Today was a day off in, spent in the Northern German town of Lubeck. I made a good decision when I decided to walk yesterday and take today off because it started raining about lunchtime and I would have been wet if I’d been on the road.
Today served its useful purpose; I took a break and got some rest. I also went out to see the town by taking a bus tour. Lubeck is just an amazing city. It doesn’t get the credit it’s due because it’s a little off the beaten path, but well worth the effort to see if you ever get the chance.
Lubeck, a city of 216,000+, has an original old town built on an island, completely surrounded by the Trave River which flows into the Baltic Sea a few miles northeast of town. The island is about 1.5 miles long and less than one mile wide. In addition to the Trave River surrounding the old town, the 40 mile long Elbe-Lubeck canal, built in 1890, which connects the Elbe and Trave rivers, creates a waterway between the North Sea and Baltic Sea and passes through Lubeck. Because of its geographic location and the salt mines nearby, Lubeck became the leading trade center in Northern Europe between 1100 and 1400. During those three centuries, it was the capital of the Hanseatic League, a commercial and defensive confederation of Northern and Central European cities that dominated Baltic maritime trade for 300 years. It was also designated an Imperial Free City, basically allowing it to establish its own laws, and more importantly, enabling the city and its residents to get rich from taxes and tariffs collected on the merchandise traded through its port.
The architecture in Lubeck is very Gothic and beautiful. At one time, entry to the city was restricted to four gates, of which two remain. The original island part of the city is dominated by seven churches with very tall steeples, the oldest of which was built in 1286. In addition, one of the oldest original buildings in town is the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, built in 1280.
During WWII, Lubeck became the first German city to encounter significant allied bombing. An attack in March 1942 caused a firestorm in the old city that destroyed three of the nine historic churches. After the war, Lubeck sat directly on the inner-German border between communist East Germany and free West Germany. Most of the city sat on the free West German side of the border. Unfortunately, one of the city’s districts became part of East Germany. The northern most of only three official border-crossing points in all of Germany during the Cold War was in Lubeck.
Lubeck spent decades rebuilding its historic old town after WWII, and today it is a major tourist attraction. There are plenty of hotels, many of which reside in original old town buildings. The climate is great during the summer months and it has the Baltic Coast beach town just a few miles away. With that, there are plenty of tourists in town, but nothing like the larger European cities. Lubeck has managed to keep its small town feel.
Tomorrow, it’s back on the road for me. I have a 30 minute train ride back to where I stopped walking along the coast yesterday. I’ll walk about 15 miles, then catch the train back to Lubeck for one more night. That’s necessary because I couldn’t find a hotel along my route for tomorrow night. I hope everyone has a great weekend. JB.