22 June 2017

A Weekend in the Harz: Halberstadt

Back in February, I visited a friend who lives in Saxony-Anhalt. Saxony-Anhalt is one of the more rural states of Germany, and that provided me an opportunity to see a side of Germany that I do not see often, given that I live in Berlin. Anyway, I spent a day in Halberstadt, a town in the Harz Region.

Like many of the little towns and villages here in the Harz Region, Halberstadt has a quaint little Old Town, but it was severely damaged in World War II. This old town has been rebuilt in later years, and now it is nevertheless a pleasant place to spend a day.

For a small city, I was amazed that there were plenty of churches in the town center. However, these churches are all old, built during the 12th and 13th centuries, suggesting that the religious importance of Halberstadt before was larger than it is now. In fact, nowadays some of the churches are just used as museums and exhibit areas.

One interesting church is the Saint Buchardi Church, which is located north of the old town. Pictures of it are seen above, and the reason why it is interesting has something to do with John Cage. John Cage was an American contemporary composer, and he wrote a piece called As Slow as Possible. He didn't really say how slow the piece should be aside from that direction, and so there is a performance by the organ in Saint Buchardi Church of this exact piece, intended to last 639 years, ending in 2640. The church is otherwise quite small and nothing visually arresting, but apparently every time there is a note change, there would be a crowd that gathers in this church to witness the event.

I also visited the Halberstadt Cathedral and Treasury. This is still a functioning church, but perhaps because of declining support, they are charging admission to visitors who want to see the interior, as well as its collection of religious sacred objects. There were some weird items in there, like dried holy fingers and other body parts from holy people, preserved in a small container. Religion is weird, I suppose. But I already knew that. Anyway, the pictures I have above show you the view from the inside, as well as from the cloister found at the courtyard.

After this short walk around town, I went back to the train station, and headed to Wernigerode, the town where my friend lives. I'll post pictures from that town in a separate post.


  1. It's really funny how familiar it feels to me... the streets, the houses, it could be anywhere in France. I shouldn't be surprised, Germany is next door after all.

    1. Zhu,

      I have this idea that Germany and France (as well as other countries in Western and Central Europe) have many similar traits, but what differs is what gets stereotyped. So when people think of France, they might imagine the cuisine and large chateaus, while when people think of Germany, they would think of beer and fairytale castles. But there is a huge amount of overlap, as you said, they are neighbors.