Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Schwaebisch Hall - Germany

The picturesque town of Schwaebisch Hall in Southern Germany
My favourite spot in Central Europe is the enchanting, fairy tale town of Schwaebisch Hall in the state of Baden Wurttemberg in Southern Germany. I have first visited this town back in 1977, when I was still a student and since then I have remained mesmerised by its beauty and ambience created by its old timber-framed houses built on top of the fortified banks of the river Kocher.
Schwaebisch Hall is located at latitude 49 degrees 6 minutes North and 9 degrees 44 minutes East at a mean elevation of 304 metres, at a distance (by road) of about 72 km northwest of the city of Stuttgart, 197 km south of Frankfurt and 206 km northwest of Munich. It is well connected both by road and rail to the rest of Germany. By road it can be reached from the north from an exit on the A6 Heilbronn-Nuremberg Autobahn while by rail it is directly connected to Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof (central station) from Hessental Bahnhof. 
It is an administrative centre of its region with a population of about 37.000 (2011) and very cosmopolitan in its composition with residents from more than 100 countries! Since Reformation the town maintains a majority Protestant Lutheran community with a sizeable Catholic community. After World War II and the arrival of the Gastarbeitern (Guest workers) in Germany, a growing Muslim community also developed composed mainly of migrants from Turkey.

The town enjoys a temperate climate affected by the moderating influences of Atlantic winds with moderately cold winters and comfortably warm summers. Mean annual temperature is around 10.5 ᴼC ranging from mean monthly temperatures of 2ᴼC in January to 19ᴼC in July. The equitable climate is indicated by the limited number of cold winter nights below -15ᴼC and the equally limited hot summer days above 35ᴼC. Rainfall is around 650mm per year and is distributed rather evenly throughout the year with a summer maximum.

Schwaebisch Hall, often referred to as “Hall”, name derived from its salt mines, is a notable stop on Germany’s Castle Road, which stretches from Mannheim to the west to Rothenburg and Bayreuth (Bavaria) to the east. The town was founded in the 11t century and received the status of a city of the Holy Roman Empire in 1280. As a consequence of the Napoleonic Wars in 1802 it was ceded to the Principality of Wurttemberg. Since 1960 the town has the status of a “Grosse Kreisstadt” for its district.

The town flourished during the Middle Ages thanks to the production of salt and coins. Emperor Frederik I Barbarosa established the Imperial Mint in Hall in the 12th century and silver coins got the name Haeller or Heller, a term later used for German coins valued at half a pfennig in the 19th century and until the demise of the Second Reich in 1918. The town’s salt mines gradually declined in importance and finally closed down in 1925.

Today Hall is an important economic hub between Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Nuremberg and a developing regional tourist resort for German and foreign visitors (over 200,000 overnight stays in 2011). The town’s thriving economy is shaped by a group of medium-sized companies focusing on the trade and service sectors. A number of businesses dealing in property, finance, solar energy and telecommunications sectors have also their headquarters here. The town is famous nationwide by its emblematic “clever red fox”, the Bausparkasse Schwaebisch Hall AG, a housing credit company founded in 1944.

Photo: The Bausparkasse Schwaebisch Hall AG building (left), the company’s logo (right) Hall has a long tradition as a university town, hosting, inter alia, the University of Applied Sciences. It also provides education through vocational and technical schools. The town also hosts a Goethe-Institut, which attracts up to 2,000 students from countries around the world every year to study the German language.
Photo: The Goethe Institut in Schwaebisch Hall
This picturesque town offers a lot to both locals and visitors as regards leisure activities. Whether by land, water or air Hall offers a wealth of leisure time activities, ranging from sports flying (gliding) to swimming, hiking and cycling. The visitor can enjoy the local, traditional Swabian cuisine with dishes such as Sauerkraut (Sour cabbage) and Schweinebauch (Stuffed bacon) and cakes such as Zwetschgenkuchen (Plum cake). The local inhabitants have initially the reserved Swabian character but after you get to know them you will discover that they can be very friendly, warm-hearted and hospitable.

Photo: Zwetsgenkuchen (left), Scweinebauch (right)
The town hosts more traditional festivals and markets than there are months in a year, with diverse events ranging from the Summer Nights Festival and the Festival of Light to the historical Kuchen- and Brunnenfest, which commemorates the annual cleaning of the salt springs at a time when salt was the town’s economic bloodline. Other highlights include the Bakers’ Oven Festival at the Open Air Museum and the Christmas Market, which features traditional handicrafts.

Hall is well-known for its outdoor summer theatre performances on the open-air staircase of St. Michael’s church and at Globe Theatre.

The town’s great attraction has always been its fairy tale atmosphere created by the well-preserved central district with the renovated buildings with Romanesque and Baroque style features. The older buildings are supplemented both at the centre and in residential areas by slick modern buildings.
Tourist attractions include the following buildings and sites –
a. The Town Hall (Rathaus) is an elegant building in late Baroque style,

b. The Henkersbruecke is a bridge over the river Kocher, which affords an attractive view of the half-timbered houses of the “lige” quarter and the east end of St.John’s church,
c. The Hall Fountain dating back to 1509 stands against a decorative wall adorned with statues of Sampson, St. Michael and St. George. The rectangular design, unusual in a Gothic fountain, includes the old pillory part,
d. The Market square (Marktplatz) or central town square is dominated by the monumental steps leading to the church of St. Michael
e. St. Michael’s church, with its famous staircase constructed in 1510, towers majestically over the town’s market square. It was consecrated in 1156 by the Bishop of Wuerzburg. From this period only the four bottom storeys of the Romanesque west tower have survived along with the porch. Outstanding works of the late Gothic art in the church interior include the large Dutch Passion Affair in the choir (c. 1460) and the Holy Sepulchre with its impressive mourners (1455/56).
f. The Regional Museum houses mementoes of Schwaebisch Hall, a centre of the salt industry and an imperial mint in the Middle Ages. Several rooms are devoted to regional Wuerttemberg-Franconian art,
g. The Wuerth Gallery, established in 2001, has been housed in an exhibition area and contains the magnificent modern art collection of industrialist Reinholt Wuerth,
h. Hohenhohe Open-air Museum comprises 30 reconstructed renovated buildings from the mid-16th century to the end of the 19th century faithfully capturing the rural life of north Wuerttemberg. There is also an exhibition of furniture and agriculture implements,
i. Gross Comburg This old fortified abbey, which is located at a distance of 3km from the town centre encompasses a church which still retains its Romanesque towers. The rest of the abbey building was reconstructed in 1715 in the form of a Baroque “hall”. It is famous for its Romanesque chandelier in the form of a crown dates back to 1130.
In addition to the old buildings and structures Hall’s architecture is complemented by high-quality modern architecture such as the District Office, the Blendstadthall, the Glashaus at Milchmarkt square, the Stadtgrabenring thoroughfare and the Kunsthalle Wuerth Gallery. The highly regarded Globe Theatre was designed by a group of architects from Hall.
Photo: The Glashaus on Milchmarkt strasse

Photo: The Globe Theatre on the banks of the river Kocher

Finally Hall has been twinned with the towns of Epinal (France), Loughborough (England), Lappeenranta (Finland), Neustrelitz (Germany- in former DDR), Zamosc (Poland) and Baliksehir (Turkey).
In this feature I have attempted to paint with a broad brush the main features and characteristics of this wonderful town in Germany. The truth is words - no matter how well uttered or written - are too poor to give a true picture of reality and this dictum is especially valid for Schwaebisch Hall. In case I have inspired you even just a little the best way to discover this reality is to visit this little earthly paradise…
Useful websites

Municipal website

Goethe Institut
Tourist Information Youtube videos
Andreas Christodoulou
Journalist-Travel Writer
Media / Communications Expert
January 2015

No comments: