Exploring another medieval town

Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
Trip End Mar 15, 2007

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Flag of Germany  ,
Monday, August 14, 2006

Got up about 6 and Monika helped me to get a ticket to Goslar. The day is a bit cloudy but I can see that the sun is trying to come out. Rinkerode to Hamm with Monika, Hamm to Lohne to Hildersheim to Goslar. We got in to Hamm fine. Somewhere on the line a group of school children got on and it was pandemonium. The tI cain about 5 minutes late in to Lohne but the train waited for us, whew. The land is flat and agricultural. With some hills (maybe the Weserberg mountains) to the left.

Out of the train at Hildersheim with a three quarter of an hour wait for the next train. Called the youth hostel. They did not speak any English but appeared to have a room for me. Many youngsters waiting for various trains at Hildersheim. All in long black coats (yikes - do they ever sound military) and various forms of spikes and hair colours. A group of three had extremely high heeled boots with holes in the soles and springs as they walked. Like in the land of the giants.

The train to Goslar was a little old mountain train - none of these flashy new ones. Seats upright in a rather pukish green as we rattled from side to side. We climbed and climbed through green mountain valleys until coming to a halt in an apparently small village where I hauled myself off the train and into the bus information place. They told me how to get to the youth hostel and off I went.

After signing in and showering, I headed back downtown to see what I could see. On the way I met a Dutch family Carla, her husband, their daughter, Naomi who were heading to town via a short cut. They very kindly showed me the way down a fairly steep and mossy path which cut about two K off the hike downtown.

The town is a medieval marvel. In their brochure it says, "Poverty maintains, but wealth destroys" and that is certainly the case here. The Harz Mountains area here in Saxony had great forests, fertile soils and mellow grasslands. It is in an area of natural road crossings from Scandinavia in the North to Italy in the South and from the Frankish countries in the West to the Slavic countries in the East. This area, among many moved from the middle Stone Age into the Bronze Age. In the mid 900s, the people of Goslar found ways to explore the colourful ore veins at the Rammelsberg's surface and when smelters began to produce the much sought after metals, in particular, silver, this community experienced something of a gold rush. This was a very wealthy town until about 1550. Then they had a feud with the Duke of Brunswick and this ended in the loss of the Rammelsberg mines and the forests and they settled into something like oblivion. The old city retained its architecture virtually unchanged as the ages slowly moved along.

With an area of about 100 hectares (250 acres) and some 1,800 half-timbered buildings, Goslar has the largest coherent (they say) old city in Germany. And this old city is cherished by its citizens. Carefully modernized to fit today's needs, the old houses are loved and lived in. The city is alive - not a dead museum.

On my way to find the tourist information I heard a carillon of bells. I climbed the steps of the City hall and could see across the market square, a series of bells ringing a song and beneath it, a procession of figures. The owner of the mines in 1968 donated the carillon which is housed in the upper story of a Baroque house. Accompanied by the music, sets of figures help to illustrate the technical side of mining history (figure with pick and hammer, another with a wheelbarrow, carrying wood for the supports of the mine, a more modern miner with hard hat and drill bit. The complete presentation takes place only four times a day. At other times only the bronze bells are clanged, fells cast from metal ore that was once mined here. The tourist brochure says "as tourists and locals alike enjoy this old fashioned ritual, standing space is hard to find at carillon hours. I was lucky that I arrived at a time when the full procession was occurring. It was rather fun, I must say.

The tourist bureau indicated they did not have any tours in English although they did have a walking tour with things marked in English. I bought both of those and started off.

Many of the buildings around the square have interesting histories including the 15th century City Hall and the Worth - the guildhall of merchants. The name keeps alive the fact that the merchants once chose a dry place down in the valley to set up business. The name indicates a site near water. The im and export merchants with their self-administered societies, in many ways the fore-runner of today's co-operatives, once were the nuclei for the founding of independent cities. It was built in 1494 and while the ground floor housed the actual exchange, the upper storey once contained a large hall for celebrations of its members. The liberties and custom privileges granted to them by the emperors prompted toe guild to put up Baroque wooden statues of emperors in their Gothic niches. There are a number of apparently clever references to things like various punishments to those who could not pay their debts; however, I admit, they were too clever for me - I could not see them.

After my wander around I was suddenly very tired, what with travel, carrying pack, etc. I sat down for lunch and a beer, gazed at the Romanesque fountain (whose basins are crowned with dragons, lion's heads and the Imperial Eagle. I could not rouse myself until after 3pm.

I took a slow wander back to the youth hostel past gorgeous Medieval buildings including: the Market Church (about 1150), Bruttsch House (1526), Baker's Guild Hall (1557), the half timbered house of a bell caster (1573) and a patrician mansion (1693), a miner's cottage (about 1600) and Church (12th century a city gate; chapel since 1537).

When I got myself back to the hostel I pretty much collapsed with exhaustion. Fell heavily asleep and could not even wake up for dinner.
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