Germany Holidays: Schwerin, a gem in the east

Following the collapse of East Germany’s German Democratic Republic 30 years ago, a number of towns and cities emerged as hitherto undiscovered. Because of their eastern location they were largely undamaged by wartime bombing and their architectural splendour survived the worst of the GDR town planning.

Among such towns are Görlitz, profiled elsewhere on this site, and Schwerin, 20 miles south of Wismar and inland from the Baltic coast. Once the historic seat of the Dukes of Mecklenburg, the town, with a population just under 100,000, had always played second fiddle to its larger industrial neighbour Rostock, particularly during the days of the GDR. Rostock, as a state-supported shipbuilding city, was much more in keeping with the image the country wanted to present.

However once the reunification of Germany was completed and the Land of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was re-established, the decision was made to restore Schwerin to its rightful place as the state capital.

Neuschwanstein of the north

The jewel in the architecture of the city, Schwerin Castle henceforth became the seat of the parliament of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. In the 19th century the building had been the ducal residence but in 1918, as the duchy ceased to exist, the castle had become the property of the state.

A castle has stood on the site of the current building since the latter years of the first millennium. The town was an important location in the medieval quest to extend eastwards along the Baltic coast. However as the frontiers of Prussia moved east, the requirements for the castle changed and it could become more of a showpiece.

Accordingly, when the current castle was built in the mid 19th century by a group of architects including Gottfried Semper (who was responsible for building the Semper Oper in Dresden) they created one of the finest Renaissance buildings in northern Germany. It has been dubbed the Neuschwanstein of the north.

The castle can be visited daily all year round (closed Mondays) and guided tours are available. Alternatively you can take a tour of the castle gardens, one of the finest gardens to mix baroque with classical English design.

Undoubtedly the best way to appreciate views of the castle and the town is by boat, cruising on one of the many lakes surrounding the town, the largest of which (indeed one of the largest in Germany) is the Schweriner See. These trips run from March until October and can be caught from the pier by the castle. They offer great views of the Castle and the town beyond.

The town as a whole, despite its modest size, punches well above its weight and has well and truly shaken off its GDR past. It has undoubtedly become one of the liveliest and most vibrant towns in northern Germany. – Mark Arrol

Looking for more? See other destinations in Activities in Eastern Germany

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