High up above the sea

Old lighthouse in Travemünde

A genuine emblem on the Baltic Sea

Two superlatives in Travemünde! The resort has the oldest lighthouse in Germany and the highest light beacon in Europe. However, it’s not in the old lighthouse but at a height of 115 metres on the roof of the Strandhotel Maritim. Since 1974, this beacon has replaced the light in the historical lighthouse as it was hidden by the construction of the hotel on Strandpromenade in 1972. After almost 450 years of tireless service, it was decommissioned as a navigational aid but of course it has retained its significance as an emblem of Travemünde. Today, the tower is a popular destination as a technical, cultural monument and maritime museum which you can visit in the season.

Lighthouses are endlessly suggestive signifiers of both human isolation and our ultimate connectedness to each other.

Virginia Woolfe

Modern technology replaces the lighthouse-keeper

Leuchtmittel des Alten Leuchtturms
© K. E. Voegele

If you look up at the roof of the Strandhotel Maritim after dark, you will see a white and red signal flashing every four seconds which can be seen at a distance of up to 20 sea miles – around 37 kilometres – in Lübeck Bay. Ship captains on their way to Travemünde take their bearings from these signals. The beacon uses the latest technology and is controlled by a computer with no need for a lighthouse-keeper. The beacon is switched on one hour before sunset and switched off again one hour after sunrise.

Maritime museum at a lofty height

On its eight floors, the historical lighthouse is home to a maritime museum on the history of lighthouse technology. 142 steps will take you up to lofty heights. From the 30 metre viewing gallery, you have a unique view of Scandinavia Quay, Travemünde’s Old Town, the newly completed Beach Bay Travemünde around the Passat and over Lübeck Bay all the way to Grömitz and the coast of Mecklenburg. Enjoy the view!

Chronicle of the Travemünde lighthouse

As far back as 1316, there are mentions of a light beacon keeper in the files of the Council for the Hanseatic city of Lübeck.When the first version of the tower was built here is not conclusively documented in the records.

A lighthouse (lucerna) in Travemünde is first mentioned in a document in 1330.

In 1534, Danish troops destroy Travemünde’s lighthouse in the wake of the so-called Count’s Feud. It burns down almost to the foundations.

Today’s lighthouse is built in 1539 by Dutch masons.The lighthouse was probably an open fire initially. Later, hempseed oil lamps are used as a signal in front of gilded mirrors.

The dome of the tower catches fire after a lightning strike and has to be renovated.As a result of the accident, the tower is rebuilt in the classic style with striking red bricks.

The petroleum lamps hitherto used with a circular, hollow wick and double draft inside a glass cylinder are replaced by electric arc lights.

Travemünde’s lighthouse is registered as a technical, cultural monument and thus enjoys state protection as an industrial monument.

Electric light bulbs shine out for the first time and a parabolic, cylindrical mirror is used to focus the light.This technical set-up is still in place today and could be used.

The beacon on the old lighthouse is extinguished.Until construction work on the Maritim Hotel is completed, a replacement beacon is commissioned on the radar mast at Travemünde’s pilot station. The lighthouse is thus retired as a navigational aid.

The new beacon is lit on the Maritim high-rise at a height of 114.7 metres and it is still in operation to this day. It is therefore one of the highest beacons in Europe.

Around 12,000 stones are replaced as part of a comprehensive refurbishment of the structure. The roughly 600 sqm outer surface is completely repointed and the interior of the tower also replastered.

Travemünde’s old lighthouse has been used as a maritime museum for lighthouse technology since 2004. Pictures of lighthouses and fire ships as well as marine lanterns and beacons are exhibited on the walls of the staircase and on the eight floors. A narrow balustrade on the top floor runs round the tower affording a grandiose panoramic view.

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