Growing up in Canada, it was customary in geography class to study our continent as the New World and Europe as the Old World. The latter had the most beautiful connotations.
Our minds were filled with images of half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets, mysterious winding alleys, and cafes serving excellent coffee and fine wines to people whose less frantic lifestyle allowed them to while away pleasant afternoons.
There is a place where this picture perfect Old World charm exists, and it is Hann. Munden, a little German town situated where the Werra and Fulda rivers come together to form the Wester. The poet Alexander von Humboldt called the community “one of the seven most beautifully situated towns in the world.”
Medieval forts add to the imagery
The townscape is enhanced with 12 historic fort towers, bridges that date back to medieval times, and gentle lanes that lead to wondrous shops, tempting bakeries and little nooks for sipping coffee and fine wine.
If that is not the fulfillment of all Old World fantasies, you can actually stand before its magnificent town hall (Weser-Renaissance) at 12 noon, or 3 p.m., or 5 p.m., and watch and hear the attraction of the glockenspiel chiming.
As you stroll around the community, you can still see the remnants of its old city wall, built to protect some of the wealthiest citizens of the region who lived here in its early days.
Attractions can fill up a day’s visit
Originally a trading centre in medieval times, Hann. Munden is an easy afternoon visit from Kassel (take Autobahn A7, exiting at Hann.Munden) if you are taking in dOCUMENTA13, the world famous art show, this summer.
If time allows, you can even stay overnight in one of its ancient timber frame hotels and enjoy its wealth of bicycle paths along the river banks. Attractions include the historic Guelph Castle with rare Renaissance frescos, and water sculptures.
The semblances of wealth that still dot the community today have much to do with its history. Duke Otto I of Brunswick apparently gave the town something called “Stapelrecht” trading privileges in 1247. This meant that all merchants passing through the town had to unload their goods and offer them for sale to the citizens there for three days before they could pass on to their other market destinations.
This clever rule explains how so many objects of value were acquired by early residents of the town and the distinguishing touches of their homes. (Edith Robb)
About the author: Edith Robb is an award-winning freelance writer specializing in travel and culture. Canadian by birth, she now lives half of each year in the United States and travels extensively, including making several trips to Germany in preparation for dOCUMENTA13. She has worked on many travel publications, including Back Roads and Getaway Places for Reader’s Digest and Guide to Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada for Fodor’s Travel Guides. She has a Master of Arts degree with a major in cultural studies.