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 (www.quedlinburg.de ), 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.
First, about the name: In medieval days, there was a huge fire pit at one end that illuminated the tiny alley where it sits, thus making it look like you were walking to hell. Or so the story goes! It sits directly off the main square but on a non-vehicular narrow alley – location, location, location with the quiet of the country. The four half-timber guesthouses are all narrow, three-story tall buildings of various configurations with narrow, winding staircases. Ours for example had a tiny entry way on the ground floor, then a sitting area and kitchenette on the first floor, then the small bedroom (with attic-style slanted roof) and the bathroom on the top floor). Luxury? No. There are other places for that. Accessible for less able? Not really. But cute to beat the band and reasonably priced.
The Schiffshebewerk Niederfinow was completed in 1934 and is part of the Haavel-Oder waterway connecting the Elbe and Oder river basins. The waterway begins in Berlin at the Spandau lock and opens into the West Oder at the border area between Poland and Germany. Watching ships being raised and lowered in this ship elevator is amazing. A true engineering marvel.
Bigger is not always better. Sometime small, like a historic Munich chapel, can be a travel must-see. It’s easy when traveling through big European cities to follow the throngs to the large churches or cathedrals in town. Huge European cathedrals can be very impressive, of course. But the Marienklause Chapel, about 3-4 miles south of the city center of Munich, Germany, is certainly worth a close look.
Kleinhesselhoer See, Englischer Garten
Created at the behest of Prince Carl Theodor in 1789, the Englischer Garten in Munich, Germany, is one of the largest city parks in the world. And, we can attest, it provides for a magical and wondrous escape from the clamor and bustle of Munich’s busy urban streets.
Sophie Scholl Memorial
Easily missed, the Sophie Scholl memorial looks like loose pieces of paper scattered on the ground in front of the university building. In actuality, they are attached permanently to the ground in front of the main entrance on the so-called “Geschwister Scholl Platz.”
Planten Un Blomen Garden
A visit to the Planten un Blomen Garden on your Hamburg tour is a must, whether you are a flower and garden lover, adore open spaces, enjoy dancing water fountains, or just want a nice place for a stroll or picnic.
St Nikolai Kirche
The St Nikolai Kirche (St. Nicholas Church) has been a part of the Hamburg skyline since the 12th century. Now in ruins from World War II bombings, just its spire remains standing. No longer a place of worship, the spire (thought until 1876 to be the tallest building in the world) and its restored crypt below serve as a haunting and moving memorial to the horror of war’s devastation.
International Donaufest in Ulm
The International Donaufest (Danube) Festival has been held since 1998 and occurs every other year. Ulm city center and the banks of the Danube river are turned into a sort of international festival to celebrate the coming together of regions and countries along the Danube that rely on the river — Bavaria, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania. The festival last 10 days and includes a massive fireworks display.International Donaufest Fireworks in Ulm 2016
Drei Annen Hohne
Wernigerode Train Station - Brockenbahn
Quedlinburg Old Watch Tower
The rolling foothills of the Harz mountains that surround Quedlinburg feature forested terrain with open, rolling meadows, some hills and plenty of farmland – perfect for those who need to stretch the legs and mind a bit on an easy wander. We’d heard about the Quedlinburg Old Watch Tower (“Altenburgwarte”) that was located approximately 0.5 miles (just under 750 meters) from the southwest edge of town, on a sandstone ridge overlooking the village below.
Kellerwald Forchheim beer gardens
“Off to the cellar” is what you’ll hear from Forchheim locals when they disappear into the forest on trails (“auf die Keller”). What that means in local slang is that they are headed to a beehive of popular beer gardens nestled deep in the forest of Franconian Switzerland in Upper Bavaria – the Kellerwald Forchheim beer gardens.
Berlin is one of our favorite cities in the world. It is cosmopolitan, worldly, quirky, exotic, bohemian, evolving, vibrant and so very, very alive — there is something to do or see or experience 24 hours a day if you are so inclined. Little wonder so many tourists, wanderers, artists, authors, musicians, actors and creative minds discover and fall in love with Berlin. Whether you are visiting for one day, two days, a week or more, the best way to begin your quest to find what to do in Berlin is here. Our What to do in Berlin resource guide and links, map, as well as numerous articles highlighting insider travel tips for you will ensure your visit to Berlin is memorable.