The question of where Altenkirchen (Westerwald) is is secondary to the real question of, what to tell you about this great place.
The second part is a bit more complex and complicated. So, I guess I’ll start off with a bit of the town’s darker history…
Back in the 17th century Altenkirchen had a bustling Jewish community, which is evident from its old Jewish cemetery. At the end of the Thirty Years’ War, its Jewish population was told to either convert to Christianity or move somewhere else.
Again in the 19th century Altenkirchen had a thriving Jewish community — again in the 20th century its Jewish residents were forced to move, its synagogue destroyed — and well, most of you know the rest.
Today a plaque stands on Frankfurter Straße for the synagogue that used to stand here.
As for seeing the rest of it, it won’t take long as the town (including all four of its neighborhoods) is only 11 square kilometers — yet really packs it all in.
Its Marktplatz, or Town Square, is typical Germany — with numerous restored half-timbered houses and cobbles.
At one point in time, everyone headed to the Marktplatz to get what they needed, as some still do. The old Pharmacy building on Wilhelmstraße goes back to the year 1699 — and who didn’t need a good chemist now and again in those days, huh?
What some folks need today is some fresh air, and no place is better in Altenkirchen than the conservation area of Wiesenthal. Hiking, biking, plain old walking — it doesn’t matter cause it’s just nice to be outside.
Another outdoor goody is the Bismarckturm (Bismarck Tower), named for the statesman. Funny, Herr Otto’s name pops up again as Altenkirchen was the hometown of Ernst Lindemann, commander of the Battleship Bismarck during World War II.
I told you Altenkirchen might be small, but it somehow manages to pack a lot of history into a tiny space. And it likes to party… Come in February for the annual Carnival, or in May for the Maifete, the traditional Schützenfest (Shooting Match) in July, or to the Oktoberfest, and the Dommesmarkt in December — to name just a few.
This is all in addition to the cultural goings-on at the Felsenkeller, like cabaret shows.
Jeez, I’m tired from all this… Could you imagine how busy you’d be here if it were just a tad bigger? ;-)