The Church of Our Lady used to be the main parish church of the city. The nave must have been even bigger and more impressive then the still standing church of St Nikolai. Allied bomb raids in April 1945, a few weeks before the end of the war, hit the church heavily. The ruin could have been saved and rebuilt but this was not wanted. Like other churches in the DDR, the ruin was blown up for political reasons in August 1960. Only the steeple remained as a torso. The foundation of the walls and pillars give an impression how large the church used to be.
The courtyard of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit is a popular setting for wedding photos – that says it all. It can be entered through the gate in Neustadt, round the corner from the church. You’ll find a pretty garden surrounded by brick buildings of different eras, most romantic when the roses are in bloom.
“Hospitals” in former times were more old people’s homes than places where sick people were cured. A door in the back of the church allows a glimpse into the corridor of the old hospital building with the cells of the inhabitants built in timberwork.
The small 15th century church is a little gem. Its unique treasure is the painted wooden ceiling, dated 1687, that shows scenes from the Old Testament.
Location: Lübsche Straße
Wismar’s oldest house was built around 1380. In the middle ages the lower floors contained living rooms and offices, the attics served as storage. In 1878 the building became a pub which was named the “Old Swede”, referring to Wismar’s history under Swedish government from 1648 to 1803.
The so-called “vault” used to be part of the city’s fortification. It was built across the end of the Grube canal towards the harbour. The pretty half-timbered building dates from around 1650, shortly after the end of the 30 Years War.
The artificial watercourse that leads through the old town was built in the 13th century. It is part of a system of canals that connects the Lake of Schwerin with the Baltic Sea. It supplied freshwater, moved the wheels of the water mills, and provided water for fire-fighting.
Another off the beaten path street with remarkable architecture in urgent need of repair and restoration. Seeing 17th century facades of once beautiful, now empty and decaying houses, their ground floor windows closed with bricks, makes me hurt. Others have already been done and look great, so let’s hope it will be the miserable houses’ turn some day, too. A lot depends on the owners…
Scheuerstraße has a remarkable amount of medieval and renaissance merchants’ houses with the characteristic stepped gables. Most of these served as trade offices and storages, some still have cranes at their gables. This street is off the usual tourist path and so far hardly any restoration has been done. The facades are secured but they are in urgent need of plaster and paint. This street breathes the spirit of past decades, if not centuries. Time stood still, even more if you overlook the modern cars parked here.
Wismar’s shipyards build medium-size container vessels. “Cynthia” was their latest ‘baby’, almost ready to set out for the oceans in June 2009. The huge pale-blue hall by the harbour serves as indoor dock.
The company feels the economical crisis, rumours about them being bankrupt are around. Since they are an important employer in town, let’s hope best for them.
After one wing of the medieval town hall had collapsed, the present building was erected in neoclassical style in 1817-1819. Remains of the medieval building, especially the cellars, were integrated in the new one.
The gothic vaulted cellars contain the permanent exhibition “Wismar – Pictures of a City” about the history of the city. Opening hours: daily 10:00-18:00 (from January to March it closes at 16:00 on Sundays).
The renaissance building in the southwestern corner of market square was the centre of old Wismar’s supply of drinking water. It was built by a Dutch architect between 1580 and 1602. Water pipes lead from here to the public fountains in the streets and into the ‘better’ houses. The inscriptions in Latin and German tell about the water system in former times.
The wide square has a size of 100 x 100 m. The historical buildings around it were already restored and kept in good shape in DDR times.
Notable buildings around market square: the neoclassical city hall, the gothic house named “alter Schwede”, and the renaissance water reservoir (see separate tips).
A farmers’ market takes place on Saturday mornings.
Watch your steps on the rough cobblestone pavement.
Only one of the three brick gothic churches in Wismar is completely preserved and in full use. Nikolai church and the surrounding quarter have remained more or less unharmed during the war, unlike Marienkirche and Georgenkirche.
It is an impressive building already from its sheer size. The steeple used to end in a slender spire which collapsed in a gale in 1703 and damaged the church badly. The building was repaired and the furnishing renewed in baroque style. The gables and portals present elaborate ornaments made of glazed bricks.
Harbour cruises depart from the old harbour basin near the Baumhaus. They last about an hour. The harbour of Wismar is, I admit, not as impressive as, for example, the one in Hamburg. On the other hand, the cruise takes you out into the bay and you get an impression of the coastlines and the islands Poel and Walfisch outside the bay.
The best is the view of old Wismar from the sea side. Storage halls and cranes of the harbour frame the old town silhouette which has not changed much for centuries. The three huge churches still dominate the skyline just as they did from the middle ages, only that the nave of St Marien is missing.
She adds a lot to the harbour’s flair: the reconstructed Hansekogge “Wismaria”. This is what the sailing ships looked like that the Hansa’s wealth was based upon. These ships transported the merchants’ goods on the Baltic Sea and the North Sea. Imagine dozens of them in the old port basin in front of Wismar’s skyline with the three mighty gothic churches…
A club of fans is maintaining the ship and doing day cruises out into the bay of Wismar and the Baltic Sea for passengers. In the harbour in the evenings while the crew is still on board there is “open ship” and you can board and look around for a small donation.
Since she is all black, taking photos of her is difficult…