lubeck old town canal view germany

Lubeck – Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Perfectly Intact, the Soul of Northern Germany

This Baltic river port has a glorious past. In the Middle Ages it was the cap­ital of the Hanseatic League, a loose-knit association of independent merchant towns in northern Europe. Its canal-girdled, redbrick Altstadt (Old Town) is steeped in the city’s rich medieval history, when it dominated the highly lucrative trading routes along the Baltic, and precious goods trickled down throughout Europe from here.

Enclosed within walls of for­tifications, gates, and a moat, Lubeck’s Altstadt is so architecturally and historically significant that it was the first city in northern Europe to have the entire town center placed on the World Heritage list by UNESCO.

One would never guess that a quarter of the center was demolished by WWII bombings, because it has so skillfully and lovingly been rebuilt. What has been left untouched serves as a memorial; for example, the bells of the Gothic St. Mary Church (Marienkirche), which crashed during an air raid, lie in shatters where they fell.

Italy probably takes umbrage at Lubeck’s centuries-old claim to originating marzipan (the town acknowledges that the sweet was first made with almonds imported from Italy). Check out the local delicacy in the celebrated old-world Cafe Niederegger, said to make the best marzipan in the world.

In spite of all the town’s beauty and history, one’s most vivid recollection might be of an afternoon spent at the cafe, immersed in their famous Nusstorte, a cream-filled cake that hints of Italian almonds.

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