Lübeck without the status of a UNESCO World Heritage is like a Michelin-starred chef withoutstars, says Jan Kruijswijk. What does Lübeck have in common with the Pyramids of Giza, the Ruins of Olympia, Stonehenge and the Great Wall of China? They all belong to the group of over 1,000 historic sites around the world that have been given the protection of UNESCO World Heritage status. 39 of these sites are located in Germany, and Lübeck has been one ofthem since 1987.
Lübeck was founded in 1143 as the first port on the Baltic Sea and quickly developed into the rich and mighty "Queen of the Hanseatic League". The Old Town island is one of the most beautiful examples of the red-brick Gothic style of Northern Germany. The seven church spires have dominated the city's silhouette since the Middle Ages. In addition to the famous Holsten Gate, it is worth seeing the historic Town Hall, the salt storage buildings, which were used to store the "white gold", the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, the impressive merchants' houses and the medieval alleys and courtyards. The archaeological subsoil of the Old Town with around three million finds is also part of the World Heritage Site.
Someone who knows everything there is to know about it, is the tour guide Jan Kruijswijk. The native of the Netherlands with his unmistakeable Rudi Carrell accent and beloved Norwegian jumpers has been living in Lübeck since 1991. "I came to Lübeck because of love", he says in reference to his wife Dorit, whom he met while drinking the popular spiced wine "Glühwein"with some colleagues at Lübeck's Christmas Market. At that time he was still working for Dräger as an engineer in Zoetermeer in the Netherlands, but quickly relocated to Lübeck and has never regretted it. "Lübeck is far more than a beautiful backdrop", he raves. "Here, you breathe history and it's at the centre of life." After retiring, he made a new profession out of his hobby of showing business customers "his"Lübeck once their working day was done.
A guided tour in Lübeck - a mix of Entertainment and history
Since 2007 he has been offering regular guided tours, explaining the "Queen" and what makes Lübeck a UNESCO World Heritage Site - in German, English and Dutch, of course. "There was a gap in the market when I started at the Association of Lübeck Tour Guides", he says with a laugh and strokes his greybeard. He particularly enjoyed dressing up for the costume tours as Jan Janszoon van Wijck, a Dutch captain who spent the winter of 1668 in Lübeck with his galleon"Seelöwe". He took a room in the Seafarers'Guild and enjoyed the food and drink, especially the French red wine, which matured in Lübeck's cellars into the now famous Lübeck red wine "Rotspon". "I once got some very special praise from one visitor", laughs Kruijswijk with a wink. "After the walk around the city he said, thanks for the great tour - and you did really well with the Dutch accent!" This Captain Jan Janszoon van Wijck may explain how Kruijswijk manages to make his guided tours so exciting and unforgettable for visitors. He tells stories. "My secret is a mix of entertainment and history. A guided tour only takes two hours, and I don't want to bore my visitors with too many facts and figures. You can find many details on Wikipedia", he says. "But I want to inspire with my stories, so that our guests want to come back to learn more about the city."