• Germany's news in English
 
Combing through Quedlinburg's charms
Photo: DPA

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
Adidas sells three million World Cup shirts
World Cup-winning manager Joachim Löw accepts the award at a gala in Baden Baden on Sunday Photo. DPA

Adidas sells three million World Cup shirts

Football fans have snapped up a total of more than three million replica kits of their world-cup winning heroes, Adidas announced, with much of that boost coming in the run-up to Christmas. The team were also honoured as Germany's "Sportsmen of the Year" on Sunday. READ  

Good news for your Christmas overdraft
Photo: DPA

Good news for your Christmas overdraft

Shoppers who go into the red on their bank account over the Yuletide period have received some early festive good news, with a plan to clarify Germany's complex rules on overdrafts. READ  

Amazon pledge: Xmas pressies will arrive
Striking Amazon workers outside a distribution centre in Leipzig on December 8th. Photo: DPA

Amazon pledge: Xmas pressies will arrive

Online retailer Amazon said on Monday that walkouts at distribution centres across the country wouldn't affect Christmas orders as the strike spread across Europe. READ  

Armed heist at Berlin's top department store
The aftermath of the raid at Berlin's luxury department store Photo: DPA

Armed heist at Berlin's top department store

Stunned shoppers looked on in horror as masked robbers made a daylight raid at Germany's most exclusive department store on the busiest shopping day before Christmas. READ  

Security tests find holes at Frankfurt airport
Security checks at Frankfurt airport in July 2014. Photo: DPA

Security tests find holes at Frankfurt airport

Weapons and dangerous objects were successfully smuggled through security checks 50 percent of the time at Frankfurt airport, in a probe by European Commission inspectors, it emerged on Sunday. READ  

Breakfast stumble costs Berlin giraffe her life
Kibaya before her fatal fall Photo: DPA

Breakfast stumble costs Berlin giraffe her life

One of Berlin Zoo’s most popular attractions has had to be put down, after tearing a muscle in her leg. READ  

Xenophobia thrives in shadow of Berlin towers
A demo in Marzahn-Hellersdorf. File photo: DPA

Xenophobia thrives in shadow of Berlin towers

There's little to break the monotony of communist-era apartment blocks stretching across Marzahn-Hellersdorf, an east Berlin satellite district that has gained national notoriety for a spate of anti-foreigner protests. READ  

Ecuador returns German money in oil valley spat
Photo: DPA

Ecuador returns German money in oil valley spat

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said Saturday that Quito would be giving back about $8.5 million donated by Germany last year, in an environmental row. READ  

German bank sues Ecclestone for €345mn
Photo: DPA

German bank sues Ecclestone for €345mn

German bank BayernLB is seeking €345 million ($423 million) in a lawsuit against Formula One magnate Bernie Ecclestone over the 2006 sale of the sport's rights, according to a report. READ  

Löw aims for Euro 2016 with new-look Germany
Joachim Löw holding the World Cup trophy. File photo: DPA

Löw aims for Euro 2016 with new-look Germany

World Cup winners Germany have suffered something of a hangover since their triumph in Brazil, but coach Joachim Löw is hoping a new-look side can go on to claim more glory at Euro 2016. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Willy Brandt at his inauguration in 1972. Photo: DPA
National
Willy Brandt: the man, the chancellor... the airport?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Sponsored Article
Why are these International Baccalaureate students cheering?
Germany's national football team lifts the World Cup trophy
Gallery
Germany's most-Googled words of 2014
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Stuff your face with these festive German cookies
Photo: DPA
Culture
What do beer, breakfast cereal and dildos have in common?
Culture
The Local's guide to German Christmas markets
Sponsored Article
Top five quirky Christmas jumpers
Photo: DPA
Culture
Get ready for Christmas like a German. We tell you how.
Photo: DPA
Munich
She did what with her dead mother?
Photo: DPA
National
Germany still paying for crisis fall out
Photo: DPA
Culture
Saxon wurst is the worst, Christmas market declares.
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
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

3,128
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd