If you exclude the 2011 founding of the German branch of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Templin probably peaked in 1317. It hosted the signing of the Peace of Templin that ended a decade of a long-forgotten war known today as the North German Margrave War. This wasn’t a victorious moment for this small Brandenburg town of around 16,000 people. Brandenburg lost the war to the Danes and their German allies, denying it direct access to the Baltic Sea and vital trade for decades to come.
The heady days of 1317 must have seemed like a high point to the thirty or so families that remained in Templin in 1648 at the end of the Thirty Years’ War. Those three bloody decades of vicious fighting were largely conducted on German soil. Templin suffered the same fate as much of the rest of Germany. Utter devastation. At the start of the war it was a thriving town with an impressive medieval wall, home to some 417 families.
Fast forward to 1648 and it had largely been destroyed by waves of fighting and plunder. Only thirty families had survived the onslaught to remain in a town that lay in ruin, its wealth ransacked by marauding troops. The town slowly recovered and rebuilt, but fate would deal it another terrible blow in 1735. A fire swept through the town killing many and destroying swathes of buildings – the third such fire in its history.
It would be hard to claim that Templin was a lucky place, but the one upside of the 1735 fire was that it bequeathed Templin its most famous building. The delightful baroque Town Hall dates from 1751, and sits in the centre of the once bustling market square that emerged from the smouldering ruins. Things quietened down for a bit after that. The railway arrived in 1888, the telephone network in 1901, and a second railway line opened in 1912.
This was the calm before the storm. In 1944, Allied bombing raids shattered Templin again. Being close to Berlin it was also in the path of advancing Russian troops. Over 60% of the town was destroyed by the end of the war. The medieval walls and gates survived but, without money to rebuild the historic centre, the communist East German regime did what they did best: cheap concrete prefabs. The Soviets sent the second railway line to Russia as war reparations.
Templin is still a pretty little place, but the town is hardly on the tourist trail and would probably have sunk into obscurity but for one thing. Not that she’s much of a tourist draw, but this is where Chancellor Angela Merkel lived as a child. It remains her family home to this day. Merkel was born in Hamburg but her father, a Lutheran pastor, crossed the Iron Curtain to take up a position in a church in Templin when she was three years-old.
This close association was recognised last year when she was made an honorary citizen of Templin. She still has a house here and occasionally visits on weekends. We failed to spot her when shopping for lunch, although it’s rumoured you can bump into her in the local supermarket. It was a hot and humid day, and also lunchtime. We bought a few things from a nice deli and sat on a bench in the market square to watch the world go by.
Afterwards we pottered around looking at stuff, while overhead storm clouds gathered. The humidity had been a warning of more tempestuous weather to come, soon we were running for the safety of the car as the heavens opened. The storm was so intense there was a hailstorm. We never did get to see the seven lakes that surround the town.