Quedlinburg: First Capital of Germany
It would be hard to find a more charming town than Quedlinburg! The narrow, cobblestone streets are lined with over 1300 half-timbered houses.
Fortunately, Quedlinburg survived the war undamaged and was valued by the DDR, and so it's still here to be appreciated with its medieval look and layout intact. As a result, the entire town was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
History of QuedlinburgBirthplace of the German Nation
King Heinrich I (Henry the Fowler) was crowned King of Germany here in 919 A.D. This was the first time anyone had ruled Germany as a single entity. The church, Norbertinerkirche, was built around this time.
Like other towns of the Harz, Quedlinburg owed much of its prosperity to the silver, copper and tin mines nearby.It was also a major market town and member of the Hanseatic League, rivaling Cologne in importance during the Middle Ages.
Women Rule Quedlinburg
The Abbesses of the convent of Quedlinburg ruled the city until 1802, when Napoleon invaded and disbanded the Abbey.
First Woman Doctor
Maybe it's no coincidence that the first German woman to win the right to attend a university was a native of Quedlinburg. Dorothea Erxleben was the first woman to receive the academic title of Medical Doctor in Germany in 1754.
What to see in Quedlinburg
The town square is lined with great examples of medieval and Renaissance buildings. Several large, old hotels are here along with the Rathaus.
Breite Strasse, which heads north out of the Markt, has some delightful examples of half-timbered houses. Make sure you take a walk along this street. Look for the Gildehaus zur Rose at #39 Breite Strasse, possibly the prettiest of the houses in town.
On the Burgberg you will find the Abbesses' Palace (Residenzbau) and the Stiftkirche St. Servatius church.
Inside the Abbesses' Palace is the Schloss Museum which displays an interesting assortment of Ice Age fossils, Bronze Age artifacts and medieval torture instruments. On exhibit is the cage used to display a captured robber baron in the 1300's.
St. Servatius is one of the best-preserved 12th century buildings in Germany. Heinrich I and Mathilde are buried in the crypt with the abbesses.
This gorgeous collection of golden chests, religious manuscripts, crystal bottles, ivory combs, and swords, many of which were encrusted with jewels, dates from the 10th, 11th and 12th centuries and has a rocky history. The treasure took a long leave of absence from Quedlinburg after the second World War (more on that below!).
You can also see the oldest tapestry in Northern Europe, woven around 1200 A.D., with a surprisingly classical theme, the "marriage" of Mercury and Philosophy.
Darker history: during the war, Heinrich Himmler turned the church into a shrine to the SS, inspired by the church's connection with the first king of the German "Reich".
American Lieutenant Absconds with Treasure
Unfortunately, a 29 year old American officer made off with a good part of the treasure in 1945. During the war, the treasure had been hidden in a mine shaft outside of town for safe-keeping. The lieutenant was with a unit occupying the town and was supposed to be guarding it. Instead, it "disappeared".
In 1989, one of the jewel-encrusted manuscripts showed up at an antique dealer's in Switzerland. Then another manuscript went on the market in 1990.Treasure Discovered in Texas
The lieutenant had shipped the priceless artifacts to his parents house in Whitewright, Texas. He went to work in the family hardware store and no more was heard of the treasure until after his death in 1980. His brother and sister, as his heirs, ended up with it and started selling parts of it.
Eventually, a German investigator traced the treasure to a bank vault in Whitewright. After a legal battle, and a $2.75 million settlement, the treasure was returned to Quedlinburg in 1992, where you can see it in the Schloss Museum. Two pieces are still missing. One of the recovered items was the beautiful, jewel-encrusted ivory comb from the 7th century!Fate of the Siblings
What happened to the greedy brother and sister? In the end, not much. Felony charges were filed by the U.S. government, but were dismissed because of the Texas statute of limitations. Then the Internal Revenue Service went after them and levied huge fines, but the pair only ended up paying $135,000.
The Oldest House in Germany
The oldest half-timbered house in Germany, built around 1300, is at Wordgasse 3. It is now a museum illustrating the history and technique of this style of building (Fachwerkmuseum Staenderbau). Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Home of Germany's Milton
One of the greatest masters of German lyric poetry was Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, who grew up in Quedlinburg. His house is at #12 Schlossberg Strasse and is now a museum about his life and work. The museum also has a section on the life of Frau Doktor Erxleben.
Klopstock's poetry created a major shift in the style of German poetry in the 18th century. Formal, stylized poems gave way to highly emotional expressions of human feelings. His themes often emphasize the pleasures of life's small moments in the company of friends and the beauty of nature.
He is also famous for his epic poem, Der Messias, based on the life of Jesus.Click on Klopstock for a sample of his poetry and more about his life.
For Fans of Modern Art
See more information on Lyonel Feininger and view a gallery of his paintings.
Great View of the Old Town
If you walk up the other hill, the Muenzenberg (west of the Burgberg) you'll get a wonderful view of the castle and red roofs of the town below. The winding street climbing up there has lots of charming little houses and few people.
Visiting QuedlinburgArrival at the Bahnhof
The Bahnhof and bus station are on the east edge of town and the Altstadt (where the Markt is) is just a 10 minute walk, first down Bahnhofstrasse, then left on Heiligengeiststrasse. The two hills (Burgberg and Muenzenberg) are at the south end of town. See map of Quedlinburg at the bottom.
The Tourist Office is located on the Markt at #2. This is a good first stop to get a town map and make hotel reservations if you need them. There is a variety of places to stay, from fancy hotels, reasonable pensions, rooms in homes and a youth hostel. They are open daily Apr-Sept, closed Sundays in winter. (www.quedlinburg-info.de)
More expensive: check out the prices and photos on their websites.
Where to Eat
The hotels mentioned above are also good choices for a meal. In addition, the following restaurants are tasty spots:
Map of Quedlinburg
For how to get to here, see Travel to the Harz.
Colditz Castle. Visit one of the most famous German POW camps in World War 2. Remarkable escapes, clever disguises, ingenious plots.
Martin Luther. Follow the trail of Martin Luther. See the church in Wittenberg where he nailed his 95 Theses to the door and Wartburg Castle, where he hid from the Inquisition and translated the Bible into German.
More information on Lyonel Feininger: biography and gallery of 41 paintings.