Tallinn, Estonia

Panorama of All-linn (Lower Old Town) taken from Toompea (Upper Old Town), Tallinn, Estonia

Panorama of All-linn (Lower Old Town) taken from Toompea (Upper Old Town), Tallinn, Estonia

 

“Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, 80 km (50 miles) south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg.  Tallinn occupies an area of 159.2 km2 (61.5 square miles) and has a population of 440,597.  Approximately 32% of Estonia’s total population lives in Tallinn.  Founded in 1248 but the earliest human settlements date back to 3000 years BC, making it one of the oldest capital cities of Northern Europe.  Due to its important strategic location the city soon became a major trade hub, especially between the 14th to 16th century when it grew to be a key center of commerce within the Hanseatic League.  Tallinn’s Old Town is one of the best preserved and intact medieval cities in Europe and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.” – Wikipedia

 

The Tallinn Song Festival Grounds is where in 1988 the Spring Revolution set Estonia on its road towards independence; the site now hosts the “Song and Dance Celebration" every 5 years with 24,000 singers and 200,000 spectators

The Tallinn Song Festival Grounds is where in 1988 the Spring Revolution set Estonia on its road towards independence; the site now hosts the “Song and Dance Celebration” every 5 years with 24,000 singers and 200,000 spectators

 

St. Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral, completed in 1900, sits atop Toompea Hill (upper Old Town); it was built to reflect Russian dominance over the territory at that time; Tallinn, Estonia

St. Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral, completed in 1900, sits atop Toompea Hill (upper Old Town); it was built to reflect Russian dominance over the territory at that time; Tallinn, Estonia

 

The highly decorated Russian Orthodox interior of St. Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn, Estonia

The highly decorated Russian Orthodox interior of St. Aleksander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn, Estonia

 

A rare example of a 19th century building with the limestone blocks exposed – the later construction method was to then cover the facades with plaster painted in a variety of bright hues, Toompea (upper Old Town), Tallinn, Estonia

A rare example of a 19th century building with the limestone blocks exposed – the later construction method was to then cover the facades with plaster painted in a variety of bright hues, Toompea (upper Old Town), Tallinn, Estonia

 

A portion of the old town wall in Toompea (upper Old Town); the walls, constructed in the 13th century, covered a circumference of 1.9 km (1.2 miles) and are one of Europe’s best preserved Medieval fortifications; Tallinn, Estonia

A portion of the old town wall in Toompea (upper Old Town); the walls, constructed in the 13th century, covered a circumference of 1.9 km (1.2 miles) and are one of Europe’s best preserved Medieval fortifications; Tallinn, Estonia

 

Tallinna Raekoda (Town Hall), dates back to the early 15th century (the weathervane atop the spire was first placed there in 1530); it is now used for concerts and select political events; Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinna Raekoda (Town Hall), dates back to the early 15th century (the weathervane atop the spire was first placed there in 1530); it is now used for concerts and select political events; Tallinn, Estonia

 

In Old Town (both the upper section, Toompea Hill, and the lower section, All-linn) cobblestone streets wind along the remnants of a powerful medieval city wall, past its gates and guard towers and spread out in between narrow row houses.  Raekoja Plats (Town Hall Square) is surrounded by sunny, pastel-colored structures, leaving the center open for the market, as it has been since the 11th century.  St. Katherine’s (Katarina’s) Passage has galleries set up in vaulted cellar rooms.

 

A close-up of the spire of Tallinna Raekoda (Town Hall); the tower is accessible for climbing for a view of the city during the summer; Tallinn, Estonia

A close-up of the spire of Tallinna Raekoda (Town Hall); the tower is accessible for climbing for a view of the city during the summer; Tallinn, Estonia

 

A long row of shops and cafes along one side of Raekoja Plats (Town Hall square), Tallinn, Estonia

A long row of shops and cafes along one side of Raekoja Plats (Town Hall square), Tallinn, Estonia

 

An old shop on the corner of the Raekoja Plats (Town Hall square), dating back to the 15th century, Tallinn, Estonia

An old shop on the corner of the Raekoja Plats (Town Hall square), dating back to the 15th century, Tallinn, Estonia

 

An outdoor cafe in Raekoja Plats (Town Hall square), Tallinn, Estonia

An outdoor cafe in Raekoja Plats (Town Hall square), Tallinn, Estonia

 

Home to St. Catherine’s Guild, St. Catherine’s passage is one of the most picturesque sites in All-linn (Lower Old Town); 15th to 17th century rooms for artisans line the lane, adjacent to the Dominican Monastery; Tallinn, Estonia

Home to St. Catherine’s Guild, St. Catherine’s passage is one of the most picturesque sites in All-linn (Lower Old Town); 15th to 17th century rooms for artisans line the lane, adjacent to the Dominican Monastery; Tallinn, Estonia

 

The old town wall at the eastern side of All-linn (Lower Old Town), Tallinn, Estonia

The old town wall at the eastern side of All-linn (Lower Old Town), Tallinn, Estonia

 

A fantastical dining scene tableau at the storefront window of the 2-year old, all local products restaurant, “Farm”, near the Viru Gates [see next photograph] where, with friends, we had an incredible Estonian dinner; Tallinn, Estonia

A fantastical dining scene tableau at the storefront window of the 2-year old, all local products restaurant, “Farm”, near the Viru Gates [see next photograph] where, with friends, we had an incredible Estonian dinner; Tallinn, Estonia

One of the two Viru Gates towers that were part of the larger and more complex defense system that once protected All-linn (Lower Old Town), built in the 14th century; Tallinn, Estonia

One of the two Viru Gates towers that were part of the larger and more complex defense system that once protected All-linn (Lower Old Town), built in the 14th century; Tallinn, Estonia

 

 

Riga, Latvia

Doma Laukums (Dome Square in Vecriga (Old Town), Riga, Latvia

Doma Laukums (Dome Square in Vecriga (Old Town), Riga, Latvia

 

Riga’s architectural landscape is rich with a fascinating mix of medieval and Jugendstil/Art nouveau architecture characterize Riga, Latvia’s capital city on the banks of the Daugava River, where we docked near the Vecriga (Old Town).  Riga was founded in 1201 and is a former Hanseatic League member.  The Vecriga (Old Town) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  On Elizatetes and Alberta Streets are pale pink, blue and cream-colored facades decorated with figures.  The sprawling city now number approximately 700,000 inhabitants.  Latvia has been a member of the European Union since 2004 and adopted the Euro on 1 January 2014.

 

Rigas Doms (Riga Dome Cathedral) had its foundation stones laid in the 13th century in Vecriga (Old Town); it is a busy music venue and has one of Europe’s largest pipe organs, Riga, Latvia

Rigas Doms (Riga Dome Cathedral) had its foundation stones laid in the 13th century in Vecriga (Old Town); it is a busy music venue and has one of Europe’s largest pipe organs, Riga, Latvia

 

Vecriga (Old Town) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Riga, Latvia

Vecriga (Old Town) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Riga, Latvia

 

“It is generally recognized that Riga has the finest and the largest collection of art nouveau buildings in the world.  This is due to the fact that at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries, when Art Nouveau was at the height of its popularity, Riga experienced an unprecedented financial and demographic boom.  In the period from 1857 to 1914 its population grew from 282,000 to 558,000 making it the 4th largest city in the Russian Empire (after Saint Petersburg, Moscow and Warsaw) and its largest port. The bourgeoisie of Riga used their wealth to build imposing apartment blocks around the former city walls.  Local architects, mostly graduates of Riga Technical University, adopted current European movements, and in particular Art Nouveau. In that period around 800 Art Nouveau buildings were erected. The majority of them are concentrated in the central part of Riga and a few more in the Old Town.” — Wikipedia

 

House of the Blackheads, built in 1334 -- destroyed in World War II and fully rebuilt in 1999 -- is the temporary home of Latvia’s president (while Rigas Pils is renovated); it is a popular venue for concerts and events, Riga, Latvia

House of the Blackheads, built in 1334 — destroyed in World War II and fully rebuilt in 1999 — is the temporary home of Latvia’s president (while Rigas Pils is renovated); it is a popular venue for concerts and events, Riga, Latvia

 

Close-up of the upper level of the façade of House of the Blackheads, Riga, Latvia

Close-up of the upper level of the façade of House of the Blackheads, Riga, Latvia

 

Constructed in 1209, Sv Peteara (St. Peter’s Church) is an excellent example of Gothic architecture from the 13th century; it has Riga’s tallest church spire and is included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Riga, Latvia

Constructed in 1209, Sv Peteara (St. Peter’s Church) is an excellent example of Gothic architecture from the 13th century; it has Riga’s tallest church spire and is included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Riga, Latvia

Residences and a restaurant in Vecriga (Old Town) with the spire of Rigas Doms (Riga Dome Cathedral) in the background, Riga, Latvia

Residences and a restaurant in Vecriga (Old Town) with the spire of Rigas Doms (Riga Dome Cathedral) in the background, Riga, Latvia

 

11 p.m. sunset at Vansu Tilts (Vansu Bridge), a cable-stayed bridge that crosses the Daugava River in Riga, opened to the public in 1981 as the Gorky Bridge (after Maxim Gorky Street, under the USSR controlled government), Latvia

11 p.m. sunset at Vansu Tilts (Vansu Bridge), a cable-stayed bridge that crosses the Daugava River in Riga, opened to the public in 1981 as the Gorky Bridge (after Maxim Gorky Street, under the USSR controlled government), Latvia

 

Schwerin, Germany

Scholss Schwerin (Schwerin Castle) is located on Schwerin, Germany’s main lake, the Schweriner See, dating back to the original castle on the site in the 10th century; today it’s both a museum and the home of the state parliament

Scholss Schwerin (Schwerin Castle) is located on Schwerin, Germany’s main lake, the Schweriner See, dating back to the original castle on the site in the 10th century; today it’s both a museum and the home of the state parliament

 

“Schwerin Palace, or Schwerin Castle is a palatial scholss located in the city of Schwerin, the capital of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state, Germany.  It is situated on an island in the city’s main lake, the Schweriner See.  For centuries the palace was the home of the dukes and grand dukes of Mecklenburg and later Mecklenburg-Schwerin.  Today it serves as the residence of the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern state parliament.  It is regarded as one of the most important works of romantic Historicism in Europe and is designated to become a World Heritage Site.  It is nicknamed “Neuschwanstein of the North”.   Major parts of the current palace were built between 1845 and 1857.” – Wikipedia

 

Schwerin State Art Museum and Meclkenburg State Theatre, Schwerin, Germany

Schwerin State Art Museum and Meclkenburg State Theatre, Schwerin, Germany

 

Scholss Schwerin (Schwerin Castle), seen from the west, has 653 rooms (most of which are used today by the parliament), home of the Grand Duke of Mecklengurg-Schwerin until 1918 wen he abdicated, Schwerin, Germany

Scholss Schwerin (Schwerin Castle), seen from the west, has 653 rooms (most of which are used today by the parliament), home of the Grand Duke of Mecklengurg-Schwerin until 1918 wen he abdicated, Schwerin, Germany

 

The newer 19th century additions to the castle (including the Russian-style turret) surround the older 16th century portions of the castle, built by Duke Albrecht, who turned the earlier defensive, fort-like structure into a palace, Schwerin, Germany

The newer 19th century additions to the castle (including the Russian-style turret) surround the older 16th century portions of the castle, built by Duke Albrecht, who turned the earlier defensive, fort-like structure into a palace, Schwerin, Germany

 

 

A peaceful, tree-lined pond in the gardens on the southern end of Scholss Schwerin (Schwerin Castle), Schwerin, Germany

A peaceful, tree-lined pond in the gardens on the southern end of Scholss Schwerin (Schwerin Castle), Schwerin, Germany

 

 

The close-in gardens now house a beautiful restaurant; the view of Scholss Schwerin (Schwerin Castle) is from the south, Schwerin, Germany

The close-in gardens now house a beautiful restaurant; the view of Scholss Schwerin (Schwerin Castle) is from the south, Schwerin, Germany

 

 

The Duke’s throne room where he received state guests, Scholss Schwerin (Schwerin Castle), Schwerin, Germany

The Duke’s throne room where he received state guests, Scholss Schwerin (Schwerin Castle), Schwerin, Germany

 

 

German spargel (white asparagus) were in season when we visited Scholss Schwerin (Schwerin Castle) and had a nice luncheon at Weinhaus Wohler in Schwerin, Germany

German spargel (white asparagus) were in season when we visited Scholss Schwerin (Schwerin Castle) and had a nice luncheon at Weinhaus Wohler in Schwerin, Germany

 

Schwerin, Germany “is the capital and second-largest city of the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.  The population is 91,583… It is known for its romantic Schwerin Palace, crowning an island in the Lake Schwerin.  The city also has a largely intact old town, thanks to only minor damage in World War II.  Schwerin is located within the metropolitan region of Hamburg and close to that of Berlin, and to nearby regiopolises of Rostock and Lübeck.” — Wikipedia

 

A square in Altstadt (Old Town), Schwerin, Germany

A square in Altstadt (Old Town), Schwerin, Germany

 

 

The beautifully decorated nave of Schweriner Dom (“Brick Gothic Cathedral”), Schwerin, Germany

The beautifully decorated nave of Schweriner Dom (“Brick Gothic Cathedral”), Schwerin, Germany

 

Tile patterns in the intersection of the nave and transept of Schweriner Dom (“Brick Gothic Cathedral”), Schwerin, Germany

Tile patterns in the intersection of the nave and transept of Schweriner Dom (“Brick Gothic Cathedral”), Schwerin, Germany

 

The pipe organ of Schweriner Dom (“Brick Gothic Cathedral”), Schwerin, Germany

The pipe organ of Schweriner Dom (“Brick Gothic Cathedral”), Schwerin, Germany

 

A contemporary columnar sculpture about the 12th century Saxon duke Henry the Lion, who ruled over a vast area from the North to Baltic Seas, in the Markt Platz (plaza) in front of the Schweriner Rathaus (Town Hall), Schwerin, Germany

A contemporary columnar sculpture about the 12th century Saxon duke Henry the Lion, who ruled over a vast area from the North to Baltic Seas, in the Markt Platz (plaza) in front of the Schweriner Rathaus (Town Hall), Schwerin, Germany

 

Eat local: Café Niederegger (marzipan), Lübeck, Germany

Master confectioner Johann Georg Niederegger established Café Niederegger, specializing in marzipan, in the heart of Lübeck, Germany, in 1806

Master confectioner Johann Georg Niederegger established Café Niederegger, specializing in marzipan, in the heart of Lübeck, Germany, in 1806

 

In 1806, master confectioner Johann Georg Niederegger established Café Niederegger in the heart of Lübeck — today it is located across from the entrance to the Lübecker Rathaus (town hall).  The company is now run by the seventh generation of the same family. Café Niederegger is claimed by the family to be the unofficial hallmark of the Hanseatic city, such is the world renown of their marzipan confections.

 

The current, contemporary building housing the café, museum and some of the marzipan production is located across from the entrance to the Lübecker Rathaus (town hall), Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

The current, contemporary building housing the café, museum and some of the marzipan production is located across from the entrance to the Lübecker Rathaus (town hall), Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

 

Marzipan was invented far from Germany, where almonds and sugar are grown.  Rhazes, a Persian doctor who lived from 850 to 923 A.D., wrote a book in which he praised the curative qualities of almond and sugar paste.  When the crusaders returned from the Orient, they brought with them a host of spices and Oriental secrets.  In 13th century Venice, Naples and Sicily, spices and confectionery were generally traded  in tiny boxes.  The enchanting word “Mataban” (box) gradually came to be used for the contents of the box:  Mazapane (Italian), Massepain (French.), Marzipan (German).  In the 13th century, the renowned philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas reflected upon the indulgence of eating Marzipan.  In his doctrinal teaching, he reassures inquiring and anxious clerics: “Marzipan does not break the fast.”  In his stories, the great novelist Boccaccio clearly describes the correlation between passion and marzipan.  In those days, marzipan was topped with gold leaf to crown the sweet temptation. — source: Café Niederegger

 

A wooden mould for marzipan confections, based on a lithograph of the Lübecker Rathaus (Town Hall) by Carl Schroeder, in the Niederegger marzipan museum (upstairs), Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

A wooden mould for marzipan confections, based on a lithograph of the Lübecker Rathaus (Town Hall) by Carl Schroeder, in the Niederegger marzipan museum (upstairs), Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

 

Great Hanseatic merchant boats brought spices and other prized ingredients to the North.  Initially, however, only apothecaries were allowed to trade with sugar and spices.  Not until confectionary became a trade in its own right were so-called ‘canditors’ allowed to produce marzipan.  The first Europeans to indulge in marzipan were kings and rich people.  It has been reported that Queen Elizabeth I of England, who lived from 1533 to 1603, was addicted to all things sweet.   The saying ‘regal enjoyment’ was coined.  Later, at the French ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV’s sumptuous feasts, huge tables laden with marzipan were the order of the day.  Marzipan reproductions of all sorts of fruits, poultry and game were created – anything you desired could be made.  In the first half of the 19th century, the general population were now able to sample the almond delicacy to their heart’s content in coffee houses.  Now that sugar could be extracted from sugar beet, the costly luxury became slightly more affordable.  Marzipan was also particularly popular and prized in Lübeck.  Master confectioner Johann Georg Niederegger established Café Niederegger in the heart of Lübeck in 1806.  Café Niederegger’s reputation grew thanks to excellent quality.  Their recipe for marzipan – as many almonds as possible, as little sugar as necessary – is secret, and has been passed on from generation to generation since the founder’s death.  Thus, Niederegger Marzipan remains what it has always been: a delicious speciality made from the very best almonds. — source: Café Niederegger

 

A sailing ship made out of marzipan in the retail store at Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

A sailing ship made out of marzipan in the retail store at Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

 

After a guided tour of the museum, we had the opportunity to eat homemade marzipan cake with coffee/tea in the Café Niederegger.  We had lots of time for shopping for delectables for the ship and some presents to bring home to the family in the U.S.  A small group of us then attended a marzipan modeling class to learn the basics of how the various hand-crafted designs are created (see the sailing ship photograph above, for example!); the photographs from our class are at the end of this blog post…  Of course, the bulk items are all created in moulds (see the photograph of the historical wooden mould, earlier in this blog post).

 

Petit fours and other marzipan confections for sale at Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

Petit fours and other marzipan confections for sale at Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

 

Not exactly Homard Bleu from Normandy, but tasty lobsters (marzipan), none the less, Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

Not exactly Homard Bleu from Normandy, but tasty lobsters (marzipan), none the less, Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

 

The intrepid explorer took a marzipan modeling class at Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

The intrepid explorer took a marzipan modeling class at Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

 

Your intrepid blogger’s attempt at marzipan creatures – a mouse and an elephant (not to scale!), Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

Your intrepid blogger’s attempt at marzipan creatures – a mouse and an elephant (not to scale!), Café Niederegger, Lübeck, Germany

 

Lübeck, Germany

The Holstentor city gate, 1477, in Altstadt (old town) is the emblem of Lübeck; it is inscribed with “1477 S.P.Q.L. 1871” where S.P.Q.L. is modeled on the Roman “Senātus Populusque Rōmānus” (the Senate and People of Rome), Germany

The Holstentor city gate, 1477, in Altstadt (old town) is the emblem of Lübeck; it is inscribed with “1477 S.P.Q.L. 1871” where S.P.Q.L. is modeled on the Roman “Senātus Populusque Rōmānus” (the Senate and People of Rome), Germany

 

Lübeck is a city founded in 1143 on the Baltic coast of northern Germany.  It’s renowned for its Brick Gothic architecture, dating to its time as the medieval capital of the powerful Hanseatic League trading confederation, a league of merchant cities which came to hold a monopoly over the trade of the Baltic Sea and the North Sea.  In the 14th century Lübeck became the “Queen of the Hanseatic League”, being by far the largest and most powerful member of that medieval trade organization.  In 1375 Emperor Charles IV named Lübeck one of the five “Glories of the Empire”, a title shared with Venice, Rome, Pisa and Florence.  Lübeck’s symbol is the 1477 Holstentor city gate, which defended the river-bounded Altstadt (old town).  Markenkirche (St. Mary’s Church), completed in 1350, widely influenced Northern European church design.  The current population is just over 200,000.  The city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  More recent famous literary citizens of Lübeck include Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann and Günter Grass along with chancellor Willy Brandt.

 

The Heiligen-Geist-Hospital (Hospital of the Holy Spirit), one of the oldest social institutions in Lübeck, Germany, built from 1276 - 1286, is one of the oldest hospitals in Europe, Altstadt (old town)

The Heiligen-Geist-Hospital (Hospital of the Holy Spirit), one of the oldest social institutions in Lübeck, Germany, built from 1276 – 1286, is one of the oldest hospitals in Europe, Altstadt (old town)

 

Originally a civil social institution, The Heiligen-Geist-Hospital was later run by the Catholic Church; a church with remarkable mural paintings also belongs to the large complex in Altstadt (old town), Lübeck, Germany

Originally a civil social institution, The Heiligen-Geist-Hospital was later run by the Catholic Church; a church with remarkable mural paintings also belongs to the large complex in Altstadt (old town), Lübeck, Germany

 

A public square near the Heiligen-Geist-Hospital (Hospital of the Holy Spirit) with buildings from three centuiries – the 18th, 19th, and 20th, Lübeck, Germany

A public square near the Heiligen-Geist-Hospital (Hospital of the Holy Spirit) with buildings from three centuiries – the 18th, 19th, and 20th, Lübeck, Germany

 

“Lübeck – the former capital and Queen City of the Hanseatic League – was founded in the 12th century and prospered until the 16th century as the major trading centre for northern Europe.  It has remained a centre for maritime commerce to this day, particularly with the Nordic countries.  Despite the damage it suffered during the Second World War, the basic structure of the old city, consisting mainly of 15th- and 16th-century patrician residences, public monuments (the famous Holstentor brick gate), churches and salt storehouses, remains unaltered.” – whc.unesco.org

 

Note the three-tiered, top façade of one of the buildings is strictly decorative, in front of a very steep A-frame roof in Altstadt (old town) Lübeck, Germany

Note the three-tiered, top façade of one of the buildings is strictly decorative, in front of a very steep A-frame roof in Altstadt (old town) Lübeck, Germany

 

Quite a variety of architectural designs in the homes along this alley in Altstadt (old town), Lübeck, Germany

Quite a variety of architectural designs in the homes along this alley in Altstadt (old town), Lübeck, Germany

 

 

St. Mary’s Church in Altstadt (old town), Lübeck, Germany

The brick Markenkirche (St. Mary’s Church), completed in 1350, in Altstadt (old town), Lübeck, Germany

 

A beautiful, highly-decorated bay window on a medieval home in old town, Lübeck, Germany

A beautiful, highly-decorated bay window on a medieval home in old town, Lübeck, Germany

 

We docked in Wismar, on the Baltic Sea, just east of the former country dividing line that separated the western half of Germany from what was called the German Democratic Republic (“East Germany”) after World War II, until reunification of Germany on 3 October 1990.  Lübeck lies just across the former country dividing line in what was “West Germany” (or just plain “Germany”).  As we drove across the former demarcation point (during separatioin, there was no wall – as in Berlin — but some road checkpoints), we had an eerie feeling, witnessing the current unified country but thinking back to the former division and the deprivations in the eastern half of the country under Russian Communist rule.  The current state of buildings, roads, parks, etc. in Lübeck and Wismar quite clearly shows the impact of the latter having been relatively deprived from 1945 until 1990.

 

One side of the the Lübecker Rathaus (Town Hall), Lübeck, Germany

One side of the the Lübecker Rathaus (Town Hall), Lübeck, Germany

 

 

Highly decorated façade and spires of the the Lübecker Rathaus (Town Hall), Lübeck, Germany

Highly decorated façade and spires of the the Lübecker Rathaus (Town Hall), Lübeck, Germany

 

Kiel, Germany

Known as the city that hosts the world’s largest sailing regatta (18 – 26 June, this year), Kiel, Germany has a multi-kilometer Embankment that is home to hundreds and hundreds of sail boats

Known as the city that hosts the world’s largest sailing regatta (18 – 26 June, this year), Kiel, Germany has a multi-kilometer Embankment that is home to hundreds and hundreds of sail boats

 

Kiel, the capital of Germany’s northernmost state, Schleswig-Holstein, is the jumping off point for the eponymous canal linking the Baltic with the North Sea [see our previous blog post].  Keil retains very little of its medieval origins thanks to heavy damage during WW II; the entire town was rebuilt after the war, with broad avenues and small parks replacing the narrow warren of streets.  Each June the city hosts the world’s largest sailing regatta; many sailboats can be seen along the multi-kilometer Embankment and the piers beyond.

 

Looking beyond the end of the embankment to piers and many more sailboats, Kiel, Germany

Looking beyond the end of the embankment to piers and many more sailboats, Kiel, Germany

 

Some of Kiel’s sailboats are from the golden age of fine wood craftsmanship in the construction of sailboats, Kiel, Germany

Some of Kiel’s sailboats are from the golden age of fine wood craftsmanship in the construction of sailboats, Kiel, Germany

 

Because the city was so heavily bombed and destroyed in World War II, many of the apartment buildings are of interesting modern design, Kiel, Germany

Because the city was so heavily bombed and destroyed in World War II, many of the apartment buildings are of interesting modern design, Kiel, Germany

 

The excellent view of the embankment and sailboats from our table at lunch at the Kiel Yacht Club (KYC), where we enjoyed deliciously prepared fresh, local fish, Kiel, Germany

The excellent view of the embankment and sailboats from our table at lunch at the Kiel Yacht Club (KYC), where we enjoyed deliciously prepared fresh, local fish, Kiel, Germany

 

Eat local: traversing the Kiel Canal (connecting the North Sea to the Baltic Sea), Germany

The freshwater Kiel Canal saves considerable time going from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea (not sailing through the rough waters off the Jutland Peninsula) across northern Germany (from near Hamburg to Kiel)

The freshwater Kiel Canal saves considerable time going from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea (not sailing through the rough waters off the Jutland Peninsula) across northern Germany (from near Hamburg to Kiel)

 

Originally constructed between 1887 and 1895 and named in honor of Kaiser Wilheim, the Kiel Canal (Nord-Ostsee Kanal), which links the North Sea at Brunsbuttel (near Hamburg) with the Baltic Sea at Kiel-Holtenau, is the world’s busiest artificial waterway.  Its initial purpose was to facilitate movement of the German fleet.  Although the canal is just a distance of about 62 miles (100 kilometers) in length, it saves roughly 250 nautical miles (460 kilometers) for ships and small or vessels moving between the two bodies of water.  Entrance is gained at a lock at either end, with small boats and ships often sharing passage.  Expanded to a depth of 36 feet (11 meters) and a depth of 328 feet (100 meters), the canal accommodates fairly large vessels, although megaships and tankers must take the longer route around the Jutland Peninsula.

 

A hotel and homes along the side of the Kiel Canal, Germany

A hotel and homes along the side of the Kiel Canal, Germany

 

A railroad bridge, one of several crossings of the canal (the automobile-truck bridges are free), Kiel Canal, Germany

A railroad bridge, one of several crossings of the canal (the automobile-truck bridges are free), Kiel Canal, Germany

 

Trivia about the Kiel Canal:

  • It took 9,000 workers eight years to dig the Kiel Canal.
  • Though originally named the Kaiser-Wilhelm Canal, Germans used to refer to it as the Nord-Ostsee Kanal.
  • During 2015, 88 ships passed through the Kiel Canal every day – a total of 32,091 vessels for the year.
  • Though there are two locks in the canal (at either end), these were designed mainly to protect the structure against movements of the tides.

 

 

Close-up of the railroad bridge crossing the Kiel Canal, Germany

Close-up of the railroad bridge crossing the Kiel Canal, Germany

 

An appetizer of homemade crab cakes, asparagus, mache and tomatoes for a dinner party in our apartment on the ship for friends while transiting the Kiel Canal, Germany

An appetizer of homemade crab cakes, asparagus, mache and tomatoes for a dinner party in our apartment on the ship for friends while transiting the Kiel Canal, Germany

 

The entrée, prepared by our co-hosts, of filet mignon with wild mushrooms and a Cabernet Sauvignon sauce with Dauphinoise potatoes & haricot verts for a dinner party in our apartment on the ship for friends while transiting the Kiel Canal, Germany

The entrée, prepared by our co-hosts, of filet mignon with wild mushrooms and a Cabernet Sauvignon sauce with Dauphinoise potatoes & haricot verts for a dinner party in our apartment on the ship for friends while transiting the Kiel Canal, Germany

 

The dessert was a chocolate-caramel tarte based on a Parisian family recipe from our friend, Paule, for a dinner party in our apartment on the ship for friends while transiting the Kiel Canal, Germany

The dessert was a chocolate-caramel tarte based on a Parisian family recipe from our friend, Paule, for a dinner party in our apartment on the ship for friends while transiting the Kiel Canal, Germany

 

Hamburg, Germany

Rathaus (City Hall) -- built 1886 to 1897 -- dominates the center of Hamburg, Germany, where it is situated on a large plaza, adjacent to the Alsterakaden Canal, connecting the Binnenalster Lake with the Norderelbe (Northern Elbe) River

Rathaus (City Hall) — built 1886 to 1897 — dominates the center of Hamburg, Germany, where it is situated on a large plaza, adjacent to the Alsterakaden Canal, connecting the Binnenalster Lake with the Norderelbe (Northern Elbe) River

 

Since its origins as a moated castle between the Alster and Elber rivers, the “free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg” has embraced seafaring commerce.  The early merchants’ wealth and power is evidenced in the majestic, late Gothic Renaissance Rathaus (City Hall) and in the nicely restored half-timbered merchant houses along Delchstrasse.  They stand in sharp contrast to the narrow alley quarters of the “Krameramtsstuben” district.  The Planten un Blomen (Botanical Garden) is in the heart of the city and is quite spectacular. The city has grown considerably since World War II with a population now totaling 1.8 million, making it Germany’s second largest city and eighth largest in the European Union, with a total population of about 5 million in the metropolitan region.

 

Hauptkirche St. Michaelis (Saint Michael’s Church) was originally constructed between 1906 and 1912, severely damaged in World War II and completely rebuilt in the early 1950s, Hamburg, Germany

Hauptkirche St. Michaelis (Saint Michael’s Church) was originally constructed between 1906 and 1912, severely damaged in World War II and completely rebuilt in the early 1950s, Hamburg, Germany

 

Hauptkirche St. Michaelis (Saint Michael’s Church) is well known for its four organs, the larger one pictured here, with two on the sides of the transcept and one with the pipes in the ceiling, sounding like music from heaven, Hamburg, Germany

Hauptkirche St. Michaelis (Saint Michael’s Church) is well known for its four organs, the larger one pictured here, with two on the sides of the transept and one with the pipes in the ceiling, sounding like music from heaven, Hamburg, Germany

 

Mockenberg Strasse, one of the main shopping streets that terminates at the Rathaus Plaza, Hamburg, Germany

Mockenberg Strasse, one of the main shopping streets that terminates at the Rathaus Plaza, Hamburg, Germany

 

“Before the 1871 Unification of Germany, [Hamburg] was a fully soverign state.  Prior to the constitutional changes in 1919, the civic republic was ruled by a class of hereditary grand burghers or Henseaten.  Hamburg is a transport hub, being the 2nd largest port in Europe [after Rotterdam], and is an affluent city in Europe. It has become a media and industrial centre, with plants and facilities belonging to Airbus, Blohm+ Voss and Aurubis.  The radio and television broadcaster Norddeutscher Rundfunk and publishers such as Gruner + Jahr and Spiegel-Verlag are pillars of the important media industry in Hamburg.  Hamburg has been an important financial centre for centuries, and is the seat of the world’s second oldest bank, Berenberg Bank. The city is a notable tourist destination for both domestic and overseas visitors; it ranked 16th in the world for livability in 2015.” – Wikipedia

 

Retail shops, offices and apartments in modern buildings overlooking Binnenalster Lake, Hamburg, Germany

Retail shops, offices and apartments in modern buildings overlooking Binnenalster Lake, Hamburg, Germany

 

No, its not Venice in Amsterdam, but Venice in Hamburg, often called the “Venice of the North” (move over, Amsterdam and Bruges…) – lots of cafes and restaurants under the arches, overlooking the canal, Hamburg, Germany

No, its not Venice in Amsterdam, but Venice in Hamburg, often called the “Venice of the North” (move over, Amsterdam and Bruges…) – lots of cafes and restaurants under the arches, overlooking the canal, Hamburg, Germany

 

The view from our canal boat as we sailed from Binnenalster (Inner, and smaller Alster) Lake to Aussenalster (Outer, and larger, Alster) Lake and the interconnected canals in the Uhlenhorst neighborhood, Hamburg, Germany

The view from our canal boat as we sailed from Binnenalster (Inner, and smaller Alster) Lake to Aussenalster (Outer, and larger, Alster) Lake and the interconnected canals in the Uhlenhorst neighborhood, Hamburg, Germany

 

Luxurious homes (mansions) on a small pond off one of the numerous canals in the district northeast of Aussenalster (Outer, and larger, Alster) Lake, Hamburg, Germany

Luxurious homes (mansions) on a small pond off one of the numerous canals in the district northeast of Aussenalster (Outer, and larger, Alster) Lake, Hamburg, Germany

 

One of the few surviving nineteenth century office buildings in the Altstadt District (central downtown), Hamburg, Germany

One of the few surviving nineteenth century office buildings in the Altstadt District (central downtown), Hamburg, Germany

 

One day a small group of us had the opportunity to visit the Airbus manufacturing and assembly plant outside of the city of Hamburg for a tour of the manufacturing and assembly plants.  The German Headquarters employs approximately 13,000 workers.  The facility is very modern and assembles the Airbus 320 family aircraft (models 318, 319, 320, and 321) along with the manufacture of two sections of the fuselage of the jumbo, double-decked Airbus 380 (the largest planes in the world), which are shipped for assembly to Toulouse, France.  It is interesting that the fully assembled A-380s are then flown (under their own power) back to Hamburg where they undergo final testing and then the aircraft exteriors are painted and the planes delivered to customers.  Due to strict security (we each had to bring our passports and go through a screening), no photographs were permitted to be taken at the facility.   😦

 

 

Helgoland, Germany

Helgoland, Germany’s main island (of the two) is well known for its iron-rich, reddish, tall cliffs, photographed here in the rain on the Westklippe (western cliff) from the trail along the “Oberland” (upper land) section of the city

Helgoland, Germany’s main island (of the two) is well known for its iron-rich, reddish, tall cliffs, photographed here in the rain on the Westklippe (western cliff) from the trail along the “Oberland” (upper land) section of the city

 

Helgoland (Heligoland in English), consisting of two islands close to each other, is a small German archipelago in the North Sea.

“Formerly Danish and British possessions, the islands (population 1,127) are located in the Helgoland Bight (part of the German Bight) in the southeastern corner of the North Sea.  The islands are the only German Islands not in the immediate vicinity of the mainland.  They lie approximately 69 kilometres (43 miles) by sea from Cuxhaven at the mouth of the River Elbe [which leads southeast to Hamburg]. During the period of British possession, the lyrics to the song known as “Deutchland uber alles” which became the national anthem of Germany were written on the island by August Heitich Hoffmann in 1841, while he was vacationing there (the third verse of this song is still today Germany’s national anthem).” – Wikipedia

View of homes, shops and restaurants along the eastern waterfront in the Unterland (lowerland) section of town, photographed from the Oberland (upper land) section of the city, Helgoland, Germany

View of homes, shops and restaurants along the eastern waterfront in the Unterland (lowerland) section of town, photographed from the Oberland (upper land) section of the city, Helgoland, Germany

 

Despite their location in the North Sea, the two islands of the archipelago enjoy a moderate climate year round, thanks to the relative warmth of the Gulf Stream, making them popular summer resorts.  The islands are also well known for their meaty lobsters which are shipped to cities in Northern Germany near the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.  Unfortunately, the day we visited was cool and rainy, but we were still able to enjoy a long hike along the cliffs on the western side of the island and a leisurely lunch in one of the many seafood-oriented restaurants in town.

 

View of the commercial district along the eastern waterfront in the Unterland (lowerland) section of town, photographed from the Oberland (upper land) section of the city, Helgoland, Germany

View of the commercial district along the eastern waterfront in the Unterland (lowerland) section of town, photographed from the Oberland (upper land) section of the city, Helgoland, Germany

 

A close-up of a section of the iron-rich, reddish, tall cliffs, photographed here in the rain on the Westklippe (western cliff) from the trail along the “Oberland” (upper land) section of the city, Helgoland, Germany

A close-up of a section of the iron-rich, reddish, tall cliffs, photographed here in the rain on the Westklippe (western cliff) from the trail along the “Oberland” (upper land) section of the city, Helgoland, Germany

 

The contemporary homes are brightly painted, helping to erase the memory of the 1947 bombing of the island (nearly into oblivion) by the British Royal Air Force, Helgoland, Germany

The contemporary homes are brightly painted, helping to erase the memory of the 1947 bombing of the island (nearly into oblivion) by the British Royal Air Force, Helgoland, Germany

 

“At the end of the Second World War, the British Army had a huge surplus of ammunition and explosives that started to give them ideas.  It was suggested that the excess ammunition could be utilized for seismic experiments by setting up controlled explosions to generate seismic waves having intensity comparable with those produced by small earthquakes.  It was impractical to carry out the experiments within England as explosion of the necessary size on the available sites would cause damage to nearby properties.  So they turned to Germany.

“The British had just concluded the biggest war in human history with Germany, and like the explosives, aggression was still in surplus quantities.  In July 1946, an ammunition dump near the town of Soltau, in north Germany, was blown up producing seismic waves that were observed at distances up to 50 km.  But the British needed something bigger.  So they started preparing for the world’s most powerful non-nuclear explosion, which eventually came to be known as the “British Bang”.  The target: a small archipelago off the German coastline called Heligoland…

“Because of its strategic location, Heligoland has a long military history.  Originally occupied by Frisian herdsmen and fishermen, the island came under the control of the dukes of Schleswig-Holstein in 1402 and became a Danish possession in 1714. In 1807, during the Napoleonic wars, Heligoland was seized by the British fleet and formally ceded to Great Britain in 1814.  In 1890, the island was transferred to Germany in exchange for Zanzibar and other African territories.

“The Germans evacuated the civilian population living on the island and developed the island into a major naval base, with extensive harbor and dockyard installations, underground fortifications, and coastal batteries.  The first naval engagement of the war, the Battle of Heligoland Bight, was fought near this island.  When the First World War ended, the islanders returned and the island became a popular tourist resort for the German upper class.  During the Nazi era, the island was again made a naval stronghold and sustained severe Allied bombing toward the end of World War II.

With the defeat of Germany, the population was evacuated, and the British decided to destroy the remaining fortifications, underground bunkers and submarine base by deep blasting, and at the same time record the explosion with seismic sensors for science.

“On 18 April 1947, the Royal Navy detonated 6,700 tons of explosives creating a black mushroom cloud that curled 6,000 feet into the sky.  People on the mainland 60 km away were warned to open their windows to avoid implosion, and the blast was registered as far away as Sicily.  The Guinness Book of World Records lists the Heligoland explosion as the world’s largest single non-nuclear explosion in history.

“The detonation which released energy equivalent to a third of that released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb, shook the main island several miles down to its base.  The British originally expected the island to be totally destroyed.  The island survived but it’s physical shape was altered for ever. Its southern tip caved in to a huge crater, that is today a celebrated tourist spot.

“The Royal Air Force continued to use the island as a bombing range until it was returned to West Germany on March 1, 1952.  The town, the harbor, and the bathing resort on Düne were rebuilt, and Heligoland once again became a holiday resort.” – www.amusingplanet.com

 

St. Nicolai Kirche, Helgoland, Germany

St. Nicolai Kirche, Helgoland, Germany

 

Museumplein (Museum Quarter), Amsterdam, Netherlands

Side view of the imposing Rijksmuseum which chronicles Dutch history through art and artifacts from 1200 to the present day, including Rembrandt's career-defining civic guard portrait "The Night Watch", Museumplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Side view of the imposing Rijksmuseum which chronicles Dutch history through art and artifacts from 1200 to the present day, including Rembrandt’s career-defining civic guard portrait “The Night Watch”, Museumplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands

 

Amsterdam’s Museumplein (Museum Quarter) is the heart of the city’s cultural center, comparable to London’s South Kensington and New York’s Muesum Mile.  “Some 130 years ago, a stinky wax candle factory and marshy meadows made way for what’s become the city’s most affluent area.  Construction began following the completion of the Rijksmuseum, with a street plan based on the design of P.J.H. Cuypers, the museum’s celebrated architect.  Unsurprisingly, the quarter’s name comes from the presence of the city’s three major museums on Museumplein, all of which have recently been refurbished, adding a layer of lustre to the area.  In addition to the aforementioned Rijksmuseum, there’s the Stedelijk Museum of modern art and the Van Gogh Museum.  Also overlooking Museumplein is the Royal Concertgebouw, Amsterdam’s most important orchestral concert venue, internationally renowned for its acoustics and its house orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.  The vast open space of Museumplein itself plays host to major events each year, from screenings of Dutch football matches to large concerts and events, plus a picturesque ice rink in the winter.  While the ‘I amsterdam‘ letters in front of the Rijksmueum have become the city’s most photographed attraction.” – http://www.iamsterdam.com

 

The front entrance to the Rijksmuseum, just beyond the modern, iconic “I amsterdam” white and red “letter” sculpture at the northern edge of the Museumplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands

The front entrance to the Rijksmuseum, just beyond the modern, iconic “I amsterdam” white and red “letter” sculpture at the northern edge of the Museumplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands

 

The very modern architecture extension to the Stedelijk Museum of modern art, with the original museum building (founded in 1874) on the right rear side of the photograph, Museumplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands

The very modern architecture extension to the Stedelijk Museum of modern art, with the original museum building (founded in 1874) on the right rear side of the photograph, Museumplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands

 

Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands

 

“Vincent Willem van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) was a Dutch post-impressionist painter whose work had far-reaching influence on 20-century art.  Most of his best-known works were completed during the last two years of his life.  They include portraits, self-portraits, landscapes, still lifes, olive trees and cypresses, wheat fields and sunflowers.  Critics largely ignored his work until after his presumed suicide in 1890.  His short life, expressive and spontaneous use of vivid colours, broad oil brushstrokes and emotive subject matter, have led to his position in the public imagination as the quintessential misunderstood genius.

“Van Gogh was born to upper middle class parents. He was thoughtful and intellectual as a child, and as an adult aware of modernist trends in art, music and literature.  He was well traveled and spent several years in the Hague, London and Paris.  He drew as a child, but spent years drifting in ill health and solitude, and did not paint until his late twenties. Deeply religious as a younger man, he worked from 1879 as a missionary in a mining region in Belgium where he sketched people from the local community.  His first major work was 1885’s The Potato Eaters, characterized by somber earth tones, and showing little sign of the vivid colouration that distinguished his later paintings.  In March 1886, he moved to Paris and discovered the French Impressionists.  Later, he moved to the south of France and was inspired by the region’s strong sunlight.  His paintings grew brighter in colour, and he developed the unique and highly recognizable style that became fully realized during his stay in Arles in 1888.  In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings.  After years of anxiety and frequent bouts of mental illness he died aged 37 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  The extent to which his mental health affected his painting has been widely debated.

“The widespread and popular realization of his significance in the history of modern art began after his adoption by the early 20th-century German Expressionists and Fauves.  Despite a popular tendency to romanticize his ill health, art historians see an artist deeply frustrated by the inactivity and incoherence caused by frequent mental sickness.  His posthumous reputation grew steadily; a romanticized version developed in the 20 years after his death when seen as an important but overlooked artist compared to other members of his generation.  His reputation advanced with the emergence of the Fauvist movement in Europe and post WWII American respect for symbols of “heroic individualism” that was attractive to early US modernists and especially to the highly successful abstract expressionists of the 1950s; New York’s MOMA launched major retrospectives early in the rehabilitation of his reputation, and made large acquisitions.  By this stage his standing as a great artist and the romanticism of his life were firmly established.” — Wikipedia

 

Vincent van Gogh, “Wheatfield with Crows”, 1890, Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Vincent van Gogh, “Wheatfield with Crows”, 1890, Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands

 

Vincent van Gogh, “Irises”, 1889, Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Vincent van Gogh, “Irises”, 1889, Van Gogh Museum, Museumplein, Amsterdam, Netherlands

 

At the southern end of the Museumplein is the world-renowned Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra House, Amsterdam, Netherlands

At the southern end of the Museumplein is the world-renowned Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra House, Amsterdam, Netherlands

 

Close-up of the music inspired, Greek-style pediment (and rooftop harp) of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra House, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Close-up of the music inspired, Greek-style pediment (and rooftop harp) of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra House, Amsterdam, Netherlands