In more recent times, when it comes to planning holidays, another good friend and oft’ travelling partner Edmundo and I have come to the conclusion that we like a minimum of three days in any place, preferably more.
Now, in this past week, I get to perfect the art of holidaying even more, with another ex-Amex friend, Frank. We may have had only three days in a place, but we scheduled breakfast for nine, and didn’t leave for sightseeing before 10.30. Civilised! And always back in time for a lie-down before dinner.
Even with reduced ‘hours’ on the road, you’ll see in these photo albums that we managed to cram in a lot of sightseeing (and eating!) into six days touring four of the Hanseatic cities in the north of Germany.F rank and I built our own ‘hanse’, a ‘friendship’ league since our working days in Germany thirty years ago.
Of greater significance in world history though is 500-year ‘trading’ connection from 12th to 17th centuries of free, independent cities, primarily in Germany. During this week on the road, we’re visiting four of them – Hamburg, Lubeck, Wismar and Stralsund.
These were known as Hansa cities of which Lubeck was the ‘pearl’. Because of the free trade, those cities got so rich.
Collectively the Hansa cities supported each other fighting pirates, pestilence, plague and other challenges, with trade remaining as the major focus.
Teresa May and Donald Trump could learn lessons from ‘history’ and re-think their isolationist strategies.
PLEASE CLICK ON ICON PHOTOS BELOW TO VIEW PHOTO ALBUMS
HamburgO ff one cruise, from Iceland to London, and on to another, but this time in Germany. For just an hour, we cruise around one of the world’s great ports, the Port of Hamburg to view the new Elbphilharmonie building, and the extensive docks.This sea port is on the river Elbe, 110 kilometres from its mouth on the North Sea, and Germany’s largest port.
We stay down in the docks area, sitting at an outside table as the sun goes down, enjoying a marvellous bouillabaisse at Restaurant Marseille, located at the fish market Hamburg-Altona, the counterpart to Vieux-Port in the partner city Marseille.
The following evening, in Blankenese where ‘die Hamburger’ have dinner outdoors by the River Elbe, host Manne welcomes us warmly knowing that I’m an Australian and he’s experienced great Australian hospitality 20 years ago when he sailed in the ocean classic Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
LubeckF from Hamburg on the North Sea, we drive the short distance to Lübeck (on the Baltic Sea), a city distinguished by Brick Gothic architecture dating to its time as the medieval capital of the Hanseatic League, a powerful trading confederation. It was one of the richest cities in the Middle Ages and more recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Of course, with camera ready, I’m drawn immediately to the well-recognised symbol of the town, the Holstentor (Holsten Gate), a red-brick city gate (completed 1478) that defended the river-bounded Altstadt (old town). Pity the sun was coming from the other side, but there’s time!
Lübeck was a Red Cross City and bombed only once during WWII, so many original buildings remain. It was always more important than Wismar because it was closer to Hamburg and represented the centre of Salt route. We stroll through the old town and visit the Market and see the Town Hall before sitting quietly for a time listening to the organ music inside the Marienkirche, a 13th–14th-century red-brick landmark that widely influenced Northern European church design. It was rebuilt following WW II restoring many significant features.
We enjoy lunch in the back garden of the Schiffergesellschaft, an old restaurant still owned by seafarers who must show that they have captained a ship, and still live in Lübeck.
Wismar, Stralsund and Ahrenshoop
Susan, a teacher (and don’t we know it!) proves though to be a very good local guide here in Stralsund, a town since 1234 where nothing has changed from the 13th and 14th centuries. It is a good representation of towns of the Hanseatic League, and capital of Swedish Pomerania 1628 – 1815, when Prussians came.
As part of the 500-year Jubilee of the Reformation, in the Cultural Church of St. Jakobi in the Old Town of Stralsund, German Pop Art artist, Moritz Götze, creates the biblical stories from the perspective of the Bible, and translates them into the world of today.
It’s quite confronting to see his large work of the almighty dollar (actually the Euro!) raised like in a monstrance and positioned in front of what was the main altar of the deconsecrated church.
In these days we’ve been travelling, it’s been herring for lunches, but come evening, the fish soup always gets the nod. Tonight it’s a little spicy, almost a goulash, but deliciously different.
Frank and I are sitting by the sailing boats reflected in the water, lap lapping rhythmically as the sun dips.
It’s so still and quiet we hear the fishes breaking the surface ‘talking to us’, and gleam in the last rays of light before ‘splatting’ back into the water. Frank calls it an orgy as it becomes a frenzy as night falls. Seagulls make a din competing for our attention.
We wait for our white wine before dinner of Turbot, and as always, potatoes. This fish almost surpasses the North Sea Plaice that I enjoyed so much on our last night in Hamburg. At €17, the seafood up here is so much more reasonably priced than down in the Mediterranean).O ur day trip to the one-time artist colony on the North Sea, Ahrenshoop on the beautiful peninsula Fischland-Darß-Zingst, was eye-opening from a couple of perspectives. Besides being a pristine national park, with white-sand beaches and bike trails for families as you drive in, it is senior citizens who make up the majority of people we see in the towns and eating places. The young have simply moved into the former West Germany to seek employment leaving an ageing generation behind.
In narrow, winding laneways, behind rambling rose hedges in large thatched roof houses, it’s not hard to guess that there’s another ‘community’ of well-heeled folk who come from other parts of Germany to enjoy the quiet. A sort of ‘Hamptons’.
I love the Berlin nightlife, but only from my bathroom window. After the rather busy few weeks traveling, I’m happy to take it easy over the weekend here simply enjoying catch -ups and meals with old friends from working days in the ’90s.