Road Trip #2
Updated: Mar 8, 2021
On Friday afternoon, we got into our electric car again and started on the second leg of our travels along the Weser River. Our trip took us to the beautiful town of Hamelin in Lower Saxony.
Hamelin lays on the "Road of Weser Renaissance" and on the "German Fairy Tale Route". The "German Fairy Tale Route" is a tourist route that passes through the cities and towns where the Brothers Grimm gathered the narratives for their famous stories. The route is a popular travel destination for young families and typically a whole set of fairy tale-themed exhibitions, events, performances and open-air festivals are held along the route. If you are curious to read more about the "German Fairy Tale Route", you will find the official website here.
The Pied Piper of Hamelin
The folklore story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin is one of the many fairy tales written down by the Brothers Grimm. While the Bothers Grimm published their first version of the tale in 1816, the legend originally dates back to the Middle Ages — to a rat infestation in 1284. As the story goes, the Pied Piper was hired by the town of Hamelin to lure rats away from the city. For this, he used a magic pipe. Once the rats were gone, the citizens however refused to pay the promised fee to the Pied Piper. He therefore used his magical pipe on the city’s children and led them out of the city as he had the rats before.
We started our walk through the inner city of Hamelin by admiring the outside of the Stiftsherrenhaus. Built in 1558, the Stiftsherrenhaus is a true icon on the Weser Renaissance. It is located in the very heart of Hamelin, in the midst of the inner city. While the builder is unknown, it is known that the building was commissioned by the merchant and Hamelin mayor, Friedrich Poppendiek. Since 1975, the building has housed a museum café on its ground floor. The upper floors of the building houses a part of the Hamelin Museum.
The Leisthaus is directly next to the Stiftsherrenhaus and it was therefore the second building we stopped to admire in Hamelin. Built in 1585-1589, the Leisthaus is considered to be one of the most magnificent buildings of the Weser Renaissance. Together with the Stiftsherrenhaus, it is also one of the most famous houses in Hamelin's old town. The oldest parts of the building date back to the Middle Ages. The current building was built by Cord Tönnis, on commission of patrician Gerd Leist. Since 1912, the building has housed the Hamelin Museum. In 1977, the first floor of the Leisthaus was connected to the neighboring Stiftsherrenhaus.
Further down the street from the Stiftsherrenhaus and Leisthaus is the Rattenfängerhaus. Built in 1602-1603, the "Rat Catcher's House" or "Pied Piper's House" is perhaps the most famous building of Hamelin and it is also an icon of the Weser Renaissance. It was built for the Hamelin councilor Hermann Arendes, either by the master mason Johann Hundertossen or Eberhard Wilkening. Since 1917, the building has been owned by the city of Hamelin and today it houses a restaurant.
The house got its current name around 1900, based on an old wooden inscription on it's side which says:
"ANNO 1284 AM DAGE JOHANNIS ET PAULI WAR DER 26. JUNI DORCH EINEN PIPER MIT ALLERLEY FARVE BEKLEDET GEWESEN CXXX KINDER VERLEDET BINNEN HAMELN GEBOREN TO CALVARIE BI DEN KOPPEN VERLOREN"
This translates roughly to the follow in English:
"In the year 1284, on the day of St. John and St. Paul, on 26 June, 130 children born in Hamelin were misled by a piper clothed in many colors to the Calvary near the Koppenberg, and were lost."
Built in 1607-1608, the Dempterhaus is a beautiful example of a residential house of the Weser Renaissance. The building was built for Tobias von Dempter and Anna Brocks. The bottom half of the building was constructed of stone and the top is a half-timbered construction. The building currently houses a store and the offices of a legal and notary practice.
We ended our walk through the inner city of Hamelin at the “Wedding House”. Built in 1610-1617, the “Wedding House” a huge and very impressive building of the Weser Renaissance. It was built of sandstone and is thought to be the last stone building built in its style in Hamelin. It is assumed to have been built by Eberhard Wilkening.
The “Wedding House” was not a place to get married, as the name might suggest. Instead, it served as a location for festivals and celebrations. The build originally housed a ballroom, a weighhouse, a courtroom, a council wine tavern, an armory, and a pharmacy. Notably, from 1822 to 1841, the pharmacy in the building was operated by F. W. A. Sertürner, who discovered morphine as a painkiller for medical use. Since the 1950s, the building has housed the city’s registry office.
The last time I was in Hamelin I was still a child. I remembered seeing a live performance of the tale of the Pied Piper outside of the “Wedding House” at the time. Apparently, up until the beginning of the pandemic, these live performances were still regularly held there. Hopefully, they will also resume again once that becomes possible again.
For the time being, I am quite enjoying just glazing at and admiring old buildings from the outside. I am already planning the next road trip. If the weather stays warm and dry enough, I will be sharing a few photos from leg 3 next week.