When it comes to Germany, most foreigners think of (visiting) the bigger cities – Berlin, Cologne, Munich, and Hamburg. It’s understandable because that’s where life thrives here. What most people don’t think about when they hear “Germany” is the place I grew up at – the beach. The country has two shores, the North Sea as well as the Baltic Sea. And at the latter lies Lübeck, a city full of history and beautiful architecture, derived from the time of the Hanse.
History in every corner: Remainings of the Hanse period
The Hanse was once a big coalition of cities who lived off of maritime traffic and wanted to protect themselves from pirates and other obstacles – and Lübeck is often referred to as its queen. Besides Lübeck, Rostock and Hamburg are other examples of the Hanse coalition. Together, they formed what could be called a little trading empire, and together they thrived. These special roots still can be found in the cities’ names (officially, it’s “Hanse Town Lübeck” or “Hanse Town Hamburg”) as well as in the cities themselves. That goes especially for Lübeck – and if you are interested in this part of history, a visit to the Hanse museum really is worth the while. English guides are available as well as Russian, Swedish and, of course, German. But not only the museum is a reminder of those times. Basically, the entire city is. From the town hall, the salt storehouses, to the famous Holstentor – all these buildings were established in the time of the Hanse. I love to roam the city and just marvel at all of them. You just have to open your eyes a little bit while you wander the streets of the inner city, and you will most certainly find the remembrance of the wealth Lübeck had between the 12th and 16th century.
Architecture from the Hanse period can be found nearly everywhere in Lübeck (The right photo shows the Holstentor, Lübeck’s landmark).
A hot spot for the youth
But today, in the 21st century, Lübeck is a modern city with many ways to spend your time. Since it has its own university and a popular pedestrian area with lots of shopping opportunities, a lot of young people, as well as tourists, are coming to Lübeck every year. That’s why you can find many cafés and bars here as well. My favourite bar to sit down and drink a cocktail at is the Ohana, located at the Hüxstraße. If you’re into vodka, try the Melon Kick cocktail – it’s outstandingly delicious. You can also get yourself something to eat at the Ohana, but if you want some really good regional and not too pricey food, you have to try the Kartoffelspeicher. “Kartoffel” means potato, and that’s exactly what they serve: oven-baked potatoes with every topping imaginable. It sounds like a simple concept, but it really works (If you like potatoes, that is). If you are more into burgers, I can highly recommend going to the Peter Pane. Even though it’s a restaurant chain, the atmosphere is something rather special. It’s hard to explain, but if that doesn’t convince you – I can also say from several try-outs myself, the burgers they serve are some of the best ones I’ve eaten so far in my life.
Literary and cultural finds
Germany, a “country of literary magnitude”. Goethe, Schiller, Brecht – they all are famous German writers who have nothing
to do with Lübeck. But as a book history student, I cannot leave out the people who made Lübeck famous on the literary side: Thomas Mann and Günther Grass. They both lived and worked here in the late 19th and 20th century, and the city pays its tribute to them in very special ways. Mann is most famous for his family portrait of the Buddenbrooks – and Lübeck plays a central part as its location. This was a solid reason to build the Buddenbrookhaus, a museum dedicated to both the authors and brothers Thomas and Heinrich Mann as well as the story itself. The same kind of tribute was decided to be paid to Günther Grass, awardee of the Nobel prize for literature and artist, and so the Günter-Grass-Haus was opened in 2002. But Lübeck not only is a place for cultural history. Besides the theatre, the most well-known place for all things cultural entertainment is the MuK, the Musik-und-Kongresshalle Lübeck. Here, up to 350 events hold place every year (that’s almost one per day!), from concerts to musicals to seminars. It’s worth checking out their programme when in search of something to do in the evening.
Celebrate the water: the sailing regatta “Travemünder Woche”
The Baltic Sea is a semi-enclosed sea, which means there are no strong tides to be witnessed. But if you visit Lübeck in summer around the month of July, and travel down to Travemünde (which is the part of Lübeck where one of its rivers, the Trave, merges with the Baltic Sea), chances might be you can witness something else (and way more fun): one of the popular sailing regattas turned street festivals, the “Travemünder Woche”. Yes, there is an even bigger sailing festival in the even farther north of Germany, Kiel, called the “Kieler Woche”. But believe me, when I say, Travemünde has its own charms and is worth a visit as well. Who wants to go to Kiel anyways, when they can go to Lübeck? (Don’t take that last one too seriously. It’s an old joke between both cities. But really, chose Lübeck.)
A city of many names
There are so much more things to do and see in Lübeck. For example, it’s often called “Marzipanstadt” – the city of marzipan. That’s because Niederegger, a famous marzipan brand, was founded and is still seated in Lübeck. You can visit the brand store situated right in the pedestrian area. Often, Lübeck is also referred to as the “Stadt der Sieben Türme” (city of seven towers). Don’t worry, no evil wizard in white robes is going to take over – it refers to the pompous cathedrals which were built here and still remain. All of these things listed above and many more are what makes Lübeck so special and dear to my heart, and definitely worth a visit. Psst, if you’re staying at Hamburg for a couple of days – Lübeck is only a one-hour trip by train away.
The City of Seven Towers – one or two can be seen from almost everywhere in the inner city.