Encircled by lakes and with a fairytale Schloss that goes straight to the head, SCHWERIN punches far above its weight. Although the names of Puschkinstrasse and Karl-Marx-Strasse give away the past, communism was a hiccup in its history – its centre at least is spared the concrete vandalism of Eastern Bloc architecture – and, crowned as capital of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in 1990, Schwerin is settling into its time-honoured role as the state’s cultural dynamo. After Saxony’s Henry the Lion swatted aside an early Slavic settlement on its islet in 1160, the dukes of Mecklenburg took up residence in the fourteenth century, then moved in and out of the royal seat for nearly five centuries. None was more illustrious than the nineteenth. After its elevation to the duchy residence over Ludwigslust in 1837, Schwerin blossomed into a cultural heavyweight with a vigorous arts scene and showpiece architecture, not least that impressive Schloss. Its legacy remains today as a pocket-sized city with the airs and architecture of a historic capital yet none of the urban grit.