Extended Weekend in Northern Hessen


  • Not sure yet

Northern Hessen is a beautiful and under appreciated region of Germany, especially the Fulda, Werra and Eder Valleys. I think most of its reputation comes from the fact that Kassel is without doubt the ugliest city in Germany. It’s the perfect mix of attempted tabula-rasa reconstruction with attempted reconstruction. There is almost nothing of note within the city itself, as the urban planners scored continuous own-goals in trying to rebuild the city. If they had gone the route of Pforzheim or Stuttgart and bulldozed everything except one building but restored that one building to perfect condition, then maybe we would have the Palace of Wilhelmshöhe, the Orangerie or the City Church to visit. Instead they bulldozed almost everything, and instead only half-restored a dozen buildings now stripped of historical context and filled with meaningless decor from the 60s. But to be sure, we have the factory which built the Panther tank for Hitler, preserved in immaculate condition.

Justin Bunch | CityscapeTravel

I digress, Kassel aside, there’s much to explore, and I’m not sure what I would want to see in 3-4 days in the area. I would probably stay in Hann. Münden as its a beautiful village, and a quick walk through Kassel would suffice to see the Marble Baths and the Orangerie. Though the Wilhelmshöhe Park looks nice, it is currently under scaffolding. I might make an effort to comeback in 2025 when its projected to be finished.

I see several immediate thematic tour options:

  • Baroque Palaces and Citscapes: Wilhelmshöhe, Arolsen, Wilhelmsthal/Calden, Bad Karlshafen
  • Half-timbered towns of the Fulda: Rotenburg, Melsungen, Homberg (Also Fulda and Bad Hersfeld)
  • Medieval Hessen: Haina, Fritzlar, Homberg, Frankenberg (Also Bad Hersfeld)
  • Counts of Waldeck: Waldeck, Bad Wildungen and the National Park Kellerwald-Edersee

The National Park itself might require its own weekend trip. It includes a UNESCO protected park with ancient Beech Trees, representing the ecology of Europe prior to industrialization.

After some more though I realized that the history of Hesse-Kassel can be broadly summarized by a few of these locations, in chronological order:

  • Homberg: This is the location where, in 1526, the Landgraves of Hessen officially converted to Protestantism. It would mark the end of Medieval Hessen, which had been centered on Marburg, and 50 years later the Landgraviate of Hessen would spit, and Northern-Hessen would fall under the suzerain in Kassel.
  • Rotenburg: Rotenburg was one of the first residences built by the new court in Kassel. It would have been a large Renaissance palace with four wings, probably imitating the palace in Kassel. Thought the palace was heavily remodeled in later centuries, much of the cityscape reflects the Renaissance golden age.
  • Kassel/Wilhelmshöhe: The remnants of Kassel still display the splendor of one of the greatest Baroque residences in Europe. The Marble Baths and the Wings of the Wilhelmshöhe Palace in addition to the massive park with the Hercules statue are probably still worth seeing.
  • Bad Karlshafen: Established by Hesse as a refuge for religious refugees, its a baroque planned town. Bad Arolsen is probably nicer but it owned by the Waldeck family, so doesnt quite fit.
  • Calden/Wilhelmstal: The only significant work of the Rococo in Hessen-Kassel, the palace of Wilhelmstal is probably a necessary stop to this end.

Personally, I am leaning towards more the Baroque destinations, since the Palaces in Arolsen and Calden are so unique and this seems more doable as a weekend trip. The Medieval tour would take me through some really cool places, especially Fritzlar, but getting to Haina or Homberg is a real challenge it seems and then combining destinations in a single day might be too difficult if something goes wrong.

Image Credits

Map Credits

  • Google Earth

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