Approaching Heiligendamm from the sea, one sees the classical villas – the old lodging-houses – strung out like white pearls along the front. Their names are evocative: Schwan, Hirsch, Bischofsstab and many others.
An eventful history
Heiligendamm's history begins in the late 18th century, when, prompted by his personal physician, Professor Vogel of Rostock, Grand Duke Friedrich Franz I of Mecklenburg allowed the development of Germany's first sea-bathing establishment near his summer residence of Doberan. The professor wanted to exploit the "indubitably established health-giving effects of sea-bathing in very many weaknesses and diseases of the body." This would now be possible at Heiligendamm.
Between 1800 and 1870 there thus developed a unique and impressive ensemble of lodging-houses, bathing establishments and assembly rooms – the "White Town by the Sea" – a resort without compare, abounding in beauty. Inscribed on the pediment of the Kurhaus built by the architect Severin in 1814–1816, "HEIC TE LAETITIA INVITAT POST BALNEA SANUM" ("Here happiness awaits you as you emerge healthy after bathing") became the motto for life in this elegant retreat.
Heiligendamm changed hands, but until shortly before the end of the Second World War it remained an exclusive resort. In 1948 sea-cures once again became available, and from 1957 to 1990 it was used as a sanatorium for the health service.
A new beginning after reunification
Photo: Thomas Grundner HeiligendammEven today the waters of the Baltic and the fresh sea air offer optimal conditions the re-establishment of health. Most of the historic buildings have been bought by an investor whose ambition is to return Germany's first seaside resort to its old glory. First the most important of the characteristic classical buildings were renovated, and in May 2003 the Kempinski Grand Hotel opened its doors.
The facilities offered by this award-winning hotel are enough to satisfy the most demanding of clients. With its gourmet dining and first-rate wellness facilities it has gained a reputation as one of the world's top holiday hotels.
Plans for further development of the resort include a thalassotherapy centre, a conference centre and a golf course, and bed capacity is also to be expanded. By the end of 2007, the infrastructure will also have been upgraded to match the standard of the rest of the resort, the necessary planning groundwork having been agreed by the town of Bad Doberan.
The most charming and original way of arriving in Heiligendamm is by the "Molli" steam railway. Puffing and clattering, the little train runs every day, even in winter, connecting Heiligendamm to Bad Doberan and Kühlungsborn. Many passengers stop off for a bite to eat in the station's historic "Grand-Ducal Waiting Room" or use the train's dining car.
On special occasions the "Molli" also stops at the Ostseerennbahn, the oldest racecourse on the European mainland, which lies about half-way between Heiligendamm and Bad Doberan. Re-established in 1993, the annual races are a high point of the summer season.
Also worth a visit are the little Waldkirchen – the "churches in the woods" – built in around 1900, where there are services and concerts.
Tourist information and room reservations
Severinstr. 6, 18208 Bad Doberan/Heiligendamm
Tel.: 038-203-62154, Fax: 77050