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.
“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
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.