The Hanseatic League (also known as the Hanse or Hansa; Low German: Hanse, Dudesche Hanse, Latin: Hansa, Hansa Teutonica or Liga Hanseatica) was a commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe. It stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea and inland during the Late Middle Ages and early modern period (c. 13th to 17th centuries).
The League was created to protect economic interests and diplomatic privileges in the cities and countries and along the trade routes the merchants visited. The Hanseatic cities had their own legal system and furnished their own armies for mutual protection and aid. Despite this, the organization was not a city-state, nor can it be called a confederation of city-states; only a very small number of the cities within the league enjoyed autonomy and liberties comparable to those of a free imperial city.
The legacy of the Hansa is remembered today in several names, for example the German airline Lufthansa (i.e., "Air Hansa"), F.C. Hansa Rostock, the Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, in the Netherlands, the Hansa Brewery in Bergen, the Hansabank in Baltic states (now known as Swedbank) and the Hanse Sail in Rostock. DDG Hansa was a major German shipping company from 1881 until its bankruptcy in 1980.
The old part of Lübeck is on an island enclosed by the Trave. The Elbe–Lübeck Canal connects the Trave with the Elbe River. Another important river near the town centre is the Wakenitz. The Autobahn 1 connects Lübeck with Hamburg and Denmark (Vogelfluglinie). The borough of Travemünde is a sea resort and ferry port on the coast of the Baltic Sea. Its central station links Lübeck to a number of lines, notably the line to Hamburg.