Call it fate. Call it coincidence. Call it fantastic, but this week I got to do not one, but two, towns made famous for its writers. Right now I’m in the (politically new) town of Arnstein (Harz), birthplace to Novalis.
It’s not a what — but a who. His birthname was Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg. No wonder someone shortened his name to Novalis, but whatever name you’re using to address him he was considered to be one of the best Romantic writers of his time.
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Too bad he died at the tender age of 28. In his lifetime, however, he was a contemporary of Schiller and Goethe.
Novalis was born at Schloss Oberwiederstedt, a Renaissance castle that’s still here today; and now a research facility and museum of Novalis’ work.
Tempting as it is to curl up with one of Novalis’ work, we gotta move on to see the rest of Arnstein.
We can start with another castle, if you like? Who cares if it isn’t an intact castle. Burg Arnstein — plus the Schloss Harkerode — both in the village of Hakerode, are worth visiting.
And if you think this medieval ditty (the castle ruin was built around 1130) is old, I can only imagine what you’ll think of the Bronze Age “rings” atop the Schalkenberg in the village of Quenstedt.
While you’re in Quenstedt, stop to see the Reformation Tree — planted here in 1520, making it almost five hundred years old.
Where else should we go? I know, how about to all of Arnstein’s village churches? The one in Sylda is one of those medieval numbers, and even has a “military” tower.
Alterode too has a village church with a military tower, but also has a half-timbered design as well.
What’s with the military towers? Easy, churches were used as defense against invaders, in addition to religious duties.
The village of Welbsleben has its own village church, and in the cemetery is the final resting place for 13 Death March victims of the Second World War.
For the fun side of Arnstein, you gotta go to the eastern edge of the Harz to Bräunrode, which holds its Village Festival on the 2nd weekend of July. And then go back to Alterode for a 4-day festival that ends with an “egg hunt” of sorts.
I totally understand what must’ve inspired Novalis — if I spend anymore time here I might wind up writing some romantic story too.