Thursday, November 10, 2011
Schnitzeljagd in Lübeck, Germany, Justin Abbott, Kiel, Germany
My entire experience as a study abroad student in the northern, Baltic coast city of Kiel, Germany was amazing. The things I learned, the friends I made, and the foods I ate will never be forgotten. As part of the program we went on several different excursions that lasted anywhere from a single day to a long weekend. We had a chance to see Berlin, Sylt (a favorite vacation island of Germany’s rich and famous), Oslo, Norway (a beautiful, Troll inhabited Scandinavian capital), and Lübeck.
Lübeck is a wonderful little city in northern Germany which is famous for its marzipan (almond paste), and for being the capital of the Hanseatic League - the most powerful trade network in northern Europe during the late middle ages and early modern period. To help us discover this beautiful city, known as the “Queen of the Hanse” we broke into teams and went on a Schnitzeljagd, or scavenger hunt.
Back in medieval Europe, cities were often engaged in war with neighboring cities and towns. To help protect itself, Lübeck, like many cities in northern Germany, was completely surrounded by water. One of the city’s most enduring landmarks is the Holstentor, which is a gate that guarded a bridge into the old town. The gate is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This gate was our first stop on our scavenger hunt.
Another stop along our route was St. Mary’s Church (Marienkirche). This beautiful, gothic church was first built between 1250 and 1350. It is the third tallest church in Germany, and has the highest brick vault in the world. The church contains many memorials; one of its most poignant was created by the 1942 Palm Sunday Air Raid. The Allies’ air raid created a draft that made the church bells ring just before they went plummeting to the ground. When the church was reconstructed, following the war, the bells were left where they had fallen.
Our Schnitzeljagd ended at the Schiffergesellschaft. This was constructed in 1535 as the home of the Brotherhood of Captains. This brotherhood, who still owns the building today, is a guild of ship captains who used to come together to create the rules of the sea, and to further seafaring enterprise. In 1868 the Schiffergesellschaft was opened to the public as a restaurant. The tables and benches are part of the original, 500 year old décor, which is complemented with all sorts of interesting ship models, hanging from the ceiling.
After lunch we all went to the Willy Brandt Museum. Wily Brandt is one of Germany’s most famous politicians. He was born and raised in Lübeck, and later went on to become the mayor of West Berlin, and the chancellor of West Germany. He is accredited with creating what is known as Ostpolitik, which was a new West German stance that respected East Germany’s right to exist and cooled tensions with Poland and the USSR. His policies were controversial in West Germany at the time, but won him the 1971 Nobel Peace Prize, and later aided in the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Lübeck is world renowned for its Niederegger marzipan (almond paste). Marzipan is a wonderful treat. It can be eaten plain, or covered in chocolate, or baked into cakes, cookies, and other pastries. They often mold it into fun shapes, such as bread, carrots, pigs, cows, birds, ladybugs, and even cityscapes and sculptural busts.
I wish I had saved the marzipan bar I received as a prize when my team won the scavenger hunt, then I could be eating it right now; mmm… marizipan. But even if I have depleted my supply of marzipan, at least I will always have the fond memories of Lübeck, and the many other enriching people and places I experienced on my study abroad in Kiel, Germany.