This weekend we continued our attempt to see as much of Germany as possible before we head back to the States (more on that in the coming weeks). So, we headed north into the state of Schleswig-Holstein, visiting Eutin, Flensburg, and Schleswig.
Eutin is a really small town, and we felt like we saw all we needed to see by stopping there for an hour between trains. In that time, we saw the cute market square (which was hosting the weekly market) and walked to the castle. If we had needed to fill time, we could have had lunch at a brewery or toured the castle, but we decided to move on further north instead.
From Eutin, we went to Flensburg, the northernmost city in Germany. It’s only a couple miles from the Danish border, so Danish influence is everywhere, from Danish libraries to tourism signs to Hot Dogs. Yes, hot dogs.
Our first hour there was stressful because we had arrived without a reservation for the night (something Eugene and I did a lot when I was 22, but something that I’m not so fond of anymore). Adding to the stress and the lack of hotel rooms, our habit of stumbling upon athletic events (Lifeguard competition in Lübeck, triathlon in Hamburg) continued, as Flensburg was hosting a triathlon when we arrived. Fortunately, the tourist information office was very nice and helpful, and they found us the last room at the very cute and highly recommended Gästehaus Petersen. With accommodation settled, we headed out.
We really liked Flensburg. In addition to the Danish influence, it also has a strong water-based feel. Unlike Lübeck, which really has only a memory of being an inland port, Flensburg is still an active port today, with many ferries heading out to Scandinavia through a long fjord. Fortunately, the working port is kept about a mile from the historic center, so the old city gets the harbor influence and fresh fish and history without the current industry. So, there are some nice seafood restaurants, some impressive old buildings, and a picturesque harbor (when you look in the right places).
Also, some pretty good beer is brewed there.
On Sunday, we headed to Schleswig, another old town at the end of a long fjord. We didn’t expect much out of Schleswig, but we ended up staying all day, having a great time with the old Viking and fishing town.
If you are considering visiting Schleswig, we highly recommend renting bicycles at the train station. Unlike most other smaller cities, the train station is pretty far from the old city and the main attractions. We really wished that we had rented those bikes instead of walking the eight kilometers or so that day. At least we need the exercise.
Schleswig was founded not far from the old Viking settlement of Hedeby, which was the largest city in Northern Europe in its time. Now, all that’s apparent there is a semi-circular mound that contains the ruins of the city wall. They are planning to rebuild parts of the settlement for tourists, but fortunately there’s an informative museum to show what was once there, the lives and practices of the Vikings, and many artifacts discovered in excavations.
After a quick ferry ride across the fjord, we discovered the old city. Schleswig has one of the prettiest old cities I’ve ever seen, particularly in the old fishing village of Holm. Holm was its own island until a few decades ago, and it still has a different feel than the rest of the town. The streets are lined with nearly-identical two-story houses from the 18th century and later, and all of the houses have well-maintained Rose bushes in front of them. Additionally, the center square for the village is a cemetery with a toy-like Chapel. Although the idea of a cemetery as a focal point might not sound great, the trees, bushes, and shrubs throughout the village are kept in such symmetry and harmony that I can’t think of a better place to rent a bed-and-breakfast and stay for a while.
The other impressive part of the old town is the Cathedral, St. Petri Dom. The Dom has the most intricately-carved wooden altar that I have ever seen. One guide book claimed that it has 400 distinct individuals carved in its panels telling the story of the crucifixion and resurrection. I didn’t count them, but I wouldn’t doubt it if there were more.
Finally, we walked a few kilometers through the new part of town to the castle. The exterior of the castle wasn’t that impressive, but the guidebooks said that the art and architecture inside are amazing. Unfortunately, we were tired from out weekend, and we decided to skip the museum and go home.
All told, it was an enjoyable weekend. The sights weren’t as monumental or famous as the sights we saw in Prague or Berlin, but we had a relatively relaxing time seeing some beautiful history and culture in Schleswig-Holstein.