We all know that fairy tales are set in an imaginary place and time, but the authors must have been inspired by real places. Even when we’re creating a fantastic world, we combine elements taken from the real one. When I went to Lübeck, I thought: this is the location of the Brothers Grimm’s tales. Alleys, wooden beams, cobblestone streets, inns, arches and gnarled tree trunks.
Lübeck, a Medieval town
Lübeck has an interesting story: the German town was founded in 1143 and later became the queen of the Hanseatic League, that is, it was the heart of North European commerce and trade, crossroads of people and goods. Today Lübeck is a UNESCO world heritage site, and luckily retains its original atmosphere, with its Gothic churches, convents, and middle class houses overlooking the river Trave.
An imposing door, the Holstentor, is the main gate into the city. With its two round towers and arched entrance, it is one of the relics of Lübeck’s fortifications. So we walk into the Medieval heart of the city, reaching the main square where the Gothic Town Hall stands. If you are wondering why there are two round holes in the building, well, the reason is that they were created to reduce the impact of the strong wind blowing from the sea. Nearby is Marienkirche or St. Mary’s Church, a Medieval brick structure in the Gothic style.
Literature & Coffee
A visit to the Hanseatic Museum takes us back in time, enabling us to discover the history of the town, where merchants gathered to buy and sell their goods, people sailed on the river that was covered with ice during the long winters, and women worked at home. Those who love Thomas Mann’s novels have to visit the Buddenbrook’s house, and those who love sweets must follow me into the Niederegger Café on Breiterstrasse. It’s actually a pastry shop famous for their marzipan creations, but if you – like me – don’t fancy marzipan, there’s a caramel brownie that’s worth a stop.
Food & Sailors
Wandering around the fairy tale town, admiring the red brick houses and peering through the gates into the courtyards, you will feel like staying there a little bit longer. This is why, when the evening comes, we decide to have dinner at the Schiffergesellschaft.
“Nostalgia for distant times”, says their website. And in fact this old restaurant in Breite Straße No 2 is housed in a Medieval building, which in the 16th century was acquired by the brotherhood of Captains. In the main hall, the so called banquet tables and benches are still the original ones, made from oak planks. Here the skippers used to sit and eat, divided into groups according to the various harbours which they used to sail to. The kitchen offers regional food, baked potatoes, fresh fish and herrings. Another good address is Lübecker Hanse, Kolk 7, which also offers traditional dishes in a typical Medieval house.
The Baltic Sea
The sea is not far from Lübeck. It’s the Baltic sea, which has its own charm especially during the summer, when the golden beaches of Travemünde are filled with children running on the sand and adults walking, reading or watching the sea from their wicker chairs. You can go there by train and come back by boat, falling in love with the wild beauty of this land.
When we visited Lübeck, we were coming from Denmark, after traveling across Scandinavia. The emotion of crossing countries was part of the journey. From the Swedish forests to the Danish fields, from windmills to beaches, everything seemed to form a painting. Lübeck and its river, framed by the willows, loom in the distance, reminding us of the beauty of Old Europe with its pinnacles, its towers and gable roof houses, its alleys, cafés and marzipan.