Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Celle - Model Saxon Mediaeval Town

Celle is about 270km West of Berlin in Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), on the southern edge of the Lüneburg Heath (Lüneberger Heide). It takes between about two and an half to two and three quarters (depending on whether you take an ICE or IC) to get there from Berlin Hauptbahnhof, but it is well worth the journey. Plus, if you do get bored (unlikely) the trains change at Hannover, another gorgeous town.

It is only a fifteen minute walk from Celle station to the Altstadt and very soon you are at the town's Schloss and an impressively dynamic sculpture of a horse and trainer.

Horse and trainer sculpture, Schloss Celle
Horse and trainer sculpture, Schloss Celle
Horses are a recurring leitmotif (Leitmotiv) in the symphony of timber-framed buildings and folksy legends that thread through the winding streets of Celle. The 'white horse' especially is a time-long symbol of the Saxon people; legend recalls that the Saxon brothers Hengest and Horsa conquered Britain under a 'white horse' banner, and the white horse was taken up on the coat-of-arms of the House of Hanover, surviving to this day on the flag of the modern German state of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen). Incidently, it is also to be found on the arms of the county of Kent, where Hengest and Horsa first landed and began the Anglo-Saxon invasion.

The Hanoverians acquired Schloss Celle on the death of the last Duke of the Electorate of Brunswick-Lüneburg, George William (Georg Wilhelm), in 1705. George was responsible for altering the previous renaissance-style castle into a 'modern' baroque Residenz, and introduced reminders of his time amongst the villas of Venice. It is certainly an impressive building, surrounded by a moat and set in a peaceful public park.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Schloss Celle across the moat (with geese!)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
An interesting fusion of baroque,Venetian, and gothic styles on the façade of Schloss Celle 

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
The front entrance of Schloss Celle
Across the road from the castle is the Bomann Museum, which contains exhibitions of local folklore and town history.
Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Bomann Museum
On the corner of the Bomann museum is a statue of Otto II Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, aka Otto the Strict (Otto der Strenge). In his left hand he holds a model of the Schloss, and indeed Otto founded a settlement here in 1292 next to what is now Schloss Celle. He gave the settlement town privileges in 1301. He can be said, then, to be responsible for Celle being here at all, though a settlement here called Kiellu was recorded in 985AD (other sources say 993). By the way, Celle is pronounced with a soft C like the French, rather than a hard C like the German K.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Adjoining the Bomann Museum is the interesting-looking art gallery which contains the Robert Simon collection. It is the world's first 24-hour art museum, and if you come by when it is dark you will find it filled with changing coloured light (apparently - we left Celle well before sunset).

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Behind the modern architecture of the Kustmuseum Celle we encountered the first timber-framed building for which Celle is justly famous (there are around 500 of them), the charming former Latin School on Kalandgasse.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Alte Lateinschule, Kalandgasse 4-6, Celle
Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Music sheet in the window of the Latin School
I am guessing from the words that this is from Bach's St Matthew Passion 
On an der Stadtkirche are more timber-framed buildings. If you like this kind of architecture, then strap yourself in; you are going to be thrilled by how many examples of Fachwerkhaus you are going to see in Celle. By the way, notice the Polizei car at the end of the lane? Yup, the end timber-framed building actually is a working Police Station, perhaps the most charming Police Station you could ever wish to be banged up in.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Also here, behind the Kunstmuseum, is the sculpture Feuerwerk für Celle (fireworks for Celle) by Otto Piene (2006), which I think is really rather impressive.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Feuerwerk für Celle, Otto Piene (2006)
This modern art installation fits in well with the timber-framed buildings beside them, though you can't help thinking that 'fire' and 'timber' in conjunction are not a good combination.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Opticians on an der Stadtkirche

This road is called an der Stadtkirche by the way because we are behind the Stadtkirche St. Marien (St Mary's). Here is a glimpse of it, but in fact if you want religious inspiration most of the timber-framed buildings have devotional phrases written on them; von Gottes Gnaden seen here means 'by the grace of God'.

Celle Fachwerkhaus
By The Grace of God, Celle
Soon we came to the Rathaus with the inevitable Ratskeller restaurant; it has an elaborate trompe l'oeil effect painted on that doesn't really work for us. Not many restaurant customers either.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Ratskeller, Celle
The Stechbahn in front of Stadtkirche St. Marien was hosting a colourful mid-week market:

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Flower stall in front of the St Marienkirche, Celle
The Stechbahn is lined with an eye-striking collection of timber-framed buildings, viewed above the market stalls. The first-time visitor - as we were - would already be impressed by how picturesque these buildings are. By the end of their visit to Celle they would probably see quite a few hundred more!

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Stechbahn Fachwerkhäuser
The Stechbahn gets its name (literally the stabbing / jabbing / knife-thrusting lane, not suggestive of a place you'd want to walk after dark) because in mediaeval times this was a knights' tournament area where there would be jousting and staged sword-fighting. A reminder of those days is a sculpture of lances in front of the Rathaus.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Knightly lances on the Stechbahn, Celle
It all looks a bit more peaceful on today's market day though.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Stechbahn market
On the Stechbahn stands the Löwenapotheke (Lion apothecary), built in 1530 and until 1849 the Royal Court apothecary. Today it houses the Museum Cafe.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Löwenapotheke, Celle
In the square in front of the apothecary is cemented a horse-shoe with the date 1471 engraved on one of the surrounding stones. This supposedly marks the spot where Otto V, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and called 'the magnanimous' and 'the victorious', died during a jousting tournament on that date.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Horse-shoe commemorating the spot where Otto the Magnanimous died in a jousting competition.
Celle, as I have said, has some 480 plus timber-framed buildings that have been variously renovated, rebuilt, and sometimes newly built. It has historically been an army garrison town, ever since 1842 when the Cambridge Dragoons Barracks were built in the town. And don't be puzzled by the reference to the English town of Cambridge - keep in mind that Celle was a possession of the House of Hannover, and in 1714 a certain Georg Ludwig, Elector of Hannover and Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, ascended to the British throne as King George I. Even though it was an important garrison location for the Third Reich it came off relatively unscathed from bombing during WWII, with 2.2% (67 houses) destroyed. It also surrendered without a fight to the Allied armies on 12th April 1945, so much of the old town centre and the castle have survived unscathed. Things might have been different if the Allies had known then about the nearby Bergen-Belsen concentration camp (where Anne Frank died).

After the Allies occupied Celle, the town became a garrison for the British army until as recently as August 2012. There are still some reminders around the town of this period.

Here are my photos of some of the many buildings in Celle. I call this place a 'model Saxon Mediaeval Town' though because the sheer number of buildings in variations of the same style, and all so pristine and with fresh paint, left me with the impression that I had been to an artificially constructed theme park!

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Market day, Celle

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Even the exotic lingerie shops in Celle are timber-framed.
Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Are you starting to get a bit bored with half-timbered houses yet?

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
One of the most impressive timber-framed buildings in Celle; the Hoppener Haus, built in 1532
Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Shackles at the Rathaus
Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
The rampant white horse of the Hanoverians and Lower Saxony, held by a lion of the Dukes of Brunswick-Lüneburg 

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
One of the few neo-classical buildings that buck the trend of architectural prefernces in Celle

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Alte Reithaus (old kights' house), once stables for the Cambridge Dragoons.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Plant-potted tree in the Franzosicher Garten

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Memorial to Queen Caroline Mathilde of Denmark, sister of King George III of England, who had rather a tragic life.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Bee-keeping Research centre.
Not seen one of those before!

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
And it is not often you see a timber-framed Chinese restaurant, but kind of inevitable in Celle.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Celle sk8tr boyz

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Shooting museum, by the old town walls.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Even Mexican restaurants are timber-framed.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
The birthplace (in 1752) of renowned agriculturist Albrecht Thaer.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Wok and Roll!

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Crazy frogs on the lookout!

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Another of my favourite buildings.
Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Stadtkirche St Marien, Celle

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Bronze statue to 'Ernst der Bekenner' or Duke Ernest the Confessor, champion of the Protestant Reformation.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
A peaceful Stechbahn after the market stalls have packed up and gone home.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Celle law courts. Not timber-framed, for a change.
Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)
Geese, inhabitants of the Schloss Celle moat.
If your eyes are starting to ache after all the strict linearity of the timber-framed buildings of Celle, then to soften things out I recommend taking a walk beside the river Aller to the medicinal herb garden (Heilpflanzengarten) for a relaxing time out.

Celle, Lower Saxony, Germany (Niedersachsen, Deutschland)

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