On the Path of the Vikings (1) – Haithabu Village

This summer I was at the Haithabu village near to Schleswig in the north of Germany to explore the life of more than a thousand years ago. Haithabu was an international trading center between the 8th and 11th century.

Heiðabýr was one of the first middle ages cities of the north and one of the most important trading centers between Scandinavia, West Europe and the two seas North and Baltic, but also east and south Europe. It was founded around 770 and destroyed completely after only 300 years. It is located on the Cimbrian or Jutland peninsula at the navigable inlet river Schlei and connected to the Baltic Sea. Just 15 kilometers from here there is the Treene river that is connected to the Eider river and this way to the North Sea. They overcame that land distance with the help of a corduroy road. In a certain way Lübeck later took over the role of Haithabu founding the Hanseatic League. After the destroying of the Viking city the surviving people founded Schleswig, just on the opposite side of the Schlei.

The name is translated heath-settlement. The place was first mentioned in 804 but already existed for longer. A key-role to the heyday of the place plays also the Daneverk, an earthen defensive system that has gone through the whole peninsula from east to west. A 9 meter high semi circular wall surrounded the city on the land side. It was one of the biggest cities of the Viking era which started and ended with Haithabu (remember that Leif Erikson explored the American continent already around 1000 AD)

The town was mentioned from people from England and the Mediterranean which let us see how international the trade and how famous the city was. The city even minted its own coins! Ships were going to far away places like Greece to bring back the goods. Haithabu was the forerunner to the later founded Hanseatic League with Lübeck as center.

The town houses were standing all near by each other, they were small and very simple and made of wood and straw. During excavations archaeologists found different kinds of sepulture which shows that many types of beliefs lived peacefully together. There was found also evidence of slave trade.

Harald Hardrada destroyed the city in 1066 and it was never rebuilt. The remaining people started a new life and town on the other side of the Schlei river: Schleswig.

Excavations of the long time forgotten place started in the late 19th century and are completed only of 5 % of the whole area of the city. The museum opened in 1985.

Haithabu is World Culture Heritage of the UNESCO since June 2018.

What I think? Definitely a MUST-SEE when you are in North Germany. It gives you an understanding of many things: about life in Denmark, life in Germany, about Vikings (who would not be interested in their life?) and where the Hanseatic League had its roots. Addtionally the landscape is beautiful, the place is ideal also and especially with children and you can easily spend a whole day in Haithabu. Don’t miss to buy a drink horn, it is really fun!

Viking Museum Haithabu, Schleswig-Holstein/Germany:

For further information:
The official website of Haithabu

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A Treat of Art, Creation and Yummy Cakes: Manor Görtz

Still a private home, the manor Görtz is a great place where to pass a whole afternoon to relax, to discover the many little places with art and decor, to savor the yummy cakes or just watch your kids playing on the special playground.

It was serendipitous that we happened to pass at the manor. We were on the way to Fehmarn and just were passing it. I turned back to have a look and I am glad I did so.

In the place of the manor/estate/grange once was a Slavic village, mentioned already in the 13th century. It was called Gorseke – that’s what the name of the manor comes from. A man named Eckart von Goertze was mentioned in 1344 in a paper. Since the mid 16th century it changed several times the owners and today it is still in private property. The family even lives on the estate.

The main house was built only in 1860. It’s brick architecture with a higher first floor and a second. The facade is Gothic Revival.

The farm is enclosed in front of the manor and has a horse stable (1844), one for milking the cows (1875), a stable for cows (1850), a barn for the grain (1923) and the barbican, built only in 1999.

For running such a big place the family did a really good job: the place is open for everyone and offers especially for families a great leisure place. Children can play in many places, learn about the farm life and much more. For adults there are many little shops with handcrafts, art, an art gallery, a wine cellar, a restaurant and a farm cafeteria with incredible yummy looking cake and ice-cream. Here you find also a collection of old farm equipment.

We ‘happened’ there on a sunny hot summer day in the early afternoon, perfect for a coffee and ice-cream with a fruit salad. We sat in the sun outside in the patio and enjoyed the calm and peace. We had also a look into the many little (and one big) shops and store. We stayed longer than we planned, maybe two hours, just relaxing and taking in the atmosphere of being in an old place, another world. Definitely it shows a very nice part of northern Germany as there are many places like this. I know a few of them thanks to Christmas and Easter markets.

If you have the chance to go to some estate for a fair, antique market or just having coffee… don’t miss it!

Manor Görtz, Heringsdorf in Holstein/Germany:

For further information:
Gut Görtz (in German)

23777 Heringsdorf in Holstein

Opening: from mid April to mid October, 11 am to 6 pm, Mondays closed

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Visiting the Saint Nicholas Church in Fehmarn

Sometimes I like to explore my childhood and the places where I lived. So this summer I thought I will do two things in one: show my sweetheart a typical northern German island and have a look into my childhood. We visited the small island Fehmarn in the Baltic Sea.

As a child, I lived in several places due to my father’s work. One of the places was Fehmarn, the third biggest island in the Baltic. We lived in Puttgarden then, but Burg is the main town. Here we had a look into the old church of St. Nicholas near to the local museum and the pastor’s house.

The church is a hall church, a nave with side aisles of the same height under one single roof. The protestant church was built around 1230, an exact date is unknown. The oldest part of it was built in the Romanesque-Gothic style, seen for example in the bay and in the tracery. The church is dedicated to Saint Nicholas as the patron saint of sea travelers and grain sellers.

In the 15th century the church got a new ‘dress’ in the late Gothic architecture style. In the beginning of the 16th century there were some additions like the ‘likhus’ (mortuary) which today is used as the sacristy, a sixth bay was added and the ‘Garwekammer’, a room where the liturgical instruments were kept. On the south side there is a spiral case of the 15th century which I haven’t seen. The bell tower was also built in the same period and was finished in 1513.

The church was refurbished twice in the 19th century. The painting on one of the columns is from 1846. There are two baptismal fonts, one made of stone with simple carvings as decoration was re-discovered during excavation work in the last century, and another hexagonal bronze baptismal font from 1391, donated by the Bishop of Västeras in Sweden. This one comes from Lübeck and can hold 195 liters of (holy) water. The main altar is from the 14th century. The organ is the youngest part, from 1975, and with 31 register (organ stops).

The church’s ceiling is between 9 and 11 meters, the length is 51 meters and it’s width is 18 meters. There is a little cemetery around the church.

We visited the church inside and outside we found some more information boards, written even in English. Nearby there is the local museum, a beautiful old building in the wood-brick-architecture. The other big brick house is the pastor’s home.

It is a good start to visit the little town of Burg which still seems from the sixties to me. Old houses, a lot of nice little shops in the center and a lot of restaurants where you can sit outside and enjoy your meal. I really enjoyed the place!

Burg/Fehmarn, Schleswig-Holstein/Germany:

For further information:
The official website of Fehmarn
The official website of St. Nicholas Church, Burg auf Fehmarn (in German)

Open: from April to October between 10 am and 4 pm

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Borg up Fehmarn and the Invisible Castle

Burg means castle, so the first thing you expect to see is a castle. But there is none. Or at least if you don’t know where to look for a small rest of it. In Burg, the main town of the island Fehmarn in the Baltic Sea, you have to know where to look for the remnants of the eponym.

The once more than 50 meters long and 36 meters wide rectangle castle was built by Waldemar II, king of Denmark, in 1210. The Burg Glambeck was built mainly in wood on an earthen mound and only partially made of boulder. It was surrounded by a moat. Today you still can see the base of the tower (similar to a keep) and ruins of the defensive wall, two meters thick.

In 1248 Christopher, brother (and successor) of king Erik IV, king of Denmark, got married here with Margaret Sambiria. The history is very various and ends with the complete destruction of the castle in 1628. Like very often in history the brick stones were used in newer constructions and most of the castle ruins were covered under drifting sand.

Burg was always the main center of Fehmarn.

Historically the little town with today 6.000 inhabitants, was mentioned in 1202 in the Danish Census Book. It then was called Borch up Vemere (Danish). 400 years later it changed into Burgk upp Femern (Low German).

In the Middle Ages there was also a port, which over the time in the late 15th century silted up and is not visible anymore. The port of today was re-built in 1857. In 1896 started a regular shipping traffic between Fehmarn and Lübeck and Kiel as well.

In 1787 the town lost 21 houses in a big fire.

Today the picturesque town is also destination of many tourists and offers a few interesting spots. One of those is the Ocean Center with 40 fish tanks (sharks included). If you like extreme sports: the silo climbing is for you! Südstrand is the beach area (windsurf and kite-surf are perfect here) where for example we wanted to reach the ‘Bulli Festival’ (Volkswagen Bus Festival), but we missed it. In the town-hall (from 1901) you can find out a lot of science in the Galileo Museum.

The island is interesting also for music lovers and Jimi Hendrix fans: he had his final concert at the Love&Peace Festival at the lighthouse in Flügge just 10 days before he died in London.

The island is also important nature-wise. Migratory birds find here a place to nest and rest, it is on the so called ‘Vogelfluglinie’ (migratory line between north Europe and Africa).

I personally liked very much to stroll in the center with the old houses. It has a very special atmosphere. Many little shops and nice restaurants with a patio or just tables out onto the cobble street are very inviting to stay and enjoy a meal. All seems very quiet and even the many tourists are perfectly fitting in the scenery.

Burg/Fehmarn, Schleswig-Holstein/Germany:

For further information:
The official website of Fehmarn
A curious card game that exists only in Fehmarn

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Sleeping in the Alps

When I drive by my own I usually like to drive ​directly to my destination, meaning I just stop for gas or coffee. But when I drive together with someone normally the other person doesn’t like to sit for 20 hours or more with just a few super short stops. So last time when I drove from Naples to Germany I stopped in Austria for a night break. My destination this time was a friend in South Germany, the Allgäu region. Two things: I was not driving alone, so I calculated more stops and longer ones, and second, I couldn’t arrive at midnight at my friend’s house. So an overnight stop was the best choice.

As I wanted to be at my friend’s house in the late morning and the same not leaving again super early (my sweetie doesn’t like the early-morning-bird-story), I decided to sleep in a place right after the Brenner (Pass) already in Austria. I found an appealing place in Mauern, 10 minutes after Brenner.

It was super easy to find even though I didn’t go the way our airbnb-host thought I would go. My sweetheart didn’t stop saying ‘wow’, ‘how beautiful’, ‘amazing’ and such enthusiastic words when driving around in the mountains, peaks with snow, green mountain-sides and the typical architecture of the Alps. He just loves this area. It looks definitely beautiful also to me… on postcards.

Personal experience:

The house is super nice in a very quiet area but the same a two-minutes-drive from the Autobahn/highway. Our host Maria showed us the room with an amazing balcony. Super cozy and very inviting to chill for the next 3 days, with an amazing view on the mountains. The room was very much decorated and typical for the mountain area. Coffee and tea, hot water boiler and some cookies we found in a little cupboard. The bathroom was new, nice and clean. I had a little difficulty to understand her. I am very bad with German dialects, imagine with mountain Austrian!

But we managed to find the place she recommended for a light, typical dinner (Schnitzel-and-Kartoffelsalat-heaven for my sweetie). And in the morning we stopped at a big supermarket to buy something for breakfast. Not too much because at our destination there would be more Kartoffelsalat and Bavarian sausages.

In our room we found a lot of material about hiking and what to do in the area. This would be the ideal place for a longer mountain stay.

Our host is very friendly, always happy to help and recommend and knows also English.

I recommend:

Innsbruck is less than half an hour away. Of course, hiking is here the number one during the spring-summer-fall season. In winter there are many places for skiing.

Bozen is about an hour away, But before there are many famous places in South Tyrol and Tyrol. Padaun, Stubaital and many other famous places in Tyrol or Sterzing, St. Leonhard in Passeier, Franzenfeste and more famous places in South Tyrol and very nearby.

We left before 9 am, had a long stroll in the supermarket (we both like to look around in supermarkets in the different countries) and a nearby garden center and arrived in Sonthofen, our destination in the Allgäu/Bavaria right in time for a homemade lunch.

If we have to stop again in the middle of the long drive, we will book in Mauern again. It is a perfect stay… not only for one night.

B&B, Mauern, Tirol/Austria:

For further information:
The Room (on Airbnb)

6150 Mauern

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