Warnemunde and Wismar, Germany

We landed in Warnemunde today, which is the closest port to Berlin. Rather than making the three hour trip to Berlin, we opted to stay in Warnemunde, which is one of the Hanseatic cities. We signed up with a tour called “Friends of Dave,” which offered a tour of Warnemunde and Wismar (both part of the former East Germany).

Warnemunde is a small beach town which had a very poor time of it until it got designated in the 18th century as a spa town. It’s got little medieval houses and bigger late 19th century and early 20th century houses and hotels. And it wasn’t particularly memorable.

Wismar, however, was another thing altogether. It is the most complete medieval town I’ve ever seen. Unlike many of the Hanseatic towns, only 10% of Wismar suffered allied bombing during WWII. It got increasingly shabby under Communist rule, but the buildings remained intact. Since reunification, almost all of the town has been restored. Some neighborhoods have been restored to their medieval look, some to their 18th century look, and some to their fin de siècle look.

It is a gem of a town. I’m not much of a photographer, but I couldn’t stop taking pictures. It has one of only two BRICK gothic churches in Europe — more than 3 million bricks went into its construction. Inside, it has many of its original murals, including a complete “Jesse Tree,” an exquisite painting that covers an entire towering wall and shows Jesus’s lineage. It also has a gigantic painting of St. Christopher.

There are also some 14th century carvings, including a triptych. The medieval Germans weren’t great at painting (their style was somewhat primitive compared to Flemish painters of the same time), but their carving is delightful. The Wismar carvings don’t compare to Tilman Riemanshneider’s work, but they are simultaneously sophisticated and folksie.

Everywhere one looks in Wismar, one sees examples of brick half-timber houses, Dutch-gabled houses, entirely brick houses, and German Gothic houses — and all have been beautifully restored. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. And for those who like a little 20th century that doesn’t involve either WWII or Communism, the silent movie horror classic “Nosferatu” was filmed there.

The whole town was a pleasure. I was tired by the end of our 11 hour day though. I managed to throw my back out yesterday morning, and being upright and walking 8 hours over cobble stones, even with Ibuprofin on board, took a lot of energy out of me. I’m happy to be writing in a quiet spot now. I think, though, my back will be up to par for Hamburg tomorrow.

I’m homesick, and there are still 16 more days to go. The great thing, though, is that most of those 16 days are on a cruise ship, so no packing, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, or cleaning. That’s the prize and I need to keep my eye on it.

And that is that.

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