Our third route through Germany's Wonders of World Heritage takes us past religious treasures that have been carefully guarded for centuries, and earthly treasures that have taken centuries to build.
We begin in Hildesheim in southern Lower Saxony. Two masterpieces of Romanesque architecture in this charming university town were deemed a World Heritage Site in 1985: St. Mary's cathedral and St. Michael's Church along with their art treasures. St. Michael's Church, with its double-choired basilica, is an interlaced building with round and square spires, known affectionately in Hildesheim as "heaven's castle." It has towered above the historic town center since 1022. Its interior features a unique and monumental ceiling, which depicts Jesus Christ's genealogical tree in 30 meters of painted wood. St. Mary's cathedral, built in 1061, houses one of the most famous collections of bronze treasures. But its exterior walls also boast something special: the "Thousand-Year Rosebush," thought to be the world's oldest living dog rose bush, which continues to flourish on the wall of the cathedral apse. It has become an emblem for the town and many legends are associated with the plant - just ask a local!
Our next destination was created not out of religious faith but rather out of a desire for a better world: the Fagus Factory in Alfeld. This shoe last factory, dating from 1911 and designed by Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius, is the world's first example of modern industrial architecture. The glass facades make the workshop appear light and elegant. Gropius wanted to create healthy and socially conscious work environments. This also benefited his employer, industrialist Carl Benscheidt, as the number of work-related accidents dropped considerably. Two men responsible for one project that was named a World Heritage Site in 2011.
An hour's drive to the east in Goslar, one can admire treasures of the pre-industrial age. According to legend, a knight called Ramm tied his horse to a tree in the wilderness here. There, his impatient charger, pawing the ground while waiting for his master to return, exposed a vein of silver ore. The old imperial town of Goslar was to live on its mines for 1,000 years. You can still see the 10th century mine piles in the World Heritage Site mines of Rammelsberg. How these treasures won from the ground made the town rich is evident in the grand buildings of the old town center, for instance the Gothic town hall or the Kaiserworth guildhall.
The 13th century Harz Water Management System is one of the biggest pre-industrial energy sources in the world
In 2010 the World Heritage listing was extended to include the upper Harz Water Management System, the energy from which helped to power the mines. The elaborate 13th century water works encompasses some vast numbers: 107 ponds, 310 kilometers of moats and 31 kilometers of water ways. This makes the upper Harz Water Management System one of the biggest pre-industrial energy sources in the world.
Located 60 kilometers to the east of Goslar is Quedlinburg, another important town founded by the Ottonian dynasty. King Henry the Fowler founded the original Collegiate Church of St. Servatius on the steep slopes of the Schlossberg hill. The building that can be seen today was consecrated in 1129. It is an architectural Romanesque masterpiece that was named a World Heritage Site in 1994, as was the virtually car-free old town of Quedlinburg. It boasts some 1,300 timber-framed houses from six centuries, making it the largest memorial in Germany by area. The medieval scenery, peppered with cafés and little shops, creates a charm that attracts more than 350,000 tourists annually.
Our last stop, three hours to the south west, is Eisenach. The Thuringian town is closely associated with reformer Martin Luther. After being excommunicated by the pope and outlawed by the emperor, he found refuge in Wartburg Castle in the guise of squire Jörg in 1521. Here in one of Germany's most historically significant castles, and a World Heritage Site since 1999, Luther created a religious treasure in eleven short weeks - he translated the New Testament into German from the Greek original. The "Lutherstube" room in Wartburg Castle became a pilgrimage site and tourist attraction shortly after Luther's death in 1546 - and has remained so to this day.
Author: Frederike Müller / sc
Editor: Ben Knight, Helen Whittle