• Germany's news in English
 

Combing through Quedlinburg's charms

Published: 21 Jul 2010 16:54 GMT+02:00

Quedlinburg’s architecture is hard not to find fascinating. The buildings constantly snatch attention away from ones feet – which can be a hazard seeing as many of the town’s streets are cobbled and lumpy.

But as long as one can keep largely upright, this charming little place tucked away in the bucolic Harz region in central Germany, is a many-splendored delight.

Quedlinburg, a couple of hours southwest of Berlin, is a UNESCO cultural heritage site and rightly so – it’s like wandering through an open-air museum except that intriguingly, is lived-in and unfinished.

The houses in the inner, older part of town are nearly all half-timbered. Numbering more than 1,300, they are in various states of collapse, renovation and pristine condition.

Those with an eye for such things can play games spotting the different kinds of half-timbering, while others can simply marvel at the massive, aged, pieces of wood used in the construction and the fact that it all still stands, even at some crazy angles.

There are a number of guided walking tours which can include historical explanations, more detail on the half-timbered houses, and even a night-time one conducted by fully-costumed night watchman who tells tales relating to specific buildings – some more reliable than others.

But a walk around the crooked streets of the town centre can easily be done alone, starting from the central square with its ancient Rathaus, or town hall.

"It's very pretty to walk around all the old houses, you get a feeling of almost going back in time,” said British weekend visitor Dan Paton. “And you can see that a lot of care and attention has been put into keeping the place historically correct. It just oozes history.”

Best to make a specific trip to the square for the Saturday market, where there is even a stall selling "biodynamic" fruit and veg, next to more conventional produce such as bread, an array of pickled cucumbers, local cheeses and meats of all kinds.

CLICK HERE FOR A PHOTO GALLERY OF QUEDLINBURG

En route up to the castle, a measure of self control is required to delay a visit to the specialist cheese cake café until afterwards – there are a hundred varieties, served in alarmingly large slices. But the short, sharp climb can be rewarded with cake afterwards – and is better undertaken without the extra ballast.

The castle complex is actually an abbey and accompanying basilica. Heinrich I, considered the founder of the mediaeval kingdom leading to the Holy Roman Empire, is said to have been crowned at the bottom of the hill, while he and his queen, Mathilde, were buried in the basilica.

This lent Quedlinburg huge import during the Middle Ages, and the abbey Mathilde founded was later granted large areas of political independence by Otto I, and then rights to mint its own money and impose taxes by Otto III. A bit of mediaeval feminism, if you will.

The town’s basilica, the Stiftskirche St Servatius - dates back to 1129, but there is evidence of three previous buildings on the site. There are fascinating for its traces of early religion, with the tops of pillars carved with animal representations not normally associated with a Christian house of worship.

The relics held in two rooms within the basilica are also magical – chunky mediaeval bibles decorated in gold and big lumpy precious stones, and fabulous carved boxes also covered in rough finery.

A more familiar sense of church life is found in the abbey, also in the castle complex – a 16th and 17th century building where the abbesses lived, studied, ruled and taught.

A row of them are portrayed in pictures hung along one long room – the realism of their ugliness perhaps reflecting their position – like kings, they had no need to be kind to the eye, for they were educated and held power.

More prosaic pleasures can be sought back in town, in the range of art and craft galleries and shops as well as the small range of pleasant eating places in Quedlinburg, including a fine Italian called Antica Roma, the Palais Saalfeld if you want to push the boat out, but also the cute Flammkuchen bistro Himmel und Hölle (which also has holiday flats).

"The town is big enough to have plenty to offer, the locals are very friendly and there seems to be a lot going on - I saw a variety of live bands playing in pubs and bars on a special music night,” said Paton after his visit.

It is worth getting out of town too if one has the time, as the surrounding countryside is gorgeous – and a trip up towards the mountains is definitely worth it, to experience the rocky outcrops and gorges which inspired some of Goethe’s musings as well as ancient tales of witchcraft.

An eclectic trip to Quedlinburg would not be complete without a trip down the road to nearby Halberstadt for the glorious madness that is the John Cage ‘As Slow As Possible’ performance. This composition being performed on an organ will take a mind-blowing 639 years to complete.

At any one time it seems to be no more than a droning note or cord coming from a small organ in an old church, but hundreds of people gather when every few months the next note change is expected.

Of course, Quedlinburg’s ancient history and houses have already stood for longer than it will take the Cage piece to be played, so time in the Harz can become relative quite quickly.

Related links:

Hannah Cleaver (hannah.cleaver@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

17:12 July 21, 2010 by JohnnesKönig
I hope to see this in the next few days...
23:45 July 21, 2010 by goody
I was there in May my Cousin and his wife took me I just loved it I would live there in a moment.The place is a piece of heaven.
Today's headlines
Police shoot man dead in Rhineland-Palatinate
Photo: DPA

Police shoot man dead in Rhineland-Palatinate

A 40-year-old man died in hospital in Grünstadt, Rhineland Palatinate after being shot by police on Monday evening. READ  

Daimler hit with Greek corruption charges
German soldiers in a 'Unimog' truck made by Daimler. Photo: DPA

Daimler hit with Greek corruption charges

Greek prosecutors announced on Monday they are bringing charges against several Daimler managers, who they say were involved in multi-million euro bribes to Greek authorities. READ  

Germany's surrender order under the hammer
Admiral Dönitz (m) with Albert Speer (l) and General Alfred Jodl (r). Photo: DPA

Germany's surrender order under the hammer

Marooned on a naval base in northwest Germany, pinned down by advancing Allied forces and Adolf Hitler dead, the last leader of the Third Reich hammered out the surrender order. READ  

Merkel not yet 'Mutti' of the Twittersphere
Photo: DPA

Merkel not yet 'Mutti' of the Twittersphere

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the only G7 leader not to have a Twitter account, according to a report on the social network released on Tuesday. READ  

Kindergarten wage negotiations fail
Photo: DPA

Kindergarten wage negotiations fail

The public services union Ver.di announced on Monday evening that negotiations over a pay increase for Kindergarten teachers had failed. Strikes will start at the end of next week and go on for an indefinite period. READ  

Deutsche Bank chief faces trial in Munich
Jürgen Fitschen (left) goes on trial in Munich today. Photo:DPA

Deutsche Bank chief faces trial in Munich

Deutsche Bank co-CEO Jürgen Fitschen is one of five defendants in a trial starting Tuesday accused of giving false testimony in a long-running legal battle with the defunct Kirch media group. READ  

Regensburg diocese looks into abuse claims
The administrative head of the Regensburg diocese Michael Fuchs.Photo: DPA

Regensburg diocese looks into abuse claims

The diocese of Regensburg announced on Monday it is cooperating with the victims' organisation White Ring to investigate sexual and physical abuse at the Domspatzen Choir, Die Welt reported. READ  

JobTalk Germany
Graduates desperate to work for car giants
BMW are the most attractive employer for business and engineering graduates. Photo: DPA

Graduates desperate to work for car giants

A survey published on Monday shows that the car industry is the most attractive place of work for German business graduates and engineers alike. READ  

Language fails
Minster wows crowds with Denglisch
Gerd Müller, left, with UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to his right. Photo: DPA

Minster wows crowds with Denglisch

Development Minister Gerd Müller recently captivated crowds at the Global Citizen Earth Day in Washington, D.C. with his enthusiastic - if erratic - English. The speech has since gone viral. READ  

Arms firms struggle to meet ethics mark
A Leopard 2 tank made by Germany's Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. Photo: DPA.

Arms firms struggle to meet ethics mark

A report released on Monday by Transparency International UK found that German arms companies had a spotty record in their ethics and anti-corruption programmes. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
Smart kids all want to work for BMW
National
Arms firms get a 'must do better' mark on ethics
Sport
Bayern's anticlimactic 25th Bundesliga win
Gallery
German beer day: take the tour
Features
Off to Norway at 18 km/hour
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Gallery
The smileys Germans love to text
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
National
Expats face Monday deadline to register to vote for UK election
Politics
A Greek learning politics in Germany
Features
The battle of the "Gates of Berlin"
National
Germany's favourite baby names of 2014
National
Germany's 'very poor' lobbying record
National
VIDEO: Mario Draghi suffers anti-ECB confetti attack
Politics
Merkel's 15 years at the top of German politics
Features
Spice up asparagus season with The Local's serving suggestions
Travel
Lowest of the low: how woman exploited Germanwings crash
Sport
Football and the €30,000 firework
Technology
Why scientists oppose killer robots
National
Germanwings co-pilot 'searched suicide info'
Technology
Electrifying 'Ostalgia'
National
Which city is Germany's worst for drivers?
National
'Cannibal cop' gets 8 years
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
National
LIVE: Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
National
Last-minute drama of Germany's Eurovision 2015 entry
National
German photographer takes world's top prize
Features
Meet the woman getting Germans to drink more – and better – beer
Gallery
Get inspired for International Women's Day with German heroes
Green party proposes first-ever cannabis legalization plan
Gallery
In pictures: Germany's seven most livable cities
National
Singapore canes Germans for train graffiti
Politics
Surprise! Germans love feeling like they run the EU
Politics
Anger over plan to show women what men earn
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

7,170
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd
?>