Hamelyn – Made Famous by the Pied Piper Legend:
Located on the River Weser in Lower Saxony, the town of Hameln (Hamelin in English) is the gateway to the Weserbergland mountain range. Hameln first began when a small monastery was founded here as early as in the 9th century and from which a village then developed around it. By the 12th century Hameln had grown to town status.
Being on the River Weser, Hameln’s wealth grew due to its convenient position as a trading centre. Hameln was a member of the Hanseatic League in the 15th and 16th centuries and around town today, visitors can see examples of the homes of prosperous merchants.
Hameln was a fortified city in the 18th century. Four fortresses once existed here giving it the nickname of “Gibralta of the North”. After the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, Napoleon’s troops pulled down the historic walls and guard towers.
In 1843, the people of Hameln built a sightseeing tower out of the ruins of Fort George which was the first fort built from 1760-1763. “Klütturm” as the sightseeing tower is called, is a popular spot from which an amazing view over the historic town can be enjoyed.
Today Hameln has a population of about 60,000 and the town continues to be famous for the story of Pied Piper. All around town, there are signs, logos and Pied Piper themes which businesses have capitalized on. There are different versions of this popular folk tale and the one most famous being that by the Brothers Grimm. Each summer, between mid-May and mid-September, open-air Pied Piper performances can be enjoyed on Sundays at noon.
Although most tourists come to Hameln for its Pied Piper fame, the town has many historic attractions, some of the main ones being in the historic town centre. A feature in town is the numerous patrician houses which were built in the Weser Renaissance style for which Hameln is famous for.
Hameln’s historic centre is pedestrianised, but do watch out for bicycles. The best way to explore Hameln is on foot. One used to be able to follow the Pied Piper trail – white mice painted on the footpath – but the mice trail is much faded and the tourist office does not appear to be interested in rejuvenating it. I asked at the tourist office for a brochure on the trail and was told that it doesn’t exist any more. Look on the ground and you can still faint traces of the mouse imprints.
Some of the main sightseeing attractions in the Old Town are :
- Rattenfängerhaus (rat catcher’s house) – the rat catcher’s house has nothing to do with the Pied Piper legend however it was so named because of the inscription on the upper side facade of the building recalling the children’s disappearance in 1284.
- Hochzeitshaus (wedding house) – a banqueting hall built for the citizens and a place where the people of Hameln could get married
- Pied Piper Statue
- Dempterhaus - Wesser-style houses
- Leisthaus - now a museum, but was closed for renovation during our visit
Three times a day, a glockenspiel takes place where the Pied Piper story is played out on the facade of the Hochzeitshaus. Lovely bells chime from the Hochzeitshaus before the bronze windows open and the legendary characters from the Pied Piper story put on a show lasting about 8 minutes. This is a crowd drawer.
Hameln’s historic centre is a pretty place and there are many shops and eateries in town where one can stop and enjoy the atmosphere of this medieval town.