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A farmer in a field

Old Salt Road – On the roads of the salt merchants

The Old Salt Road runs for approximately 100 km from the 1,000-year-old salt town of Lüneberg, the picturesque shipping town of Lauenburg an der Elbe and Mölln, the town of the folkloric hero Till Eulenspiegel, to the Hanseatic town of Lübeck, gateway to the Baltic Sea. Although now nothing more than an everyday item, mineral salt was hugely important – and expensive – in the Middle Ages, earning itself the nickname "white gold".

The salt trade in the Middle Ages was closely intertwined with power and wealth and in fact 1,000 years ago, salt was as significant to the economy as natural oil and gas are today. Whilst today oil and gas pipelines traverse the whole of Europe, in the past it was the salt routes that were the lifelines of the economy. This is what prompted tradesmen from Lübeck to transport salt from Lüneburg, the most important salt deposit in Northern Europe, to Lübeck along the Old Salt Road.

The old "white gold" trade route

The Old Salt Route was one of the most significant and most frequently used trade routes in the Middle Ages and lead from the Hanseatic town of Lüneberg, which was the source of the salt, to the Hanseatic town of Lübeck. Here salt was used to preserve the catch brought in by herring vessels and was shipped on to the Baltic States and Scandinavia. It took more than 20 days for a wagon to make the journey from Lüneburg to Lauenburg and the crossing of the Elbe-Lübeck Canal to reach Lübeck.

A route with tales to tell

The wealth of these towns was built on transporting and trading salt or collecting duties from the tradesmen that passed through. Laws were also put in place to prohibit these tradesmen and waggoners from travelling around the city to avoid the duties, and those found guilty of breaking this law could expect their goods to be confiscated. This law ensured the collection of duties and also an income for the city's innkeepers and craftsmen.

Discover the Lüneburg Heath

The route is bounded by idyllic, colourful countryside full of lakes, forests and the scenic Lüneburg Heath Nature Park with its 2,000-strong herd of Heidschnucke sheep and lambs. The route leads to romantic towns, old cities with splendid town halls and ornate bourgeois houses, old redbrick houses, windmills and watermills, megalithic tombs, fieldstone churches, the graves of the skippers who transported salt along the Stecknitz river (Stecknitzfahrer) and many other interesting historic sites that stand as silent witnesses to the salt trade's glorious past.

Old Salt Road

Length: 100 km

Theme: culture, history, salt, nature

Aumühlen-Friedrichsruh: the Sachsenwald Forest, butterfly garden, Bismarck Museum
Lauenburg: museums, nature park, kettle lock
Lübeck: UNESCO World Heritage Site, old quarter, museums
Lüneburg: old quarter, town hall, saline
Mölln: Till Eulenspiegel, town hall, museums
Ratzeburg: cathedral, enclave city, museums