Trigger alert: This post, and perhaps the next, will feature an ungodly amount of red brick. I can’t help it, truly I can’t. Red brick was the preferred building material for much of northern Europe for a very long time because a.) it is relatively easy to produce and, more importantly, b.) it protects against fire. But you might find this post a bit pictorially repetitive and find yourself longing for green spaces. I am sorry. I will try to be more chromatically diverse in the future. Feel free to move right along if this doesn’t interest you.
After the last location, Schleswig, T and I continued to head due east. Once past Lübeck, we entered a new German state, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, formerly one of the four states that made up East Germany. This was an area that I have long been interested to explore for its complicated historical, political, and cultural threads. Known locally as either MV or MeckPomm, the region initially saw its first inhabitants about 10,000 BC, with the original Germanic peoples leaving at some date and Western Slavs moving in around the 6th century AD. Vikings populated much of the coastal areas, known by some as the Baltic Sea and for the Germans as the OstSee, for centuries before the region was handed over to the Holy Roman Empire in the 1180s. Later the Swedes held sway for a goodly long time. It’s very sparsely populated state overall, but its beautiful old cities and lovely rolling countryside (along with its coastline) attract a lot of tourists, both domestic and international, in non-Covid times.
Our first stop was Wismar, and I will have to to come clean and say that I was immediately captivated. But for this post I will have to start yet again with a Famous Unknown:
Frege? Any guesses? No, me neither.
“Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege, 8 November 1848 – 26 July 1925) was a German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. He worked as a mathematics professor at the University of Jena, and is understood by many to be the father of analytic philosophy, concentrating on the philosophy of language, logic, and mathematics. Though he was largely ignored during his lifetime, …. Bertrand Russell (1872–1970) and others introduced his work to later generations of philosophers….Frege was described by his students as a highly introverted person, seldom entering into dialogues with others and mostly facing the blackboard while lecturing. He was, however, known to occasionally show wit and even bitter sarcasm during his classes.”
Well, I personally would have quickly withered and died in such an academic environment. Good thing German students of the day were composed of sterner stuff. But I’m happy to have met him in this form, particularly since his bronze bust was unable to reduce me to analytical and emotional dust.
Wismar, Frege’s hometown, was a bit more accessible for me. Founded in the 13th century and ruled mostly by Swedes during its history, the city is part of the fabled Hanseatic chain of cities that was responsible for so much wealth creation during its five-hundred-year history. The old towns of both Wismar and Stralsund are together a World Heritage site, and it’s no wonder. Here’s a map of Wismar’s Altstadt:
As with many of the wealthier cities in the region, Wismar is marked by its astonishing number of big churches and cathedrals. Apparently this was a way that the local merchants demonstrated their spiritual, as well as their commercial, prowess. At my insistence, T and I headed up to the viewing station of the St.-Georgen-Kirche, I believe the center building in the map above. The view that balmy June day was spectacular:
….but what was equally interesting to me was the church’s interior, a real contrast to many such edifices. Remember, the East Germans were, shall we say, not particularly religious, and as a result, the interiors of many of the amazing Gothic structures…..were stripped of their theological frippery and can now be seen in a different light – the bones, as it were, of an ancient treasure. Here’s T reading up on the history of the building:
The churchwas damaged during the Second World War but has been restored to this state. To me, this is really spectacular and showcases the astonishing architectural and structural abilities of the late Middle Ages’ craftsmen.
Nearby are the ruins of the of the St. Marien church, the location of the Frege bust. In a way, this is even more heart-rending – the church was damaged during WWII, but then political interests took the destruction yet another step:
“For political reasons.” “…processed into stone chippings.” Sigh. In the memorial center, there’s a remnant of one of the remaining frescos:
A short distance away, yet another Grand Dame is reflected in a city canal:
….and nearby is the city museum that we didn’t have time to visit (but I will return to, asap, pinky finger promise, you have been warned…):
….in front of which is, what I am quickly learning, is a major Good Luck Charm in Germany….
Wismar really REALLY rang my chimes. You can expect a much expanded story sometime in the not-too-distant future. The city, barely 25,000 souls, has managed to keep its historic core, encouraged and sustained a variety of interesting and unique shops, and has preserved a sense of history well intact. I’m told rainy winters are brutal here, but if I have one more move in my future, it might well be to this neck of the woods.
We left Wismar wistfully, but on the way to Stralsund, enjoyed a lovely lunch in Rostock. There we were treated to the sight of children at play in the center city fountain, a sight to melt the heart of even the most curmudgeonly of old ladies:
Which leads me to the ancient trope, hope springs eternal. Bis gleich. Until soon.