I planned my trip to Wismar for ever. At least 3 times the last year I was 24 hours before the scheduled adventure and something out of my control happened and had to put it on hold until the next time. And then the winter arrived and the idea of spending one full day outdoors at many degrees below minus was not a real temptation, even for a traveller like me.
This until two weeks ago, when I just ignored any other work and personal calls, bought a 36.70 Euro Ostsee ticket and arrived after a 3-hour trip from Berlin to Wismar. From the train station, I only had to follow the tourist directions and made my way slowly to the center of the city, direction Altstadt - old city.
Wismar was part of the Hanseatic league, an organisation covering Northern Europe made of merchant community that decided to protect together their mutual trade interests. Founded in the Middle Ages (between 13th and 15th century), the member cities developped independently from the economic point of view. The traces of their wealth and free spirit are still visible nowadays.My first acquintance with the city starts on Poehlstraße, where a mixture of red bricked houses and curvaceous roofs reminds me of Lüneburg.
Summer adds its personal note of charm as heavy roses bushes are decorating the entrances into relatively more modern buildings.
A couple of meters away, a big group of French-speaking tourists are gathering to take pictures at the Schweinsbrücke - Pig's bridge - a 19th century bridge over the river Grube.
The architecture of the houses, at a relatively non-eventful time of the day and the week, reveals in its full charm and beauty. On ABC Straße, for instance, many of those houses host at the ground level local art galleries - like the Baltic Soul Gallery - and antiques stores
There is more to admire on Lübsche Straße, where the houses are requesting for more space, as probably the inhabitants themselves, perhaps local merchants, were a social level upper.
Lacking proper knowledge about the history of the local architecture, I am just using my eyes to work on patterns and styles.
Amtsgericht building - the district court - displays a relatively controlled geometry, and has a generous backyard that can be visited for free.
The front entrance though, offers a joyous - and sensual too - aproach to life, with probably some beginning of the times Biblical references, when people cared way too much about a fully dressed dress code.
Rathaus - the city hall - looks relatively modest size-wise, compared to the usual size of such institutions in Germany, a kind of small palace surrounded by same-size 2-storey buildings with restaurants of all sorts.
Near the entrance to the city hall, a small patch on the walking area reminds that in Wismar was turned one of the first horror movies of all times - Nosferatu, by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, in 1922. On the other side of the square, a noisy group of youngsters, are screaming from the top of their lungs while taking selfies surrounded by some freshly discharged garbage. Maybe there is some dark side of Wismar after all...
The rest of the square keeps the same architectural pace, with the well-coordinated geometry as the main visual feature. Almost every single colourful or bricked-house has an inviting restaurant or cafe or icecream parlour. As Wismar is not a highly touristic place, the prices are moderate and at the first sight, the service looks friendly. You only need to have some extra time to taste each and every one of it, which I am obviously - as usual - out of.
For a couple of minutes, I am mixing up with the local, accompanied by dogs or children or just on their own, crossing the big park. Jogging and cycling is also possible, and it looks like one of the city's biggest natural attractions.
The architecture calls me back on the beaten paths, with more house-admiration on Krämerstraße.
The side-streets, even emptier, are also an attractive view, and I am meeting again the river Grube, this time from the Frische bridge.
At the first sight, the architecture of the Fire Station reminds me of some patterns I've encountered in Hamburg. No wonder, as the architect Arthur Euler was a follower of the red-brick architecture that created in Hamburg the Chile Haus.
Houses with painted facades, giving short insights about their initial destination, remind me of the stories written on the walls of Bavarian cities like Füssen or some Swiss pretty towns.
If until now, the city was almost asleep for the first half of the day, I am about to meet a completely different vibe once I am entering the port area. There is even a New Orleans restaurant, although if thinking about the live music and energy of the Bourbon street, the comparison is very unrealistic.
The restaurants are even more inviting, with the predominant meals being fish-based, Italian style.
From the shores, there are several boat round-trips that can be booked. Most of them last around 1h30 and during the summer, are taking place every hour. Besides the relaxing sea view, one can also enjoy different treats.
For instance, the boat trip I booked, was called Pfannkuchen - Pancakes - tour. For the price of the ticket - 20 euro - you got non-stop pancakes feeding, with apple sauce, plus a drink. Could it be more enjoyable - maybe an icecream tour, for the very hot days.
Once in the waters, there is the maritime industry of Wismar which offers a different perspective on the city and confirms its status as an active merchant Hanseatic city.
The sun is burning hot, and many of the local residents are enjoying the beginning of the summer from their boats.
Nothing is more quiet than the view of the enormous quietness of the sea. I might love to make an ocean cruise one day as well.
In the middle of the waters, on both sides of the shore, some funky heads on a pole are smiling to me. They are Swedish personalities, representative from the time when Wismar, like Stralsund and other Northern cities, were under the Swedish occupation in the first half of the 17th century. Apparently, this occupation left non-conflictual traces in the local memory, as the Swedish flag can be seen once in a while waved on the windows of the city's buildings.
Stuffed with pancakes and apple sauce, I am returning to the shores, where a local fair is offering various affordable distractions to both children and their parents. For the adventurous at heart, a pirates boat is open to the public, for selfies and some short histories.
But I will stay on the ground for less than 20 minutes, as I decided to make another boat trip to Island Poel, considered Germany's 7th biggest island, the meeting point between the Bay of Wismar and the Bay of Mecklenburg.
With a population of around 3,000 people, living in several small villages, this 40-sqm. island is made of sandy beaches and salt marshes. It's neighbouring Island Walfish, which is well praised for its ornitological richness.
Although the parking spots in the port look busy, there is a certain stillness that breathes on Poel.
As my time is very limited, I am aware that all I can do during this small encounter is to take note of the possible attractions that might make it into a full stay on the island in the near future.
As for now, I am just happy to breath deep the holiday spirit and dream about a full week of travel one day...That's the role of travel sometimes, to just call your name for even more and more adventures, which is exactly what I am looking for right now.
The architectural style I encounter is relatively simple, more suited for warehouses than for living spaces, but at least there is a hope of natural freshness indoors, as the red stones might keep the hotness at bay for longer than other construction materials.
For museum lovers there is also a small Inselmuseum - with some miniature land of buildings and historical moments in the backyard, the remains of a Roman wall as well as a lighthouse which is completely out of reach for my short stay. I am not fully convinced that I have to come back, but definitely more research might change my mind one day.
Back on the firm ground and famished, I offered myself the chance of having one of those fish sandwiches - salmon, not hering - that are one of the typical foods for this part of Germany, generously served on the many old-style counters.
At the end of the trip, I kept asking myself: was it worth to wait for so long to visit Wismar? After all, it was a quite simple trip, without a big overload on the to-do-list, but relatively interesting from the historical and architectural point of view. Every trip is different, and my full day in Wismar is one of the many travel stories in Germany added on my bucket list.