Saturday, 1 August 2009

The Quaint Quedlings of Quedlinburg

Some three and a half hours by Regional Express train SW of Berlin is the medieval town of Quedlinburg, with its prominent castle and cathedral towering above winding streets tumbling over with authentic half-timbered buildings. See map.

(above) View of the Castle & Cathedral from the Münzenberg, Quedlinburg.
As usual: copyright Andie Gilmour, and click for bigger!
We made the journey with a friend on a sunny August Saturday, having heard reports from other visitors of how picturesque Quedlinburg is. Indeed, the whole of its Altstadt (old town) area is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (full list of sites here), particularly because of its half-timbered buildings (in German, Fachwerkhäuser).

Still, we kind of expected a handful of rickety black-and-white painted Elizabethan structures with wonky roof-lines and bulging walls. The sort that you get in places in England such as Stratford-on-Avon, Chester and Warwick, and which usually are occupied by the Tourist Information Office, or a 'Ye Olde Englande Pubbe', or an antiquarian bookshop. Instead we found rows of delightful buildings attractively painted in pastel hues, and which were actually lived in by normal people and lovingly restored and maintained. And not just one or two streets like this, but almost the whole of the old town; 1,200 buildings in all, spanning six hundred years of construction and architectural changes in style.

Here are just a few photos to give you an idea of how it all looks. What strikes you though when you go up to these houses is how short the doors are. I'm no giant, but I would have to stoop to get through these portals. The ceilings inside must be just as low, making us think that the little Quedlings who used to live here were perhaps a race of Hobbits or something!

In the centre of the town is a large market square with an impressive Renaissance-style Town Hall. Standing in front of it is a Roland statue. When I told meine Geliebte that there was one there, she mischeviously asked if it was of Roland Rat; after all, it is in front of the Rathaus! Ja, ja, very funny.

Actually these statues of Charlemagne's knight Roland, who was famous in romantic ballads of medieval and renaissance Europe, stand in numerous cities across the former Holy Roman Empire, and represent the fact that the town has been granted special civil liberties ('Stadtrechte') including being allowed to hold a market. The statue in Quedlinburg was erected in the fifteenth century and is typical of its type in that Roland is depicted wielding Durendart, the sword of justice, and carries a shield with the heraldic device of a double-headed imperial eagle.

Quedlinburger Schloss (castle) stands on a steep outcrop of sandstone. This is amazing in that it is the first proper hill, of natural rock, I have had to climb since moving to Germany. And in fact Quedlinburg sits in the foothills of the Harz Mountains, which you can see from the castle terraces lurking moodily on the horizon. These mountains are quite respectable, with the highest peak The Brocken, or Blocksberg, reaching 1,141 metres. Not quite Alpine heights, but higher than e.g. Mt Snowdon in Wales at 1,085 metres.

Quedlinburg is an amazing place with photo opportunities around every corner. It seems too good to be real, like it is a stage-set perhaps. As usual for Germany, it wasn't overwhelmed by tourists either. If you imagine a town like this were located in the English Cotswalds say, there would be thirty-mile tailbacks on sunny Summer weekends and the only photos you'd get would be of the backs of people's heads. Just think of The Shambles in York for example.

A final surprise was at the train station, whilst waiting for the Hex train to Magdeburg (which as it turned out wasn't powered by witchcraft ('die hexe' = hag or witch in German)), when a steam-train pulled up on the next platform. Next thing we knew, a bunch of guys appeared, dressed in curled pointy shoes and peasant blouses, playing medieval style music à la Corvus Corax. At last, we had met some Quedlings!

Edit: Looking at the local paper Mitteldeutsche Zeitung I think the folk group are LaMarotte.

More photos of the day from Julie Woodhouse at Enjoy!


  1. I want to go! This is so picturesque and I would love to photograph every building! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. I am simply amazed that there are still places like this in existence, so beautifully preserved. Have always wanted to go there, but now I MUST go! Thanks so much for all the lovely photos.

  3. Wow! The buildings are awesome!
    I'm putting this place on my list.

  4. I am going to Germany for a wedding in Sep. and will defintely visit this town from Berlin. Not sure how to get there though...

    Great photos. Thank you

  5. Hah! I told you it was so much better than words can describe. I'm so glad you guys finally made it out there for a bunch of pictures. I had a great time on my trip out when I first moved here, and highly recommend it to my friends who want to see a "quick" bit of historical places without too much trouble.

  6. Great post!
    Brings back great memories of my 3 days spent there.
    I have many similar photos.
    We stayed at the 'Himmel & Holle' guesthouse just off the Market square.
    Check out my blog on Lucca at:

  7. Recently returned home to Australia from the Bachfest Leipzig, including a splendid visit to Quedlinburg and surrounds inspired by your blog. Thanks for the great information on your German journey.


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