Merseburg, Germany

Posted on June 24, 2010


I am on a two week trip for work that is taking me to some new places. Over the course of those two weeks, I will set foot in four countries – Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and the Czech Republic. Unfortunately, I have a lot of work to do in a very short time period, so there will not be much time for sight-seeing.

I flew into Nuremberg, Germany and drove three hours north through some very beautiful country to get to my destination this week. The first hour of the drive reminded me of West Virginia, with lots of rolling hills, sparse population, and many deep forests. As I progressed north and made my way onto bigger highways the terrain turned into gentle rolling hills covered by crops of various sorts. I noticed quite a few wind turbines, the Germans have really jumped in with both feet in trying to reduce oil and coal dependence.

My first week is in a little medieval town in Eastern Germany called Merseburg. I have not been able to much information about this town; it does not seem to be much of a tourist destination. This is surprising though as the town is quite beautiful. It was a major city center six hundred years ago holding a strategic position above the Salle River.
Merseburg has the feel of a resort town that the tourists forgot. The flowers are planted, the streets are clean, the castle and churches are restored, but the streets are empty. There are only a few restaurants in town, two of three left me wishing that I did not eat. My hotel is nice though and the air is cool and fresh.
Old ruins abound in the town. There is an old, stone cloister that looks as though it is haunted. On the edge of town is a crumbling cathedral with an amazing large bell tower that is hiding a water tower.
The streets are narrow and lined with some classic half timber German buildings.

Central in the town is the Merseburg castle, built in the 1600’s. It is distinguished by high stone walls, a deep moat with drawbridge, and a high position overlooking the river. Many high towers with black pointed roofs and crosses stick out above the castle. I believe it was never actually attacked, so it largely served a ceremonial purpose.

There is one important story concerning the castle and a bishop that lived there in the 1700’s. The story is that the bishop took off his valuable, jeweled ring and placed it on a window sill one day while washing. He forgot about the ring and later returned to the room to retrieve it, but it was gone. Knowing that his loyal servant of many years was the only person with access to this area of the castle, the Bishop knew the servant had stolen the ring. Despite misgivings about it, the Bishop had the servants head cut off, even though the servant maintained that he was innocent. A few years later there was a terrible storm that ripped the roof from one of the towers. When the laborer climbed to the top to begin repair, he found a raven’s nest cradling the Bishop’s ring. In his despair, the Bishop declared that forever more a raven would be kept caged in the castle dungeon. While over the years the raven was moved to a more humane outdoor cage and given some company, there is still a raven caged on the castle grounds.
The Merseburger Dom is a large cathedral built into the castle wall. From the outside it is impressive, but it is only open for visitors when I need to be at work. The Dom was stared in the 1400’s and only completed two hundred years later.

In front of the castle is a nice park with formal gardens that used to host royal balls. Opposite the castle is the garden house, a large building designed especially to house large outdoor events. Today it is still a popular spot for weddings.
The city hall was built to echo the style of the castle, with high spires topped with black roofs.
Posted in: Germany, Travel