Kiel, the “City of fresh air”, has numerous faces. The time when it was a member in the Hanseatic League have shaped it as much as the Christian-Albrechts-Universität, the shipyards, the Kieler Woche festival, and the construction of the Kiel Canal. The location of the war harbour here also left its mark, as 80% of Kiel lay in ruins when World War II was over in 1945.
The Nikolai Church, dating from 1242, in front of which Ernst Barlachs sculpture of the “Mind Warrior” keeps guard, is located at the Old Market. Only the grave of Kiels founder, Duke Adolf IV of Schauenburg, is preserved in the vault of the former Franciscan Monastery. Meanwhile, theres a colourful assembly of offices, boutiques and shops around the former market place. A few streets down, Kiels little red-light district with its clubs, fast food stalls, and “hotels” is starting up. Like most of these areas, the “Wall” is located right near the harbour, right across the street from the Maritime Museum, which has been set up in the old fish market hall. Past the radio and TV-station NDR, you arrive at the Castle which was unfortunately completely destroyed during the war. It has since been rebuilt with a modern concert hall in a sixties style. The City Hall, the Opera, and the Ministry of Justice rise up majestically alongside the two lakes referred to as Kleinen Kiel. Offering all kinds of shopping facilities, the Holstenstraße was Germanys first pedestrian precinct and was opened in 1951. It runs from the old Market, past the Asmus-Bremer Square, up to the train station and ends at the shopping centre Sophienhof. On the way, you will pass the Ostseehalle, Kiels largest hall for concerts, events and trade fairs, located on the Europaplatz (Europe Square) which has an interesting architecture. One month before Christmas the whole shopping area turns into a giant Christmas Market. Wooden huts, decorated with strings of candle like lights, offer a various selection of arts and crafts as well as culinary delights.
The Bergstraße (English: Hill Street) offers a number of discos, pubs and clubs. Here you can party every night until 3 or 4am and afterwards enjoy Kiels best French Fries at the Aurette, an oily little food stall. The Bergstraße will lead you from the downtown area to the Dreiecksplatz (Triangle Square) where another popular shopping street, the Holtenauer Street, starts.
The Brunswik district stretches from Holtenauer Street to the castle grounds. Two old university institutes are situated right next to the castle grounds: the Zoological Institute with the Zoological Museum and the Institute of Historical Medicine – which also offers an interesting collection. Only a few steps down you will pass the Art Gallery and reach the waterside at the Kiellinie by crossing an elegantly shaped pedestrian bridge. The Old Botanical Garden with its ancient observatory and beautiful old trees is also worthy of a mention. In a beautiful half-timbered house you will find the Literature House, which encourages writers, particularly at the beginning of their careers, by organising readings and exhibitions.
Düsternbrook is one of Kiels most distinguished residential areas. And lined up alongside the water are the Landeshaus, which hosts the state government and parliament, the ministries, numerous restaurants, an international student residence, and the yacht club. The open air seaside swimming bath “Bellevue”, where you can swim in the firth of Kiel, is also located at the Hindenburgufer. In the summertime, concerts and theatre plays take place at the open-air theatre which is located at the Krusenkoppel. The hills of Düsternbrook host some of Kiels most elegant hotels as well as numerous villas. Some buildings, like the eye-clinic in the Lindenallee for example, even seem to be more like a palace than a villa. The peace and quietness of Düsternbrook is noticeable in the Diederichsenpark as well as in the Forstbaumschule and the Düsternbrooker Woods with their winding paths.
Another residential area which is very much in demand is located around the Schrevenpark. Splendid art nouveau houses with costly decorations in both the Schillerstraße and the Goethestraße look down upon the park and its lake, the Schreventeich. The residents here do not just consist of yuppies, rich heirs, and owners but also a good many students who share flats. Thats why its not surprising that during summer the meadows, on which a large variety of aquatic birds live, become a hang-out and meeting point for young people. Three times each year, the Wilhelmpatz (William Square) becomes the scene of Kiels Fair and draws the masses with high tech rides, lotteries, and snack stalls.
A lot of houses from the turn of the century have been maintained around the Südfriedhof. The middle-class buildings from the period of industrial expansion with their stucco facades in the Kirchhofallee are extremely beautiful. Since the area is rather cheap, you can find a lot of students, pubs, and spacious bistros around here.
The outstanding buildings of the Ravensberg district are the Water Tower which is over a hundred years old and built from red clinker bricks, and the “blue Christian”, the skyscraper of an administrational building belonging to the Christian-Albrechts-Universität (University). The faculty buildings, canteens and lecture halls are separated from the library, pubs, flats and copy shops by the Westring. Numerous students spend their spare time in the Cafe Taktlos or rummaging through one of the numerous bookshops of the area.
Further north, you reach the Wik. The presence of numerous young marines and fast food snack bars show that a large part of the Tirpitzhafen is still being used by the navy. The Wik is loud, genuine, and full of pubs, selling cheap beer, even though the little red-light-district which was located in the Adalbertstraße has long since gone. Around the Petrus Church and down to the waterside, a lot of the old houses are decorated with stucco flowers and small towers. The Holtenauer Street with its numerous side-streets offers a large variety of shops and restaurants.
The former farming village Holtenau is located north of the Kiel-Canal. You can take a guided tour around the Locks or have a look at the ancient packing house which now boasts a restaurant and flats right in the Kanalstraße (Canal Street). The old Emperor-Wilhelm-Lighthouse at the canals exit is also worth a closer look. Holtenau has preserved its own infrastructure and is in demand because it is a quiet residential area. Kiels small and efficient airport offers regular flights to Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich. The beaches of the seaside suburbs Friedrichsort, Schilksee and Strande can be reached within a few minutes.
The Ostufer (East Shore) has become closer to the rest of Kiel since the construction of the bascule bridge across the Hörn. As well as the people who live in Gaarden, the bridge also brings the passengers of the ferry to Oslo from the newly built Norwegenkai to the shopping centres of the west shore. Nevertheless, Gaarden continues to be a separate world from Kiel itself. Kiels biggest shipyards, the Howaldswerke, or HDW, are located here. The enormous request for shipyard workers encouraged a lot of immigrant workers, some of whom have now lived here for generations, to settle in this part of town. Thats why Turkish kebab shops, women with headscarves, playing children, and old men arguing are a common part of street life here. Housing is cheap and often needs repairing; colourful window frames, graffiti, small politically left wing pubs and creative cafes enrich the district and turn it into a little adventure.
Further up on the east shore, you reach the former fishing village Ellerbek. With the feel of an adventure playground, the Schwanenseepark (Swan Lake Park) as well as the Stadtrat-Hahn-Park are popular recreation areas. At the end of the Klausdorfer Weg, where there is a broad view over the firth, fish has been prepared and smoked at Heinrich Wieses fish factory for more than 100 years. A little shop where you can get the famous Kieler Sprotten (specially smoked sprats from the firth of Kiel) is situated right next to the old factory with its high chimney.
To each visitor, Kiel’s great variety will be able to offer what they are looking for ‘ whether it be a beautiful beach, an interesting visit to the theatre or a concert, a relaxed shopping tour through the old part of town, a little feast at one of the restaurants or simply a bit of fresh sea air.
History of Kiel
If you come to Kiel as a visitor, you may not see right away that the city is indeed very old despite its modern face. Count Adolf IV of Schauenburg wanted to stabilise his estate in Holstein and therefore founded the towns of Oldenburg (1233), Plön (1236), Itzehohe (1238), Oldeslohe (1238), Kiel (1242) and Neustadt (1244).
He chose a barely populated sandy island on the south-western shore of the firth to build the city of Kiel, as the natural inlet of the firth was an ideal place for a deep harbour. The Nicolai Church was erected on the market square, from which the streets branched off at right angles. A city wall with three gates and a castle at the northern end of the island ensured the citys protection. Another building which is as old as the town itself is the Franciscan Monastery by the Old Market, where Count Adolf lived as a monk from 1246 onwards. In 1242 Kiel was granted city status and proof of this was given to the town by Adolfs eldest son, Count Johann I . In this document the city was at first called “Holstencity” but the name was not really accepted and was called “Kil” in everyday language, due to its wedge-shaped (German: keilförmig) firth.
In 1284 Kiel joined the Hanseatic League, which was not only a trade but also a defence alliance at the time. Apart from Lübeck and Hamburg, Wismar, Rostock, Stralsund, Greifswald, Demmin, Anklam and Stettin were also members of this pact. During its time as a member of the Hanseatic League Kiel developed its own jurisdiction system (1318), coinage laws (1318), and its first schools (starting from 1320). The portion of silver in the coins and the compensation of war losses, as well as losses of goods through storms and wreckage of ships were common issues discussed by the Hanseatic cities. Kiel left the Hanseatic League during the 16th century, but the date is uncertain and the reason unclear.
Since banks had not yet been established in the Middle Ages, money transactions were handled by the so-called Kieler Umschlag (trade forum) which was first mentioned in 1482. The Kieler Umschlag was a regular meeting place for the aristocracy to hold weddings and handle business. While the meeting was being held, a flag was hoisted up the tower of the Nicolai Church and this guaranteed freedom of trade, peaceful trading and safe conduct for everyone. The handling lost its importance when the first banks were founded (Ahlmann started in 1852) and stopped taking place in 1900. However, since 1975, the Kieler Umschlag has been celebrated once again, but it is now a festival with music and food stalls, historical costumes, special bread and a wedding, the Umschlagshochzeit, for which every young bride and groom can apply.
To meet the rising demands for academics, Duke Christian Albrecht signed the corporate charter for the university on September 29th1665. Back then 16 professors taught 140 students in four separate faculties: theology, law, medicine, and philosophy. The old Franciscan Monastery was the first university building and further buildings were gradually added.
Johann Daniel Major, a professor for medicine at the time, founded the worlds first museum, which was open to the public, by starting a collection about theoretical medicine. The Christian-Albrechts-University was almost completely destroyed during World War II. In 1945 the lectures were picked up on a ship and continued in a dismantled factory on the edge of town after 1946. The new university buildings, including faculties, lecture halls, a canteen, a new botanical garden, a university church and a nursery were all gradually built around this factory. Today Kiels university numbers over 20,000 students.
From its foundation until the 18th century, Kiel was part of the duchy of Holstein which was allied with numerous small German states. The area down to Hamburgs boundaries was incorporated by Denmark in 1773 through an exchange of territory. During the Danish era, a lot was done for the infrastructure; country roads to Rendsburg and Flensburg were built as well as railroads to Altona (Hamburg, in 1844) and Neustadt (1846) and a connection by steamship was established to Copenhagen (1819). As the first connection between North Sea and Baltic Sea, the Schleswig-Holstein-Canal was built from 1777 to 1784, making use of the waterways provided by the Levensau and Eider rivers. After the war between Denmark and Germany, Kiel was put under the administration of Prussia and Austria and became part of the Prussian Kingdom.
The fact that the shipyard Schweffel & Howald (still operating as HDW) was already producing steamships was one of the reasons why Kiel was chosen to be the main war harbour during the time of the German Empire. The Emperor-Wilhelm-Canal (Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal) was also built during this time and opened in 1895. Apart from that Kiel got an electric tram and a railroad to Berlin.
In 1918 the revolution of Germany started off as a sailors rebellion in Kiel and spread throughout the German Reich leading to the resignation of the Emperor. In Berlin on 9th of November 1918, Philipp Scheidemann finally proclaimed a republic.
After World War II, Kiel became state capital of Schleswig-Holstein. The population grew rapidly, which was partially due to the settlement of the imperial navy. From 1850 to 1914 the former population of 16,000 rose steeply to 225,000. The navy stimulated the shipbuilding industry and its ancillaries, both of which constantly needed more and more workers. Kiel was pointing the way to the future for the shipbuilding industry: the submarine (1850), the gyrocompass (1904) and the sonar (1913) were invented here. Building activity around this time almost descended into complete chaos. Not only were more flats needed, but also functional buildings such as the city hall, train station and opera had to suit the requirements of a big city. The majority of the remaining medieval houses were pulled down and Kiel became a city in the style of the industrial expansion.
The bombs of World War II destroyed 80% of the city. For this reason the townscape is now determined by buildings from the fifties, sixties and seventies, and contemporary architecture as well as the harbours large ships and cranes.
Ever since 1882 annual sailing regattas have been held on the firth and in the bay of Kiel, and have had an international feel right from the start. They still take place today as an annual festival, the Kieler Woche. The event was founded and organised by the Marine-Regatta-Verein (naval regatta association) in Kiel and later by the emperors yacht club (KYC). The emperor himself regularly participated with his yacht “Meteor”.
The sailing district became internationally well known because of the Kieler Woche, and the sailing Olympics took place twice in Kiel – in 1936 and 1972. That makes Kiel the only German city in which the Olympic fire has burned more than once. Today the Kieler Woche is more than just a sailing event – it is an international festival that takes over the whole town, presenting sporting and musical highlights as well as an international food market, concerts and games.
At the moment the Ostufer, the east side of the firth, is under reconstruction. The main emphasis is not on shipping anymore though; a multimedia area is being built and some firms from the computer industry are settling into the prime areas around the firth.
Some of Kiel’s famous residents include the Russian Tsar Peter III, who was born in Kiel Castle February 1728 and died in the Russian Peterscastle, as well as Max Planck, who was born in Kiels Kütherstraße on 23rd April 1858 and died in Göttingen on 4th October 1947. Max Planck was a physicist, who discovered quantum energy and won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1918.