UNESCO Heritage Sites #70 and #71: Exclusive German-only merchant houses

From Essen, I took the overnight bus to Hamburg, where I dropped my bags off and immediately set off for Lübeck, as it was my next UNESCO destination. Lübeck was a former capital of the Hanseatic League, a trading organization of merchant cities across the Northern Europe. Little known fact (as revealed by Wikipedia), it is the same “hansa” as in the airline Lufthansa. Probably not that fascinating, but at least you are now aware that I do a bare-minimum cursory research for the blog.

Lübeck was a charming Gothic city, but I am not sure if it really stood out for me, except for the fact that it had a serious Medieval historical significance.

One thing that I did definitely take with myself was an amazing soup served at Suppentopf, an institution in itself, always packed with the locals away from the touristy central market. It is probably quite unreasonable for me to expect you to make the culinary pilgrimage to taste this steaming deliciousness, however, if you are ever in the area, you owe it to yourself.

For the sake of thematic continuity, I will skip the time in Oslo and Tromsø (which will be covered in a new YouTube video tomorrow), and will head straight for Bergen, as it turned out to be another outpost of the Hanseatic League. Considering I was in Bergen for only one night, I was quite unfortunate to see it in the rain the entire first day. I sulkily walked around the city, admiring the fog and the diagonals of the downpour, and it was only the following morning that I was able to see Bergen in all its Nordic beauty.

The UNESCO-protected area is Bryggen, an old harbour which at one point was completely owned by the Hanseatic League. As any self-respecting Hanseatic enthusiast, I went to the museum in the area to learn more on the topic. I discovered that during its Hanseatic glory, Bryggen was closed off, and only Germans were allowed to reside there. The German sailors, merchants, tradesmen were not allowed to fraternize with the local population, and of course, as this usually happens, that type of restriction immediately resulted in a number of brothels cropping up in the vicinity. The insides of the guild-houses were fascinating, as apprentices were basically treated as slaves for the journeymen and masters of the guild. For fear of burning down the easily-flammable wooden houses, the Germans never cooked or lit candles inside, which must have resulted in quite a few cold, dark, hungry nights. Another little known fact: apparently, during the Middle Ages many slept sitting up. For workers, it was often seen as a practicality of saving space in crammed dormitories, and for the richer folk, it was due to the belief that only the dead slept, and alive should rest sitting up.

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