Set in the lush greenery of the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania), Schwerin’s narrow lanes, quaint houses and a majestic castle make this small city a delight to discover.
It is the grande dame of northern Germany and a reminder of the bygone days of the royal courts that once reigned here. An eccentric and extraordinary feat in architecture, Schwerin Castle is truly the city’s crown jewel. Completed in 1857, it first served as the home of the ruling dukes and grand dukes of Mecklenburg; yet, today, it is the seat of government for this German federal state.
Located on a small island in Schweriner Lake, the city’s iconic symbol features a whimsical fusion of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, towers, statues and golden domes. It’s quite apparent that money was no object when constructing this grandiose building with six different façades. The niche above the main gate shelters the statue of the Slavic prince Niklot, who once ruled this region but fell in battle to the forces of the Saxon duke and founder of Schwerin Heinrich der Löwe (Henry the Lion) in 1160.
Exquisite parquet flooring made of mahogany, ash, walnut and oak will creak underfoot while strolling through the castle’s luxurious apartments, reception and state rooms. From statues of ladies balancing vases of flowers in the Flower Cabinet to the over-the-top Throne Room, visitors will certainly relish this castle’s opulence. Red damask, golden friezes and the extensive use of papier-mâché are just samples of the wonderful painstaking details each room reveals.
Exploring Old Town Schwerin
Fortunately left untouched during World War II, Schwerin’s compact Altstadt (old town) is relatively easy to explore. Opposite the castle in the Alter Garten of Ekhofplatz, take a peek inside the city’s 19th-century state theatre. A picture near the box office gives an idea of how grand the theatre’s stage setting truly is. Along with some exhibited statues by Ernst Barlach, the City Museum, situated next to the theatre, displays works of art that include not only a collection of Dutch and Flemish paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries, but also 19th and 20th century paintings by various German artists.
Walking up Schlossstrasse turn right onto Puschkinstrasse and head to the cobbled Marktplatz (Market Square), where the city’s 14th-century Gothic cathedral looms in the background. In front of the baroque and classisism architecture of the Neues Gebäude (New Building), the towering column with a poised lion is dedicated to Heinrich der Löwe. Enchanting streets and buildings are characteristic of not only the Altstadt, but also the neighbouring district of Schelfstadt.
For a bit of shopping, Mecklenburgerstrasse is a pedestrian zone lined with stores, cafés, restaurants and a 19th century post office. The street also leads directly to the waters of the Pfaffenteich. A modern-styled pond that is popular among locals, it offers a pleasant setting for a stroll past the stately homes that line its shores. Off to one side, it’s not difficult to miss the imposing, terracotta- coloured Arsenal and former barracks. Constructed in 1840, it is the current Ministry of the Interior.
Under the Sun and Stars
Don’t forget to take in the afternoon sun by enjoying a boat excursion around Schweriner Lake and its small islands. Then, end the day with a romantic evening under the stars for an open-air performance at the Schwerin Castle Festival. The state theatre puts on this annual event on summer evenings, Thursday through Sunday, on the grounds of the Alter Garten. To visit other former homes of royalty nearby, set aside a day-trip for the towns of Güstrow and Ludwigslust.
Located approximately one hour from Schwerin, the 16th century Renaissance structure of Güstrow Castle showcases various exhibits that range from coin collections, dating to the 1500s to Art Niveau vases from the early 20th century. Stucco friezes of detailed hunting scenes are also quite prominent in some of the palace’s main rooms.
Güstrow is also noted for the artwork by Ernst Barlach. A few of his pieces, which he created out of wood, plaster and metal, are on display at St. Gertrud’s Chapel. Labeled as a “degenerate artist” by the Nazis, the artist lived in Güstrow for the last 28 years of his life before he died in the city of Rostock in 1938. One of his most celebrated items is the “schwebende Engel”, or floating angel, which hangs above a WWI memorial in the city’s cathedral.
Ten kilometres off the main highway linking Schwerin and Berlin, the red-brick town of Ludwigslust boasts a Baroque palace befitting of any royal family. Set amid a beautiful landscape of greenery and water, the gallant residence’s from 1776 is well worth the visit. Its over-the-top Golden Hall is just one of the many features that will certainly strike the wow-effect.
Directly across from the grand palace is Duke Friedrich’s court church. It may look ordinary on the outside, but it’s the work of art inside that is so amazing. An absolute masterpiece, the „Announcement of the Birth of Christ“ measures 350 square metres and rises 14 metres behind the altar. First begun in 1772 by court painter Johann Dietrich Findorff, the lower half of the wall consists of 1,000 painted papier-mâché squares, whereas the second artist, Johann Heinrich Suhrlandt, completed the upper half of the scene by painting onto the wall itself and finished in 1804.
Luring visitors each year, Schwerin, Güstrow and Ludwigslust are easily accessible by car or rail. Coupled with a landscape of rollings hills, lakes and a picture-postcard coast line, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is a treasure to explore.