Schwerin

Schwerin Palace

Schwerin Palace

We’ve talked about Schwerin before, and we’ve mentioned the iconic Schwerin Palace, but we’ve never given the Palace the attention it deserves. After all, it was Schwerin Palace that originally drew us to this northern German town in the first place.

Schwerin Palace sits on a small island in Lake Schwerin. It is, of course, near the town of Schwerin in northern Germany near the Baltic Sea. Our first visit here was during a Baltic Sea cruise aboard a Norwegian Cruise Lines ship. We stopped in Warnemünde for a day and caught a bus into Schwerin. Our first stop was the Palace where we did a walk through its interior and the grounds.

Like so many other buildings in Europe, Schwerin Palace has a rich and interesting history. While people have been living in the area for many thousands of years, the generally accepted year that the palace was established is 1160, when a famous medieval lord Henriech der Löwe (Henry the Lion), Duke of Bavaria and Saxony, conquered a group of Slavic tribes who had occupied the fortress of Schwerin since 960. As it is, Schwerin is one of the last true residence palaces to be built in Germany.

From 1945 through 1989 it was used as Mecklenburg’s parliamentary seat, an educational college, a museum of prehistory and early history, and a polytechnic museum. In 1990, after the reunification of East and West Germany, Schwerin Palace became the seat of the regional parliament of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, one of sixteen federal states in Germany. Extensive restoration work also began and continues to some extent today.

For us, as tourists, there’s a large area of the palace that’s open for tours. You can see re-created rooms as they probably were in the 15th century when royalty lived here. You can also see a regional parliament in action if they’re in session, but you’ll of course want to brush up on your German.

The ghost of Schwerin Castle, named Petermännchen, is said to be no more than four feet tall. One legend says that this little guy is a spirit servant of a pagan god. When the pagan god was driven out of Schwerin by Christianity, Petermännchen remained behind, refusing to leave his post.

There’s a ghost at Schwerin Palace called Petermännchen, or, Little Peterman. This good-natured spirit is said to be only about four feet tall. There’s a statue of him at the Palace. He’s described in a couple of ways. One is that he’s occasionally seen wandering the vaults and tunnels under the castle. He carries keys, unlocking doors as he goes along. Another legend says that he patrols the grounds with a lantern and a small sword or dagger, guarding the Palace against thieves. He rewards good behavior and plays pranks and tricks on others. He makes banging noises at night, and has been known to awaken sleeping guards to keep them from being punished.

In our wanderings around Germany, we’ve now made two stops at Schwerin Palace. Below you can see some of the images we brought back. You can also see an article we recently posted about Schwerin here along with a post about our favorite hotel in Schwerin, the Weinhaus Uhle.

Enjoy.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Travel, 0 comments
Weinhaus Uhle – A Four Star Hotel in the German Town of Schwerin

Weinhaus Uhle – A Four Star Hotel in the German Town of Schwerin

There are many places to visit in Germany, and many of them are quite popular. One town in the northeast that’s not yet recognized as one of Germany’s best is Schwerin. We learned about this little taste of the real Germany on a Baltic Cruise a few years ago. Our ship, the Norwegian Star, docked in Warnemünde and we made a bus ride down to Schwerin to see the Schwerin Castle.

After that excursion, we made up our minds to come back one day, and this was the year for that trip. While in Schwerin, we stayed in a hotel called the Weinhaus Uhle. The nearly new eighteen room four start hotel is located almost in the very center of town, literally 30 seconds walk from the town square. It’s in a building that was once a wine wholesaler.

Wine Shop and Bistro

Wine Shop and Bistro at Wienhaus Uhle. Photo by Donald Fink.

The story goes that in 1751, a wine merchant by the name of Johann Uhl founded a wine retail company. He was officially recognized by Duke Christian Ludwig as a Frey-Wien-Schenker, or, Free Wine Merchant. That title enabled him to store and sell wine, brandy, and beer inside the city walls of Schwerin and around the immediate countryside. Over the years, the business grew as it was passed down from one generation to the next, and at one point, the family name changed from Uhl to Uhle.

The wine business survived the great depression as well as World War II, but was unable to thrive after the war in the Communist run GDR (German Democratic Republic). It was nationalized and operated by the government until 1991, when it was handed back to the family after re-unification.

Today, Weinhaus Uhle is a four star hotel rather than a wine warehouse. It’s operated by Dirk and Annika Frymark of Schwerin. They’ve done a remarkable job in restoring the property to its original period look while maintaining a comfortable and modern hotel, restaurant, and wine bar for their guests.

Guest Room at Wienhaus Uhle

Double room deluxe with Balcony at Weinhaus Uhle. Photo by Donald Fink.

We were on the second floor with a balcony that looked into a common area shared by local apartments, so it was quiet. We didn’t get to enjoy the balcony much this trip because it rained much of the time we were there, but the balcony was there just the same.

The room was large. Actually, it was very large by European standards. The bathroom was modern and functional with a large shower complete with a rain head. There was fast internet on the property and plenty of electrical outlets. We point this out because the building is old, dating back to at least 1763. The interior walls were at least a foot thick. Still, the Frymarks had taken the time to have the building properly wired with electricity, cable for television, and WiFi throughout. There was even an elevator that ran from the top floor to the underground parking garage.

Details in the Dining Room

Incredible ceiling and details in the Dining Room at Weinhaus Uhle. Photo by Donald Fink.

Breakfast was served in the main restaurant each morning. It was buffet style with scrambled eggs, American bacon, and all the rest for a typical European breakfast bar, including the meats, cheeses, and hard boiled eggs plus several kinds of rolls and jellies.

The price for staying here was modest considering the quality. Parking was additional, but that seems to be normal in Europe. Breakfast was at an extra cost too, which again, seems to be normal for European hotel accommodations. Internet was free, which seems to be trending towards the normal here in Germany. Two years ago, internet worth using was at an extra price.

Parking here was kind of strange. This is both a good thing and an inconvenience. It was inconvenient because the streets were restricted to pedestrian traffic after 10:00 am. You could drive to the entrance of the hotel, but a hotel staff member needed to go with you to lower some barriers in order for you to get around to the parking garage. From strictly a parking point of view, this was a minor annoyance.

The reason for the vehicle restrictions was because this hotel is right downtown in the historic park of old town, almost in the town square. For us, it was worth a minor inconvenience with the parking situation in order to be so close to everything. As we mentioned earlier, the town square was only 30 seconds walk away. The Schwerin Castle, and Lake Schwerin itself, was no more than about two minutes walking time from the hotel. There was a more modern area complete with a small shopping mall, a Subway, and a McDonald’s that was less than five minutes walking from the hotel.

Market Square Schwerin

The colorful Market Square is a great place to start your adventure in Schwerin. It was literally 30 seconds walk from the front door at Wienhaus Uhle. Photo by Donald Fink.

They say location is everything, and in the case of Weinhaus Uhle, it was an important draw. But it didn’t hurt that this hotel had everything else in its favor. Modern, clean, service oriented, and comfortable. If we ever return to Schwerin—and we probably will—this will automatically be our first choice in hotels in the area.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Europe, Hotels, Travel, 0 comments
Schwerin

Schwerin

There’s a small German town in northeastern Germany called Schwerin. It’s about two hours north of Berlin and about an hour and a half east of Hamburg. We would of course like to pretend that we’re world travelers and that we simply knew about this little town all along, but we stumbled upon it mostly by accident a few years ago when we were on a Baltic Sea Cruise. We were on the Norwegian Star. Great Ship, and the Baltic Sea cruise was worth repeating.

The ship stopped in at Warnemünde and we wanted to see the Schwerin Castle. The Castle was rich with history and the walking tour was fun, including the time we were able to spend on the grounds outside the castle without a tour guides supervision. But what impressed us most was the time we spent in town, just wandering around, having coffee, and other tourist activities. We decided then to come back some day and spend more time.

Weinhaus Uhle

Entrance to Weinhas Uhle. Parking is available underground. Photo by Donald Fink,

On this latest road trip of Germany, we arrived in Schwerin on a Thursday. Our GPS took us to the front door of the hotel, but from there we needed a little help in getting around the block to the parking garage. The city center is oriented towards pedestrian traffic and barriers go up in many of the streets every morning at around 10:00 am, leaving just enough time for morning deliveries. The rest of the day in Old Town Schwerin belongs to foot traffic while people walk about and enjoy the town.

Fruit and Vegetables in Schwein

The farmers market also had a large assortment of fruit and vegetable for sale. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

And Schwerin was not just about tourism, although that seems to be a big part of its activities. During our stay, there was a street festival that took place, in spite of the rain and wind. On Sunday, there was a stage erected in the town square, and local kids, bands, and other local talents performed for their friends and neighbors. This was not the polished professional performances that would be brought in for tourists, but rather, it seemed like the locals entertaining themselves and families. On another day, the town square transformed into a farmer’s market with vendors selling breads, veggies, fruit, meats, and hand made goods. Again, this kind of activity seemed more appropriate for the local crowd and was fun for us to be part of it.

In spite of all the attention to local activities, we didn’t get the impression that the locals were trying to exclude tourists from their activities. It just seemed like they had additional things for the locals to do beyond the usual tourist attractions. There was a sense of community among the locals we saw attending these more locally oriented activities.

In the midst of all the local activities, it seemed that every other business in the old town area where we stayed was a coffee shop, restaurant, ice cream shop, or jewelry store, along with a mix of other tourist smart industries. There were several of those tourist trams to take people around town. You know the ones. They look like trains, complete with a tractor that looks like a locomotive, with a driver that speaks something similar to English.

Schwerin spent time in east Germany, as part of the German Democratic Republic, so it’s tourist industry as we know it has only been underway since 1990, when East and West Germany were reunited.

Golden Dome of Schwerin

The Golden Dome of Schwerin Castle dates between 1847 to 1857. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

The principal draw to the town is the famous Schwerin Castle, which was built in its current version between 1847 and 1857 by the Grand Duke of Mechlenburg-Schwerin, Frederich Franz II. There were several other buildings and fortresses built on the island where the Castle now stands, the earliest one dating back to as early as 942.

In 1990, after re-unification, Schwerin Castle was made the home of the State Parliament for the newly re-instituted German State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. This designation has helped to ensure that the castle is maintained in good repair and is open to the public. Parliament viewing is available when they’re in session, but there are also tours of the living quarters of the earlier Duke of Mechlengurg. There’s a museum as well as two restaurants on the property too. It’s probably not an all-day adventure to see this interesting building and its grounds, but you can certainly spend several hours enjoying all it has to offer.

Schwerin Cathedral

Schwerin Cathedral is the oldest surviving building in Schwerin. The original cathedral was built in the 1100’s and soon became too small. The present building was started in 1270 and added to over the centurys. Photo by Donald Fink.

We mentioned that tourism didn’t really get started in Schwerin until German Re-unification in 1990, but that’s not quite true. The Schwerin Cathedral, located near the Old Town center, was responsible for a great many pilgrimages throughout the centuries.

The original Church was built by Henry the Lion, Duke of Bavaria and Saxony around the time he conquered the area in 1160. The church was always a pilgrim’s church, dedicated to St. Mary and St. Joseph, but in 1222 a local ruler returned from Jerusalem with a drop of Christ’s blood. The church almost instantly became too small to handle the increase in pilgrims, and a new church was built. By 1270, the church had continued to grow and construction of the present cathedral began, doubling its size.

There were no stone quarries near Schwerin so the decision was made to build the church from bricks. This church is one of the first and still one of the largest structures in northern Germany to use the architectural style known as Brick Gothic, or Backsteingotik.

The Steeple, or Tower of the church is 117.5 meters (over 385 feet) tall. Inside is a massive pipe organ. Too bad we didn’t hear it play. Our understanding is that you can hear the organ in the summer months, on Mondays, at 2:30 pm. Okay, good to know.

We enjoyed our time in Schwerin. We didn’t see nearly as many castles as we had on our list because simply walking out the door and enjoying the town seemed to get in the way. That should tell you something about the town because we really like visiting castles.

When we visited Schwerin for the first time in 2015, we posted about the day trip here.

Posted by Donald Fink and Bonnie Fink in blog, Europe, Travel, 1 comment