Tag Archives: Germany

15 June 2019:
Travemünde, Germany:
On the Borderline

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Travemünde is a borough of Lübeck, Germany, at the mouth of the river Trave, with a population of about 13,500 residents and many thousands more summer tourists.

The settlement began as a fortress built in the 12th century by Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony, to guard the mouth of the Trave, which leads inland to the city of Lubeck.

The Danes subsequently strengthened it. Those fortifications were taken down in 1807 as Travemunde became a popular seaside resort.

And so today, what had been a fishing port and then a Hansa trading port is mostly luring tourists.

A panoramic view of today’s waterfront taken from aboard ship.

Excluding the interruptions of the two world wars, that role continued even during the years of a divided Germany. It is not quite at the mega-yacht level of Saint-Tropez, and that is a good thing because the city has retained or restored its old-world appearance.

At the end of World War II, Germany was split into two quasi nations, the Federal Republic of Germany—known to the outside world as West Germany, and the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, a puppet state of the Soviet Union.

And Travemunde ended up right on the line.

Until 1989 the border between East and West German was behind the Priwall, the spit of beach across from the town. Most of Priwall was a military area and off-limits to the public.

Most of the world’s attention was focused on the concrete and barbed wire wall erected between the Russian and the other sectors of Berlin, the capital city that sat like an island inside of East Germany.

The Berlin Wall was erected in 1961.

Here at Travemunde, the border fencing and walls were erected much earlier, beginning in 1952. It was referred to as the Inner German Border, no less real than the Berlin Wall but not much noticed outside the region.

Nearly 50,000 East German guards were charged with watching – day and night – what East Berlin termed the “anti-fascist protection wall” (although all fortifications were directed against the east).

On the other side, another 20,000 West German border police and customs officials monitored the “zone border”, a name reflecting Bonn’s official position of refusing to recognize the division or the other German state to the east.

Before you could reach the metal fence that was the official line there were a number of other barriers.

Towns and roads from one to five kilometers away from the border, half a mile to three miles away, were considered restricted zones and free travel was difficult. People considered “politically unreliable” or likely to flee, were removed from the restricted zone in two waves of forcible resettlement, in 1952 and 1961.

Then came a control strip, a signal or trip wire fence, and then a 500-meter or 1,800-foot-wide protective strip monitored by armed guards in watchtowers equipped with high-intensity floodlights.

By one estimate, nearly a thousand people were killed trying to escape from East Germany across the inner border.

A LÜBECK ALBUM

Up the river Trave, about 15 miles away, is Lübeck in the Schleswig-Holstein region. It was the leading city of the Hanseatic League, and became a very wealthy place through trade. 

Mostly rebuilt after the war, it includes a large collection of Brick Gothic structures, and the entire city—population about 219,000—is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

I went today with guests for a revisit, and after enduring a rain storm of biblical proportions, we enjoyed a stroll through the wet streets and coffee and marzipan at the famed Niederegger cafe.

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

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Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

14 June 2019:
The Kiel Canal, Germany:
The Inland Passage from the North Sea to the Baltic

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

The Kiel Canal is, in terms of number of ships, the busiest artificial seaway in the world. About 35,000 commercial vessels make the transit per year, an average of about 100 per day.

That is about double the number going through the Suez Canal or the Panama Canal.

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea. The Kiel Canal is not the most interesting canal in the world.

We do not rise up 85 feet from the Atlantic and sail across a once-deadly isthmus and then go down 80 feet to exit in the Pacific Ocean, as you would do in the Panama Canal.

And we do not cruise through the desert sands as you would do in the Suez Canal.

But the Kiel is a relaxing and pretty crossing of the north German countryside.

The canal connects the North Sea (via the Elbe River) to the Baltic.

Before the Kiel Canal–and for ships too wide or too long or too tall–the alternative is the much longer and more exposed trip around the Jutland Peninsula in Denmark, passing through the Øresund Strait in front of Copenhagen.

Entering the canal today
All photos by Corey Sandler 2019, all rights reserved

All photos and text Copyright 2019 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. See more photos on my website at http://www.coreysandler.com

IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO PURCHASE ANY PHOTO OR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ONE OF MY BOOKS, PLEASE CONTACT ME.

SEE THE “How to Order a Photo or Autographed Book” TAB ON THIS PAGE FOR INSTRUCTIONS

————-

Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.

Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery:

Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession: The Tragic Legacy of the New World’s Least Understood Explorer (Kindle Edition)

8 September 2013: From the Baltic at Warnemunde to the North Sea

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant, Silversea Cruises

Warnemunde, Germany: 8 September 2013

Love Locks and Whale Kites

On the pedestrian bridge that leads from the harbor where Silver Whisper was docked, the railing is festooned with hundreds of brass locks.

It’s not something you see every day…unless you travel a lot in Western Europe, where it has taken hold as a form of declaration of romantic entanglement. They call them “love locks.”

Here’s the idea: Hans and Angela decide to go steady. To signify their commitment, they head to the hardware store and buy a padlock.

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Love Locks

They write their names on the lock with a pen, or go the extra yard and enscribe them with a power tool. The lock is brought to the bridge and attached…and then the key is tossed into the water below.

And if love turns out to be less than permanent, I suppose one or the other returns to the bridge with a lock-cutter to remove the evidence.

We’ve seen these love locks in many places, most notable on the famous Accademia bridge in Venice. Sometimes the bridges end up bearing so many locked-up declarations that the authorities have to come in and remove them to prevent the bridge from falling down.

Warnemunde is a quirky, attractive little seaside resort in what was for four decades part of East Germany.

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Warnemunde

It was mostly spared from Allied bombing raids in World War II.  Across the Warne river, Rostock was all but leveled because of its many aircraft factories and shipyards.

And so in Rostock, you are able to see some interesting iconoclastic pieces of architecture.

There are hundreds of little seaside cottages in various German, Bavarian, and even Alpine designs. There are several distinctive Bauhaus-style structures, boxy buildings that place function over form.

And then there are the remnants of the quite unimaginative East German authorities: more than a few dreary Soviet-style apartment blocks and the Teepott, a large restaurant and conference center more-or-less shaped like a teapot.

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For us, the best part of our visit on a sleepy Sunday at the end of summer was the discovery that one end of the beach had been taken over by a kite club. They were flying objects of just about every description: dragons, snakes, twirling boxes, and best of all a large whale that rose and sank in the sky above the waves.

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All photos Copyright 2013, Corey Sandler. If you’d like a copy of any photo, please send me an email through the contact box on this page.

 

AMSTERDAM, THE NETHERLANDS: 10 September 2013

Almost Anything Goes

The last time we visited Amsterdam, a few months ago, we made a beeline for the reopened Rijksmuseum, newly emerged from a ten-year makeover as one of the most spectacular art museums in the world. You can read about that visit in an earlier entry in this blog.

This time we had cheese on our minds.

We walked from our ship toward the floating flower market of Amsterdam and I began my day focusing on tulips and other wondrous blooms. The colors seem to be painted using a palette not found in nature: the artist Van Gogh, the centerpiece of another great museum in Amsterdam, made more than a few studies of flowers.

Later in the day, with an hour or so to spare, I devoted myself to learning a few new tricks in Adobe Photoshop: I converted a photo to black and then hand-selected a few blooms to pop through in full color.

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Flowers, As Arranged by Corey Sandler

But I mentioned a hunt for cheese. Growing up in New York City in the 1950s, I fondly remember neighborhood specialty food shops including cheese stores. My favorite was Kimmel Muenster, a form of slightly sweet muenster cheese laced with pungent caraway seeds.

As supermarkets and big box stores took over the sale of nearly everything, Kummel Muenster disappeared along with the specialty stores. I have spent decades trying to recapture that flavor.

Silversea corporate chef David Bilsland—you can read a bit more about him in earlier postings of this blog—had put me on to a possible substitute: cheese with comino seeds. And so that was our quest: comino cheese.

Across from the flower market was our target: a row of stores selling many varieties of Dutch gouda and other cheeses. And there, hidden in plain sight, were rounds of komijn kaas: comino cheese.

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Gouda is not quite muenster, and comino is not exactly caraway. But after all these years, it was close enough for a celebration. We’ve got the evidence in the refrigerator in our suite.

In other news, there’s a new King in town: 28-year-old King Willem-Alexander took the throne on April 30 of this year.

This followed the abdication of his mother Queen Beatrix, who in retirement has taken the name Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrix.

Oh, and the Argentinian-born wife of Willem-Alexander is now Queen Máxima, although that is a title without office in the parliamentary nation of the Netherlands.

Somewhere, Prince Phillip sighs.

A PILOT TAKES TO THE SKIES

The weather in the North Sea and the English Channel can be rough this time of year, and we were reminded of that when we left Amsterdam and headed for what was supposed to be the last port of call on our cruise, at Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Amsterdam, like most of The Netherlands, lies at or below sea level and so its harbor is protected by locks that help prevent high or low tides from affecting commerce and property.

As soon as we cleared the lock out of Amsterdam, we came head-on into a fierce storm.

My wife and I are pretty rugged seafarers and so we had already dined and were fast asleep when a bit of excitement took place on the top deck of Silver Whisper.

Because of the rough conditions, the pilot we had taken on board in Amsterdam was unable to get off our ship to the small boat that had been sent to bring him home. And so a helicopter was brought out, and the pilot was winched up from the pool deck.

We slept through it all.

The next morning came the other shoe: it was too rough to take on a new pilot for the approach to Zeebrugge, and so we were forced to miss that port call. Instead, we crossed the English Channel and pulled into Southampton that evening to spend a peaceful night tied up at the dock.

14 July 2013: Moon Over Schwerin, Germany

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

As I write this, we are sailing through the Kiel Canal, exiting the Baltic Sea and heading for the North Sea. About 3 p.m. tomorrow, July 16, we will enter into the outer reaches of the River Thames and then make a stately procession to London.

The London Tower Bridge is scheduled to open for us about 8 p.m. and we will pass through the great landmark and then tie up to the historic HMS Belfast for the end of this voyage.

It’s been quite a journey. This cruise began July 6 in Copenhagen and also included two other bright and lively Scandinavian cities: Helsinki and Stockholm. Silver Cloud also took us to Saint Petersburg, which is lively and exciting in the unique Russian way. The city includes some of the most spectacular palaces and museums in the world, in a place that has seen all possible extremes of wealth, poverty, siege, war, the rise and fall of the Soviet Communists, and the rise of Vladimir Putin and modern Russia.

It may take a while before we understand whether Putin is a democrat or a would-be dictator in the Soviet or Czarist mold. Speaking for myself, I think Putin sees his model not in Stalin but in Peter the Great. That may not be great.

We also visited the beautiful bucolic island of Gotland, the home of the medieval city of Visby. And then our final port of call, before our exit from the Baltic through the Kiel Canal and our upcoming trip up the Thames, took us to Warnemünde, the beach resort at the mouth of the Warnow River.

I wrote about Warnemünde and the nearby larger city of Rostock in my blog entry of June 17, when we came here on our way into the Baltic. On this visit, I went in a different direction, to the fairy tale castle at Schwerin, about 90 minutes away.

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Schwerin Castle. I used a bit of computer magic to paint the colors like an old Photochrome postcard

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Schwerin’s Lutheran Church towers over the town. It dates back to about 1158 as a Catholic Church, and progressed through the Reformation to its current design

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Schwerin’s Lutheran Church

Schwerin’s history, in castle terms, dates to at least the year 973. For centuries it was the home of the dukes and grand dukes of Mecklenburg and later Mecklenburg-Schwerin. The castle as it stands now dates as far back as the 15th century. Many updates and changes have been made over the years, but it is still an ancient place within and without. The final look of the castle includes some 19th century touches.

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Inside Schwerin Castle

Why is this called a fairy tale castle? Just take a look at fables and stories from across Europe: you’re likely to find some form of Schwerin or another famed palace, Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. It just seems to fit the description nicely.

And then there was Walt Disney. He began as an artist, and spent time studying in Europe as a young man; for a while he was working in Èze, near Nice in France. When Disney came home to California and launched his moviemaking company, one thing led to another and we ended up with Disneyland and Sleeping Beauty Castle.

Nice Digs

We toured Schwerin Castle, which had some beautiful and rich public rooms. About half of the place is open to the public; the other half is used by the regional parliament. Schwerin Germany Jul14 2013-6211 Schwerin Germany Jul14 2013-6205 Schwerin Germany Jul14 2013-6198

Mooning

But what really caught my eye was this most unusual piece of statuary on the town square of Schwerin. One side depicts the bloody assault of Henry the Lion, who was Duke of Saxony and Duke of Bavaria in the mid-12th century.

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The violent face of the monument

Let’s just say he was not much loved. The other side of the sculpture shows people—how should I put this?—expressing their extreme lack of respect for him. The sculpture, a modern work from post-reunification Germany, shows rows of men and women mooning him. I bet you thought that was a modern form of political expression.

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Moon over Schwerin

All text and photos Copyright 2013 by Corey Sandler. If you would like a copy of a photo, please contact me.

17 June 2013 Rostock and Warnemunde, Germany. Out from Under

Warnemünde, the beach resort at the mouth of the Warnow River, like much of this part of Europe, has risen and fallen with the tides of war and economic upheaval.

It dates back, as a mere fishing village, to about 1200.

Rostock would rise to great importance as one of the ports of the Hanseatic League.

And then it would become the home of some of the industrial might of Nazi Germany, including a major aircraft factory and port. Heinkel and Arado Flugzeugwerke grew out of the earlier aviation factories in the area.The Arado Ar 66 became one of the standard Luftwaffe trainers.

The firm also produced some of the Luftwaffe’s first fighter aircraft. Near the end of the war, Arado came up with the Ar-234, the first jet-powered bomber. Only a small number of the single-seat twin-engine plane were built, which was a good thing.

In their few sorties as bombers they proved to be nearly impossible to intercept. Not that they would have altered the outcome of the war, but they might have delayed its conclusion.

The jet, nicknamed Blitz or Lightning, was the last Luftwaffe plane to fly over England, in April 1945.

Until their liberation in April 1945 by the Soviet army, 1,012 slave laborers from Freiburg, a sub-camp of the Flossenbürg concentration camp in Bavaria, worked at the Arado factory.

That made it a major target of Allied bombing, and it was seriously damaged in the war.

Warnemunde and Rostock were severely damaged in raids in 1942 and 1943 and again in 1945.

The attacks on Rostock, and more importantly the historic Hanseatic city of Lübeck not far away, enraged Hitler—if such a thing was possible and led in April 1942 to a series of German raids on historic cities in Britain beginning with Exeter and continuing to Bath, Norwich, York, and later Canterbury.

The bombings became known as the Baedeker raids because the Germans supposedly chose them by thumbing through a Baedeker travel guide book about England.

Following that, the Soviets swept in…stealing what they could and then bringing the drab grayness that landed throughout East Germany.

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 WARNEMÜNDE

Warnemünde’s broad, sandy beaches are the largest on the German Baltic Sea coast, stretching about three kilometers or two miles.

It also has some pretty beachside homes, and all of the basic elements of a seaside resort including a promenade, outdoor restaurants, and tourist attractions.

There are three notable sights in Warnemünde:

Undressed bodies on the beach—some of whom you might wish would put on winter clothing or otherwise make themselves less apparent.

An historic lighthouse near the beach promenade, built in 1897.

And the Teepott, the nickname for one of the resorts most famous landmarks. It was built in the 1960s and is an appropriately odd example of East German architecture.

Today the Teepott holds a few restaurants and an exhibition hall.

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Among the many to invade this area in earlier times were the French under Napoleon, who occupied the town for about a decade until 1813.

Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher surrendered to the French after furious street fighting.

Von Blücher, who rose to the level of Prussian Generalfeldmarschall (field marshal) would live to fight another day, leading his army against Napoleon at the Battle of the Nations at Leipzig in 1813 and at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 with the Duke of Wellington.

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Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher

Any Mel Brooks fans out there? There have to be.

In the film Young Frankenstein, the great actress Cloris Leachman, a household servant in the home of Doctor Frankenstein…or should I say, Franken-steen.

Brooks never explained the joke, but everytime Frau Blucher appeared on screen we would hear the whinney of the Marshal’s horse.

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Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher

SAINT MARY’S

Saint Mary’s Church Marienkirche, on Ziegenmarkt, is an imposing Brick Gothic structure that was first built in the 13th century.

Behind the high altar on the apse is an astronomical clock built in 1472 by a Nuremberg clockmaker.

It is the only Medieval clock of its kind still in working condition with its original clockworks.

The clock has three sections.

Every hour, the apostles circle around Jesus for a blessing; the last, Judas, is shut out by a clanging door.

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15 June 2013 Hamburg and Lübeck, Germany: Hello, Goodbye

Moin moin.

That’s “hello” or…later on, “good bye” in Frisian and Low German dialect or lingo.

That’s the local greeting Hamburg, where Silversea Silver Cloud arrived today.

Actually, there’s a wonderful musical coincidence here: “Hello, Goodbye” was the name of one of the many hits by a rough-and-tumble rock-and-roll band from Liverpool.

You know them as The Beatles, but they went by a number of names from 1960 to 1962 when they underwent an intensive round of hardscrabble engagements in the Red Light District of Hamburg.

They played the Star-Club, Kaiserkeller, Top Ten, and Indra.

The Reeperbahn—the word means ropewalk, a place where ropes are made—is also sometimes described as die sündige meile, the sinful mile.

The Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stu Sutcliffe, and Pete Best played at strip clubs and dank beer joints in Hamburg. (Sutcliffe would leave the band to pursue a career in art, and Best would be replaced by Ringo Starr once the group began iuts ascendancy to the Rock Pantheon.)

“Liverpool was where I was born,” said John Lennon, “but Hamburg was where I grew up.”

The clubs (and the “sex workers”) are still there, joined by a modern sculpture immortalizing the band, at Beatlesplaatz.

The symbolic heart of the city is the Rathaus or Town Hall.

It is a substantial, in-your-face neo-Renaissance structure completed in 1897. Like much of central Hamburg, the Rathaus was heavily damaged in World War II air raids, but was restored by 1957.

It still holds the office of the Mayor and the meeting places for Hamburg’s parliament and senate.

The immense building has about 647 rooms (six more than Buckingham Palace). I say “about” 647 rooms because it’s apparently hard to keep count.

In 1971 a room in the tower was discovered accidentally during a search for a document that had fallen behind a filing cabinet.

SHADES OF GRAY

Hamburg was nearly flattened by bombing by the Allies seeking to destroy the industrial facilities including shipbuilding and submarine pens, as well as other industries.

And there was also the Neuengamme concentration camp, about 15 kilometers or 10 miles southeast of the center of the city.

By the end of the war, more than half of its estimated 106,000 prisoners had died: about 50,000 dead. The camp served the needs of the German war machine and also carried out exterminations through labor.

As if that was not enough, consider this: on April 26, 1945, about 10,000 surviving prisoners from Neuengamme were loaded into four ships: the passenger liners Deutschland and Cap Arcona and two large steamers, SS Thielbek and Athen.

The prisoners were in the ships’ holds for several days without food or water.

Hamburg Gauleiter Karl Kaufmann later claimed during a war crimes tribunal that the prisoners were destined for Sweden. However, at the same trial, the head of the Hamburg Gestapo said that the prisoners were in fact slated to be killed, with one plan calling for scuttling the ships with the prisoners still aboard.

On May 3, 1945, the ships were attacked by three squadrons of Royal Air Force Hawker Typhoons. The RAF believed the ships carried SS personnel who were being transferred to Norway.

Intelligence that the ships carried concentration camp prisoners did not reach the squadrons in time to halt the attack.

About 5,000 of the prisoners died.

On May 8, 1945—five days later—most German forces surrendered and the war in Europe was over.

LUBECK

I spent the day on a shore excursion in Lübeck, about an hour from Hamburg up the Elbe River.

The entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with nearly 2,000 landmark buildings including St. Mary’s Church from the late 12th century and home to the world’s largest mechanical organ.

It is a handsome place, the City of Seven Spires. There are many more churches than that–some dating back five hundred or more years–but seven steeples remain.

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Around town in Lubeck

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Inside the shell of St. Petri Church

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St. Mary’s Church was the pride of the town. It was all but destroyed in an air rad in 1942–those big clumps of metal above are the remains of the original bells, preserved within a chapel.

The stained glass windows are a modern version of the Dance of Death or the Danse Macabre of Bernt Nottke. At the bottom were added two scenes of St. Mary’s in flames.

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Lovers’ Locks mounted on a pedestrian bridge in Lubeck. The idea is for a couple to get a lock, paint or chisel their names on it, and then toss the key in the river. I imagine there has to be an occasional re-visit with a jeweler’s saw or mechanical cutter for good love, gone bad.

Hello, Goodbye.

(And I also thought of the bridges in Venice, I was there a few weeks ago, and the locks are weighing down the ancient bridges.)