. During my first visit, unfortunately the huge altar of the Holy Cross in the lay brothers' nave was in restauro and hidden behind scaffolding. But I got to see it when I returned five years later.

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The abbey has always had strong connections with the ruling house, the Dukes and later Granddukes of Mecklenburg, who chose Doberan as their burial place. The chapels around the choir are filled with their tombs and monuments.

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In 2014 I revisited Bad Doberan, and that second visit added an even more touching experience. During our choir’s tour in Mecklenburg we sang a concert inside the abbey church. Seeing this fascinating architecture is already something, but singing in there, under these vaults, hearing and feeling the acoustics… I have no words to really express what that meant to me.

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A strange little tower, built from coloured bricks, is standing in the park behind the church. This is the medieval ossuary, where the bones of the defunct monks found their very last rest.

All other buildings of the convent are gone. The church is now standing alone in the middle of a park.

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The ossuary, and what the abbey once looked like

Wisdom of a nobleman about good and evil

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Wieck dübel wieck, wieck wiet van my,
ick scheer my nich een hoar üm dy.
Ick bün een mecklenbörgsch edelmann,
wat geit die, dübel, mien suupen an?
Ick suup mit mienen herrn jesu christ,
wenn du, dübel ewig dösten müst,
un drink mit öm soet kolleschaal,
wenn du sitzst in den höllenqual,
drum rahd’ ick: wieck, loop, rönn un gah
efft by dem dübel ick tau schlah.

Run devil run, run far from me,
I do not give a hair about you.
I am a mecklenburgish nobleman,
my drinking, devil, is none of your business!
I drink with my Lord Jesus Christ,
while you, devil, have to thirst forever,
and drink with him sweet „kolleschaal“
while you sit in the pains of hell.
So I advise: yield, run, race and go
before I beat you in the name of the devil.

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This lovely inscription in Mecklenburg dialect can be found inside the Münster church in the small side chapel of the noble family von Bülow off the northern side nave. It is written above the entrance next to the picture of Heinrich (Henricus) von Bülow in a knight's armour.

Great motto, eh?

Here is someone who understood that you can be religious without giving up the pleasures of life because these were given by the Lord.

Anyway, I would like to know what exactly they were drinking - it is a local word and I cannot figure it out.

Molli Spotting

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These are photos every visitor to Bad Doberan must have... The narrow gauge steam train to Heiligendamm and Kühlungsborn, nicknamed „Molli“, runs through a narrow street in the very heart of the town, rattling and steaming and ringing the bell - impossible to overhear.

The street where it passes through has surprisingly;-) been named Mollistraße.

There is one train coming in and one train going out every hour in the daytime.

For “Molli spotting, position yourself in Mollistraße around a quarter past for the incoming and around a quarter to the full hour for the outgoing train. I found the stairs of the hairdresser's shop on the street corner a very good photo spot.

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For tourists, this is an attraction.

Locals, I assume, are not that happy about this noisy passer-by and the thick black, dirty and smelly smoke it emits. I would not want to have my laundry on the line nearby, or my window open.

I also would not want to sit outside the café with my ice-cream or cake when the train passes an armlength from my table.

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Nostalgic Train Ride on the Molli

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The Granddukes of Mecklenburg and their court spent their summers in Bad Doberan and in the seaside resort of Heiligendamm which is 6 kms away, as did more and more other guests. Travelling to Heiligendamm and back by carriage was cosidered a nuisance. So in 1886 a train connection was established. The railway line was extended to the seaside villages of Brunshaupten and Arendsee, now Kühlungsborn, in 1910.

The train got its cute name from a little dog who lived in a house by the railway tracks and used to bark his head off any time the train approached his home.

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On board

The railway is a narrow gauge one with a track width of 90 cm. The historical early 20th century steam locomotives and train cars are still running.

„The Molli“ is still the only train connection to Heiligendamm and Kühlungsborn. I used it as means of transport to reach Kühlungsborn, coming from Wismar.

In Bad Doberan it connects to the ‚normal‘ DB trains. The Molli departs from the other side of the DB train station so you can easily change from 'normal' trains from Rostock and Wismar. Trains run once per hour in the daytime. They stops twice in town, too: at „Stadtmitte“ (Alexandrinenplatz) and „Goethestraße“.

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Website: http://www.molli-bahn.de

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In 1980 the DDR post issued a series of stamps that showed narrow-gauge trains. Here is the one about the Molli.

From Bad Doberan to Kühlungsborn

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Posted by Kathrin_E 00:00 Archived in Germany Tagged churches trains mecklenburg-vorpommern Comments (0)

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