Lubeck was one of the principal Hanseatic League cities and as such was wealthy and should have had beautiful architecture, but we were not sure what to expect after the bombing campaign during WWII.

Den Haag to Lubeck was a long ride, 350 miles, but on new wide highways which felt like home and so no driving challenge.  On the way we listened to Meryl Streep reading Tom Lake by Ann Patchett, a captivating read for several reasons.  The structure of the book hung on the play by Thornton Wilder, Our Town, a fond Yale connection for me.  It was written at the Anchor Bar in New Haven, near Yale and the Shubert Theater which was a watering hole for the actors that appeared, and I knew the bar keep Mrs. Moore.  She spoke often of Thornton sitting and writing over a few cocktails during the creation of the play.  The second reason is that it is set on the shores of Lake Michigan’s cherry farming region.  I spent my teenage summers, and after, on these shores.  I knew and recreated with young cherry farmers.  Besides the personal identification with the book’s setting and theme it is a wonderful tale of a mother and daughters, and we enjoyed it.

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Lubeck, Germany 02

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Lubeck, Germany 10

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Lubeck, Germany 03

Another ancient gate met us as we entered the old city, but the streets beyond were not particularly narrow or intimidating.  We were able to drive to the door of our lodging to check in and later found a secure covered garage within a couple of blocks.  We had no idea what to expect from Lubeck and so were delighted when a lovely 16th century city unfolded as we walked the streets.  We heeded my high school German instructor’s advice and ate in the Rathskeller under the Rathshause (city hall).  According to her well prepared and reasonably priced food could always be found in the restaurants under city hall.  We were two for two using this advice.

We had 3 other notable dining experiences.  A lovely “tearoom” and confectioner, Niederegger, founded in 1806, and still owned by the family was a revelation in fine candy and cakes.  The marzipan that made them famous has a lower sugar content than other makers and thus considered the most sophisticated and sought after of this confection.  This philosophy of lower sugar seemed to apply to the gorgeous cakes offered.  The cakes we enjoyed over tea exceeded in flavor the beauty of the presentation.  Also, the service on beautiful china by formally attired waitresses completed the exquisite experience.

The second experience was the discovery of Mory’s in Germany, Im Alten Zolln, a pub reminiscent of a Vermeer painting.  We had eaten at the Rathskeller earlier, so we ordered a traditional apple pancake along with our steins of lager.  We watched the light fade as the day ended and did not leave until fairly late in the evening.  It was one of those experiences where doing nothing entertained us perfectly.

The third experience was the Paulaner pub around the corner from a church yard.  A fine meal and lager and sitting amidst the Sunday afternoon crowd of Lubeck citizens was another immersive experience.  I used my musty German to order food and communicate, a credit to the instruction I received over 50 years ago at Cranbrook (thank you Frau Horvath and Parker).  Words would pop into my head, and it seemed maybe my mind was not bringing forward the correct phrases, but after checking the internet, the mind was correct and my questioning a lack of confidence.

On the way to our last experience of note, we passed beautiful fields of dayglow yellow Rape seed, something we saw frequently from France to Denmark.  We found the Passat, the 1911 5-masted 320-foot-long steel square rigged cargo ship whose last voyage was in 1949, the Great Grain Race from Port Victoria Australia to Europe at the mouth of the Trave on the Baltice Sea and just a few miles downriver from Lubeck.  We had a fun experience exploring the ship and even went down into the vast hold.  As sailors the size and evident power of the rig and ship were overawing.  To finish off our pleasant afternoon we dined at a local and highly recommended restaurant.  The food was well prepared and presented except that I ordered, at the recommendation of the non-English speaking waitress, the Sauerfleisch (sour flesh).  This was a glass pot of pickled pork with carrot and onion, cold.  I was taken by surprise and did my best to eat enough not to insult the host.  I am sure over time I could have developed a taste for it, just like I did for sushi in Japan in 1981.