I set off with Anne-Rose on our tour along the Baltic Coast towards Gdansk. She wants to travel along the coastline and enjoy the beach. I want to see the Hanseatic cities so this trip suits us both quite well.
We cycled to the Herrentunnel which goes under the Trave. Cyclists and walkers aren’t allowed in this tunnel so there’s a bus which took us through at no cost. In Travemünde we took the ferry across to the Priwall, cycled across the old East/West border, uphill and down dale, through woods, fields and villages until we eventually arrived in Wohlenhagen.
The next day it was a short ride to Wismar, the second Hanseatic city on our tour, Lübeck being the first. Wismar joined the Hanseatic League in the 13th Century. It was part of Sweden for most of the 16th and 17th Centuries so there are still many small reminders of that time such as the ‘Swedish Heads,’ which are baroque busts of Hercules which used to be at the entrance to the harbour. There were only ever two heads but there are three copies in the town.
The central, old part of Wismar was recognised by UNESCO in 2002. We saw the ‘Wasserkunst,’ a fancy water-collection and distribution point in the market square. There is also the ‘Alter Schwede’, an old red-brick building at the central market place dating from 1380, long before the Swedes got there. It has one of the ‘Swedish Heads’ over the doorway keeping an eye on all the goings-on in the old square.
The most impressive sight for me was the Heiligen Geist Kirche yet it doesn’t rate a mention in the Lonely Planet guidebook. The ceiling is supported by a series of painted beams, between them each section is painted in a different stylised floral motif with a scene from the Old Testament for good measure. Anyone gazing up in a distracted manner would surely have been intimidated by Joseph wrestling an angel or Cain’s murder of Abel.
At the front of the church is a fresco dating from the early 14th century. Starting from the D in the centre it’s possible to spell out ‘Deo Gracias’ in 504 different ways. Just to remind us that this church was in an important Hanse town and probably largely financed by the wealthy Hanse merchants, there were paintings of ships and a very maritime pew with the date 1574.
There is a magnificent stained glass window from about 1400 which shows Thomas a’Becket on the left in the third row from the top. His murder must have been an earth shattering event for him to be portrayed in a church in Wismar among Jesus, Mary and a very small collection of other saints.
We headed out of town and came across the St. Nikolaikirche. The gothic red-brick church was modelled after the Marienkirche in Lübeck. It’s massive, with the fourth highest nave in Germany after Köln, Ulm and of course, the Marienkirche in Lübeck.
Nearby is a bridge of pigs. Four little pigs, one on each corner entertain the passers-by with their antics.