Schwerin is a pretty town of around a hundred thousand people and, surprisingly, for a place as small as this, it is also the capital of the German state of Mecklenburg–West Pomerania. The main reason for a visit is to see Schloss Schwerin, the beautiful castle that dates back to the 14th century and sits on the outskirts of town (of which, more later), but this former seat of the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg has much more to offer. Its old town survived the Second World War largely intact, and today sits attractively amidst a watery landscape of seven lakes.
I decided to spend the night here rather than press on to Lubeck, and I’m really glad I did. If for no other reason than I was able to stay in the delightful Zum weißen Haus, a B&B that was the nicest place I stayed on this trip. It also meant I got to see the town in the evening and enjoy some local cuisine. Let’s be honest, not unlike a lot of Germany, that means ‘hearty’, ‘meaty’ and almost certainly accompanied by potatoes. After a day exploring I figured I’d earned it, not to mention sampling some beers at a local watering hole, the Altstadt Brauhaus.
I’d arrived in the morning after an early start from Berlin. After finding somewhere to park in the town centre I headed to Am Markt, the central square that is towered over by the cathedral and ringed by historic buildings. The cathedral dates back to the 12th century, and is famous thanks to Count Henry of Schwerin. He returned here after attempting to recapture Jerusalem during the Fifth Crusade, allegedly with a drop of Christ’s blood contained inside a jewel. He placed it in the cathedral, which instantly became a pilgrimage site.
The Am Markt provides a pretty focal point for the town and, while Schwerin may not have a wealth of glorious buildings, take any of the roads that radiate from the square and you’ll find cobbled streets and historic buildings. It’s not obvious, to me at least, but Schwerin was in East Germany, now a hotbed of extremist politics. I saw an office of the far right AfD party – one in five people in this state voted for them in 2017. In their window was an ‘I ❤ Germany’ bag. I’m pretty sure it’s possible to ❤ Germany without hating everyone else, but no one seems to have told the AfD.
I wandered around for a while before heading to local lunchtime institution, Weinhaus Wöhler, for something to eat. They have a pleasant courtyard but deciding what to eat was something of a lottery. No one spoke English and the German menu was filled with colloquialisms that confounded Google Translate. After Berlin it was a bit of a shock to be in an area where very few people spoke English. Pot luck landed me with a dish of chicken and curried vegetables, pretty tasty and a much needed change from sausage, potatoes and cabbage.
I walked off lunch with a stroll around the Pfaffenteich, the small lake in the heart of the town. On the far side was an odd looking orange building that looks like a North African castle has escaped and taken up residence. Today, this building is home to the state interior ministry, but during the communist era it was home to the Stasi secret police. From the top of the lake is a pedestrianised street that runs down to the largest lake in the area, the Schweriner See, and to Schloss Schwerin, my next destination.