SCHLESWIG should be one of the region’s premier tourist destinations. That it is not is one more reason to make the journey. One of the most distinctive small towns in North Germany, it dozes peacefully on the banks of the broad Schlei fjord as a provincial backwater of around 25,000 people. Yet until the tenth century, Haithabu on the south bank of the Schlei was a hub of the Viking world. Founded in 800 AD, the “colony of the west” flourished at the crossroads of trade routes to North Atlantic and Baltic settlements, populated by a cosmopolitan cross-section of Europe and serving as a base for Christian missionaries to Scandinavia. Indeed, it is only due to its destruction in 1066 that Schleswig emerged opposite, roots that the town celebrates with rollicking Wikingertage (Viking Days; wikingertage.de) at the end of July/early August on odd-numbered years. With a bit of poetic licence there remains something of the Scandinavian about the manicured Altstadt where red-brick fishermen’s houses exude village charm. That its holy trinity of must-see sights – cathedral, palace and the Viking past – is spread over a wide area only serves to underline that Schleswig is a town best savoured at leisure. Take your time and make a day of it – ideally two.
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