Quedlinburg: An übercute village in Germany’s Harz mountains
Most Germans we talked to hadn’t even heard of Quedlinburg in the Harz Mountains when we told them where we had been or were going. Yet we found it to be a village that was beyond-cute, chock full of history, surrounded by superior landscape, and filled with really nice folks who loved every last tourist who found his or her way there.
Quedlinburg, in the former eastern part of Germany in the Harz Mountains, escaped the ravages of World War II. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has more of those adorable, crooked, half-timber houses lining narrow cobblestone streets than any other town in Germany. Yes, even more than the madly promoted tourist towns that were always in Western Germany along the so-called Romantic Road. Those are the ones visited by busloads of tourists. Quedlinburg has no busloads, so it has remained less crowded and infinitely less trampled despite boasting some 1,600 half-timber, all in various stages of repair (and sometimes disrepair).
To help you get your bearings, it’s about 240 kilometers (about 150 miles) by car east of Berlin in the Harz Mountains. You can also get there by the train, as we did, traveling via Magdeburg (another visit-worthy town), but we’d highly recommend having a car to be able to get out into the countryside while using Quedlinburg as your home base. More adventuresome types could rent bikes and do shorter trips into the hills along rolling roads and trails. Or you could just hang out and watch the world go by, enjoying the serenity of small town Germany and go for long daily hikes, as we did.
The so-called “Fachwerkmuseum” (Museum of Half-Timber Houses) is a must-visit. It is itself housed in the oldest half-timber house in town (ca. 1310). Although most of the signage when we were there was only in German, even non-German speakers would enjoy walking through the crooked rooms and looking at construction explanations and models. The “Schlossmuseum” (Castle Museum) is also filled with history of the war and how the town was used as an imperial residence for several hundred years before the Nazis decided to take it over. We also stumbled upon the St. Aegidii Church on a back street (Aegidiikirchhof) that was filled with somewhat homemade-looking exhibits of the church’s work with orphans. Entirely enjoyable. You can also take a trip back to the Communist era by venturing into the Ost-Eck (East Corner) shop with “regional products with nostalgia.”
Without tons of tourists there isn’t tons of tourist infrastructure so it can be more difficult to enjoy some parts if you don’t speak German. Therese speaks German so she thoroughly enjoyed a walking city tour with a very insightful, history-minded guide, but Michael opted for quiet time back at the hotel figuring he didn’t need to walk listening to words he couldn’t possibly understand. Curiously, some superior museums were either not or only partly signed with English. That just means you may need to work a little harder or do some pre-trip research. Do not, repeat not, make that a reason not to go since everybody there is eager to help. And frankly just wandering the streets and the outlying hills is a fun adventure.
Narrow streets in Quedlinburg — yes, you can almost reach between walls in some places.