Recently, a furniture store opened in Kiel. It’s not hard to guess that it was Höffner. I found the flyer really interesting. Not because of the items on offer, but because it contained landmarks of Kiel: A ferryboat, which presumably represented the Colorline, the telecommunications tower and the town hall. Are these really Kiel’s landmarks, I asked myself. What actually are landmarks? Well, landmarks of a city are the features or distinctive signs by which it is characterised. But what is characteristic of Kiel? I systematically approached this question:
First of all, one can start from the name. Kiel was originally called Holstenstadt Tom Keil, which means city on the fjord. This means that the Kiel Fjord and everything to do with it is characteristic of Kiel.
The usual suspects are the town hall and the church, which give character to pretty much every city. In addition, outstanding buildings quickly become landmarks. Outstanding, mainly in height, but also in age, shape or uniqueness.
Long reflection led me to the following top 10 list of Kiel landmarks:
Kiel Canal (NOK):
The NOK is a 98 km long shipping link between Brunsbüttel and Kiel and the busiest man-made waterway in the world. Of course, the more important end is in Kiel, as internationally the NOK is known as the Kiel Canel. It was completed in 1895 and the NOK is truly an outstanding unique feature of Kiel.
The NOK is one of the mirror-like canals. The lock gates are only intended to equalise water levels caused by wind and tides. It is often in the headlines because ships like to ram the lock gates and damage them in the process.
On a small hill made of excavated material from the NOK, the 20 m high lighthouse was put into operation in 1895. The brick building is a cultural monument of Kiel. The foundation stone with the founding charter of the NOK is located in the foundation. The lighthouse houses the Three Emperors Hall, which commemorates the three German emperors who held office during the construction of the canal. The construction of the canal did not last that long; in 1888 there was the Three Emperors’ Year.
Hörn / Hörnbridge:
The Hörn is the southern end of the Kiel Fjord. For the city on the fjord, it is the landmark par excellence. Originally, the end of the fjord extended several metres further inland, but was filled in with overburden. This gave the Hörn its present rectangular end. The Hörn is spanned by a three-span bascule drawbridge whose completion (1997) was delayed several times, so that it was popularly called the Klappt-Nix-Brücke. It offers a beautiful view of Kiel’s skyline and the harbour.
Small Kiel Canal:
The Small Kiel Canal was completed in 2020 and is actually too young to be a landmark. But Kiel’s old town used to be almost completely surrounded by the water of the fjord. Until 1846, the Kleine Kiel formed a continuous side arm of the Kiel Fjord with today’s Kiel Boat Harbour. This connection was largely filled in. The Kleine Kiel Canal now once again connects the boat harbour and the Kleine Kiel and visually brings the city centre back to the water.
Portal Cranes (German-Navel Yard):
The reference to the fjord is trivial. With a height of 110 m and a width of 163 m, the big crane is truly an imposing, eye-catching structure. Even in distant parts of the city, such as in Elmschenhagen near the Aldi supermarket, or in Rönne, you can see the big crane. Just a few years ago it bore the inscription HDW. Due to a takeover by a new company, the name had to be changed.
Ferries (Colorline / Stena):
The Gorch Fock’s home port is Kiel. However, you rarely see her sailing on the fjord. Ferries of Colorline or the Stena shipping company call at Kiel daily and set standards.
The Color Magic and Fantasy are the world’s largest car ferries. They rise more than 50 m out of the water and are a sought-after photo motif due to their size.
As already mentioned, the town hall and church give pretty much every city its character. The old town hall on Rathausplatz is an outstanding landmark of Kiel with its 106 m high town hall tower, deliberately modelled on the Campanile of St Mark’s Church in Venice.
Originally, the old town hall was located at the old market. When this became too small, a new one was built on Rathausplatz. The old one was completely destroyed in the Second World War. The new town hall is now the old town hall because it too became too small. The town hall tower was not destroyed by the wars. On a 60 m high viewing platform you can look at Kiel from above.
St. Nicholas Church:
Construction of St. Nicholas Church began around 1242, at about the time Kiel was founded. This certainly makes it Kiel’s most historically significant landmark. In the course of the centuries, it has been remodelled and redesigned several times. In particular, it had to be rebuilt in the 15th century after a fire. In front of it stands the Ghost Fighter, a sculpture by Ernst Barlach, to whom Kieljournal has already dedicated an article.
The telecommunications tower is the highest building in Schleswig-Holstein at 227 m high. Only the antenna of the Bungsberg transmitter is higher, at 249 metres. However, this is not a building. In the list of the highest television towers, Kiel’s telecommunications tower is in 88th position, with the 634 m high Tokyo Skytree at the top. The Kreisel-Torte, as Kiel’s telecommunications tower is often called in the vernacular, was completed in 1975. Torte because of its stacked shape and Kreisel because of its architect Gerhard Kreisel.
With its parks and many green spaces, Kiel has not displaced greenery from the cityscape. However, Potsdam has significantly more green spaces and is considered Germany’s greenest major city. Kiel’s greenery also stands for sustainability. Kiel has been a climate protection city since 1996, was the first German state capital to declare a climate emergency and aims to become climate neutral well before 2050. In particular, Kiel is on its way to becoming a zero waste city, wants to become the most ecological port in Europe (Blue Port project), has launched the “Kiel goes reusable” deposit cup initiative and has set up an air filtration system right next to the CO2 measuring station on Theodor Heuss Ring. Well, the last point did not appear in the jury’s statement. In 2021, Kiel was Germany’s most sustainable major city and was awarded the German Sustainability Principle.
The article started with the Höffner flyer. I also think that what was pictured there is a Kiel landmark. But landmark is not an official title. Whoever thinks that landmarks like the railway station, the Ostseehalle, the Kiel Sprat, the THW, … are missing from my list is right. Because it is not “THE” top 10 list of Kiel landmarks, but my personal top 10 list. Nevertheless, I think that the city on the fjord should be represented mainly by landmarks with a connection to the fjord. In the Höffner brochure it was only 33%, but in my case it was 60%.
Text, images: misoki