I’ve been at the 24th meeting of the German Radio Jazz Research group, a regular meeting point for people active in the German jazz community. At the seminar, eight good papers in German on the theme of Jazz and Identity were given (more about that later.) For me it was a first visit to Lübeck. I was bowled over by the place, we were guests of the city, so here is a VERY subjective Top Ten:
1) MARZIPAN. The first thing most people know about Lübeck is that is the base of the Niedereregger Marzipan company. At a gathering like RJR you expect people to have an insider tip. Those in the know were recommending Mest as well/ instead.
2) HANSESTADT. It is town of 211,000 inhabitants, the second-largest in Schleswig-Holstein. But the Hanseatic City of Lübeck has always punched above its weight, with periods in its past of being free and autonomously governed. The other Hanseatic ports such as Bremen and Hamburg are German federal states (Bundesländer) in their own right.
3) THOMAS MANN. The great German Mann of letters (1875-1955) and his brother Heinrich grew up there, and the classic novel Buddenbrooks is based in the town. Thomas Mann moved south to Munich as a student in 1891, and stayed there, but right in the centre of Lübeck has a Buddenbrook House (above), which is a literary museum.
4) ERNEST KARL FRAHM (1913-1992) . A politician who was born with that name grew up in Lübeck. He was rather better known in politics as Willy Brandt
5) GÜNTER GRASS. Another significant German man of letters moved to Lübeck and stayed there. He and Brandt were close and their voluminous correspondence was published last year. One to build the biceps with: there are 1230 pages of it
6) AN ISLAND WITH TWELVE BRIDGES. The preserved town centre is entirely surrounded by water, branches of the river Trave since you asked. I put on some jogging clothes and went rather slowly around the edge of it keeping the Marienkirche on my left and the water on my right. Satnav/map not required, you can’t get lost, count to twelve bridges and you’re back where you started.
7) TWIN SPIRES x 2. You can take your choice. The tourist literature bigs up the symbolism of the Holstentor / Holsten Gate. “Beside the Brandenburg Gate, Cologne Cathedral and the Church of Our Lady in Munich, the Holsten Gate in Lübeck is the most famous German building in the world.” I have the tall twin spires of the Marienkirche somehow more in mind, not least because they inspired (boom tish) between seventy and a hunded other cities in the Baltic region to build copies. It was also the church where seventeenth-century composer and organist Dietrich Buxtehude worked for at least 35 years.
8) KULTURGUT. Annette Borns, who is Lübeck city council’s senator for culture, made the case for how strong the cultural offering – museums, theatres etc – is, but also how deep culture sits in the mentality of city-dwellers surrounded by such a richness of historical buildings in every side street, and heritage. Lübeck has been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1987.
9) ACCESSIBILITY. Ryanair used to run flights direct to Lübeck but no longer. It doesn’t matter, conections are easy. From Hamburg airport it’s a quick S-Bahn and train ride, about an hour and a quarter top whack. And yes the trains really do run on time.
10) JAZZ FESTIVAL. For the first time in its illustrious history, Lübeck is about to get a jazz festival. Trave Jazz will run from from September 4th to 7th (www.travejazz.de) It is centred around six venues including the LiveCV club at the CVJM (in English YMCA) which hosted our gathering, a friendly little club which has hosted jazz for 15 years. This festival looks like a first careful testing of the water, without real star names. On the bill are highly regarded German trumpeter Nils Wülker (ECHO Prize winner 2013) and Polish violin legend Michael Urbaniak (see Rob Edgar’s report of a recent visit to London).