Kassel: At the Heart of Germany | DW Travel | DW | 02.03.2005
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Kassel: At the Heart of Germany

From modern art installations and Rubens paintings to a 500-year-old orchestra and a beautiful natural landscape, Kassel is characterized by art of all kinds.


Documenta, a modern art show, is held every 5 years in Kassel's Fridericianum

Don't be surprised if you come across a few strange things in Kassel, like a 10 meter (33 foot) high iron pick-axe that looks like it was left behind by a giant, or a 1,000 meter long metal bar rammed vertically on the ground, called the "Kasseler Loch."

Is it art or nonsense? To contemplate the answer to this question, people from all over the world accumulate here once every five years for three months to experience the world's most important modern art show: Documenta.

The city transforms itself overnight into a busy metropolis, comparable to London or New York. Artists like Picasso, de Maria, Christo and Warhol have displayed here works here.

Protestant roots and a divine overseer

Orangerie in Kassel

Wilhelmshöhe Castle

Despite having a hand in the modern art scene, Kassel is not a new city. It dates back to the 16th century, when it was regarded as the center of German Protestantism.

The Protestant Church shaped the city from the beginning, from both inside and out, and strong fortifications were built in order to fend off Catholic invaders.

During World War Two, 90 percent of the city center was destroyed by Allied bombs and some 10,000 civilians lost their lives. In the aftermath, people worked relentlessly to reconstruct their city. The restoration was so successful that Kassel was even considered as a potential new capital for West Germany before losing out to Bonn.

Many damaged buildings and castles were restored in their original style after the war and Kassel's residents are proud of their 17th and 18th century castles of Wilhelmshöhe, Wilhelmstal, Löwenburg and Karlsruhe.

Kassel's most important landmark is the 9 meter (30 foot) tall statue of Hercules overlooking the city form a pedestal at the zenith of a mountain. The palace of Wilhelmshöhe, built in 1785 by Wilhelm IX, lies majestically below. It was here that Napoleon III was kept as a prisoner of war after having lost the war of 1870-71.

Fairy tale brothers

Brüder Grimm Denkmal in Kassel

The Grimm Memorial

Kassel lies along Germany's romantic sounding "Fairy Tale Road," which stretches from Hanau to Bremen. It was in Kassel that the brothers Wilhelm and Jakob Grimm compiled most of their world famous collection of fairy tales: Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Frau Holle and many more.

Known the world over, these fairy tales have been translated into 140 different languages and are known across the globe. One can admire the works of the Grimm brothers in the Museum at Palais Bellevue.

Another must-see museum in Kassel is the Hessian State Museum, which contains works by Rembrandt, Rubens and other masters.

If performing arts are more your thing, you can expect to find a diverse range of everything from classical to experimental productions in the world of opera, drama and choreographic arts. And with a 500-year tradition to its name, Kassel's orchestra is nearly as old as the city itself.

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