One way to do Hamburg – Lüneburg Edition

Having arrived at the port of Hamburg on three occasions this year, once with Queen Victoria and twice on board Queen Mary 2 my wife and I decided it was time to discover what was on offer beyond the city confines of Hamburg.

One possible destination featured on all the ship’s excursion lists –  Luneburg, a place that interested me immensely because I could recall , as a child, my father relating stories of Luneburg to me when he had been based there during WWII.

In the full knowledge that QM2 was to be in Hamburg a full day I set about some research on how my wife and I could visit this famous old town. What follows is my account on how we did it and what we discovered.

Luneburg is a Hanseatic City that was once the centre of a thriving salt trade: a trade that brought considerable wealth to those who produced it and traded in the so called  ‘white gold‘. Evidence of the affluence that this trade brought to Luneburg is found everywhere in the streets which now offer an absolute gem of medieval brick architecture and an old port area that has seen some excellent restoration work.

Indeed, central to the port is a fully restored  old medieval ‘tread wheel’ crane – something of a local icon…

 

But first to get there. Our plan was to travel by train from Hamburg’s  Hauptbahnhof  – its main railway station, which was a walking distance of some 20 minutes from the cruise terminal…

 

Trains depart from Hamburg Hbf every half hour. They are remarkably efficient, clean and easily followed destination information is displayed continually. Two return tickets cost €24.90 and we enjoyed the return journey on this stylish train…

Upon arrival in Luneburg we promptly acquired  a suitable guide book from the station bookstore…

…and headed into town.

Our initial research had provided a list of sites we wished to see and, as previously mentioned, the Medieval Crane and the ‘Stintmarkt‘ were top of our list. The Stintmarkt traded in both salt to the Baltic ports and ‘Stint’: a small salmon like fish popular in the middle ages.

Stintmarkt as seen from the Medieval Crane

 

The old port, which is no longer in use, is lined by a whole series of middle-class houses and gabled old salt warehouses – it now forms Luneburg’s  largest bar and restaurant  district – all of which have been restored to their former days, while on the opposite bank of the Ilmenau River, that crane again…

Medieval crane as seen from the Stintmarkt

 

The Old Crane – Alter Kran’ – on the  Ilmenau river quayside in Lüneburg’s old river port. The original crane was erected in the Middle Ages, although the current design dates to the 18th century.  Another restored building is the town’s old commercial building, now operating as an hotel and can be seen to the left of the crane with a yellowish facade.

Brewing was also an important industry in Luneburg and this water tower (Abtwasserkunst), a short distance from the Stintmarkt,  dates back to 1550 and was originally used to store water for 36 Breweries in the town…

The Abtwasserkunst is not the only water tower in Luneburg….

The Lüneburg Water Tower ( Das Wasserturm) is 55 metres tall, and the tallest structure in Luneburg that is not a church. It  dates back to 1907.  The building consists of a square base of 18 metres  and a round portion which is walled up around a 500 cubic metres water tank. The tower is open to the public and a visit is highly recommended.

Internally the tower has been well preserved and adapted in a manner that allows the visitor to appreciate exactly the functioning of the building…

The underside of the water tank

The stairway down through the original water tank

The ultimate point of visiting the water tower is, however, to observe the fascinating panorama of the nearly intact medieval roofscape of Luneburg, its three mighty Gothic churches, the Ilmenau river and old salt mills and the general all round vista…

*****

*****

Close to the water tower and fronting the entrance to St. Johannis Church above, is Am Sande,  Lüneburg’s most beautiful square where merchants used to lay out their wares in medieval times. It is framed by a host of high ornate brick houses, another  testimony to Lüneburg’s wealth and status in centuries gone by. The Church of John the Baptist is considered an important example of northern German Gothic brick architecture. The five-naved church was first  erected in 1370 and dominates one end of Am Sande Square….

We were seriously in luck. Our visit to Luneburg was on a Sunday and the Am Sande Square was hosting a medieval market itself….

*****

A closer look …

…and of course, the inevitable Bratwurst…

 

One particular jewel in Am Sande Square is the impressive twin gabled Schütting or the “Black House” on the western side of the square with its glazed black bricks. Originally a brewery, it is now the Chamber of Industry and Commerce…

Made up of the characteristic red and black bricks used throughout the region,  this cosy seven-room inn sits above a very well-regarded restaurant of the same  name (it boasts a Michelin star)

Just off the ‘Am Sande’ Square, between the Square and the water tower, can be found the  Kalandhaus . Dating back to 1455 it was a place of congregation for clerics, so named after their habit of meeting on the first ‘Kaland’ or calendar day of each month. Two ‘coats of arms’ adorn the facade,   those of the State and the City…

The Sunday market also provided the opportunity for a well deserved refreshment stop, why not sample the local fare…

*****

 

Suitably refreshed we departed  Am Sande Square in search of second of Luneburg’s large churches: that of  St. Michaelis; burial place of Luneburg’s past leaders and where Johann Sebastian Bach sang as a choir boy.

Its position, tight on to local houses, made external photography difficult and therefore not really doing justice to, or showing the true splendour of this more than interesting example of a Hanseatic Benedictine Monastery Church…

 

*****

 

A  look inside at the nave….

…and the organ, originally built in 1708…

On display in St Michaelis Church are the Cast iron mechanical control of the clock tower which functioned between 1910 and 1978…

 

In 1475 the Council of the City of Lüneburg bought an existing pharmacy – known as Raths-Apothekein the Great Bäckerstraße. In 1524, the pharmacy was relocated to the Great Bäckerstraße 9,completed under the leadership of the council Pharmacist Ulricus Luthmer, and where it remains today….

No visit to a German town would be complete without a visit to its Rathaus, and Luneburg is no exception…

Once again on this visit our luck was in and we were to witness a small local band entertaining in the Rathaus Square

The area around Rathaus Square is awash with buildings of historic importance including the  Ducal Palace…

 

…the Hanseatic Finance Building

…and the 16th Century Garlopen Houses, built by the Luneberg Mayor Henrik Garlop as  foundation homes for the town’s riding servants.

A short distance from the Rathaus we found the final of the three great Luneburg Churches, St Nicolai,  the youngest and smallest of the three main churches in the town, and again, difficult to photograph in its entire glory….

 

There is no doubt that Architecture and style dominate the Luneburg scene. At the risk of overkill I will include one final building of significance, the  Lunar Muhle

Lünar Mühle is an impressive, half-timbered, richly decorated old mill that dates to the late 16th century, but has been extensively restored and is now a very popular restaurant.

Summary

Both my wife and I were so pleased we had made the effort to make this visit as an alternative to Hamburg and maximise our time in Luneberg by using the German rail system. It is a truly fascinating place to visit,  awash with character, places of interest and many architectural gems…

*****

…and, in our opinion, leagues ahead of places such as Bruges. Whatever means of transport you use to get there, do not miss this experience. You will not be disappointed.

Our train journey back to Hamburg was again exceptionally efficient and very easy.

Footnote:

In 1945, Lüneburg stamped its mark on history again when Field Marshal Montgomery took the German surrender on the Timeloberg hill, just south of the town. And that was how my father remembered Luneburg, he was present at the surrender and relayed the story to me in childhood.

 

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2 responses to “One way to do Hamburg – Lüneburg Edition

  1. Dear Richard,
    so great to read your entries and you really were lucky to be there during medeival market and local band exercise. Great.
    Really seems to be worth a visit. I didn’t know, Lüneburg is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing!

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