A Half-Timbered Fairy Tale
On the edge of the Harz, Germany’s northernmost mountain range, lies the finest timber-framed townscape in the country, and perhaps in all Europe. Besides holding this distinction, Quedlinburg also boasts a treasure trove of medieval religious art, which is displayed in the town’s hilltop Saxon- Romanesque cathedral.
UNESCO has declared the entire town, which recently celebrated its 1,000th anniversary, a World Heritage Site. Quedlinburg was the cradle of the Ottoman dynasty, the first line of Saxon kings in what later became the Holy Roman Empire. (Heinrich I, the first German king, is buried in the cathedral.)
As a preferred residence of the emperors, this small but flourishing town also grew as a cultural, spiritual, and religious center, and much attention and funds were lavished on the cathedral. The town’s historic wealth is still visible everywhere, in the priceless gold and bejeweled sacred objects it exhibits and in the 1,300 hand- carved, half-timbered houses—the earliest, dating back to 1310, is the oldest in Germany.
Architectural styles range from Gothic to Baroque to Quedlinburg’s own idiom: facades accented with bright blues, reds, yellows, and greens. The town miraculously escaped both Allied bombing in WWII and the redevelopment plans of the former East German government.
On the town’s main market square sits the lovely Hotel Theophano, a half-timbered landmark created from five historical buildings from the 17th century and dedicated to the memory of Theophano, a Byzantine princess who married Otto II, the Saxon pretender to the throne, in 972.
The small hotel has been beautifully restored and decorated and it is run with warmth and ease by a young staff that aims to please. The hotel’s Weinkeller (Wine Cellar) offers memorable meals in a handsome space of vaulted ceilings warmed by soft candlelight.