Our first route takes us to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in northern Germany. From the Wadden Sea to Stralsund: 500 kilometers, one sea, four towns - and five World Heritage Sites.
We begin our journey in a world of extremes - the Wadden Sea. This vast, flat landscape covers over 10,000 square kilometers between islands, including the Halligens, and the North Sea coast. The view changes daily – sometimes even hourly, as twice a day, the water rises by two and a half to three meters. Only then do ships travel between the coast and the islands - which is good to know when planning a journey. But it's at low tide that the real Wadden Sea adventure begins: cross the flats by coach, or just take off your shoes and wade barefoot through the mud. But only with a qualified guide!
Bremen's town hall and the Roland statue in front of it were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2004
The next stop is Bremen, the first of four Hanseatic cities on our route. In the Middle Ages, the Hanseatic towns and their merchant guilds formed a powerful economic alliance known as the Hanseatic League. Bremen is Germany's tenth largest city with half a million inhabitants. The town hall and the Roland statue in front of it were added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2004. Both symbolize the freedom of the people of Bremen. The city's growing confidence over the centuries is reflected in the architecture of the town hall, where visitors can see different phases of Bremen's social development since the 15th century, which makes the building unique in Europe! You should also risk a look around the corner. To the west of the town hall you'll see probably Bremen's most famous characters: the Town Musicians. Here the Brothers Grimm fairytale animals have been immortalized as a bronze statue, and it is said to bring luck if you touch two of the donkey's hooves at the same time.
After that we make our way from the North Sea to the Baltic - to Lübeck, formerly the "Queen of the Hanseatic League." In 1987, UNESCO made history by declaring an entire historic town center in northern Europe as a World Heritage site. The old part of the city is located on an island overlooked by seven church spires. No other Hanseatic town has such a distinctive cityscape. The old trading station and residential buildings, with their network of alleyways and courtyards, are guarded by the world famous Holstentor. This city gate with its meter-thick walls is not only a Lübeck landmark - it's a German one. Lübeck is also proud of its three Nobel Prize winners: Thomas Mann, Willy Brandt and Günter Grass. The city has honored each of these men with his own museum. And don't forget to try the marzipan, a sweet treat with a long tradition here.
Not too far away is another Hanseatic town - Wismar, with its fascinating brick work. The distinctive red brick construction style is a feature of northern German architecture, and was used to build several impressive churches and other buildings in Wismar.
Wismar was awarded World Heritage status together with Stralsund in 2002 - even though the two towns are 150 kilometers apart. Stralsund and Wismar are unique examples of how Hanseatic towns looked at the height of the League in the 14th century. The medieval layout of both town centers has remained largely unchanged.
Wismar is actually the only surviving Hanseatic town of this size and unity in Germany's southern Baltic Sea region.
Author: Frederike Müller / sc
Editor: Ben Knight, Helen Whittle