Germany is a country with a long and rich tradition in folklore, with stories many us know and love. It’s also the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm, storytellers who collected fairy tales and folklore from far and wide with characters such as Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and that one with the name that the Queen finds hard to guess.
We’re in the Harz mountain region, travelling from Goslar (v nice) on our way to Wernigerode where we passed alongside and crossed over the Harz steam railway that transports tourists to the nearby Brocken mountain, a popular place steeped in witchery, folklore and myth. We thought about taking a ride on the narrow gauge train that runs to the top but as the Brocken was shrouded in cloud we decided to give it a mis(t)…
Our targeted stellplatz in Wernigerode is near the centre of town but when we arrived it was full, which meant we ended up along with 20+ other motorhomes in the lorry park just outside. We thought it was strange for there to be so many vans here this time of year but we soon discovered why.
On the market square in front of the historic town hall and many of the shopping street around there were dozens of chocolatiers from all different countries, selling chocolate presented in a huge number of imaginative variations. Along with the chocs there were lots of accompanying stalls selling tempting alcoholic beverages, Bratwurst sausages (seemed very popular) and all manner of other naughty looking stuff.
Lesley went for the hot sausage (not for the faint hearted). We also tried, in spite of not having a clue what we might be ordering and whether it was sweet or savoury, something called Kürtőskalács (translated as lard cakes) which turned out to be sugar-dusted doughnut pieces in a paper cone.
After Goslar and Wernirode, Quedlinburg (just outside of the Harz’s foothills) completed our trio of the area’s attractive medieval towns. Once again, we had chosen a parking spot close to the centre but this time there was space for us amongst the other camping cars and tourist buses (new and old).
Arriving late in the afternoon the town had a distinctly autumnal and out of season feeling. Going for a wander we met Norbert Kline (local guide) but we passed up his advances, choosing instead to explore on our own the mystical maze of cobbled medieval streets and to soak up the diversity of the aged architecture.
Quedlinburg is said to have Germany’s best collection of creaky half-timbered buildings (more than 1,200 – probably the reason for its World Heritage status). But back in the day the poor witches around here had a really hard time, when Quedlinburg burned 133 suspected witches in a single day in 1589.
Strolling around is a magical experience; one of those places where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Although Quedlinburg has hundreds of pre-16th-century buildings, some are a bit down-at-heel, even after 30 years of reunification investment there’re many who are not yet completely tourist camera ready.
In German folklore, there is a tale of an imp that rattles sticks, makes creepy noises in the dark, and has been compared to a poltergeist.
In the Brothers Grimm tale, a miller tells the King that his daughter can spin straw into gold in order to gain the King’s favour. Of course, the daughter can do no such thing which is when the magical powers of the infamous imp becomes useful to her.
He offers to spin the gold for her in exchange for her firstborn child once she becomes Queen. When he comes to collect his payment, the miller’s daughter, now a Queen, refuses to give up her child. So the devilishly cunning imp only agrees to release her of her debt if she can guess his name. And after three days of guessing, he returns to take the child but the Queen’s messenger has overheard the imp singing his own name so with her third and final guess she reveals his name as Rumpelstilzchen which promptly drives the angry Rumpelstiltskin quite mad.
D & L