The pull of history is ever present in central Bad Doberan. Leafy and light-hearted, it blossomed into a spa resort in the early 1800s under the guidance of the Mecklenburg dukes, who spent their summers here. Pale Neoclassical edifices from the resort’s formative years line August-Bebel-Strasse; now council offices and a good hotel, they are worth a look for their foyers. Spa-goers took the air in the park opposite, Kamp, when not taking the waters in two Chinese-style pavilions that add an unexpectedly rakish air. The smaller Roter Pavilion holds a gallery, the Weisser Pavilion a café. By 1886, spa-goers were all aboard the Molli steam engine to add sea bathing to their water cures. The Mecklenburgische Bäderbahn Molli (see Heiligendamm), to give the splendid narrow-gauge train its full name, chuffs hourly through high-street Mollistrasse – one for the photo album.
No question that the Münster is the premier reason to visit BAD DOBERAN, not just a thirteenth-century Cistercian church but perhaps the crowning achievement of ecclesiastical Gothic architecture in the Baltic. Completed in 1362, in a fusion of Hanseatic and French high-Gothic styles, the abbey church is poised at the brief point where architectural form is stretched to its limits but unencumbered by the embellishments that follow. Nowhere is this clearer than at the crossing, whose two tiers of slender arches are arguably the most graceful feature of the church. Having come through the Reformation without a scratch, the furnishings are just as impressive – a leaflet provided on entry pinpoints 22 artworks, including what is claimed as the oldest existing wing altar (1300), crowned by flamboyant Gothic spires, and an audacious tabernacle. Also within the grounds are a curious octagonal ossuary known as the Beinhaus (bone house) and a complex of agricultural buildings, one of which contains a café.