Quedlinburg and the Harz

In the interest of highlighting some non-Blue Book destinations and good alternatives to that seemingly irresistible tourist black hole, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, allow me to share my impressions of my weekend trip to Quedlinburg in the Harzkreis of Sachsen-Anhalt. I had read that Quedlinburg has one of the largest preserved Altstadts in Germany, and I had wanted to hike in the Harz, so I decided to make a quick weekend visit with my dog (wife couldn't make this one). The city lies along both the Deutsche Fachwerkstraße, the Straße der Romanik (Romanesque Route, although sometime incorrectly translated as "Romantic"), and near the Oranier-Route. It's not in the Harz itself, but very close. Right from the start, Quedlinburg takes the crown for two things: largest contiguous historical district, and highest percentage of Fachwerk buildings (although Wernigerode could also make a case for this). The buildings aren't uniformly from the same period, but I could almost count the number I saw that dated from after WWII on one hand. The majority seem to date from before 1800. And as already noted, more Fachwerk than I've seen anywhere else. (cont).

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9084 posts

Probably the highlight is the cathedral-Schloss complex that overlooks the town from a hill. Because I had my dog with me, I couldn't tour the interior of either, but they looked impressive from the outside. I'm not sure when the cathedral was built, but from the appearance I would estimate that it predates the era of Gothic architecture. I stayed in the Schlosshotel zum Markgrafen, a beautiful old building with a commanding view of the town. (http://www.schlosshotel-zum-markgrafen.de/). The breakfast was as expected and the price was surprisingly inexpensive. The hotel has its own little private estate park... which proved quite useful first thing in the morning when traveling with a dog, if you know what I mean. One downside was that my 3rd floor room was uncomfortably warm. Because there was virtually no wind, even with the window wide open, it took several hours for the room to cool off at night. To compare and constrast to Rothenburg... Quedlinburg's historical area is much larger than Rothenburg's, although only a small fragment of it's wall remains, and the surviving historical buildings date from a more wide period of time. Both have a nightwatchman's tour, although I'm pretty sure Quedlinburg's is only offered in German. Tourists are noticable in both towns, but far less in Quedlinburg. The selection of restaurants in Quedlinburg is probably more limited, but they appear to cater less specifically to tourists. There are hardly any trinket shops. Both towns are completely dead after hours (cont).

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9084 posts

On to the Harz. This mountain chain is the northern-most in Germany. To the south, the German Central Highlands (die Mittelgebirge) continue all the way to the Alps, but the North German Plain opens up to the north. As I've mentioned before, the Harz are one of about 50 mountain ranges in the Mittelgebirge, of which the Black Forest is probably the best known in the US. For the most part, the mountains don't appear any more impressive than the other ranges I've seen... with the exception of the highest peak, the Brocken, which dominates the landscape. I devoted Saturday morning to hiking up Brocken. This must be one of the most popular hikes in Germany, because there were hundreds (perhaps even thousands?) of people on the mountain. I drove to the small town of Schierke, and from there my dog and I began our ascent. Although it was rocky for one portion, overall it wasn't a difficult hike. We reached the summit in a little over two hours. I would imagine anyone without a severe medical condition could probably make it to the top. If this proves too hard, a steam locomotive runs to the top from the town of Wernigerode. We watched it pass by several times. Through some quirk of weather that I won't pretend to understand, the summit of Brocken has an Alpine climate, meaning that despite the relatively low altitude compared to the Alps, there are no trees and snow tops the mountain for the majority of the year. The views, of course, were amazing. In addition to the Bahnhof, the summit has a hotel, several Imbiss stands, a restaurant with a large Biergarten, a museum about the Harz, a weather station and a radio tower. I read something about how this used to be a restricted Soviet observation post back in the days of the DDR, but now, it's open to everyone. (cont).

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9084 posts

To save time, we took the Eisenbahn back down to Schierke. I wanted to devote a few hours to exploring Wernigerode, which looks like it could rival Quedlinburg for the sheer number of Fachwerk buildings. The town boasts a very impressive pedestrian area and a marvelous old Rathaus. A beautiful castle, rebuilt in the 19th century, overlooks the town (I know, not "authentic medieval", but why should this matter?). The castle hosts an art collection and a museum, but I didn't get a chance to go in. Some kind of celebration was going on during our visit, because I heard a marching band and could see a parade coming towards the Rathaus. Unfortunately, I couldn't stay around to investigate further, because part of the celebration involved firing a cannon every few minutes. This was too much for my dog... I've subsequently learned that in addition to being the starting point of the Harzquerbahn, Wernigerode's other claim to fame is the host city of the Hasseröder Brewery. It may not count as a household name in the US, but they're one of the Big 10 of German brewers. For a country with as many breweries as Germany, that's no small feat. Before driving home today, I wanted to visit nearby Burg Falkenstein. I had read that it was never destroyed and has been occupied continually since the medieval period. Perhaps, then, an alternative to Burg Eltz and Marksburg? Unfortunately, it was raining too hard, and the castle was not visible from the parking area. Rather than drive home for 4 hours with a wet dog in the car, I decided to cancel the visit to Burg Falkenstein. Oh well, perhaps someone else on this forum can check it out? (cont)

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9084 posts

So, overall, great weekend trip. It's always interesting to see the regional differences that exist throughout Germany. The Bundesland of Sachsen-Anhalt was almost completely unfamiliar to me, now I'm glad I've seen at least a small portion of it. Would I rate Quedlinburg as a mandatory stop on anyone's trip to Germany? Much like I don't think everyone needs to make an immediate beeline to Rothenburg odT and the Romantischestraße, you can skip Quedlinburg and still have a wonderful visit to Germany. But if your itinerary includes Berlin, Hamburg, or other locations in the north of Germany... give it some consideration before blindly following the herd to Rothenburg. CORRECTION: Quedlinburg does not lie along the official route of the Fachwerkstraße, although it runs nearby.

Posted by Nelly
Calgary
211 posts

Great trip report. I was planning a trip for my daughters' choir to Wernigerode for a choral competition next year but we couldn't get enough families signed up. So I'll have to wait a few years to see this area. Thanks for the details, I'll use them someday!

Posted by Jeff
Taunusstein, Germany
232 posts

I have been to Wernigerode.....your description of Quedlinburg sounds very attractive. From my limited visits to the area its perhaps much more of a "German" destination than the usual places for foreigners. Very useful trip report.

Posted by Bob
Bristol, UK
277 posts

We recently spent a few days in Wernigerode. We were on an organised tour with Great Rail Journeys, and the object was travel on the narrow gauge steam trains in the Harz Mountains. Our hotel was in Wernigerode, but we also spent short periods in Quedlinburg and Goslar. They are all very attractive small towns, and the countryside is stunning, as is the journey up the Brocken. It is a bit off the beaten track, although we saw tourists from Spain and the Netherlands, as well as many Germans. It's an area I would certainly like to return to.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9084 posts

"From my limited visits to the area its perhaps much more of a "German" destination than the usual places for foreigners." Most of the obvious tourists I saw were German, although there were also a fair number of Dutch and Polish. The non-local German license plates were mostly from the north and east- ie, a lot of Sachsen, Brandenberg, Berlin, Niedersacshen, Schleswig-Holstein, not too many Bavaria, Rheinland-Pfaltz or Baden-Württemberg. I encountered exactly one family of North Americans (not sure if they were from the US or Canada), who oddly enough, were staying in the same hotel as me. On a related note, my weekend provided me with a great opportunity for an apples-to-apples comparison. Mainly, what do Germans wear when they take a vacation? Guess what? All the things that some of the fascionistas on this website claim Europeans don't wear- shorts, T shirts, baseball caps, sneakers, and even, yes, FANNY PACKS!

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4752 posts

Thanks for the great trip report. It is nice reading about the other "Routes" that go through Germany, like the Fachwerk Route, or Fairy Tale Route, as the towns that are on it offer exactly what visitors to Germany want to see.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Great trip report! It's rather far for me but if I ever make a driving trip up that way I'll be sure and check out this area. As far as fashion goes, German tourists are really the only people who dress worse than American ones. No wait, scratch that, Aussies are really the absolute worst. /fashionpolice

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9084 posts

Actually, most guidebooks do include Quedlinburg. Of the books I have at home, it's in Lonely Planet, the DK Eyewitness Guide, the Michelin Green Guide, Frommer's 25 Great Drives in Germany, Marco Polo, and the Insight Guide. Only the Blue Book omits it, or more likely, overlooks it.

Posted by Mona
Santa Barbara
231 posts

Great report Tom. We just returned from a 3 week home exchange in Quedlinburg. I agree with everything you've said. We first saw Quedlinburg whe we were driving through the countryside in Germany in the winter of 1990. I knew that I needed to see what this town would become after the DDR times. It is so unique, still transitioning and welcoming. Even though Q doesn't have a big infrastructure for tourists they have everything that you would need. We really enjoyed our time there and only heard English spoken once by a US couple in the market square one day. If you return with your dog again for a hike try the Bodetal hike. We liked this area so much and found so much to do and see here that we never made it to the cities to the south that we were hoping to see. Therefore, we may return to the Dresden region next summer for a few weeks. Great report Tom, thanks.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9084 posts

Bumped, to make this thread easier to find...

Posted by Betty
Missouri City
201 posts

A few years ago, we included Quedlinburg, Wernigerode and Hannoversch Muenden in our trip to Germany. To that point, we had never been north of Frankfurt. We found all three towns to be incredibly beautiful and worthy of several days to explore all the area has to offer.

Posted by barb
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
4 posts

Hello Tom, many THANKS to you and this fabulous Travel Report. It is wonderful to be well informed before making a decision as to where to travel to and your information was great. We think we are going to enjoy our stay in the Harz in September. Thanks again
Barb and Otto

Posted by Charlie
Celina, Ohio, USA
71 posts

Great report! We're planning a trip to Germany in Fall of 2014. Our fifth but travel companion's first. We want to include the Harz Gebirge in plans for an "off the beaten path" experience. Would you recommend Quedlinburg or Wernigerode as a base to explore the area?

Posted by Charlie
Celina, Ohio, USA
71 posts

Great report! We're planning a trip to Germany in Fall of 2014. Our fifth but travel companion's first. We want to include the Harz Gebirge in plans for an "off the beaten path" experience. Would you recommend Quedlinburg or Wernigerode as a base to explore the area?