Quedlinburg Castle at Sundown. This and all photos taken in December 2012
The next stop on the 2012 Christmas market tour is Quedlinburg. Situated on the Bode River at the foot of the Harz Mountain region in western Saxony-Anhalt, Quedlinburg at first may be a typical town that had survived 40 years of East German Communist rule and seemed to be neglected even after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and Germany was reunified a year later. One can see signs of neglect and deterioration when passing through many towns in the region, unless they underwent massive modernization altering its identity. It is noticeable when stepping onto the platform at the train station and averting the train station building, as parts of it have deteriorated to a point where they have been closed off to the public. Yet if many home-making and children’s magazines have recommended visiting Quedlinburg because of its Christmas markets, then the town must have a gem somewhere for people to see, right?
Quedlinburg Train Station: in need of renovations
Crossing the Bahnhofsbruecke over the Bode and walking 10 minutes into the historic city center, one can see why it is a must to visit the Christmas market. Every year, the town of 25,000 inhabitants hosts the Christmas market, but based on an unusual style one will rarely see in Germany. Every weekend in the Advent season, the Adventsmarkt in den Hoefen (advent market in the courtyard) takes place, with local residents displaying and selling handcrafted goods to people looking for a perfect Christmas gift and local delicacies to those hosting a family feast on Christmas Eve. This year’s event took place in the courtyards of 24 houses and market squares throughout the historic city center. For those wondering why this is the case, there is a reason and it has a historic twist to it.
Quedlinburg, as a town, has existed since the 9th Century, and much of the architecture that was first built by Henry the Fowler, his wife Saint Mathilda and his successor Otto the Great, and later expanded throughout the Medieval Period still exists to this day, as the town survived almost entirely unscathed in World War II. Among the architecture that has survived the test of time are the Fachwerk-houses, the houses whose interior is supported by a truss skeleton that can be seen from the outside. A truss is a series of triangular sides which if fastened together form or support certain architecture, like a bridge or skyscraper. Some sources claimed that the first truss was invented in Italy in the 1600s, yet that has been bluffed for such architecture, found in houses like the ones in Quedlinburg, date as far back as the 1300s. Almost all of the architecture in Quedlinburg consist of the Fachwerk style truss design, the houses are usually formed together, making it big enough to fit three families plus belongings on average. They have been restored to their original form and every year at Advent time, families and owners of these houses open their doors to the tourists and showcase their home and the work they do, whether it is making Christmas trees from a tree branch (as seen in the pictures below) or selling local goat and deer meet and sausages with some seasonings in there to make it tasty. Some have fancy displays for people to see. In the case of one courtyard, a loyal fan of the German Railways even had a Bord Restaurant and café for people wanting to have the sense of eating on the train. The Bord Restaurant can be found on all ICE-trains. If one wants to try anything that is typical of the region, the town is the place to do it, for Quedlinburg is at the crossroads between agriculture, mountains and anything Medieval and everything sold at the Advent market is typical of the town and the region.
Quedlinburg represents a fine example of a rural community that prides itself on local goods and never embraces in the more commercialized goods, especially at the bigger Christmas markets in the big cities, like Dresden, Nuremberg and Frankfurt. There is a certain belief that if one wants to sell something, it must be self-made and have the highest quality, even if they are made in low quantities. It is not a necessity to mass produce in order to make the quickest dollar possible, for even though such methods are possible, the people will be turned off by products that are made in haste and doctored in a way that it looks good on the outside, but never satisfies the person on the inside because of the lack of appearance and taste. It is better to strive for high quality and not worry about profits, for in the end people will talk about the experience they had and spread the word instead of just saying “Been there, nothing too spectacular.” When visiting the courtyards and stands at the Adventsmarkt in Quedlinburg, one will definitely experience the feeling of home, when seeing the products being made and sold by the locals. In many cases, Quedlinburg serves as a place where creativity is born or reborn, giving visitors an incentive to starting their own local business, creating and selling local products for others to enjoy. If one wants to be creative, then it is highly recommended to spend a day at the Adventsmarkt in Quedlinburg, talk to people and take something with to use as a starting point.
Quedlinburg is a must-see place for those traveling through Germany and not knowing where to visit (apart from the big cities). Especially in the winter time, where most of the activities take place. Apart from the Advent market, there are winter festivals taking place in February. In the summer time, one can stay at one of the Fachwerk-houses and witness farm life, which includes horseback riding, hiking, biking, etc. In terms of its architecture and history, one can see the historic old town and the castle, all of which have been nominated as part of UNESCO’s World Heritage since 1994. But at Christmas time, if one wishes for something special, Quedlinburg is the place to be, for each of the courtyards have a different theme, each to one’s liking, and when visiting the Advent market, one will come away with something special to share with others. There is something special about Quedlinburg and Christmas which makes it worth visiting, even if it’s just for a day’s visit.
Here are some photos of the Advent Market in Quedlinburg, with a Flensburg Files Frage for the Forum with regards to one of the pictures. Our last stop on the tour is Halle (Saale) and a pair of questions about the town are also found at the end of the article. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures of the Advent Market:
Christmas tree being made of a tree branch at the Blue Star Courtyard at the Adventsmarkt……
…and after it was completed and put on display to be bought.
Blue Star Courtyard, one of 24 courtyards that you can see while at the Adventsmarkt
Market Square and City Hall, one of 24 Courtyards at the Adventsmarkt. Here, one can get a tour of the town by bus or try the various food specialties.
Rows upon rows of Fachwerk houses along Marktstrasse, with the St Nicolas Cathedral in the background
Quedlinburger Hof near Carl-Ritter-Strasse at the entrance to Word Garden: one of the largest and oldest of the Fachwerk-houses in the old town. It also has the largest of the Adventmarket stands.
Another example of what can be found in Quedlinburg: half-timbered houses, a cousin of the Fachwerk-houses. This one is found along Word Creek at the entrance to Quedlinburger Hof near Carl-Ritter-Strasse
Another example of a Fachwerk house in Quedlinburg’s old town: Hotel Zur Hoelle (Hint: think of Dante’s Inferno) because of its color. Inside you will find another Adventsmarkt courtyard with various stands
Wordhaus Restaurant at the border to the old town and Word Garden: one of many examples of a finely restored Fachwerk house.
Christmas tree with man-made ornaments
Frage for the Forum:
Can you guess what this tower is, how old it is and what it is used for? It is found at the Quedlinburger Hof near Carl-Ritter Strasse and has a history of its own:
Please place your answers in the comment section. The question will also be posted on the Facebook site bearing the name: Flensburg Files by Monday 14 January. The answer will be provided then…..
The last stop on the tour is Halle (Saale), which will be presented next Monday. The question for the forum is the following:
1. What world renowned musician originated from Halle (and it is NOT Johann Sebastian Bach), and
2. What else is Halle famous for, apart from its Christmas market?
Again, place your answers here as well as in the Facebook section. The answers will surprise you.
Note: The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles is looking for information on Quedlinburg’s historic bridges for there are plenty that exist in and around the city center, but little or no information on it. A link to the article can be found here.