Exploring Luebeck: The first German city that got bombed during WWII

By Mamta Naidu
In Europe
Oct 31st, 2016
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UNESCO World Heritage site

 

“Brick gothic architecture, unlike stone gothic architecture is unusual, therefore, these sites are declared UNESCO World Heritage sites”, proclaims our guide. “That’s what makes Luebeck remarkable”,  she continues as we march through an enormous gate, a brick gothic construction, called Holstentor, a UNESCO World Heritage site, also a relic of Luebeck.

Luebeckers built Holstentor to protect the, once rich and wealthy, capital and queen city of Hanseatic league, a league of merchant cities, which monopolize the trade around Baltic and North Sea.

I look around to validate the valuable piece of information I just gathered. Just 100 meters from the gate, I notice a shopping complex set in bricks. The crow-stepped gables of the buildings confirm its Gothicness.

Luebeck shopping complex

A friend of mine once remarked, “to me, all popular European cities look alike: medieval, gothic architecture, church spires emerging skywards, visible from every corner, old towns, cobblestone streets, rivers, bridges and love locks”. I mentally note that I should recommend Luebeck to my friend. 

Luebeck Love Locks

Luebeck, although possesses all the characteristics mentioned above, is brighter than most of its contemporaries owing to the red bricks. That’s not it, every road in Luebeck leads to water.

Luebeck old city

Luebeck by the sea

During the medieval times, when gothic architecture came into being, some cities in Europe, such as Baltic states, Poland, Russia, Sweden and Finland, had no natural stone resource. Therefore, they resorted to bricks keeping the gothic style, to a large extent, intact. 

What the brick gothic style couldn’t reproduce though was “the gargoyles” that make the stone gothic construction come alive.

Luebeck Holstentor

 

First German city bombed by the United Kingdom

 

During the World War II, on the fateful night of the 28th March 1942, Luebeck was the first German city to be bombed by the Royal Air Force, United Kingdom’s aerial warfare force, as Hitler got ready to invade United Kingdom.

“It is unfair, for Lübeckers were anti-Nazi before the war”, exclaims our guide. I clearly hear the pain in her voice.

The bombing destroyed the core of the city, and affected nearly 62% of the buildings and it took six years to rebuilt the city. Despite the damage, the old city, an island by the river Trave, retains its basic structure; 15th – 16th-century patrician residences, churches, monuments and now listed as world heritage site.

Luebeck Brick Gothic Architecture

Marienkirche – View of St Mary Church in the old city

Luebeck Altstadt

“The facade of a building was one way to show off people’s wealth” adds our guide as we explore the city walking through the narrow, red brick lanes, with gothic manors adorned with exquisite facades on either side of the lane.

A huge array of cars parked along the lane makes them even narrower, a typical sight all around the city.

Luebeck facade

Luebeck Narrow Lane

 

This building called Salzspeicher (salt store), built in the 16th century,  stored Salt aka White Gold. It is now a shopping complex. Before the advent of refrigerators, salt was a precious commodity, for it was relatively rare and used for preservation of food.

Luebeck/Salzspeicher

 

City Center

 

At the city center, which is much like any city in the world, a central plaza where the concertation of activity takes place, given the malls and eateries, I grab a cup of marzipan tea, sipping on it, I analyze the atrocities of WWII and thank God, for it’s over.

Speaking of marzipan tea, Luebeck is also a Mecca for marzipan lovers.

Medieval people believed that marzipan had medicinal properties.  What I can vouch for is the calories it has. Our guide even points us to a few famous marzipan shops at the city center, buzzing with long queues of people waiting to place their orders.

Luebeck city center

Some amusement in the middle of the medieval town.  A trip is never complete without spotting a funny signboard. 

Luebeck

Also read: A day in the town of rum aka Flensburg  here.

Travel tips to Luebeck:

 
Getting to Luebbeck:
 

Hamburg is the nearest international airport to Luebeck. From Hamburg the easiest way to reach Luebeck is by train. Take the S1 train from airport to main station and then a local train to Luebeck. 

Within Luebeck there is a compact airport, from which low-cost flights such as Ryan and Wizz connect to destinations in Europe.

 
Where to stay: 
 

When I’m on a budget, which is most of the time, I use booking.com or hostelworld.com to book a hotels/hostel.  You could do a day trip to Luebeck and get back to Hamburg on the same day. 

 
Where/What to eat: 
 

Luebeck, much like most big cities, has expensive restaurants to inexpensive pizzerias to McDonald’s to street stalls selling snacks. What you don’t want to miss though is, tasting the unique marzipan treats available only at Luebeck’s marzipan store/s. They even sell marzipan flavored ice cream. If you’re not much into sweets then try the marzipan tea.

Also delicious and inexpensive Turkish food, Döner kebabs and Dürums, available in vegetarian version too, are quite popular all over Germany. 

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