Although places like Amsterdam and Venice are known for their canals, and few places can match the sheer scale of the canal systems there, it's also interesting to find some amazingly pretty canal systems in other cities as well. The Baltic city of Wismar, also a former Hanseatic League port city, has stunning canals, as well as some beautiful architecture and squares.
The market square in Wismar is open, social and central. With nearly 10,000 square metres of space, it's one of the largest squares in northern Germany, and packed with colour and history. Some of the buildings in the square are as old as the 14th Century, with others being placed there as late as the late 19th Century. It's a real mix of styles and shapes, but it is all tied together by the central well. Elaborately decorated, the well has been the central point around which the city functions for centuries.
It does make Wismar a bit of challenge to find your way in, or can lead to a longer day walking than originally planned, but the canals in Wismar are beautiful. Small and relatively unobtrusive, these low-sided waterways make a pretty city remarkable. They frame the tight streets and winding hills in a way that is really unusual, and along the canals you can often find much more colourful and different houses. Much of the city (like all the Hanseatic cities) are full of expensive and wealthy-looking red brick construction. And so, with these colourful canal-side buildings brightening up the city, I really got a sense of fun as well as history.
A historical highlight was the often reconstructed St George's Church. This Gothic Brick style church was first constructed in the first years of the 15th Century, but very little of that building remains. It had been bombed, burned, bombed again and left to rot over the centuries. But now the church has been carefully preserved and re-built until it is the towering (80 metres high) and sturdy icon it was meant to be!
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