A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Five October Days in Lübeck

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

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

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

Hüxstraße, a cosy side street

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

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


Lübeck at night



The spires of the Dom



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

Museum day!

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

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

Museum ships by night

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


The Best Overview


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

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


===The City Hall===

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

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

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

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


Typical gothic townhouses built from bricks

The elegant Königstraße with neoclassical townhouses

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

Sculptures by Ernst Barlach on the gable of Katharinenkloster




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

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

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

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

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



Sunday Service in Marienkirche


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

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

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

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


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

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



The bronze baptismal font (1337)

The Antwerp retable (1518)

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

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



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



The Air Raid of Palm Sunday 1942

Details of a stained-glass window in Marienkirche

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

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

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

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



Lübeck’s Gänge: The Hidden World of the Backyards


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

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

But where did the poorer people live?

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

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

Hövels Gang is an upscale example

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

The Lübeck term for these is “Gänge”.

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

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

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

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

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




“Oliver” at the Theatre


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


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

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

The theatre in Bäckergrube at daytime


St Jakobi and the Pamir Memorial



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



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


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

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

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




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


Dom, the cathedral


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

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



Hansa Museum

Part of a church pew with a Russian fur merchant

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

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

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


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

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


St Annen Museum Quarter


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

Inner courtyard with the original sculptures from Puppenbrücke

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

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




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


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

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

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



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

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

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

Bike Tour to Travemünde


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

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

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



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

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

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

The photos look much friendlier than the village actually is.


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

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


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

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



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

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

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

Lunch with a view

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


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

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

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



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

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


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


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

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

So, respect for this tower, please.

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

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


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

The Baltic Sea, flat as a tablecloth that day

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

Digging in the sand, wombat’s favourite pastime

Basking in the sun



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

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



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

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

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

Old Travemünde


Skandinavienkai, the ferry terminal



Passing Gothmund


Lübeck's harbour under the moon

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

The boat and my bike

Sunset over the Trave

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

Büchen, Lauenburg, and Ratzeburg by Train and Bike

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



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

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

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

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


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

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

The pulpit also originates from Franzhagen palace chapel.

Of course the boys were with me

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



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


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

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

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



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

Where the canal enters the Elbe



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



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


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



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


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


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



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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

Münster Part I: The Catholic City

Prinzipalmarkt in all its splendour, decorated for a coming festival


Münster is known as one of Germany's most catholic cities. It is the seat of a bishop, is full of historical churches, and even in our secular days, the presence of the Roman Catholic church is strong. The perfect place for that favourite pastime of an art historian that we like to call “churching”.


On the other hand, Münster’s university with about 30.000 students just as strongly influences the city’s atmosphere. The centre of the university is located west of the river Aa in the inner city, along Universitätsstraße (sic!). The Schloss is another important centre, and of course the huge hospitals and clinics further west. The presence of 30.000 young adults in town means a lively nightlife, pubs and shops that cater for young people, many cyclists in the streets…

Due to the amount of material I have, my report about Münster will be divided into three parts: first the religious side of the city, which in Münster's case means first of all: Roman Catholic. The second part will look at the city's secular attractions, and in the third I wil present the lake Aasee on the western outskirts and its surroundings.

Like most German cities, Münster was heavily destroyed by World War II bombs. However, unlike many others, it has been rebuilt in a good-looking way as a transformation of historical structures into contemporary forms. The effect is most visible in Prinzipalmarkt where a closer look at the facades reveals in an instant that they are not historical but 1950s.

The result is an interesting mix of old and new, catholic conservatism and progressive young ideas, upscale patricians and vibrant alternative culture.



I visited Münster several times in the 2000s and 2010s when I attended conferences at the Catholic Academy. Its name “Franz-Hitze-Haus” refers to a local priest and professor of theology who worked in the education of adults already in the second half of the 19th century. The academy does conventions, seminars etc. about almost any topic that is in the widest sense connected with Christian faith. The academy provides accommodation and meals for the participants and the atmosphere is very pleasant, friendly and familiar.


Director and team really want people to feel comfortable, as you notice in many little details that are well taken care of. Food is abundant and of excellent quality. Since most participants stay at the academy, there is a lot of time to talk and discuss during breakfast, coffee breaks, meals, and in the evenings with a beer or wine which can be obtained at the cafeteria.

The main building with the guest house dates from the 1950s. The architecture of the building with the guest rooms, which forms a square of 6 x 6 windows, has been taken as their logo. Two years ago an additional wing with new conference rooms has been built that offer any modern technical feature you may want.


I have in the meantime been there for the 8th time, always in September for the study week on art history and theology which used to take place every year. Since the former director retired, they have done two or three attempts with a shortened programme under the new leadership, but in the meantime they have given up on this format altogether. It is a pity that they don’t have them anymore!

The chapel of the academy, dedicated to St Edith Stein

The conferences used to take five days, one of which was taken up by a full day excursion. In addition to talks and discussions, the schedule always included long breaks, time to socialize with the other participants, and one afternoon off for personal sightseeing in the city. Since most participants were staying at the academy, there were endless occasions to talk from breakfast over meal times and coffee breaks to the evening wine or beer. Everyone who attends scholars’ conventions regularly knows that the most important things happen during those little talks over a coffee or meal outside the conference schedule.

The liturgic study weeks, as they called them, would always have one particular topic, for example the altarpiece, the pulpit and ambo, designs of side chapels, vasa sacra, concepts of light, paraments and other sacred textiles… and so on. They attracted and actively invited researchers from various fields of study, like theologists, art historians, church historians, and also craftspeople, priests and nuns, architects, designers… anyone who dealt with that certain topic in the past or present. This led to a wide variety of approaches.


The emphasis was on the Roman Catholic church but other denominations were discussed as well. The conferences were open to anyone who had an interest in the topic, not just professionals. There were regulars who came every year, others who, like me, came every now or then depending on the topic, and also one time only participants. I have encountered a load of interesting people there, and I was very proud of having once given a conference talk myself (on the regulations of seating in protestant churches of the early modern era).

The excursions took us into various parts of Westphalia, often to Off the beaten path destinations that no one had ever heard of. They took place on the fourth day when everyone already knew each other, so they had the character of a company outing. The leader and guide was a retired monument conservator from Münster who knew even the tiniest places in the countryside and was on first-name terms with every brick on Westphalia’s town and village churches. He would always come up with surprises. Perhaps I’ll write about some of those excursions later on…


But here's to the city of Münster. Let me start with a word of warning to you English speakers: Take care about the correct spelling of the name of this city: MÜNSTER People without knowledge of German tend to omit and ignore the two dots on the u. However, MUNSTER is the name of a small town in the Lüneburg heath north of Hannover and if you buy a train ticket to or book a hotel room in „Munster“, or enter the name into your navigation system, there will be a surprise for you… perhaps you are interested in seeing a tank museum instead of a vibrant and historical university city?
This is perhaps the most tricky example why the umlauts ought to be observed because in this case a misspelling will lead to an entirely different destination.
If your keyboard does not have the „ü“ (which is an Umlaut and turns the vowel u into a completely different letter and sound), there is an alternative spelling which is correct and acceptable and understood: insert an extra „e“ after the U and make it MUENSTER. This is a perfectly correct alternative spelling that will be recognized by every reader, be it a human being or a computer.
You will also notice that there is more than one Münster in Germany. The name derives from Latin monasterium (monastery) and there are several, although all the others are small villages. If you need an exact definition (on the Bahn website, for example), Münster/Westfalen is the right one.



Once arrived, Münster is best explored by bike. The city is widely known as Germany’s bicycle capital. The landscape in Northern Germany is mostly flat and perfect for cycling. Münster was one of the first cities that adjusted its traffic planning to bikes more than cars. The huge underground „bike station“ next to the train station offers secure parking, rental bikes, repairs and service. The city is full of bikes. Only finding parking can be a problem…


They have some bikes to let at the academy, which came very handy. Their number was limited, so one had to enquire at the reception right on arrival day to grab one. These bikes were what the Germans would call “old cucumbers” (alte Gurken – you get the idea) but they had two wheels, two pedals and a saddle and they would move. Better than nothing, and since they were for free, I am sparing my complaints. The route into the city was in theory walkable and there were also the city buses, but nothing beats the speed and the independence of a bike.

Münster Cathedral or St.-Paulus-Dom



Münster has been the seat of a bishop since 792. The cathedral is a huge building that has grown over centuries and styles. Its patron saint is St Paul. Its first inauguration took place in 1264 - hence it celebrated its 750th anniversary in September 2014.

Reason to dedicate a whole conference to this cathedral, its architecture, art and history. That year’s excursion was a long guided tour of the church into angles that the average tourist would not even notice, let alone enter.
Views from a hidden upstairs chapel


After the severe damage it suffered in World War II, rebuilding the Dom was Münster's central project. Most of it was rebuilt according to the original medieval shape, minus all late gothic and 19th century additions. Parts of the furnishing and many art works have been saved, others like the pulpit had to be renewed. The interior around the altar, however, was redesigned according to the needs of liturgy, with the wide open altar island in the intersection of nave and transept instead of the high screen that had previously closed off the chancel.


A big problem, however, was the western side. The former western wall with the late gothic portal was gone. Originally there had been a second chancel in the west of the church, only the late middle ages had given up this liturgical space and installed the main entrance fron the west. Now, the cathedral chapter wanted the second chancel back, hence no reconstruction in pre-war shape. Architect Emil Steffann provided a design in simple shape, with the small round windows that resemble a rosette as only ornament. A leftover bit of original wall in the corner on the left was integrated.
Not everyone liked the new facade, as can be expected - „modern stuff“ is often rejected without even looking at it closely. The facade was soon nicknamed „God's Douche“ or „the Phone Dial“ (the older among us will still remember those phones with a round dial;-)). In six decades people got used to it, though. I consider it a fine example of 1950s architecture of high quality.
From inside the large rosette pattern is most impressive due to the colours of the little stained-glass windows. The baroque altar used to be the church's main altar and was originally placed in the eastern chancel. With the post-war redesign it has found its place here.
The western chancel
The retable originally contained the cathedral's treasure. When all wings are opened, there is space inside for all the gilded vasa sacra and reliquiars. Nowadays the treasure is on display in the treasure chamber museum off the cloister. For the 750th anniversary of the cathedral in September 2014 the treasure was once more displayed in the altarpiece for one weekend.
This text is a brief summary of what I learned during a study week about the Dom, its architecture and history, at the catholic academy in September 2014.



The astronomical clock is maybe the most popular tourist attraction inside the cathedral. It is located in the side aisle around the chancel on the southern side. Since 1540 it has been indicating time, the run of sun and moon, the planets and the zodiac, and the clockwork is still exact. A renaissance masterpiece. The lower part behind the grid shows the calendar. Everything is guarded by the Madonna from above.
You will hear the bell every 15 minutes. But only once a day, at 12 noon, the clock will perform its little show. Many tour guides include this in their walking tours so expect to be in the middle of a dense crowd. The little man on the left will „blow“ his trumpet, his wife hits the bell. Chronos, the Time, turns his hourglass and Death will ring his bell. Then the Three Holy Kings together with their servants will start their march, salute and bow the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus. The figures are high up and the aisle is narrow, so one does not see them too well from below. Nevertheless, if you are in or near the cathedral just before noon, watch it.


The three chapels around the eastern chancel were built in the 1660s by Prince Bishop Christoph Bernhard von Galen after his victory against the rebellious city. His tomb is placed in the one behind the altar, a large baroque tombstone with his statue kneeling in prayer. Note the artificial flowers on top of the screens between aisle and chapels.


However, Christoph Bernhard was not the most famous member of the noble family of Galen who is buried here. In 1933 Clemens August Graf von Galen became Bishop of Münster. The „Lion of Münster“, as he was named, was a determined opponent of the NS regime. He had the courage to speak up against racial discrimination and euthanasia. He was constantly on the brink of being arrested but never was - his origin from one of the highest noble families may have protected him. His sermons were banned, though. Nevertheless the texts were spread everywhere, copied by hand or typewriter and passed around clandestinely. In 1946 Clemens August was nominated cardinal but died soon after. He was buried in the middle chapel.
In 2005 Pope John Paul II declared him blessed. An inscription in the metal plate in the pavement states that the Pope had visited the grave to pray here in 1987. A bronze portrait bust of Clemens August has been put up in the aisle opposite his grave.


The Cloister



The gothic cloister behind the cathedral serves as graveyard for the members of the chapter, suffragans and other clerics, while the bishops are buried in the crypt inside the cathedral.
The hooded figure on top of the monument in the centre is not a Madonna, as it may seem from afar, but - Death.


The cloister contained the entrance to the Treasure Chamber of the Dom. For anyone interested in sacral art, this museum used to be a must. Due to structural problems of the building it has been closed for good in 2017. It is still awaiting a decision how and where the treasure is going to be presented in the future.
The photo shows it as it used to be. This is just a small part of their collection of historical vestments for mass. The treasure includes gold and silver artefacts, relics of saints, vasa sacra and textiles from all times back to the Romanesque era. Let's hope they will soon find an adequate solution to reopen it to the public.




A wide square extends along the western side of the Dom. It allows to see the full extent of the cathedral’s length from the two steeples in the west to the high choir in the east.


A large farmers' market takes place twice a week in Domplatz: on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. It fills more or less the whole square. The stalls sell all kinds of fruit and vegetables and other groceries, fish and meat and bread and cheese and whatever fresh food you can think of. There is a „cheese lane“ and a „bakers lane“ and a „butchers lane“ and so on. Some sell specialities, like spices, jam, honey, mediterranean specialities like olives and other marinated vegetables, Dutch liquorice... Flowers and garden plants are also available in abundance. If you like markets, this one is worth a visit. On Saturdays it will be extremely crowded because tout Münster do their weekend shopping there. On Wednesdays it is still busy but less overrun. Go in the morning as the stalls pack up and leave between 12.00 and 13.00.
At all other times, a large part of the square serves as a parking lot, which does not necessarily add to its atmosphere.

Kurien: Houses of the Canons

Kettler'sche Doppelkurie

The members of the cathedral’s chapter each had a house in the vicinity of the cathedral. Houses which are better described as ‘manors’ – a very nice type of company housing.
Two baroque „curiae“ still exist in Domplatz - three, in fact, because one of the buildings, Ketteler'sche Dopelkurie, combines two under one roof (hence the two portals) with a representative staircase in the middle.
The other one hosts the Generalvikariat, the central administration of the diocese.
And there is a third one, a few steps away in the street opposite Landesmuseum, currently undergoing restorations and blocked off by the fence of the construction site.
The design of all of them follows the same principle. The main building is separated from the street by a front yard, closed by a fence. The main wing has a risalite with a small gable in the middle. Two lower side wings embrace the front yard.

Westfälisches Landesmuseum


The museum contains a large permanent collection about history, art and culture of the region of Westfalen and the diocese of Münster. Among their treasures there are the original medieval statues from the cathedral and other churches in Münster. It also shows temporary exhibitions. The museum is owned and operated by the Federal State and the biggest museum in the city.

Our excursion of the Dom in September 2014 took us also into the Landesmuseum to see some additional pieces of particular value or delicacy that could not be kept inside the church. The museum has just been reopened after five years of closure for construction works. The size of the building and the room for exhibitions has doubled due to the new wings that have been added. Their art treasures, from the middle ages to contemporary art, now have lots of space around them and can be viewed much better than previously. The modern architecture is worth a look, too. A visit is highly recommended!

„Churching“ in Münster

In addition to the cathedral itself, there are many more opportunities for our favourite pastime called “churching”. The city is full of churches and chapels. First, there are the big parish churches of the city, namely Überwasserkirche, St Lamberti and St Ludgeri. Many religious orders had and/or still have their convents in town.

During a conference excursion, we visited an architect's office located on the top floor of a modern building opposite the theatre. They had a rooftop terrace, from where I caught these exceptional views:
Towards Dom and Überwasserkirche. In the background, in front of those trees just left of Überwasser steeple, you can spot the roof of the palace. The trees on the light hill belong to the park and botanical garden. The two highrises behind are the university hospital. The academy is located in the same direction but hidden behind the hill.
St Lamberti over the rooftops



St Lamberti is the city parish church in Prinzipalmarkt, catholic of course. Its blackened gothic spire is a landmark in the city’s skyline. The facades are decorated with rich gothic and neogothic sculpture. The interior is a wide gothic hall with three naves of equal height.

When and where Münster Made History I: The Anabaptists’ Empire (1534)


The steeple of Lamberti gives testimony of a dramatic episode in Münster’s history to this very day. Three metal cages are attached to the big window above the clock face. Those cages once contained the corpses of the executed leaders of the Anabaptist revolution in 1534.
In the age of the Reformation certain groups did not go with the ‘official’ evangelical theology but developed their own doctrines. They did not accept the baptizing of little babies who cannot decide for themselves but postulate people to be baptized only as adults when they are able to understand what this is about. They also refused to accept any worldly authorities. Rumours spread that they were even planning armed riots. Those radical sects, known as Wiedertäufer (Anabaptists), were persecuted as dangerous heretics everywhere in Germany, tortured and executed when caught.


In 1534 the Anabaptists conquered the city of Münster and created their own state here. The Bishop had to flee. However, the Bishop returned, supported by other Princes, with an army and besieged the city. After a year the Anabaptist’s reign fell. Punishment was severe.
The leaders of the Anabaptist revolution were executed and their corpses enclosed in iron cages which were attached to the steeple of St Lamberti so that ravens and crows would eat the flesh and bones. A shameful grave for the whole city to see. The cages were meant to stay up there forever, as a warning for anyone with similar heretic notions. And there they are to this very day. Yes, they are really empty now!

Überwasserkirche, the church “over the water“, is located, seen from the city centre, beyond the Aa river that flows along the western side of the cathedral hill. It is the parish church of the northwestern quarter. A short walk from Domplatz across a small bridge takes you there. The church's striking feature is its fat, spireless steeple which reminds of English and French churches and forms a significant landmark in Münster’s skyline.


After a renovation and a longer period of closure, the church is now reopened. The Interior is accessible all day. The main portal through the spire is usually open. Note the Madonna on the trumeau, the middle pillar between the two doors - probably 19th century, but what a charming look.
The late gothic interior is a hall with three naves of equal height. The modern glass windows in the choir add colourful light. The church appears rather plain at first sight, but some historical art works are preserved. Other pieces had to be substituted by modern ones after the war. The baroque baptismal font caught my eye. The gilded serpent slung around the pedestal symbolizes sin and the devil, which are overcome by the Lord's promise of redemption in baptism. The modern tabernacle in the northern side nave is also worth a closer look, as well as the new bronze portal on the southern side.



The parish church of the southern quarter of the old town was founded in the late 12th century. The nave was built around 1200 in Romanesque forms but underwent some repairs and changes after a fire in 1383. The higher choir and the upper part of the central spire were added in the 14th century. The central spire has never had a pointed peak. Instead it ends in open gothic tracery that looks like a crown.
The two front steeples are 19th century addition but substitute the Romanesque steeples that had been destroyed in the fire of 1383. The interior hosts a couple of precious art works, both medieval and modern.

Jesuitenkirche St Petri, the Church of the University


The former church of the Jesuit college, now the catholic high school church of St Petri, was built in 1590-1597. It is located in the university quarter. The architect was a Johann Roßkott. It was the first church built by the Jesuits in the Rhenish province of the order, thus an important example of early Jesuit architecture. The architecture is a mix of renaissance and late gothic elements. The Jesuits often used the gothic style in their churches, although the middle ages were long over and other styles were en vogue, to emphasize the long tradition of the true Christian (read: Roman Catholic) church and faith.



This one is a jewel. Münster’s only baroque church was built by Johann Conrad Schlaun in 1745 - 1753. The octagonal church is crowned by a dome - deriving from the model of baroque architecture in Rome and finally from the ancient Pantheon. The dome is decorated with a fresco that reveals a (painted) view into heaven. Restoration works had it closed for some years. However, these works are finished. The church can now be admired in all its freshly polished splendour. Outside mass and services the church can only be viewed through the wrought-iron gate behind the entrance door, unfortunately. During a conference tour we were able to enter, though.



Protestant Chapel of St John


Yes there are also protestant Christians in Münster. Being a minority, they make little appearance in the centre, though. In central Münster they have two former Franciscan convent churches (Observantenkirche and Apostelkirche) and a cute little gothic chapel, Johanneskapelle.
The 14th century chapel of St John is hidden in a walled courtyard on the edge of the old town, not far from Buddenturm, the only remaining tower of the medieval fortifications. It was built in the 14th century for the convent of Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. The order is long gone from Münster. Later on the Franciscans used the chapel; the main portal and a few tombstones and epitaphs are preserved from that era. Since 1811 it was empty and used for profane purposes.
After World War II it was given to the protestant parish community. Protestants are still a minority in catholic Münster - the first protestant community was founded when the city became Prussian in the 19th century. Only after the war a larger number of protestant people settled in the city.
The chapel is open in the daytime - at least it was when I passed. The architecture is not too overwhelming, but most likely you'll be all alone in there. The acoustics is fine for singing a little hymn...

Dominikanerkirche and the Foucault Pendulum


Even Münster feels the impact of our secular times, with more and more members leaving the big churches. The city has more than enough churches. The diocese had to make some hard decisions which one to give up as places of holy service and find a profane use for.
The most prominent affected ex-church in the centre is the one of the former Dominican convent. The baroque church building in Salzstraße, right in the pedestrianized shopping street, has been profaned in 2017. A big art work by the artist Gerhard Richter has been installed under the dome. It consists of a Foucault pendulum reflected in two huge mirrors. Chairs invite to sit down for a meditative watch of the pendulum.

Former Dreifaltigkeitskirche


This is a place we visited during a conference excursion. That year the conference dealt with the profanation of churches due to diminishing numbers of church members, and how to find new uses. Trinity Church was erected as parish church for a suburb in the north of the city in 1937 – 1939.


After the fusion of three parishes, the church became obsolete. It was turned into a housing project for homeless people, together with some offices that were rented out to businesses in order to have some incoming money. Architects found an interesting solution how to deal with the present building. From the outside its shape remained undisturbed. Inside, they installed three or four storeys with a glass corridor in the middle. Only in the apsis, where they installed the elevator, a few original items recall the former function as a church.


Sequels (to come):
Münster Part II: The Secular City
Münster Part III: Around Aasee

Posted by Kathrin_E 21:43 Archived in Germany Tagged churches münster nordrhein-westfalen Comments (2)

Münster Part II: The Secular Side of the City


Some history about the structure of the city needs to be explained first, with the help of a 3D bronze model that is actually meant for blind people.
We see the Dom, its surroundings and the wide square in front. Then there is the semicircular Prinzipalmarkt, a market street, with townhouses densely lined up along both sides. Behind the inner row of the houses, there is an empty space. This used to be kind of an inner-city border between the realm of the Bishop and the bourgeois city under the administration of the magistrate. In former times there was a wall that divided the two. Except for one (new) bigger street opposite the city hall, only small passages connect Prinzipalmarkt with Domplatz. The line where the wall used to be is marked in the pavement. The big Lambertikirche with its tall gothic spire was built by magistrate and townspeople as an opponent to the mighty cathedral.




The long street market is the heart of Münster. Most of the gothic and renaissance houses along both sides have been damaged by World War II bomb raids. The rebuilding after the war has been done in a remarkably honest but careful way. The general shape of the facades has been kept but the details and ornaments are modern.
The ambience of the square has been maintained without doing Disneyland copies that pretend the houses are centuries old and the war has never happened.
Like in former times there are many shops of all kinds underneath the arcades along the market. Good and even elegant shops, but not snobbishly upscale. In case you plan a shopping tour, start here.



Every year in early September, usually on the weekend after the end of our conference, they have a festival in the old town. Days before, Prinzipalmarkt is decorated with lines of little triangular flags in the city's colours: red, white and yellow.

These create interesting photo options together with the gables above.
The effects are eye-confusing. The lines of flags make a raster and turn the architecture behind into a graphic ornament.

When and where Münster made history II: Rathaus and the Westphalian Peace Treaty (1648)


The city hall has been damaged in World War II just like the other houses in Prinzipalmarkt. Due to its historical significance it has been reconstructed in its original shape with its gothic facade. The city’s tourist information resides on the ground floor .


This building has seen an event that was a milestone in history for the whole of Central Europe. In May 1648 one half of the Westphalian Peace Treaty that ended the Thirty Years War was negotiated and finally signed in the hall of the city council.
The hall has been named „Friedenssaal“ (peace hall) ever since. It is furnitured with beautifully carved renaissance woodwork, though smaller than I had expected. Portraits on the wall present all the participants in the negotiations of 1648. The hall can be visited with ‘guided tours’, which are in fact done by a tape.


More Sights in the City Centre

Art Nouveau Tower of Stadthaus


The so-called „Stadthaus“ („City House“) was built next to the old city hall in 1902 1907 to accommodate offices of the city administration. While the rest of the building and everything around was destroyed in World War II, the tower survived miraculously and almost without damage.
The tower is a landmark in the heart of the city where Prinzipalmarkt and Ludgeristraße meet. The style happily mixes neo-renaissance and art nouveau elements. Along Ludgeristraße, one of the main shopping streets, you walk straight towards it.

In 2001 the tower received a new carillon that rings every day at 11.00, 15.00 and 19.00.



The baroque palace was designed by Johann Conrad Schlaun, Westfalen’s great 18th century architect. It was the city palace of a noble family who were important civil servants in the bishopric.

The palace grounds are located on a street corner. Schlaun had to find a solution how to create a building that met the common taste's ideal of symmetry on a ground in the shape of a crooked triangle. He succeded! He positioned the main building diagonally so that a triangular courtyard was formed in front of it. A high wrought-iron fence separates it from the public street.

The Drost or Droste was actually the title of a high-ranking official in the administration. Since the positions soon became inheritable and connected to certain noble families, they adopted the title as part of their name and called themselves „Droste zu (of) Nameofplace“. The best-known member of such a family is probably the 19th century poet Annette von Droste zu Hülshoff, or von Droste-Hülshoff as she is usually named. (But she is from a different family than the one here.



The Kiepenkerl, the pannier guy, recalls the poor Westphalian merchants and workers who were tramping the countryside with a pannier on their back, struggling to make a living.

The monument in Spiekerhof has become the name patron of the two adjacent restaurants, Großer and Kleiner Kiepenkerl, one rather upscale, the other at a more reasonable price level.

In 2018 this square was the site of a terrible amok run when some psycho drove his van into a group of people, killing four and severely injuring several more, before he shot himself.

Picasso Museum and Square


Münster has its shares of museums. The abovementioned Landesmuseum is the flagship. For fans of more recent art, there is the Picasso museum – sadly, I have to admit that I have never visited hence I can’t tell much about it.
The most recent acquisition of Münster's art scene: The square in front of the Picasso Museum has received a new pavement from stones in different colours which depicts the face of Picasso, including his famous striped sweater. The inauguration happened just when I was there, on September 1, 2010.
It is a bit hard to see from ground level. You get a better idea from the top of the stairs in front of the museum entrance but to really see the picture you'd have to be at a window on the upper floors of the surrounding houses. I have photoshopped one of my photos to give an idea.


Museum of Lacquer Art


A hidden gem in Münster’s cultural landscape. Their opening hours are limited and only during the 8th conference I attended in Münster, I finally managed to see it.
Lacquer is a traditional and very expensive technique in the art of the far east. When princes and nobility started collecting porcelain from China and Japan in the 17th century, also the first pieces of lacquer art came to Europe. In fact, these were known as “black porcelain” in the beginning. While porcelain, or china, has been produced in Europe since the early 18th century, equal attempts to set up a production of lacquer were never as successful.
Lacquer was made from the resin of a certain tree that grows in China, Japan and Korea. Many thin layers were applied, polished, another layer applied… elaborate and costly work. Black, red and yellow are the traditional background colours that were then painted with scenes or landscapes in gold or lighter colours. We all know the typical decorations of Chinese restaurants with scenes in gold on a black ground – these are a cheapo imitation but they give an idea of the style.
The museum is based on a collection owned by BASF. In addition to the historical pieces, they are regularly showing temporary exhibitions of modern lacquer art.
A museum for people who love precious, delicate, unusual pieces of art that require time and a close look.
No photos inside, sorry.

Krameramthaus - House of the Merchant Guild


The renaissance building behind Lambertikirche has been repaired in its original shape after the war. It is the house of Dutch culture and hosts exhibitions of contemporary art nowadays.
The house served as accommodation for the Dutch delegation during the negotiations that lead to the Peace Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which ended the 30 Years War.



Once upon a time Münster's city walls had eleven gates and seven towers. All these are long gone. Only one of the towers is preserved. I cannot tell where the name Buddenturm comes from. The white tower and red roof are part of the skyline among the many steeples. During its mixed history the tower has served as watchtower, prison, powder mill, storage, and water tower. In the 19th century it was augmented and ornated with pinnacles, but these were taken down during the repair works after the war. Instead it received the present cone-shaped roof 'in old style'.

The New Diözesanbibliothek: impressive example of modern architecture that went well


The new library building is, in my opinion, a fine example of modern architecture within historical surroundings. It is basically a long rectangular 'box' with uniform rectangular windows, pleasantly unpretentious in its design. Together with the gothic steeple of Überwasserkirche and the 19th century, neo-renaissance facade of Liudgerhaus it forms an ensemble that fits well together despite its diversity of styles. All three facades were built from sandstone in the same color - this is the connecting element. Walk along the passage between library and Liudgerhaus and note how the architect used the tricks of perspective.
The building hosts the central library of the diocese, one of the largest scientific theology libraries in Germany. The library as such is an old institution, the history of which goes back to the middle ages. Their new home, a modern library with all technical features, has been opened in 2005.

Schloss Münster


The modern vestibule

The palace of the Bishop of Münster was built in the 18th century by Westphalia’s most famous baroque architect, Johann Conrad Schlaun. After the secularization the palace became property of the university, which is still using it as their main building.
Like most of the city the palace suffered severe damage in World War II. The facades were reconstructed by the interior has been redesigned in 1950s style, nothing is left of the historical rooms.
West of the Schloss a huge park extends along what used to be the moat of the citadel.


Botanical Garden



The inner part of the park behind the Schloss contains a beautiful Botanical Garden. The garden is taken care of by the university’s institute of botany and serves for scientific research. They have an enormous variety of plants from all continents assembled in garden compartments and greenhouses according to the climate and soil conditions of their homeland. A walk through the gardens is a walk around the world. I really really recommend visiting. The gardens are open during daylight hours. Access is free; donations enable them to grant free entry.
The botanical garden is a secret favourite of mine. It is a beautiful spot to walk and explore all those different flowers and herbs, shrubs and trees from all over the world, or to find a bench in a quiet spot and sit and relax, and rest from all that “churching” done before ????
The wombats were overjoyed to sniff eucalyptus leaves in the Australia garden

Previous: https://germany-kathrin-e.travellerspoint.com/236/
Sequel: Münster Part III: Around Aasee

Posted by Kathrin_E 08:25 Archived in Germany Tagged museum university garden biking münster nordrhein-westfalen Comments (0)

(Entries 46 - 50 of 167) Previous « Page .. 5 6 7 8 9 [10] 11 12 13 14 15 .. » Next