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Worth its Salt

semi-overcast 8 °C

Today was Lueneburg day! [edit: that was Monday, today is now Thursday]

The day dawned bright and fair. No, just kidding, it was raining when I woke up and I checked the weather forecast: rain. Oops haha. Was partially afraid the others would be too lazy to go but in the end everyone who said they'd come came.

Met at HBF, took the 1100 ME to Lueneburg Station. Only half an hour! Yay.

Lueneburg became a major city because of its salt mining industry. It sits atop a huge salt deposit deep underground. This particular deposit has a surface of about 1sqkm, centered around the Kalkberg (Limestone hill). The deposit begins 40m into the ground and continues for at least another 4km. In fact, salt deposits can be found all over the world, but with one of the highest concentrations in Germany. They form in sea basins, in which seawater can flow in but only some can flow out through a narrow channel. Over time, the water in the basin gets more saline due to evaporation (and constant saltwater inflow). A deposit of different layers forms, with different levels of solubility:
1. Limestone (not very soluble)
2. Gypsum/anhydrite
3. Rock salt
4. Potassium nitrate (very soluble)
Tectonic movement leads to the uprising of a small hill and the sea basin becomes completely separated from the sea. It dries out, sediment is deposited, and a subterranean salt dome has built up. In Lueneburg's case, it's the Kalkberg.

Salt deposits in Europe

Different kinds of anhydrite

Lueneburg had already been inhabited since before the 900s, and saltwork had also already commenced. However, it was only until 1189 that the city was given town privileges, and in 1158 became part of the Hanseatic League (a northern German trade group; a powerful economic and defensive alliance). Lueneburg monopolised the lucrative salt production industry for many years. At that time salt was primarily used to pickle herring from the Baltic sea for Germany and the Scandinavian countries. Lueneburg became one of the most important cities in the region.

salt trade

The downfall of Lueneburg can be attributed to a few events. The Hanseatic League ended sometime in the 17th century, and there was an absence of herring around 1560. Finally, refined salt was invented, a much cheaper alternative, which worked by drying seawater. As a result, Lueneburg lost much of its wealth and business and slowly spiraled into mediocrity.

The city center has remained largely the same since then, because hardly any new houses were built there from then onwards. This is a vast difference from much of Germany, partly because it did not suffer any damage during the wars, or from other disasters like the Great Fire in Hamburg. Lueneburg has been slowly restored since the 1970s, while the salt mine officially closed in 1980. Today, Lueneburg has a population of over 70,000 (not bad) and has a university and an industrial estate, not to mention quite a good tourism industry.

Seems like typical Lueneburg architecture has a lot of red brick, with black or green patterns

Lueneburg can be remembered as the place the Reichfuehrer SS Heinrich Himmler committed suicide in before he could be interrogated in 1945. Furthermore, it was also where the esteemed J. S. Bach grew up.

[admission: much of this was taken off wikitravel, which I used to research for Lueneburg before I left. It was a really really interesting read.]

Summary of Events
I'd planned out a rough walking tour of the city, hitting places of major interest. I was like the tour guide, haha, leading everyone around and giving brief descriptions of each place.

1. St Johanniskirche
2. Am Sande (the main square)
3. The Rathaus am Sande (with porcelain bells!)
4. Marktplatz (the market place square)
5. Old fishmarket (am Stintmarkt, but was nowhere to be seen)
6. Alter Kran (old black crane at the historical harbour)
7. Hospital zum Roten Hahn
8. German Salt Museum

Most of these places was just a quick explanation and photo then continue walking. Just my style.

Lunch was after the Rathaus, 6.90 for buffet haha. Ate 2 full plates plus dessert to attempt to make it worth it. Felt like splurging a little after so much home cooked food!


No one else wanted to pay 4 eur for the Salt Museum (the guys just kept complaining that the Brewery Museum was closed on Mondays) so I went in myself, excited to learn more about the industry that put Lueneburg on the map. I was given a folder of English text to read; basically English translations of all the German text up on the walls. The museum was interesting enough. It went over some basic scientific and geological principles of salt, explained the significance of salt in human history and culture, and also the history and process of salt mining in Lueneburg. Lots of maps nd infographs everywhere, and later lots of scary mannequins haha.


Shall not bore you with too much of the details, so here's just one cool thing: at some point in time, the owner of the salt mine decided to mechanise the process of bringing up brine from the well. He made a hydraulic water wheel at the Elbe, then converted the round-and-round motion at the river into a back-and-forth motion system that spanned like 2km or something. Basically very far, considering that everything was still made out of wood and was pretty crude. Many people at the well itself lost their jobs, but men were now required to work day and night making sure the wooden system was always working. It was highly prone to failure (sick 8 days, working 1 day) and made a huge racket that could be heard quite a distance away. This story has no point to it, I just thought it was interesting to see the beginning of the mechanical age.

Literally, Lueneburg is the salt in the soup, but as a phrase it means that Lueneburg is that extra something, the oomph haha.

I was done, and realised that the rest had gone shopping! So I told them I’d meet them at the Kalkberg (hurrah to data), and proceeded to wander around the Sendungsbiet (literally sunken region), which is an area that has sunk pretty badly over the years primarily due to the salt mining. Lots of buildings are clearly bulging or not straight. I went over to St Michaelis, the church of young Johann Bach, and attempted to get in but I didn't really see any open doors into the church lol. No matter, I'm not like his hugest fan. And at that time it had begun to rain (again) so I put up the hood of my (lovely lovely) goretex jacket. The wind was crazy strong and freezing, I could hear it rushing overhead, and the grass was rippling rather violently. Kind of funny because the wind pushed me towards the gate and out of the church, like it didn't want me hanging around! But as soon as it started, it was over, as temperamental as it had been the whole day.

St Michaelis

This time I went up to Kalkberg, which was a wonderful green area probably frequented by joggers on better days. Went up a few paths I knew wouldn't lead me to the top because it looked pretty with the sun shining on it, but eventually climbed up the full 20m (est) to the top. Not very high, but still afforded a pleasant view of the town. About 10 minutes later, the 4 of them arrived and we began the customary phototaking session.

Green sign says 'vorsicht einsturzgefahr' (danger of collapse), I be like, is that climbable?

Back down to the town, went to the chocolate museum (it wasn't a museum, it was just a shop) where Y and I bought chocolates! By that time it was about 6 plus and it had begun to be really cold. Made a 1min side track to the Wasserturm (water tower) en route to the bahnhof, but it was closed already so we couldn't go up.


On the train back, I saw interesting cloud formations from the window. Vertically striped clouds?? Took a photo over the random guy sitting on the window seat lol and then when looking at the photo realised there was a rainbow! (For some reason it's not turning up very well in this photo)


T and I got off at Harburg and bought some groceries at Lidl. It was 8pm and really freezing then, 6 degrees with unrelenting wind. I was glad to get back to my room. Marinated my chicken and stuffed it into the freezer, baked my salmon and potato. While baking, I ate cold leftover mashed potato (it was in a plastic cup and I couldn't be bothered to transfer it to something microwaveable) and cleaned the kitchen and my room.


People are moving in tomorrow! The apartment will be full. So I wanted to arrange everything in a safe and orderly fashion. Tomorrow maybe I will see about getting people to share the cost of the kitchen equipment. Hurrah to people in the house!

I also met K, a Thai guy living opposite. I thought he was Korean lol. He was nice enough to get my rubbish bin from my landlord, keep it for me, and put a post it on my apartment door telling me about it. (I didn't know we got rubbish bins. K only found out because another guy asked the landlord about it) He was in ACSI, then ACJC, did 2 weeks of double degree Chem Eng/Biz in NUS then dropped out to study in Hamburg. So he's been here for quite a while. Same year as my bro in ACSI, but hadn't heard of him. Sounds like a long conversation but really it was only 5 min and the entire conversation has been transcripted haha.

Alright! I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow (Tuesday, this will probably be posted on Tuesday in school so that's today I guess haha) so I'm going to sleep!

Posted by seaskimmer 04:12 Archived in Germany Tagged germany daytrip lueneburg

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