The rail journey from Berlin on Regional Express takes about three hours; it is the same route that goes to Schwerin, and then another thirty minutes further. You can get there quicker with InterConnex (two hours twenty-five), but then you can't use the good-value Schönes-Wochenende ticket.
Wismar was one of the founding port-towns of the Hanseatic League, the powerful alliance of merchants and market towns trading in the medieval period across the Baltic and North Sea coasts and inland water-routes. Not only saleable goods flowed along the trade routes, but also cultural ideas such as religion and architecture. It was not surprising then that almost as soon as we got off of the train we encountered ware-houses with elaborate stepped gable-ends that we had seen in other Hansa towns such as Stralsund, Rostock, and Lübeck.
Am Poeler Tor
|More gabled warehouses, Wismar|
|Impressive Backsteingotik pediment on the Nikolaikirche, Wismar|
The tower is no dwarf either, being 120m high.
Inside the church there is a forest of brick columns from floor to ceiling, imitating the gothic columns of large carved stone cathedrals such as at Köln. In fact you see that these light bricks mortared together make for better material to solidify the soaring visions of gothic architecture - you can reach these inspiring heights without the need for supporting flying-buttresses holding the whole thing up.
|Looking down the nave to the altar in the Nikolaikirche, Wismar|
|Light and shade in the Nikolaikirche, Wismar|
|Entrance to Nikolaikirche.|
The inscription reads:
"Ich bin die Tür. So jemand durch mich eingeht, der wird selig werden."
|Alter Schwede, Wismar. |
Arch over entrance doorway with statue of jolly Swede person wearing a bearskin.
"So jemand durch mich eingeht, der wird schwedisch werden."
|Alter Schwede, looking up.|
The Swedish connection exemplified by the name of the Alter Schwede is not just random, by the way. Wismar was militarily occupied by Swedish troops in 1628 and became the heavily fortified capital of Sweden's German possessions until it was leased for 100 years to the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in 1803. It wasn't until the lease was up that Sweden gave up any claim to the town in 1903.
Near to the Alter Schwede is the richly-ornamented Wasserkunst, a twelve-sided pagoda-like building with wrought-iron grill work and a lantern topping a copper dome.
|Wasserkunst on the Market Place, Wismar|
On the east side of the Wasserkunst are a bronze mermaid and merman (Nix und Nixe) from which the fountain pours. However, the originals were later removed to the city museum during more prurient times, and these are copies re-erected in 2005.
|Nix and Nixe|
aka Adam and Eve
aka Frauloch & Mannloch (!)
|Wismar's Market Square.|
|That's not us, by the way. Too busy snapping photos.|
And why were so many apothecaries in Germany named after either lions or eagles?
|Hanseatic gabled town-.house with Gründerzeit additions,|
in-between a basically Jugendstil building and timber-framed Fachwerkhaus.
You may wonder why I have titled this blog 'Wismar - Haunt of Nosferatu'. It is because I had seen this market square before, quite a while ago in a blue-tinted German black-and-white movie, starring Max Schreck with bat-ears and unfeasibly long fingernails. I am talking about the 1922 film Nosferatu, directed by F.W. Murnau, and featuring the famous scene with the shadow of Nosferatu climbing the stairs, then with the shadows of his fingers reaching out for the prone sleeping body of a female victim. You know the one. (If not, do a google for 'Nosferatu online' and you will find lots of opportunities to watch the full movie for free). The film is based on Dracula of course, but as the production company didn't have any right to Bram Stoker's creation - it being still under copyright with royalties going to Stoker's widow- the screen-writer Henrik Galeen had to be carefully inventive with the vampire plot.
Anyway, 19th century Wismar became the setting for Count Orlok's (Nosferatu to his mates) reign of terror after he traveled by sea from Transylvania, presumably taking the place of Whitby in the novel. As you wander around Wismar's narrow cobble-stoned streets with its old gabled buildings, you can well imagine that you have been transported back to the 19th century. Above all, Wismar is a Romantic and Gothic place, which engages your senses and makes a tear in the hurly-burly of the modern world.
But though long-fingered vampires (probably) don't still haunt these alleyways, the spectre of death does still make unexpected appearances. This small street is named 'Sargmacherstraße' - coffin maker street.
|Bell-tower of the Marienkirche, Wismar|
How tall? The tower is 59 metres tall. That's over twice the height of the Brandenburg Gate.
How massive? 78 metres long by up to 57 meters wide by 35 meters to the top of the roof-vaults. That means the main part of the church could be filled by about 4,446 ping-pong balls in my estimation. Yes, the train journey back was long.
|Transept of Georgenkirche, Wismar.|
|Georgenkirche. Enough internal space for 4,446 ping-pong balls. Maybe.|
It's another big un.
Totally blissed out by our short excursion we returned to Wismar and the harbour area near the Wassertor, and indulged in Kaffe und Kuchen. Or heißer Sanddorn mit Schuss. Or a great big Becher of ice-cream. What we could have done with were pizzas, but the Italian place we went to didn't start doing them until 5pm. It was 4.30. Still, the Sanddorn was lecker!
|Italian restaurant by the Wassertor.|
Don't ask for a pizza until after 5pm.
|Ship masts in Wismar harbour.|
You might just make out the red and white striped pennants; as a remnant of the town's independent status its shipping is still allowed to fly the red and white flag of Wismar.
So don't be afraid of venturing into Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern - the locals don't bite you know.
Not unless they are called Count Orlok anyway.