Monday, 26 November 2012

Lübeck - City of Marzipan!

Lübeck, view of St.Marien zu Lübeck
For my Beloved's birthday we went by ICE to Lübeck, a Hanseatic port on the Baltic coast in Schleswig-Holstein. It's not exactly an obvious day-trip from Berlin, taking over three hours to get there, but it does have one thing to lure us that far: marzipan!

The legend goes that marzipan was first made in Lübeck, possibly in response either to a military siege of the city or a famine year. The story, perhaps apocryphal, is that the town ran out of all food except stored almonds and sugar, which were used to make loaves of marzipan "bread". So says Wikipedia. Whatever, it is definitely the home of the most famous marzipan makers in the world, Niederegger. And today is also the first day of the Christmas Markets in Germany, so another excuse to go!

From the train station you enter the old town over the charming Puppenbrücke, or bridge of 'dolls'.

Statue on the Puppenbrücke representing Harmony (Eintracht)
The old town (Altstadt) is encircled by the river Trave, which is linked by canal to the Elbe and out to the Baltic sea. From the Puppenbrücke you enter the Altstadt through the impressive Holstentor.

Lion on the approach to Holstentor
The Holstentor (Holstein Gate) is a fantastic brick Gothic (Backsteingotik) construction that once formed part of the fortifications of Lübeck, and it is easy to imagine how incredible the mediaeval city must have looked at the height of its magnificance. It is now sagging under the massive weight of ancient brick and stands beside a busy main road into Lübeck; in fact, it took quite a while waiting for a gap in the traffic to get this next photo:

Holstentor from the city side
Lübeck Altstadt is a charming crowded muddle of brick Gothic and half-timbered buildings lining cobbled streets climbing up a slight hill to the Marienkirche and Rathaus in the centre of town. It is no surprise that it has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987. The dominant theme of the skyline is of Hanseatic style facades ...

Lübeck 'brick Gothic'
More brick Gothic, with glazed brickwork
And yet more variations of the same! Lübeck IS the Mother of Brick Gothic

... with glimpses of the many mediaeval churches ....

Lübeck cathedral
Often the towering churches are impossible to take in without getting a cricked neck!
But there are also neo-classical elements ...

neoclassical roof-top
... but mostly it is more Gothic than a Sisters of Mercy reunion concert in Whitby

Beautiful oriel window on the Marktplatz
Lübeck probably looks its prettiest in Spring and Summer when hollyhocks and roses adorn its half-timbered town houses, alleyways and courtyards; but even at the beginning of Winter the architecture is picture-postcard.

Half-timbered building, Lübeck
Lübeck also has an important University with faculties for Medicine and for Technology and Life Science. It is easy to spot buildings with University lecture halls - just look out for hundreds of bikes piled up outside!

Bikes outside a University building

Lübeck's importance was built on its Hanseatic status - and wharves, harbours and warehouses encircle it.

An der Obertrave
We took a half-hour bus-ride NE of Lübeck to the mouth of the Trave, during which we passed docks for Scandinavian ferries, large modern cruise ships, and container terminals. Soon we came to the Baltic Sea (Ostsee) and the seaside resort of Travemünde. It was wonderful to walk on the beach of soft white sand, sharing it only with playful dogs ...

dogs playing on the beach at Travemünde
And a couple of fit octogenarians exercising ...

Limbering up against a jetty
But no visit to Lübeck is complete without calling in at the Niederegger cafe by the Marktplatz, where the most amazing assortment of marzipan goodies await to entice you.

Marzipanwelt - marzipan disguised as bananas, apples and other fruit.
Not to be counted towards your five portions a day.
Naturally the birthday girl had to have a marzipan cake treat in the elegent Niederegger cafe!

Go on, it's your birthday darling!
Aside: Niederegger marzipan is real marzipan; its taste and aroma come 100% from almonds, and it is not bulked up with cane sugar like the inferior stuff is. If Niederegger want to thank me for this advertisement by sending us a box or two of marzipan, then contact me via this blog :)

Today was also the first Monday after Totensonntag, which means that the Christmas Markets start all over Germany. We spent the rest of the evening taking in the glowing Gemütlichkeit of the usual Weihnachtsmarkt goodies and the aroma of Glühwein and sizzling food.

Christmas ornaments for sale
And more ornaments

And roasted nuts and Lebkuchen hearts
And wooden Christmas decorations
And more nuts and Lebkuchen
And Glühwein stalls

And hook-a-duck stalls!

And, and, and ... well, you get the picture. And by the New Year we'll probably have got sick of them everywhere !
In conclusion, a most enjoyable special day out. I think we would definitely come back to Lübeck, but next time probably in the Summer to get a different perspective on the town. Unless we get a marzipan craving, when we might be back sooner! Auf Wiedersehen Lübeck! Wir lieben dich (as it says on the Lebkuchen hearts)!

An der Obertrave at night

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Webmeister Chef

I am loving Masterchef Professionals on the BBC, but I wonder what it would be like if they did the same with Website coders?