A Pretty Little Tour
We had family in town last weekend. As always, when Aussie family comes, it feels like another link is put in the chain that stretches halfway around the globe. I remember when SG, fresh-faced and ready for a loud, warm Christmas, visited Australia for the first time back in 2012. Back then, I wrote about the context and clarification that is brought about by having him see where I grew up, the house and people I come from. It is the same when Australian family visit me here, and see where I live, learn reference points, see my kids go about their days. It feels like we aren’t that far apart after all.
We had two full days together and the most beautiful weather. I thought I would take you all along on the little tour we did in the city of Kiel, a city I am most passionate about encouraging people to explore, because it is a city that demands you look for its charms. As one of the most-bombed European cities in WW2, little is left of pre-war Kiel. What was put in its place was, largely, hugely ugly. Many tourists who come in off the boats only see the Altstadt that is more 1980s than 1880s, and write the entire city off as not worth a visit. I rather like, however, the fact that Kiel makes you look a little harder for its beauty, as if those who can’t be bothered aren’t worth its time anyway.
Once you leave the lovely, maritime Hauptbhanhof (I love this building, it will forever remind me of when I first met my husband and would catch the train up to spend weekends in Kiel) and head for the main shopping street, you’re setting out on a rather unappealing walk. The huge mall that glowers opposite the Hbf makes for decent shopping and an homage to 1988. It spits you out onto Holstenstraße, which has the dubious honour of being one of Germany’s longest pedestrian shopping strips. It is also one of Kiel’s oldest streets, although you wouldn’t know it to look at it. Up the top squats the remnants of Kiel’s Altstadt, presided over by the beautiful St Nicholas church (Nikolaikirche) the first stones of which were laid in the 13th century.
To avoid the mall, the shopping strip, and the least attractive part of the Altstadt, I took my auntie and uncle down to the water, past the huge ships from Sweden and Norway, and the cruiseliners that had come in that morning. To be alongside the water and the boats, watching the little ferries and tugs chug, is to get a feel for what the city of Kiel is really all about. Our first stop, after the fabulously restored old warehouses which are now very beautiful offices, was the old Fish Market, which is now a museum, the Schiffahrtsmuseum. (This, by the way, is my Dad’s favourite spot.) We chanced upon a brand new exhibition which charts the 1918 Revolution, a turning point in German history that began in Kiel with the sailor’s mutiny. It’s worth noting the cafe at the Schiffahrtsmuseum is absolutely lovely.
From there, we stuck to the water and headed up to an overpass which is just before one enters the Kiellinie, a promenade that continues along the Förde. We went up over the overpass, the Kunsthalle to our right, the Schlossgarten directly in front of us. The Schlossgarten, originally part of the Kieler Schloss which burnt down during WW2, is gorgeous, particularly at this time of year, a vast green expanse with vibrant flowerbeds, pergolas and benches. One half of it is hemmed by the Uniklinik and Kiel’s Zoological Museum, one of the oldest natural history museums in Germany. We strolled through the Schlossgarten, past the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Denkmal and across into Dänische Straße.
Dänische Straße is the one remaining part of Kiel’s pre-war Altstadt and thus the only part worth seeing. It’s charming and old and has the requisite expensive boutiques, as well as the adorable little Stadtmuseum Warleberger Hof. The foundations of the building have been dated back to the late 1200s, but the building as it now stands was built as a manor house in the 1600s. It’s now a dedicated city museum and worth a poke around.
Kaffee und Kuchen called and we stopped at Fiedler, a Kiel cake institution. These guys have been making cakes since 1920 and to be in a Fiedler Konditorei is to lose control entirely. We sat outside, looking at the Kieler Kloster, which has been around since the 1200s. The Kieler Brewery which is still making its own beer is 20 metres on from Fiedler, just as an FYI, but we headed down Falckstraße and walked along the Kleiner Kiel (home to several swans and at this time of year, their babies) in the direction of the Rathausplatz. Walking around the Kleiner Kiel meant we walked past the old Justice Ministry and through Hiroshima Park, a gorgeous park which acts as a memorial to what happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It also meant we approached the Rathaus from her most photogenic angle – reflected in the waters of the Kleiner Kiel.
From there we crossed to the Rathausplatz, which is where you’ll find the Opernhaus (Opera House) as well as the Rathaus (the old one, the new one is an archtitectural travesty near the Hbf) and Standesamt. The Opera House is one of my favourite buildings in the city, stately and elegant. It was badly damaged during the war, but reconstructed in the early 50s.
From there we walked up Fleethörn, which spat us out at one of the city’s most beautiful streets, Klopstockstraße. This is beautiful old Kiel – Schreventeich. The neighbourhood that encircles the beautiful Schrevenpark is all 1930s villas and cobbled streets. The park itself has a small lake fringed by weeping willows, a very popular Liegewiese (lounging meadow) a lovely big Spielplatz (playground) and a dog park. It is an absolute oasis. We trotted through, on our way to the part of the city we used to call home.
It’s a solid, but flat walk, from Schreventeich upto where we were headed, but we stuck parallel to the busy street of Holtenauerstraße, where you go to shop, be seen, and drink coffee. Holtenauerstraße is a great place to bummel around, but not an easy one if you have a destination in mind. Avoiding it took us through the beautiful old neighbourhoods (like the brilliantly named Stinkviertl, a part of the very pretty Ravensburg) and past the charming old (and rather fancy) tennis club, the Wasserturm that is now luxury apartments and eventually into Kiel’s largest cemetary, the 16 hectare Nordfriedhof, home also to a Commonwealth Cemetary. I used to go for walks through the quiet, green Nordfriedhof, pushing die Lüdde until she fell asleep. The willows weep and the gardens are meticulously maintained. It is a place of great peace.
From there, we cut down into the heart of our old neighbourhood, Blücherplatz for ice cream and to see the first apartment both our kids called home. The ice cream was well-deserved and a place we visited daily in the summer when we lived in the city.
There was a lot we didn’t do. We didn’t hit Holtenauerstraße, or the fabulously long, under-built promenade along the fjord. We didn’t visit the Forstbaumschule, a park created for the Danish King, nor the old Botanic gardens, nor manage to get across the canal into Holtenau, where the old captain’s houses are truly something. We didn’t get to see all the old villas in Dürstenbrook, nor have a drink at the bar built on a peer. So much to see and, as always, so little time.
But we did visit some of the city’s loveliest pockets, and I like to think Kiel showed off a little that day, grateful for our efforts to find them.