Thursday, June 07, 2007


With one of the best-preserved medieval town-centres in Europe, Quedlinburg in western Saxony-Anhalt is quite a feast for the eyes. While it doesn't have the Roman past of a place like Chester, it wears its age lightly and colourfully with some of the country's oldest buildings dotted around the streets surrounding the main market square shown above.

Even with my oddly proportioned dog, and right-hand drive vehicle with GB plates*, I felt like a bit of an oddity here, being a bit off the beaten track for non-German tourists. I found a little brochure in English and French, supplying details for a walking tour around the town's main sights, but noticed that the routes and sights for English, French and German were all different, as if an editor had just sliced away items to fit the page.

*In many places it's the right-hand drive car that's more astonishing than Bondi. I've got the feeling from the gawps of so many wizened little men in villages around Europe that I've just completely destabilised their little corner of the universe... I've sat by this road for 85 years and I thought I'd seen everything...

In one quarter of the town is the hill with the Collegiate Church of St Servatius, built over the church in the palace grounds of King Henry I, who was buried there in 936. The cathedral and castle house one of the greatest collections of treasures in Germany, some of which had a short vacation in the USA after being "guarded" by American soldiers in WWII. The buildings were also turned into a Nazi shrine (with a Weihehalle for Himmler's SS) due to the cult built around Henry I as founder of their thousand-year Reich.

Bondi finally feels at home in a fountain

One of Quedlinburg's most famous daughters was Dorothea Christiane Erxleben, born in 1715. She was the first female doctor to graduate in Germany, doing so from the University of Halle in 1754. I have some Erxleben ancestors from the towns of Eickendorf and Biere in the period 1520-1726, but not idea if there is a close family connection. Another of my ancestors also studied in Halle.

After a somethingwurst sandwich I circled back to look at the family towns I'd missed the day before, and to have a longer walk through Stassfurt.

Staßfurt , on the river Bode

The town of Stassfurt sits above great salt-beds, which with the more recent complementary chemical factories, have contributed to its fortunes over the centuries. My ancestors Christian Kuhne and Friedeericke Dieme were married here in 1847 before making the long trek across the world to South Australia. The details of their family history comes to me from Angela, a distant cousin in Australia, whose late father made six journeys to this region, uncovering 800 years of material!

The Australian connection continues;

Local motif of duck enjoying a gelato

I drove through many of the little villages and hamlets where the family has flourished for nearly 500 years: Altenweddingen, Biere, Borne, Eickendorf, Förderstëdt, Friedrichsaue, Glöthe, Gross Mühlingen etc - only 5-10 miles separating some of them. I can't say I felt any special connection here; it was a bit like driving through similar territory in Australia's Riverina where I had gone to school.

The wind-farms as they might have appeared in my ancestors' photo albums.

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