The "Historic Highlights of Germany" are 17 cities combining historical heritage with modern urban lifestyles, each making its own specific contribution to culture, business and science.
The oldest cities and Hanseatic towns – An acoustic tour of eight UNESCO World Heritage sites
Close your eyes and let yourself be acoustically enchanted by the diverse impressions on your journey through Germany!
Intro with music:
“Experience Germany – A Surprising Journey of Discovery”
Germany has a long history, but it is still a matter of debate which of Germany’s cities is the oldest. The Celts left their first traces in Worms as early as 5000 BC. The Romans, the Nibelungs, Martin Luther – with so much history, Worms city guide Bettina Bauer has a hard time choosing.
OST Bettina Bauer: Worms
Woman: The highlight is our cathedral, one of the three Romanesque imperial cathedrals on the Upper Rhine. Our Jewish cemetery “Der Heilige Sand”, where the oldest tombstone dates back to 1055, should be on your list of places to go, and last but not least we are a Lutherstadt with one of the largest Reformation monuments in the world.
Claiming the longest history as a city recognized by the Romans, however, is the city of Trier, dating back to 16 BC, with the best preserved city gate in the ancient world, the Porta Nigra. In 12 BC Roman troops founded the military base of Mogontiacum, which later became the imperial cathedral city of Mainz. On guided tours of the city, historian Elmar Rettinger plays the role of the city’s most famous son.
OST Elmar Rettinger: Mainz
Man: I put myself in Johannes Gutenberg’s shoes, in the 15th century, and described the history of the city from the perspective of that time. Gutenberg was the one who developed printing with movable type and was responsible for the first media revolution. The fascinating thing about him is that he was a total risk-taker who had a vision that would speed up the production of text.
But other cities along the Rhine also developed from ancient Roman settlements: Speyer, Andernach, Koblenz, Bonn, as well as Cologne. In addition to a trip to the cathedral, Silke Dames from Tourismus NRW recommends a tour of the city that follows in the footsteps of the Romans.
OST Silke Dames: Cologne
Woman: Hohe Strasse, the most famous pedestrian street, was founded by the Romans. This can be seen from the fact that it runs perfectly straight and in many places along on the street you can see Roman city walls, old remnants of streets, and some of these large boulders can still be found in the middle of the old town. A Roman tower, remains of walls, which make the middle of the city a large open-air museum.
Archaeological Park Xanten, Germany’s largest open-air archaeological museum, welcomes visitors to the town’s long history. They can even spend the night in the historic city gate of Xanten. But the Romans were also in Kempten in the Allgäu, and made Augsburg the oldest city in Bavaria. Anyone who enters through the large main gateway into the world’s oldest social settlement, the Fuggerei, will find themselves in a different world, says tour guide Renate Braun.
OST Renate Braun: Augsburg
Woman: The first thing you see is a long alley with small yellow houses and green shutters, and it feels like travelling back in time. You walk directly towards a fountain, the center of the Fuggerei. In the olden times, this was one of the springs residents would get their water from.
Water plays a major role, especially in northern Germany. In the Middle Ages, 200 maritime and inland cities joined together to form the Hanseatic League. In the Hanseatic city of Hamburg, everything still revolves around the harbor and the Speicherstadt. Guido Neumann from Hamburg Tourismus therefore recommends the first weekend in May for a visit, because that’s when the port celebrates its birthday.
OST Gudio Neumann, Hamburg
Man: The large arrival and departure parades are the most interesting part, where up to 350 ships come into the Hamburg harbor – many of them being historic ships, old steamers or sailing ships. This is a spectacle that lasts two to three hours. It is also possible to board most of the ships and take a closer look at them. This is the highlight of the Hamburg harbor anniversary.
… And also at the “Hanse Sail” in the Hanseatic city of Rostock, hundreds of sailing ships are met by enthusiastic visitors every year in August. The city harbor set against the scenery of Rostock’s old town with its deep red brick buildings embodies the Hanseatic atmosphere. But a festival is also particularly important for the Hanseatic city of Bremen. For almost 1,000 years the Bremer Freimarkt has been celebrated there. But for Maike Bialek from Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen, the entire old town is living history.
OST Maike Bialek: Bremen
Woman: Enjoy a coffee, tea or a delicious piece of meringue cake on Bremen’s market square and breathe in the history. Or take a ride on the Stadtmusikantenexpress! The Bremer Stadtmusikanten, the Town Musicians of Bremen, is a Bremen landmark known worldwide. Our UNESCO World Heritage Site is also worth mentioning. It includes the city hall and the Roland statue. And of course, the maritime atmosphere on the Schlachtewieser promenade.
A maritime atmosphere also defines the Hanseatic spirit in Lübeck, the queen of the Hanseatic League on the Baltic Sea and the second largest German city in the 13th century. The harbor, the Holsten Gate, the cathedral district. Brick Gothic, old merchants’ houses and the Buddenbrooks. Hilke Flebbe is the feel-good spokeswoman for the city of Lübeck. She is very familiar with the old town, which is surrounded by water and Hanseatic history.
OST Hilke Flebbe, Lübeck
Woman: Hanseatic flair still exists on the old town island. You can literally feel the history all around you. Not far from the Fischergrube is the Oldtimerhafen port. If you close your eyes there you can still feel what it was like when the ships were being unloaded back then. The Seafarers’ Guild is over 650 years old. It is still a genuine traditional captains’ guild where you can have a wonderful meal. You can see the old beautiful ships hanging from the ceiling. That is why it is called the seafarers’ district.
The nautical romance includes captains, but also pirates, such as the infamous Klaus Störtebecker, who is said to have been born in Wismar. Wismar, on the Baltic Sea, was an early member of the Hanseatic League and prospered in the late Middle Ages. The old town, with its many Gothic buildings, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as is the historic old town of Stralsund with its landmark – one of the most magnificent town halls in the Baltic Sea, shares Jeannine Wolle from Internationaler Städtebund DIE HANSE.
OST Jeannine Wolle, Stralsund
Woman: When you are in the old market you see an impressive facade with Gothic pointed towers and the coats of arms of Hanseatic cities, and it is also the size of the town hall itself that is so imposing and striking. It is 30 meters wide and 60 meters long. The town hall is simply awe-inspiring.
Impressive buildings, historic old towns and a long, eventful history of Celts, Romans and the Hanse: there is always something new to discover in Germany’s old towns.