Weekend Wanderlust: Get a Handel on Halle
Not only is the city of Halle (Saale) the birthplace of the celebrated composer Georg Friedrich Handel but is also a vibrant, modern city with art and culture to spare.
Located on the river Saale in the east German state of Saxony-Anhalt, the city has had a long history over several centuries, partly due to its location on the river, but also due to the brine springs that were a valuable source of salt - essential in preserving food in an age before refrigeration.
Dominating the city's skyline is the Martkirche Unser Lieben Frauen (Market Church of Our Dear Lady) and the Röter Turm. The former is a renaissance construction, preached in by Martin Luther, and filled with some stunning examples of medieval art, including an altarpiece from the workshop of Lukas Cranach.
The latter is all that remains of a former church, and is used by locals as a popular meeting point. Between the pair, they've given the city the nickname, 'the city of five towers'.
Halle's marketplace with a famous Handel statue. Photo: DPA
A few minute's walk away from the marketplace statue of the city's most famous son, Handel, one can find his former home, that has been turned into a museum, the Händel-Haus. Here the the famous composer's career is charged, from early days playing the organ in Halle's cathedral, the Hallescher Dom, to fame in England.
A visit to the city's modest cathedral is also worthwhile, if only for the regular free organ concerts given, and a few striking pieces of medieval art.
Art fiends will also be well-served by the Kunsthalle Moritzburg, located in the castle of the former prince-bishops of Magdeburg. Along with a collection of stunning medieval sacred art, this museum and art gallery contains a broad collection of 20th century art, including some from the days of the GDR. There's also an excellent cafe with outside seating in the castle's courtyard - ideal for a warm summer's day!
Halle is also celebrated as the home of the enigmatic Nebra Sky Disk, a 3,600 year old Bronze and gold artifact that is among the 20th century's most significant archaeological finds. Used as a kind of calendar for synching the cycles of sun and moon, it is kept in the Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte, one of the country's most unique and innovative museums.
The Nebra Sky Disk. Photo: DPA
If you're more scientifically-minded, or have an interested in how the city made its fortune, the Hallors and Saline Museum does an excellent job in describing how salt was manufactured using springs and evaporation over several centuries.
After a long day or two exploring the city, with its striking combination of Jugendstil and GDR architecture, we recommend the centrally-located Mōnschhof Halle for tasty local dishes, prepared well, in old-school surrounds.
While hardly on the list of tourist destinations for most travellers, Halle shows that with a little determination to deviate from the main trails, you can find some real treasures - so why not give it a go?
Marktkirche Unser Lieben Frauen / An der Marienkirche 2, 06108
Röter Turm / Marktplatz Halle, 06108
Händel-Haus / Große Nikolaistraße 5, 06108
Hallescher Dom / Domstraße 3, 06108
Kunsthalle Moritzburg / Friedemann-Bach-Platz 5, 06108
Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte / Richard-Wagner-Strasse 9, 06114
Hallors and Saline Museum / Mansfelder Str. 52, 06108
Mōnschhof Halle / Talamtstraße 6, 06108