Munich. If Hamburgers are drawn to the Baltic Sea beach, they can first follow the signs to Berlin. The Autobahn 24 not only leads to the capital, but also forms the first stage for a particularly scenic route to Lübeck and from there on to the sea. After about 40 kilometres of driving through eastern Schleswig-Holstein, it’s time to switch from the modern-day expressway to the old salt road, especially behind the wheel of the MINI Cooper S 5-door (fuel consumption combined: 6.8 – 6.2 l/100 km according to WLTP, 6.5 – 6.3 l/100 km according to NEDC; CO2 emissions combined: 154 – 141 g/km according to WLTP, 149 – 144 g/km according to NEDC), which can show off its brand-typical agility much better on winding country roads. The historic trade route north is therefore the ideal terrain for driving pleasure on the way to the coast.

The cockpit display and central instrument light up in “Sport” colour mode, the newly designed sports leather steering wheel fits perfectly in the hand, and the four-cylinder turbo engine with 131 kW/178 hp responds spontaneously to every movement of the accelerator. So it’s a brisk drive past green meadows and lush fields through the sparsely populated countryside to Mölln, a small town in the district of Herzogtum Lauenburg, surrounded by lakes and known as the home of Till Eulenspiegel. The literary figure goes back to a roving prankster who allegedly teased his fellow men with all kinds of pranks in the 14th century.

The second stop on the tour is also surrounded by lakes. Ratzeburg is also known as the island city. A few hundred steps, in any direction, are all it takes for visitors to reach the water’s edge. The Ratzeburg Cathedral is well worth seeing and is one of northern Germany’s oldest Romanesque brick buildings. Right next door, in a baroque manor house, the dukes of Mecklenburg once resided. The town is known to sports fans for the Ratzeburger Achter. At the local rowing club, coaching legend Karl Adam laid the foundation for the German Eight, the flagship of the German Rowing Association, which has repeatedly achieved great success at the Olympic Games and World Championships since the 1960s.

The route continues along the lakeshore towards Lübeck. On the drive through Grönauer Heide, you can also enjoy the benefits of the new adaptive suspension in the MINI Cooper S 5-door. Frequency-selective damping now ensures an optimised balance between sportiness and ride comfort. The go-kart feeling typical of the brand can be felt in every bend. At the same time, an additional valve ensures extremely fast adjustment of the damping forces so that the harmonious driving characteristics are not disturbed even by bumps in the road surface.

After a good 20 kilometres, the Hanseatic city of Lübeck is reached. The first thing you see is the Holsten Gate. The city’s landmark is quite crooked. But it’s still worth going in, because it will probably remain crooked for another 700 years. When visiting the “Queen of the Hanseatic League”, as Lübeck is also called, the question automatically arises: what to see first? The old town with its narrow alleys? The corridors with the small outbuildings behind the merchants’ houses? The magnificent churches? Lübeck is part of the Unesco World Cultural Heritage and accordingly has a lot to offer.

The ideal starting point for exploring the two-square-kilometre old town island is the market at the town hall. The people of Lübeck spent 300 years building it, ultimately combining several stylistic epochs from the Gothic to the Renaissance. Right next door is St. Mary’s Cathedral with its almost 40-metre-high vault, which is still a small miracle for structural engineers. After so much high culture, the sugar level can plummet. A visit to the marzipan shop Niederegger, a specialist in this sweet delicacy, will help. Here you can discover marzipan in every conceivable variation. imaginable. As a strong bar, as a confection and also as ice cream. And let’s not forget the nut and cream cake with a marzipan topping, for which gourmets will travel many a long way. If you have already decided on a large number of souvenirs: There’s plenty of room in the luggage compartment of the MINI Cooper S 5-door. It holds 278 litres when all five seats are in use, and can otherwise be expanded to up to 941 litres.

Literary pleasure is just a few steps away. “My childhood was cherished and happy. I grew up with four brothers and sisters in an elegant town house that my father had built for himself and his family, and enjoyed a second home in the old family house from the 18th century, with the motto ‘Dominus providebit’ on the rococo gable, which my paternal grandmother lived in alone and which today, as the ‘Buddenbrook House’, is an object of curiosity for foreigners.” This is how Thomas Mann describes his grandparents’ house, the literary model for the novel Buddenbrooks, published in 1901. Much of the story takes place in a “house in Mengstraße”, which bears great similarities to the house at Mengstraße 4 in Lübeck. Thomas Mann based his novel on historical reality, but transformed it into poetry. After a chequered history, the Buddenbrookhaus now houses the Heinrich and Thomas Mann Centre, a memorial and research centre in honour of the two writer brothers.

Lübeck is also home to the traces of a second Nobel Prize winner in literature. Günter Grass lived near the city from 1986 until his death in 2015 and maintained his office, secretariat and archive in Lübeck’s Glockengießerstraße. The Günter Grass House is dedicated to the literary, pictorial and sculptural work of the writer.

And finally, another Nobel Prize winner is a son of the city of Lübeck. The Willy Brandt House is a museum and memorial to the Lübeck-born SPD politician, German Chancellor and Nobel Peace Prize winner. The exhibition covers periods in Willy Brandt’s life – from his childhood and youth in Lübeck to his flight in a cutter and exile to his time as governing mayor in Berlin and his commitment to peace, freedom and the enforcement of human rights.

The last stop on the tour is the Lübeck district of Travemünde. Just 20 kilometres from the gates of the Hanseatic city lies the seaside resort, whose history goes back to 1800 and which had its heyday during the Belle Epoque. In some places, the breath of history can still be felt – or is it just a light breeze from the Baltic Sea? The old Kurhaus now houses a wellness hotel, and the casino once known throughout Europe is now a luxury hotel.

New splendour and lively life are developing on the Priwall peninsula. The tip of the peninsula belongs partly to Travemünde and partly to Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. For a few years now, the area has been completely turned inside out. A new holiday area is being built directly on the Trave River, where the four-masted barque “Passat” is moored. Apartment buildings, marinas, boutiques, cafés and restaurants form the new face of the peninsula, which also has quiet corners with the nature reserve at the Pötenitzer Wiek and some beautiful beaches. And when one of the big Scandinavian ferries sails from the Trave into the Baltic Sea, you can still feel something of the big wide world.