In 1187 the Schauenburg Count Adolf III of Holstein had a defensive tower built as a bastion against the Slaves and “Norman Pirates” as the Vikings were sometimes referred to in those days. This step represents the founding of Travemuende albeit that according to earlier records Adolf II had already commissioned the construction of defensive works on this spot to check the advance of Slavic tribes. The destruction of this bulwark in 1181 and the subsequent founding of a new village in 1187 are also mentioned in the records of that time.
Travemuende was originally founded as a small village at the mouth of the river Trave and for centuries survived from fishing and shipping.
A good deal for Luebeck`s merchants
The citizens of Luebeck further upriver were concerned as to the potential blockage of the mouth of the river Trave by count Adolf and after lengthy negotiations succeeded in purchasing the defensive tower at Travemuende in 1320 for the sum of 6,000 Luebsche Mark, followed by the acquisition of the whole village for a further 1060 Marks in 1329. Strategically this was a sound decision as through the ownership and control of Travemuende safe access to the harbour of Luebeck was assured.
Fishing and shipping have traditionally been the main sources of income for Travemuende. Initiated by the wealthy merchants of Luebeck in search of building sites for their summer residences it was considered toward the end of the 18th century to convert the sleepy village into a seaside resort (Seebad). Therefore since 1802 Travemuende could officially refer to itself as such besides such established places as Heiligendamm and Norderney.
Rush on the fashionable Seaside Resort
At around 1824 the first wave of visitors arrived by sea. Regular shipping lines connecting Travemuende with Copenhagen, Riga and St Petersburg were established. Especially the direct access to the Tsarist Empire was important as it brought wealthy Russians to Travemuende, which accelerated the growth of the sleepy village.
The main point for visitors in 1803 was already a “Kurhaus” (Sanatorium) replaced in 1912 with the current structure (again totally renovated and refurbished in 2005). Guests could take a bath for 6 Marks, assured by strict regulations and the presence of a tough supervisor that the water was always clean. Word about the magnificent facilities spread quickly and Travemuende became the meeting place for the rich and famous of the time, further attracted by the gambling casino established in 1833 with proceeds going to the poor and needy. This notwithstanding, the casino often became the focal point for controversy, culminating in the decision to close the place by government decree in 1872. The casino only opened as recently as 1949 to cater for the needs of those who get a kick out of roulette, baccarat and black jack.
Travemuende has always attracted prominent people of their time, such as Joseph von Eichendorff, Iwan Turgenjew and Richard Wagner. Emanuel Geibel wrote poetry about the place and Clara Wieck wrote in glowing colours to her future husband Robert Schumann about a sailing trip of the Travemuende shore. The best description as to how high society spent their summer vacations can be found in Thomas Mann’s famous novel “The Buddenbrooks”. It has also been reported that Franz Kafka caused quite some mayhem in 1914 when he walked barefoot along Travemuende beach