Once there were 22 gates to enter the old town of Rostock, and the most powerful of those was the Kropeliner Tor. If you are walking from the train station, you will have the chance to walk through the Kropeliner and enter into the town square. The Tor dates from the 13th century and is an interesting remnant from the early days. The town wall can also be found here.
The church dates to the 13th century and seems like just another old church from the outside. Do not be misled, for inside is a treat for the scientifically, historically oriented person. It is the Astronomical Clock, created in 1472, that continues to keep time. Every day at noon wheels start and figures at the top begin moving to count off another day. Jesus exits a door and enters another and is followed by the twelve apostles, all that is except Judas who finds the door is slammed in his face and he is left out in the cold - a medieval joke on display. The rest of the church interior is fascinating as well, but the clock is the highlight. Tip: be early since a lot of people like to watch the action. Also, it is dark and flash is discouraged, so photographers select a fast ASA and be ready.
This city-owned theater, which is also subsidized by the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, has its own drama, opera and ballet ensembles and its own orchestra, the North German Philharmonic.
In the 1980s, towards the end of the German Democratic Republic, around 700 people were employed by the theater. Now they have less than half that number. At last count there were 341 employees, including 21 actors, 17 opera singers, 36 choral singers, 15 ballet dancers, 83 orchestra musicians and 70 technicians.
Still, it's a large and impressive organization for a city of 200,000 people, and they put on an extensive program of drama, musical theater, ballet and concerts -- despite ongoing controversies and impending budget cuts.
The premiere I attended was very nearly sold out, and the performance was excellent.
1. People's Theater with reflections of the buildings across the street.
2. Lobby of the People's Theater.
3. In the Large Hall: seating, orchestra pit, curtain.
4. Logo of the People's Theater (Volkstheater).
All you loyal readers of my Paris Off the Beaten Path tips (thanks again to both of you!) may recall that in one of these tips I described the light satirical operettas known as "Offenbachiades", by the composer Jacques Offenbach (1819-1880). In his long career Offenbach wrote exactly 100 of these operettas, which were hugely successful in Paris in the 1850s, 60s and 70s.
I have seen several of these "Offenbachiades", but the one I know best is La Péricole, because I saw it several times when the Frankfurt Opera staged it in 1998, and I saw it again at a small theater in Paris in the summer of 2008.
On my third trip to Rostock in January 2009 it happened that the Volkstheater was doing its premiere of a new production of one of the most famous of these "Offenbachiades", Orpheus in the Underworld.
Now the story of Orpheus is actually a tragedy which has been dealt with in numerous serious operas, beginning with Claudio Monteverdi's L'Orfeo from the year 1607 -- one of the very first operas ever written.
But Offenbach and his librettists changed the plot around to make it very funny, and the staging in Rostock was superb. At the end of the premiere everyone involved was warmly applauded, including the stage director Babette Bartz.
This historic building in the City Harbor has been renovated and turned into a small theater with exactly 200 seats.
(In Frankfurt they would have left out the 200th seat because of fire department regulations, but here the cut-off point seems to be different.)
This little theater belongs to the Volkstheater (People's Theater) and is used for smaller, alternative drama productions.
One street in the harbour quarter has preserved, or better re-acquired, its pre-war appearance with a row of gabled houses.
The oldest among them is the so-called Hausbaumhaus, a brick gothic house dated around 1490, which still has its historical roof construction carried by one single long tree trunk.
The old town fortifications are partly preserved along the southern and eastern edge. The most impressive parts can be found in the southwest between Kröpeliner Tor and Schwaansche Straße. Outside the town wall we still have the ramparts, now turned into a park, and further below a rest of the deep moat which once surrounded the city.
University Square is the liveliest spot in the city. University students and shoppers in Kröpeliner Straße mall pass and take a rest underneath the trees. The “Joy of Life” fountain in the middle of the square (see separate tip) attracts kids and adults.
Buildings around Universitätsplatz:
Main university building in the west (see separate tip)
Barocksaalgebäude with the street gate (around 1750): formerly the Ducal theatre, it is now used for cultural events.
Palais of the Ducal family (1714)
Hauptwache (1823): the neoclassical guard-house with a huge Doric porticus
Fünf-Giebel-Haus (1983-1986): named after its five gables. Mecklenburg’s local tradition of bricks and stepped gables has been translated into DDR postmodern architecture.
Respect please: The University of Rostock was founded in 1419. It was the first university in the whole of Northern Europe, a centre of humanism that influenced Scandinavia and the Baltic states. In those times it was known as “the Light of the North”.
The main building in Universitätsplatz is, however, much younger. The renaissance style of the façade reminds us of the Ducal Palaces in Wismar and Schwerin but it is a 19th century ‘neo’ which was built in 1867-1870.
The building is open, at least on weekdays, and you can walk in but don’t ask if you may. The main staircase is worth a look and **whispers** there are free public toilets behind the foyer on the ground floor.
Steintor, the gate tower on the southern side of the old town, used to be the main entrance of the old town. It received its present appearance in 1576/77 when the facades and roof were redesigned in renaissance style.
Above the gate, the crests of the city (golden griffin on blue ground above a silver and white field) and the Duchy of Mecklenburg (black bull’s head) are shown – a small version on the outer side, a more elaborate and larger version on the inner side together with the Latin inscription, Sit intra te concordia et publica felicitas (may there be unity and public happiness inside you, i.e. the city).
The post office on the corner of Neuer Markt is a post-war building. An inscription, which deserves to be classified as protected cultural heritage because of its original DDR language, tells that the old post office was destroyed by “Anglo-American bombs” and a new building has been erected by “the efforts of the working population”.
Apart from the post office, this building also hosts the city tourist office.
The medieval brick gothic basilica of St Peter was heavily damaged by World War II. In DDR times it was left in a miserable state. The rebuilding was only finished in 1994 with the addition of the tall pointed spire.
The church is standing on a hill with a steep descent down to the river Warnow and looks most imposing when approaching the city from the east.
From the top floor of Petri steeple you can enjoy the view of the whole town. There is no open platform but you look out through the window holes which are closed with wire. Photographers, look for the rectangular holes in some wire nets, there is one on each side of the steeple.
Entrance fee for the steeple is 2 €. If you feel like some exercise you can climb the stairs. However, you don’t have to. There is a modern lift which was installed a few years ago when the spire had been rebuilt. You can go up by lift without a single stair, the steeple is accessible for disabled visitors. The wooden platform inside the top is completely flat and wide enough to manoeuvre a wheelchair.
The church of St Nikolai was heavily damaged in World War II and rebuilt as a centre for church activities. The attic above the nave has been turned into apartments. How does it feel to live in the roof of a gothic church? The view from the balconies must be amazing.
Neuer Markt is named “new” because it was new in the late middle ages when three so far independent quarters united and built a common town hall. The square was surrounded by the beautiful houses of rich patricians before the war, only a few of them have survived along the western side. Behind them the main parish church, the impressive Marienkirche, overlooks the square.
A grocery and household knickknack market takes place in the square in the mornings (not sure if daily). The square is so wide, however, that this market occupies only one corner. Towards Marienkirche you’ll find some street cafes and restaurants.