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  • Writer's picturePeter Antonucci

Wismar, Germany (II)

Friday | June 3, 2016

Because I toured Wismar yesterday, I signed up for a tour outside of Wismar today. As so often happens in these situations, I had no idea what to expect. But fortunately, it turned out to be quite a lovely day.


We boarded our bus and took a 45 minute ride outside Wismar to an idyllic late setting where we toured one of Germany’s most magnificent castles, Schloss Schwerin (known as the Neuschwanstein of the North).

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On  the way, we saw many buildings from the 1940-1960 time. They reminded me of what Soviet barracks living must’ve been like. Also on the way, we passed miles and miles of fields.

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We were driving through the German state of Mecklenburg, founded probably around 1160 A.D. and now boasting a population of 1.6 million people.


Mecklenburg contains 300 lakes, plus the Baltic Sea, making it a very popular beach location for Germans. In fact, in 1793, Mecklenburg became the country’s first beach resort when a physician diagnosed a duke with asthma and told him he should move to the seaside for his health.


It also is a popular place for folks who enjoy the outdoors, as Mecklenburg possesses 400 nature trails.


We learned that Mecklenburg housed two of the world’s earliest universities, founded in 1490 and 1596.


Once again, we saw the wind turbines and solar panels along our route.

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Our guide, Bettina, explained to us that 30% of the state energy comes from wind, and solar contributes almost as much. As result, most of Germany has done away with nuclear power for electricity.


Finally, we arrived at Schwerin Castle which was built on the same site as a Slavic enclave dating back to the 10th century.


This five-sided castle was built over a period of years in the mid 1800s. Originally the home of the Dukes and grand Dukes of Mecklenburg, it has housed the state assembly since 1990 in half of the building that is closed to the public. But not to worry, the palace has 654 rooms, so missing a few is not such a big deal!


The Schwerin area was conquered by Henry the Lion in 1160 AD. (Frankly, I think our tour guide meant to refer to Henry the Lionhearted, but I have no way of knowing what she actually meant.)

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In 1918, with the revolution, the Royals abandoned the property and it became a school for almost 80 years. Thereafter, the government turned it into the beautiful museum we visited today.


The architect of this museum was George Adolph Demmler, who designed virtually everything in the city. When he began to design the castle in the mid 1600s, he modeled it after the French palace at Chambord, but evidence of Russian and Italian Renaissance architecture is also prevalent. In fact, when one views the castle from different angles, one can see a variety of architectural and historical influences.

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Before entering the castle itself, our guide took us around the gardens for about 45 minutes and they were extraordinary.

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The main garden behind the palace, featured a large lake with statues on either side. One could not help but be reminded of the gardens behind the palace of Versailles.

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I don’t mean to give the inside of the palace short shrift, as one could write about it for pages and pages. But we walked through many rooms, each being more beautiful than the next.  The restoration of the rooms is a work in progress, as the castle’s foundation seeks funding.


The library was exquisite.

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The paneling and inlaid floors in all the rooms were magnificent.

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The paintings were beautiful.

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Some of the furniture was absolutely breathtaking.

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And it was interesting to be told that these incredibly ornate ceilings, which appeared to be wood, were all actually made of papier-mâché because the architect was afraid this palace could sink into the bog under the weight of actual wood.

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And like any self-respecting castle, it had an immense throne room.

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We also heard the fable of Little Peter or Petermaennchen, the castle ghost who is reputed to haunt visitors to the castle.


Once we finished inside the castle, we took a walk through the small town. Immediately across the street from the castle is an impressive museum.

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We found ourselves eating at Weinhaus Wohler, where we were treated to a table in a garden and enjoyed lunch.


After lunch, a few of us split off from the tour and decided to explore the city on our own.

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I was fascinated by some of the buildings that presented quintessential German architecture.

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Of great interest was the Gothic brick cathedral.

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Interestingly, even though it had been changed from Catholic to Luthman, it displayed one of the largest crucifixes, replete with a bleeding Jesus, I have seen in all of Europe outside Italy.

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The Rathaus, or city hall, was a beautiful building as well.

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As was the case in Wismar, the town square was enormous.


We wandered into a few local bookstores and were surprised to see a large collection of books on Hitler, Mussolini, and the Nazi party of the 1930s and 40s. One would think the Germans might try to minimize or downplay that section of the history, but it was prominently displayed in the bookstore. Perhaps that is a good thing so that the youth of Germany will never forget the atrocities of their ancestors.


Back on the ship, we showered and prepared for dinner, after which we went to the 12th floor deck and watched the sun set between two enormous cranes.

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Finally, we returned to our apartment and was on the phone with my son when there were a series of large explosions outside our balcony. It turns out that because this was our maiden voyage into the port, the military was saluting us with nine cannon blasts. (The fireboats had streamed water off our bow when we entered the port two days ago.) A local band was present and the Wismar glee club serenaded us with hundreds of local people watching.

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It was a very special and pleasant evening.

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