When I was sixteen I spent a year at a boarding school in the middle of the Harz region in Germany. The town where my boarding school was didn’t have much: it was a small health-resort (very beautiful, by the way) full of elder citizens who didn’t go out if it was too cold, and the biggest place you could go to was the supermarket next to the train station. In other words, if I wanted to do something different during the weekends, I had to hop on a train and go somewhere else. And that’s how I found myself in Goslar.
The former Free Imperial Town of Goslar is a town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It has a history that goes back to the first millennium; it is a place where kings established their seat of power, a place where Christianity and Christian architecture prospered so much, that people would refer to it as ‘Rome of the North’.
Like many cities, it is divided in two parts: the old and the new. It takes you ten minutes or less to walk from the train station to the Old Town of Goslar, aka. the magical part of Goslar. Whenever I go, I know I’m on the right path because I am greeted by this lovely couple:
Upon seeing me taking out my camera, an old man who had been standing close to the statues practically ran off to the other side of the street. Something I learned when I moved to Germany was that people are very sensitive when it comes to photographs. Of course I wasn’t planning on taking his picture, but I didn’t think running away and then staring at me from the other side was completely necessary. At least it made me laugh.
There are a lot of lovely places to see in Goslar, and the best thing about them is that they’re all really close to each other.
The Kaiserpfalz Imperial Palace
Address: Kaiserbleek 6, 38640 Goslar.
Goslar was born during the reign of King Henry I of East Francia, in AD 922. The Imperial Palace was built between 1040 and 1050 by King Henry III, who loved Goslar and preferred to hold his court there. Because you know, if you’re a King during the 11th century and you like a place very much, you put a ring on it, or a castle, whatever suits you best. Speaking of kings, the same year that Henry III started building his Kaiserpfalz, Macbeth became king of Scotland. In case you were wondering.
There used to be a Cathedral right in front of it, but in the 19th century, Goslar had a lot of economic struggles and had to tear it down and incorporate the cathedral’s parts into other buildings. Nowadays there’s only a cathedral porch next to a parking lot. However, if you go to the museum inside the palace, you get a virtual tour of the church.
The Rammelsberg Mines
Address: Bergtal 19, 38640 Goslar.
Its mining industry dates back to 968, with the mines of the Rammelsberg mountain. Fun fact: Those are the only mines in the world that stayed fully operational for over a thousand years! They’re also on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list, along with the rest of the Old Town.
The Market Square
Address: Markt, 38640 Goslar
The Market Square is my favourite part of Goslar. During the winter, it’s where they set up the Christmas Market; in summer I like to sit at the Eis-Café Canova, order an ice cream or a milkshake, and enjoy the view. There’s something magical about sitting there, watching the people come and go, and listen to the funny melodies that the clock plays every hour.
In the centre of the square there’s a fountain with an eagle on top of it. I had never put much attention to it before, but that changed when I learned that the fountain is pretty much like a medieval Lego: They took the pieces that they had, when they had them, and put them together to make something bigger. You see, the lower basin is from the 12th century, while the upper basin is from the 13th century, as is the body of the eagle, but the crown is from five centuries later. Also, the upper basin of the fountain used to be a different fountain on its own. The last time I went to Goslar, I stood in front of it for a while and observed the different pieces. It was fun, but then I had to move because a couple of old ladies wanted to take a picture and couldn’t figure out why their camera didn’t work.
The Town Hall
The Town Hall is right in front of the fountain. It was first built in the 15th century, but it saw many changes, expansions and renovations during the following centuries; particularly during the 16th century, which was when the town was richest thanks to its mining industry. I wanted to take a picture of it, but it was undergoing renovation. #CloseItLikeItsTheSixteenthCentury.
Although its foundations are from the 11th century, the whole thing was built in 1494. If, like me, you can’t afford to spend the night there, you can take a picture of its lovely façade for free and enjoy the view from across the square, at the Eis-Café. That being said, if you can afford to stay at such a fancy place, please do. It’s lovely.
Other cool things
All in all, Goslar truly has a lot to offer, with its many churches, crooked houses, museums, restaurants, and its funny sculptures, that give the whole town a timeless charm.
Fun fact: George Clooney filmed some scenes for his movie The Monuments Men in Goslar and many people from the region appeared as extras, but unfortunately they didn’t make it to the final cut. A lot of people in Germany were very disappointed, especially because they found out about it when they watched the movie and realised Goslar was nowhere to be found.
So, whether you’re in the region or just passing by on your way to another place, if you happen to be near Goslar, don’t hesitate to visit. It is a truly lovely place, with very warm people and really good ice-cream. Seriously, go to the Eis-Café at the Market Square and order something giant with a lot of whipped cream. Everything is homemade, you won’t regret it… except if you have diabetes or something like that. If that’s the case, order a coffee.