This is the final post covering my lovely little mini-holiday last month in northern Germany, written in a bit of a rush today because I am preparing to teach my first-ever online course over Zoom. I know this is old old news for much of the world, since you grizzled veterans have been doing this since March, but I have been scrupulously avoiding this type of activity and now it is upon me full-bore, so I will have to give up my adventuring for a couple months or so and throw myself into learning a bunch of crazy stuff on a bunch of new machinery and then deliver it for three hours a day to students in four different time zones. Wish me luck; I’ll need it.
But before I turn my attention to Turnitin.com, here’s a last look at our northern excursion. We had stopped for lunch in Rostock, site of the fountain at the end of the post below, and took a brief turn around the city center to walk off the excellent cuisine at Blauer Edsel, the Blue Donkey. Just off one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares, we stumbled across a quiet courtyard with some of the inhabitants enjoying the perfect summer weather. I was enchanted by this living Impressionist painting of peace and serenity:
Back on the road, on our way to Stralsund, my dear spouse pulled a dramatic U-turn and blew dust up a country road to show me something he knew I had always wanted to see – a stork on its nest. Storks to us in the US are rare sightings and their personal habits – mated for life, extraordinary migration patterns returning always to the same locale – are the stuff of legend. Blog, meet my closest stork encounter to date:
The height and complexity of the nest suggests a habitation of long duration and a tolerant human population that never burns a fire too brightly….
I wanted to see Stralsund because it is, together with Wismar 150 km/93 miles away, a World Heritage site due to their amazing architecture and shared history. But in addition, Stralsund has been under an astonishing number of different flags and sports, among other things, the most Swedish tourists of any site in Germany because of its long association with that country.
Take a deep breath…Stralsund was initially established by West Slavic tribes in the region but politically was initially Danish. In 1293 Stralsund became a member of the Hanseatic League, and although the nearby island of Rügen fell under control of Pomerania in the 14th century, Stralsund maintained its independence. In 1630, as a result of the Thirty Years War, Stralsund, along with Stettin (now a Polish city) fell under Swedish control and stayed there for two hundred years until 1809-1815 when it was briefly French, thanks to the long arm of Napoleon. It became part of Prussian Pomerania after the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Stralsund was heavily damaged by the Americans in World War II and fell under the control of East Germany following the war. Whew! Currently home to nearly 60,000 souls, the city has in addition to an active tourism scene, commercial activity in fishing, shipyards, and increasingly, high tech.
Traveling in the age of corona has new wrinkles, as you might imagine, and one of them is that some locations and venues have new regulations about durations of stay. We had hoped to make a return trip to Aeroe on this trip, the lovely little Danish island where we married three years go, but the public-health-prudent Danes currently require proof of six nights of hotel stays before one is admitted to the country (unless one has Schleswig-Holstein license plates, which means next time we borrow the in-law’s car…). Many hotels also require stays of more than one night, so our hotel options were oddly limited on this trip, even though the overall number of tourists was considerably down. As a result, that evening we stayed at a hotel outside the old city in Stralsund, which gave us a nice walk each way to the main attractions. In one city park, we saw the following monument:
This is a memorial to the man who tended this city park for a good chunk of his gardening career. It reads along the lines of “In commemoration of the faithful caretaking of Ernst Billich.” Such a lovely gesture; one I have never seen before.
Not far away, another thoughtful concept. The picture below is of an institutionalized ride-sharing site “Mitfahrbank”, where people select and advertise the name of the village to which they want to travel – Prohn is the current objective, but you can see a map below the sign with other alternatives in the area – and then sit on the nearby benches to wait until someone stops by and gives them a lift. I’ve never seen anything quite so organized, and I love the idea:
Once inside the beautiful old city, the absolute “must see” is the Saint Nicholas Church, the oldest of the three main churches in town and built as a council church, to balance, as it were, the sacred as well as the mercantile, legal, and diplomatic functions of the city. The original founding of the church was in 1234; it was rebuilt as a basilica from 1270-1350; and the towers were finally finished a hundred years or so after that. It is huge huge huge, and it had, in its heyday, 56 altars. Yup. You read that right. 56, most dedicated by guilds and more to the glory of secular egos than to any heavenly figures. me thinks.
It was impossible to take a picture to show much of anything because of the scale of the building and all the renovations, so here are just a couple details. The first is a somber and sobering memorial to the victims of the First and Second World Wars:
As I usually do, I lit a candle so that the Powers that Be know I’m still kicking. But this simple and modern stage touched me deeply; I lingered a while.
At the other end of the great hall, we spied this curious object:
Wiki tells us “behind the high altar is (a model of ) the astronomical clock, which was built in 1394 by Nikolaus Lilienfeld. The clock is part of a whole series of monumental clocks, which were installed since the 14th century in churches in different cities of the Hanseatic League It has a wheel train with a mechanical escapement. In addition to day and night times, the positions of the sun, moon, and fixed stars can also be read off the clock. It is the oldest almost completely preserved astronomical clock in the Baltic region and also the oldest mechanical clock in the world that still contains its original wheels.” Don’t give up on weather.com, but I still think this is pretty damn cool, particularly the 1394 part.
Next door to the church was the Rathaus, the city hall. Hanging on the wall in the stone arcade, filled with interesting little shops, was the following memorial:
In rough paraphrase, “It’s possible without bloodshed. The time of oppression is past.” ‘On the 30th of October, 1989, thousands of Stralsunders demanded the establishment of a group for social dialogue. Between the 7th of November 1989 and the 2nd of May 1990,” The Stralsund 20″ worked to define the peaceful revolution and the development of a democratic community in Stralsund.’ Lovely to have that permanent reminder for all to see.
As always, history, culture, and politics combine to create a tremendous thirst for….learning….and of course the local beer. T and succumbed to the warmth, the weather, and the closing of all the establishments promptly at 6:00 pm by repairing to a cozy table on the town square, where we joined the fortunate few able to be in this place at this time, free for a brief celestial moment from the cares of the world (and our masks). Prost!