Date: August 26th 2006
The first impressions of Wismar are not good - its clearly not seen at its best from the sea. The harbour is still being restored, and the local scrap metal dealer is all there is to look at. The marina itself is small, and many people moor in the old harbour. The day we arrived, a very noisy rap band were performing on the quay, so we decided to give it a miss.
Fortunately, once you get past the first impressions, things improve. Shedloads of EU dollars have been spent bringing the town up to scratch, and Wismar boats some of the best preserved buildings in the whole of hanseatic Germany. Of course one of the ironies about the lack of investment under communist rule is that many of the hanseatic buildings still survive. They may be run down, but at least they can be restored - unlike 50 years of development in the West, which has swept much of it away.
The town has a number of features. Probably the most spectacular is the church of St Nicolas. The bulk of this church was built to double height - its the fourth highest in Germany - and despite being built on fairly low land, it towers over the town. You can climb a scary spiral staircase and actually go inside the roof, where a local student guide will tell you all about Wismar's history.
A wonderful feature of this whole area are the toy shops. It makes a great change to be able to buy 'real' toys as opposed to the rubbish we get in the UK. Wismar is no exception, and tucked away behind the town hall is another prime example. The unassuming shop has relationships with many factories making superb wooden toys.
The shops radiate off a large market square. On the weekend we visited this square was being used to host a beach volleyball contest (12 inches of sand had been laid over the whole square). In the corner of the square lies the (now defunct) town well. Its strange to think that people used to have to queue up here just to get water.
Wismar is the last major town in what used to be East Germany - next stop, the West!