Admittedly, Germany‘s orderly architecture with its brick foundations dotting the landscape of uniformity doesn’t interest me very much. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for the Germans – who doesn’t like clean streets or houses that last from one World War to the next – but efficiency can be rather cold. So, when I came across a building in Lubeck that’s lopsided – and intentionally at that – it grabbed me immediately.
Back when cities had gates to keep thieves and conquerors out, the wealthy state of Lubeck (tied to the Hanseatic League at the time) put up several gates and fortifications around the city. There was actually a complex of 4 Holsten Gates, each demolished over the 1800s to make space for development. And because they kept sinking into the marshes they were built upon.
What you see above is actually the Middle Holsten Gate, the only remaining one that was saved by a single community vote in 1863. That vote sealed the fate of the Holstentor, which was half a meter in the ground already until it’s restoration 8 years later. Of course, it’s not the design of the Holstentor that’s the problem but it’s position along the Trave River. Although an excellent defensive position along the water’s edge, a high water table means the land is often saturated, making it too soft to plunk several tons of Holsten Gate on.
So, again, in 1934 the Nazis came to Lubeck, restoring the Holstentor “once and for all,” and converted it into a museum. A rather odd gesture, considering that Adolf Hitler hated the city for not letting him campaign there 2 years earlier. (Ironically, the Holstentor was the last public building to adorn a swastika until it was stolen in 2005.) The Nazis, being the type to exaggerate and
bend make up history didn’t do the best job on the Holstentor however, lasting only 15 years before needing another touch up.
Fast forward to 2006, the last time the Holstentor was restored to prevent it from collapsing. (The Germans should really start a Holstentor-Didn’t-Crumble-This-Year celebration or have Holsten-Nicht-Kaput-Fest.) It’s still crooked as you can see and how long it will last this time is anyone’s guess. Over the last 150 years the Holstentor has come to represent of the City of Lubeck – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – ensuring its residents will continue to support their slumping symbol with pride.
The Holstentor (aka. Holsten Gate) museum is open most days of the week and costs about 5 Euros to enter.