Few small towns in North Germany are so improbably picturesque as LÜNEBURG. Almost anywhere you go in the Altstadt will be a small-town streetscape of film-set looks. Yet despite the richness of its architecture, the small town is founded on the prosaic. Local salt mines were already being worked by the monks of St Michaelis here in 956 AD, and when Lüneburg’s citizens wrested independence from the Guelphic princes in 1371 and signed up to the mercantile Hanseatic League, exports of its “white gold” via Lübeck catapulted the town into the highest echelons of affluence. In its Renaissance golden era, Lüneburg was Europe’s largest salt producer, only to shrink suddenly into obscurity as its Hanseatic market waned. Salt production ceased in 1980. The flip-side of stagnation is preservation, however. Without funds for building, Lüneburg has had to make do with an Altstadt full of Hanseatic step-gables and brickwork like twisted rope. Indeed, salt continues to shape the town – subsidence of underground deposits causes the Altstadt to lean at decidedly woozy angles. Lüneburg’s Altstadt is ordered around two squares: Am Markt, the civic heartland above its historic port, the Wasserviertel; and elongated Am Sande at its southern end.
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