Historic salt route
1000 years old and 100 km long, the Salt trail connects the Hanseatic League town of Luneburg, where the saline was, to the Hanseatic League town of Lübeck, the gate to the Baltic Sea. The saline in Luneburg was the most important in northern Europe and since salt was a treasure in medieval times (also called white gold), the towns along the Salt trail got rich and wealthy.
Merchants had to pay toll in every town and again for accommodation and food, so the town and its inhabitants got wealthy with the salt traders. It took around 20 days for the carriage to get from Luneburg to Lauenburg, to cross the river Elbe and to get to Lübeck by boat – from there it was shipped to Scandinavia and the Baltic. Today you can follow this route by bike in 3 days: beautiful landscape and romantic villages, magnificent town halls and rich trade houses – silent witnesses of a long and glory history. Not to forget the culinary highlights along the road! If you don´t want to bike, you can travel by car or train.
From Luneburg to the Baltic sea
Luneburg is located on top of a salt dome and owned the exclusive right for salt trade in northern Europe for more than 1000 years. The salt was important to cure meat and fish, for example herring from the Baltic sea, to make it durable in times, when the refrigerator wasn´t invented yet. The river Ilmenau, at that time navigable, was used to ship the salt to the Baltic Sea and from there all over northern Europe, this is the reason why Luneburg still belongs to the Hanseatic League.
The historic tower crane at the Stintmarket is still a contemporary witness of the old times, today this area is covered with beer gardens and restaurants, seamed by the historic trade houses on one side and the river on the other. Actually, with 400 bars and restaurants, Luneburg ranks second when it comes to pub concentration in Europe.
The legend of the Lüneburger salt sow
According to legend, almost 1000 years ago in the lonely area between the Kalkberg Hill and the Ilmenau River, two huntsmen pursued the track of a wild pig in the forest up to a clearing, where they confronted the animal and noticed that its coat was all white. They killed the boar and, during butchering, it turned out that the white fur was caused by a crust of salt. The people searched for and found the salty wallow responsible for this. They dug deep and reached the salty groundwater fed by a mighty salt dome, which consequently was to provide Lüneburg with enormous wealth.
Luneburg for Foodies
Start your trip in Luneburg at the Stint market, the former salt harbor with the wooden tower crane, built 800 years ago to lift the heavy salt on trading boats. The area developed to the most popular pub and restaurant scene in town and in fact, it provides a wonderful atmosphere. Once and now they offer pickled Herring, combined with beer and followed by Schnaps – the daily food for the harbour worker (Hafenarbeiter-Gedeck), a culinary delight!
Follow the ancient path of the salt to Lauenburg (30 km), stop at the ship lift Scharnebeck. Once the biggest in the world, it was built to connect the river Elbe with the Mittellandkanal and is able to lift Containerships 38 m in 3 minutes. In Lauenburg the carriages with the salt had to cross the river, which was dangerous and time taking. Today best we can spend the afternoon to stroll the historic street along the canal – original trade houses seem the street, you find galleries, shops and cafes. With a little luck you get to see the historic Raddampfer Kaiser Wilhelm, which takes passengers for a boat ride.
From the historic water tower you have a beautiful view over the historic center, the lake and parts of the historic salt route. The figure of Till Eulenspiegel, a peasant folk hero, lived and died here in the 14th century, he and his funny pranks are still present in Germany, grab a story book and read one or two of his episodes!
Lübeck for Foodies
For people with a sweet tooth like me, Lübeck is Marzipan and Marzipan is Lübeck. But to reduce the Queen of the Hanseatic leage to Marzipan, would be unfair, loving Marzipan or not. The historic town inside the city wall is incredible dense and still completely intact, if you would remove the cars and electric light, it would look like a medieval setting. The heart of town is surrounded by the river Trave, which connects Lübeck with the Baltic sea and it still has the harbor ambient from the times, when the trade ships would anchor at the docks (book a boat tour to Travemünde on a sunny day) I list some must see spots, but you can also stroll the center aimless and will inescapably pass places like the town-hall with market place, the Holsten Gate or the Hüxstrasse
Untertrave: strolling along the river, you wouldn`t think you are downtown – colorful houses, cobblestone streets and peaceful atmosphere. This neighborhood is famous for the public backyards, called Gänge, built in medieval times, when the living space got short due to the prospering economy. It looks like a private entrance, but is marked with a sign and will take you through the court to the next houses backyard, every square feet is used.
Historic Salt Route by bike
We start at the Lünertorstraße close to the main station, from here you will find the white bike and Alte Salzstrasse signs all the way to Lübeck. The Elbe-Baltic waterway, built in the 14th century to transport the salt, is your steady companion on this route and the first sight-seeing point is a technical monument: the ship lift Scharnebeck.
From Lauenburg to Mölln, ca 36 km
Starting at the small harbor in Lauenburg, you bike along the canal all the way to Mölln, passing the villages of Büchen, Siebeneichen, Güster and Grambeck. Mölln is a cute small town with a famous son: the figure of Till Eulenspiegel, a peasant folk hero, who lived and died here in the 14th century.
From Mölln to Lübeck ca 45 km
Foodie map from Lüneburg to Lübeck