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City of Greifswald

March 14, 2012

Greifswald is one of the oldest university towns in Germany. The students give the city its character, but the geographical proximity to the Baltic Sea also influences its general flair.

Several buildings from Greifswald's historical old town are shown
Greifswald's historic buildings have been restored in recent years

When the lectures finish at around lunchtime, a little wave of migration begins. The pedestrian zone in the old town suddenly fills with students who are on their way to their next seminar, the cafeteria or a cozy cafe. The population of Greifswald is around 54,000 people. In the 2009-2010 winter semester, 12,000 are students and 5,000 are university employees.

The city and the university have existed together for centuries. The main university building is in baroque style and dates back to 1747. It is one of Greifswald's tourist attractions, along with the gothic St. Nikolai, St. Marien and St. Jakobi 13th-century brick churches. These three sturdy steeples - fondly called "Long Nikolaus," the "Fat Marie" and the "Little Jakob" - are some of the first things you notice against the backdrop of the flat landscape as you drive northwards through the region.

Very historic: a German Hanseatic city

Greifswald lies on Germany's northern outskirts, and in the past it was at the center of various events. Together with cities like Hamburg, Bremen and Rostock, Greifswald belonged to the trade alliance Hanseatic League from the 13th century onwards. However, in the 14th and 15th centuries, the city's port could no longer satisfy economic demands and Greifswald started to lag behind other Hanseatic cities. Despite this, though, the Baltic Sea, the ships and the traditional port still contribute to the city's flair. Also, the Baltic Sea is among the most popular recreation destinations for students.

A fresh take on the old town

Greifswald experienced almost no destruction in World War Two. The biggest constructional changes occurred during its years as part of East Germany. Instead of preserving and renovating the historic buildings, concrete-slab apartment blocks were erected in the south and in the east of the city. Almost 50 percent of the historic structures were lost between 1945 and 1990.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Greifswald's residents rediscovered the beauty of the old town and renovated it. The best example of this is the city's marketplace. It's one of the most beautiful in northern Germany. Here, you can find pediments from the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras. They allow you to feel the soul of this city that is more than 900 years old.

Author: Nadine Wojcik