Greifswald (from German: popular etymology: Greif, "griffin", proper etymology: akin to "grip, a plot not yet cleared and taken into possession", and Wald, "forest") is a town in northeastern Germany. The town is situated approximately 200 km to the north of Berlin in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, borders the Baltic Sea and is crossed by a small river called Ryck.
The population of the town is approximately 55,000, including some 12,500 students and 5,000 employees of the University of Greifswald. Besides for the university, it has also become internationally known because of the construction of the Nord Stream gas-pipeline between Russia and Germany.
The small river Ryck passes through the old town which is about away from the Dänische Wieck ("Danish Bay", on the southern end of the Bay of Greifswald). The small nearby islands of Koos and Riems are also part of the City of Greifswald. The area is rather flat, the highest point reaching only as high as 36 metres.
The seaside part of Greifswald at the mouth of the Ryck river, named Greifswald-Wieck, evolved from a fishing village and today provides a small beach, a marina and the main port of Greifswald.
In medieval times, the Greifswald site was an unsettled woodland which marked the border between the Danish Principality of Rügen and the Pomeranian County of Gützkow, which at that time was also under Danish control. In 1199, Rugian prince Jaromar I allowed Danish Cistercian monks to build Hilda (now Eldena) abbey at the mouth of the Ryck River. Among the lands granted to the monks by Jaromar I, there was a natural salt evaporation pond a short way up the river, a site also crossed by the important via regia trade route. This site was named Gryp(he)swold(e), which is the Low German precursor of the city's modern name. A legend tells that the monks were shown the best site for the settlement by a mighty griffin, living in a tree that was supposed to have grown in Greifswald's oldest street Schuhagen. The town's erection followed a scheme of rectangular streets, with church and market sites reserved in central positions. It was settled primarily with Germans in the course of the Ostsiedlung, but settlers from other nations and Wends from nearby were attracted, too.
The salt trade helped Eldena abbey to grow to a monumental religious centre and Greifswald to become a known market. When the Danes had to surrender the Pomeranian lands south of the Ryck River after the lost 1227 Bornhöved battle, the town became of particular interest to Pomeranian dukes. In 1241, Rugian prince Wizlaw I and Pomeranian duke Wartislaw III both granted her market rights. In 1250, the latter granted Lübeck law to her, after he was admitted to take the town site as a fief from Eldena abbey in 1248. Gützkow's Jazco of Salzwedel had a Franciscan abbey founded within Greifswald's walls; Eldena lost much of her influence on the city's further fate. Just beyond Greifswald's western limits, a town-like suburb (Neustadt) arose, just separated from Greifswald by a ditch. In 1264, Neustadt was incorporated and the ditch was filled up.
Eldena abbey as well as Greifswald's major buildings were erected in Brick Gothic style.
Enjoying a steady increase in population, Greifswald also became one of the earliest members of the Hanseatic League at the end of the 13th century, which further increased trade and wealth. After 1296, Greifswald's citizens did not need to serve in the Pomeranian army, and Pomeranian dukes would not reside in the city.
In 1456, Greifswald's mayor Heinrich Rubenow laid the foundations of one of the oldest universities in the world, the University of Greifswald, which was one of the first in Germany, and was, periodically, the single oldest in Sweden and Prussia respectively.
In the course of Reformation, Eldena abbey ceased to function as a monastery. Her possessions fell to the Pomeranian dukes, the bricks of her Gothic buildings were used by locals as a quarry. Eldena lost its status and later became enclosed by Greifswald's city limits. Also, the monasteries within the town walls, the "Black abbey" of the Dominican Order in the Northwest and the "Grey abbey" of the Franciscan order in the Southeast, were secularized. The Black abbey was turned over to the university, the site is still used as part of her medical campus. The Grey abbey and its succeeding buildings now are the Pomeranian State Museum.
The Thirty Years' War led to high starvation rates all over Pomerania. By 1630, Greifswald's population had shrunken by two thirds. Many buildings were left vacant and decayed in the following years. Soon other wars were to follow, the Swedish-Polish War and the Swedisch-Brandenburgian War both involved the then Swedish town of Greifswald. In 1659 and 1678, Brandenburgian troops bombarded the town. The first bombardement hit primarily the Northeast, 16 houses burned down completely. The second bombardement levelled 30 houses and damaged some additional hundred all over the town. Cannon balls of this second bombardement still stick in the walls of St Mary's today. During the Northern War (1711-1713), the town had to house soldiers, who vandalized several houses. In 1713, the town hall and the stables burned down. In 1736, an even greater fire destroyed 26 houses and damaged several others. In 1669 and 1689, the Swedish government issued decrees (Freiheitspatente) freeing anyone of taxes who built or rebuilt a house. These decrees were in force, though frequently modified, until 1824.
Around the 1900s, the city for the first time since the Middle Ages expanded significantly beyond the old city walls. Also, a major railway connected Greifswald to Stralsund and Berlin, a local railway further connected Greifswald to Wolgast.
The city survived World War II without much destruction although it housed a larger army garrison. In April 1945, Oberst Rudolf Petershagen surrendered the city to the Red Army without combat. From 1949 to 1989, Greifswald was part of the German Democratic Republic. During this time, most historical buildings in the city's medieval parts where neglected and a number of buildings were torn down. The population rose significantly, because of the construction of a power plant in Lubmin, which was closed down in the early 1990s. New suburbs were erected in uniform, industrial socialist style (see Plattenbau), that until now house most of the city's population. These new suburbs were all placed east and southeast of downtown Greifswald, shifting the former town center to the northwest edge of the today's city.
Reconstruction of the old town began in the late 1980s and at present nearly all of it has been restored. However, in the 1980s almost all of the old northern town adjactend to the former port was torn down and thereafter build up completely new. The historic marketplace is especially worth mentioning which is considered one of the most beautiful in northern Germany. The city attracts many tourists, also due to its proximity to the Baltic Sea.
The highest number of inhabitants was reached in 1988 with about 68,000 inhabitants, but the population decreased to roughly 55,000 where it has now stabilised. The reasons included migration to western states as well as suburbanisation. However, the number of students quadrupled from 3,000 in 1990 to more than 11,000 in 2007 and the university employs 5,000 people - so that nearly one in three people is linked to higher education.
Despite its rather small population, Greifswald retains a certain supraregional relevance which can be linked to its intellectual role as a university town and to the take-over of central functions of the former Prussian Province of Pomerania after World War II, for instance the Bishop's see of the Pomeranian Protestant Church, the state archives (Landesarchiv) and the Pomeranian Museum (Pommersches Landesmuseum). Three courts of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern are also based at Greifswald:
Greifswald and Stralsund are the largest cities in the Vorpommern part of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Of great importance to the city's economy is the local university with its 11,000 students and nearly 5,000 employees in addition to many people employed at research facilities. Greifswald is also the seat of the bishop of the Pomeranian Evangelical Church as well as the seat of the state's constitutional and financial court.
Maritime industry and the energy sector are rapidly growing. The fifth largest producer of yachts worldwide, Hanse Yachts, is based in Greifswald as well as Solon AG fuer Solartechnik which produces solar panels. In the engery sector, a transnational gas pipeline from Russia to Germany will stop in Lubmin near Greifswald and Danish company DONG Energy intends to build a power station there. Riemser Arzeimittel is a pharmaceutical company based on the isle of Riems, which is part of the city of Greifswald. Siemens Communications F & E produces here as well.
In a recent survey , Greifswald was declared Germany's most dynamic city.
Founded in 1456, the University of Greifswald is one of the oldest universities in both Germany and Europe. Currently, about 11,000 students study at with five faculties: theology, law/economics, medicine, philosophy, and mathematics/natural sciences.
The university co-operates with many research facilities, such as:
Compared to the size of the city, Greifswald there is a wide range of events, for instance: