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Germany - Harz Mountains - beautiful old town of Quedlinburg

During our autumn trips this gorgeous and romantic old town has been our base.

Quedlinburg is not Europe's most famous tourism destination. For us, however, it is a hidden jewel and our favorite little town to stay when we are visiting the Harz for a long weekend. With most of the attractive places on an easy one hour's drive or less, makes us feel like having landed a few centuries back in time. Of course modern times have not left this town unaffected, but there is something in the atmosphere. The well-preserved buildings maybe, the unpretentious hotels, inns and restaurants, the castle or the market, it is probably the combination of these.

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, Casle hill, towering above the old town

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, Casle hill, towering above the old town

We have been to Quedlinburg twice now in the autumn, most recently in 2017, and enjoyed ourselves tremendously both times. We stayed in Hotel Garni Adelheid the first time, and in hotel Zum Bär at the Marktplatz the second time. Both were good choices.

  • Most reviews on Tripadvisor and Booking.com are more or less how we experienced it. Many are originally in German, so please beware the lousy automatic translation systems: the English translations often make no sense at all, as if foreign languages are something like a Neanderthaler grumble, and a review that is translated 100% accurately is a rarity. This doesn't matter if a destination is reviewed mostly by English speaking people, but this is more a "national destination" for Germans, so decently worded English reviews are few and far between. See also practical tips below.

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, Hotel Garni Adelheid-inner court

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, Hotel Garni Adelheid-inner court


Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, hotel Zum Bär at the market square

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, hotel Zum Bär at the market square

The name of Quedlinburg as an estate or town was first mentioned in records of 922 A.D., although it is known that there was already a settlement here some 100 years before (Gross Orden). These were the "darker" parts of early medieval times, about which not very much is known, after the collapse of the empire of Charles the Great (Charlemagne). The early history of Quedlinburg has been found back in monastic records in Corvey, much more in the Southwest of Germany.

Quedlinburg can be considered as the cradle of the German Ottonian Empire that started with a king, Henry the Fowler (Heinrich der Vögler), who was offered the crown by local noble families in 919 A.D. This is why next year (2019) will be a festive year in Quedlinburg.

  • As a side note, it is better not to call a German man a "Vögler", especially not in the presence of his wife. The verb "vögeln" has an alternative meaning, as in "vögeln kann er, aber fliegen nicht.". This is what the wife said, when she threw her husband out of the window, after finding him in bed with another woman...

Back to history now. Henry died in 936 A.D. and his son Otto I (later called Otto the Great) succeeded him. First as a king, but in 962 A.D. he became the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (which, by the way, has nothing to do with Ancient Rome). Meanwhile, Otto I built a castle and Henry's wife Matilda had started a monastery for nuns, both located on the castle hill, which dominates Quedlinburg. The monastery was built officially to commemorate Henry, but it actually provided education to daughters of noble families. Matilda died in 968 A.D. The remains of her and Henry are buried in the crypt of St. Servatius Church, built on the foundations of the original monastery.

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, St. Servatius church at castle hill

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, St. Servatius church at castle hill


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Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, inside the fortification of castle hill

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, inside the fortification of castle hill


Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, castle hill with abbey and church

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, castle hill with abbey and church

The grand-daughter of the couple, also called Matilda, became the abbess. It is said that she, just like her grandmother, did spend a lot on charity. Also the institute provided secular education for women, including those born from lower ranked families in the society, which was an extremely progressive policy in those ages. All through history, the abbey and monastery have been led by females, abbesses, and the women staying in the monastery could even get married if they wished so, without losing their rights. This approach, which started with both Matilda's, did not always land well with conservative male rulers, who found that the abbesses wasted too much money from the treasury of the Empire, and obviously they found the nunnery much too liberal in empowering the women. But no matter how hard the male half of society pressed them, the abbesses kept up this principle throughout the centuries, even until the time of Napoleon and beyond. On the castle hill and around the church there are still a lot of remains from those ancient times, and pretty good explanatory panels as well.

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, view from Casle hill

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, view from Casle hill


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With a history like this, it was not completely surprising that during the Nazi period, Heinrich Himmler saw Quedlinburg as one of the most important historical places of Germany. Himmler obviously was a megalomaniac with an oversized ego. Sharing the same first name with King Henry I, he visited there multiple times. He saw himself as a reincarnation of Henry, whom he considered as "the most German king of Germany". The tower on the hill was 'decorated' with an Eagle, and Quedlinburg became sort of a Nazi pilgrimage destination. Perhaps some isolated shady neo-nazi characters may still see Quedlinburg that way. But today's attraction is based on history, architecture, picturesque old-town experience, heimatisches food, legends and sagas and the fantastic nature of the Harz.

In the final months of the war, the Americans occupied Quedlinburg. One of their lieutenants (as came out much later) robbed a lot of historic artefacts from there, some of which were never found back, including a 9th century handwritten gold-illustrated and jewel-covered gospel book.

After World War II, Quedlinburg became East-German territory. The new rulers apparently realized that Quedlinburg had lots of historic value that should be protected. In fact, the communists even brought in Polish workers to do a lot of conservation and restoration work.

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To sum it up, Quedlinburg survived beautifully, in spite of its politically shaky history that could have led to destruction at multiple points in the past.

The castle hill gives great views over Quedlinburg and the surrounding landscape, and there is a nice terrace to take this view in over a good glass of beer. The castle and abbey church are a WHO World Heritage site since 1994.

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, terrace with nice view at castle hill

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, terrace with nice view at castle hill


Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, beer with a view at castle hill

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, beer with a view at castle hill


Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, view from castle hill

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, view from castle hill


Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, view from Casle hill

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, view from Casle hill


Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, view from Casle hill

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, view from Casle hill

In fact, Quedlinburg has its historic center at two levels: the castle hill with the buildings and the little market square at its foot, and the lower town. The lower old town is a completely historic inner city with narrow cobble streets, traditional fachwerk houses and a beautiful market square. Everything is extremely well preserved.

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, Christmas decoration shop at foot of Casle hill

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, Christmas decoration shop at foot of Casle hill


Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, mustard shop selling a variety that makes you feel high

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, mustard shop selling a variety that makes you feel high


Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, narrow streeet lower old town

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, narrow streeet lower old town


Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, watch your step!

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, watch your step!


Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, Christmas sales in early October

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, Christmas sales in early October

There are plenty of hotels, many of them targeting mainly German clientele. The same is true for restaurants. English is spoken by quite a few people, but definitely not by everybody or everywhere. Hotels are German style, which means that some New World visitors may find the occasional absence of ultra modern amenities outweighing the historic charm. For those who feel like they particularly need it, a few hotels are run by international chains (i.e. Wyndham Garden). By far most people will enjoy the smaller historic hotels just as much though, if not more, and they are often not too expensive.

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, smoking area at inner square of café <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_wink.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=';)' title='' />

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, smoking area at inner square of café ;)


Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, fachwerk house on way to castle hill

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, fachwerk house on way to castle hill


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Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, city hall at market square

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, city hall at market square


Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, market square, bank with stain glass windows

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, market square, bank with stain glass windows


Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, market square

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, market square


Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, a knight, guarding town hall

Germany - Harz - Quedlinburg, a knight, guarding town hall

Restaurants: for those who really can't do without it, yes, there are burgers, pizza's, Turkish kebob and hotdogs available in Quedlinburg. But if you have a tiny bit of interest for the place you visit, you really should try local cuisine. There are many choices at different price levels. Pork, veal, a large variety of ham, cold cuts and sausages, fresh water fish such as trout, potatoes, vegetables are all common ingredients, often spiced with local herbs and mustard. Cooking with dark beer is a specialism, and wild mushrooms and game stews (wild boar, deer, roe, hare) should not be missed, if you visit in the season.

There are many great local beers, and very good regional wines from the Saale-Unstrutt region, the most northern well-established wine growing region in Europe (apart from the newest small scale ones in Holland, Scandinavia and even - of all places - in the UK)

Some practical things you may want to know include:

  • Quedlinburg is your destination if you go there in spring, summer or fall (foliage!). Also for the Christmas market.
  • If you go to the Harz for winter sports, it is better to stay somewhere much closer to the slopes. In that case, just plan a visit for one day.
  • Attention: if you book a hotel, also via booking sites, you may have to pay a deposit, as your credit card may not always be accepted.
  • Some restaurants and hotels may not accept credit cards or Maestro cards at all. Plenty of ATM's though. Best to have some cash in your pocket.
  • Some hotels owners may not live in the hotel. You will get a gate key on check-in, but make arrangements if your first arrival is late at night!
  • Almost all hotels are in historic houses. This means wooden floors and stairs. Small hotels may not have an elevator.
  • Parking in the old town is not easy. However, there are parking facilities on the edge of the Old Town, at short walking distance of the center.
  • Quedlinburg can be reached easily by train from places like Berlin and Magdeburg, or by car as it is close to the A6 motorway.
  • For getting around in the Harz area, there are local buses and trains, including narrow gauge historic trains that still operate on a schedule.
  • A very characteristic brewery restaurant, Bräuhaus Lüdde, is almost always fully booked. Be sure to make a reservation well ahead.

Posted by westwind57 04:22 Archived in Germany Tagged mountains hills road_trip nature hiking history germany forest mystery quedlinburg misery worries wernigerode cold_war witchcraft brocken steam_locomotive harz espionage thale bodetal

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