Nowadays Wismar is only too happy to point out evidence of its annexation by Swedish forces from 1648. Most prominent are the colourful “Swedish heads” scattered at strategic locations throughout the town. With their fabulous handlebar moustaches, rakish cravats and lion’s-head caps worn over flowing black curls they present a dashing image in front of Alter Schwede on the Markt and the Baumhaus at the end of the harbour.

Whether they are actually Swedish is another matter. An original in Schabbelhaus is one of a pair that was mounted at the harbour entrance for a century until they were rammed by a Finnish ship taking evasive manoeuvres in 1902. At the time they were known as the “Old Swedes”. But because documents mention “The Swede” harbour boundary from as early as 1672 their origins remain a mystery. Historians date them to approximately 1700, the time of the Swedish occupation of Wismar, and suggest they are a Baroque depiction of Hercules. The most plausible theory suggests they were mounted on a Swedish merchant ship, possibly glaring from the stern or mounted before the captain’s quarters. However, another suggestion moots that their name derives from their “Schwedenköpf” (literally Sweden head) haircut, short for its time and a powder-free style as a sign of modernity and enlightenment.

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