Take things for every weather
As everywhere in Germany, it is essential that you take gear for every weather. An umbrella or a rain coat is very important, even when the forecast says it will be sunny.
Example: I was hear for three days in July - the first day was very hot and sticky, the second day it rained like hell, the third day was 25°C and just perfect. I was happy that I had everything with me: Raingear, warm jacket, flip flops, summer clothing.
Near the Stiftskirche, there is the Leonhard Müller-Anlage, a park named after the architect Leonhard Müller. This is the oldest park of Bad Hersfeld. Together with the Stiftsruine it is protected as a historical monument. The park was renovated in 2007.
Here you can find two pretty ponds surrounded by green pitches. This is a nice area to walk around or have a rest in the sunshine. There is a pathway that leads along the old city walls, and you can see ducks and other aquatic birds. It is a very quiet place.
This building is one of the prettiest and most unusual framework houses in Bad Hersfeld. It was built in 1609 in renaissance style by the master builder Johannes Weber and is therefore called Master Builder House (Baumeisterhaus).
I found the woodcraft very interesting and beautiful.
Kurpark (health garden) - Park of seasons
Bad Hersfeld's Kurpark is 7ha big and was created in 1906. There are big green spaces with tall trees, where you an just wander around and relax. It is perfect for a stroll in sunny weather. The park was ranked as the second most beautiful park of Germany 2008.
The green spaces are surrounded by what is called the "park of seasons", four smaller gardens each devoted to one of the four seasons. Each garden has special flowers that look particularly beautiful in its own season.
The gardens are called Frühlingsbad (bath of spring), Sommersonne (summer sun), Herbstlaub (autumn leaves) and Wintergarten (winter garden).
Around these and along the green spaces, there are many beds and patches of beautiful flower. If you like to take pictures of flowers, be sure to bring your camera!
Opera and cycling in Bad Hersfeld
Bad Hersfeld was only called "Hersfeld" until 1949, when they finally got state permission to use that highly coveted word Bad in their name.
It is a town of 30,000 people in the eastern part of Hessen, conveniently located on the regional bicycle route R1 and also on the main railway line between Frankfurt am Main and Dresden.
Operas and plays at the Bad Hersfeld Festival are performed in the Stiftsruine, the remains of a large church that was originally built between 831 and 850. This church has not had a roof since In 1761, when it was destroyed by a withdrawing French army.
To protect the Festival audiences and performers from the elements, the church can be covered by a retractable textile roof, known locally as "the umbrella" because it is suspended from a single large pole and can be folded or unfolded as the need arises.
On the two days I spent in Bad Hersfeld it didn't actually rain, but it was somewhat overcast part of the time, and they left the umbrella extended, covering the church, the entire time. In fact someone told me that for opera performances they always leave it extended for acoustical reasons, so the sound doesn't disperse into the atmosphere. So it really isn't an open-air performance, more a performance in a ruin covered by a tent.
Update: In the summer of 2011 Bad Hersfeld will present a new German-language production of The Bartered Bride by Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884). This will be performed on nine even-numbered evenings starting August 8, 2011. On the odd-numbered evenings there will be a new production, also in German, of The Barber of Seville by Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868).
On the lawn behind the Stiftsruine are statues of the two most famous people to have come out of Bad Hersfeld. Both of these men are called Konrad, and the other one is much better known in Germany, but the one who interests me particularly is Konrad Zuse (1910-1995), the inventor of the computer. (Well, one of them, anyway.)
Zuse was not a Nazi, as far as I know, but he did his major work in Nazi-controlled Germany in the 1930s and 40s, which meant that he was totally isolated from parallel developments in Great Britain and the United States.
Neither the Nazis nor the German military were much interested in Zuse's crackpot invention, which was perhaps fortunate for the rest of the world, but for Zuse it meant that he had little support for his work, and was left to putter around on his own. He was inducted twice into the German army, but was deferred both times because of his job as a statistician at an aircraft factory in Berlin.
He did manage to build four prototype computers in those years, the Z-1 in 1936-38, the Z-2 in 1940, the Z-3 in 1941 and the Z-4 from 1942-44.
These prototypes were destroyed by bombing attacks in the Second World War, except for the Z-4, which survived because Zuse managed to smuggle it out to Switzerland in 1944. There it was installed at the Technical University in Zürich, where it performed useful calculations for a number of years before being phased out in 1956.
After the war Zuse founded a computer company, the Zuse KG, which he moved to Bad Hersfeld in 1957. By 1967 the company had built 251 computers.
A full-scale working replica of the Z-1 can now be seen at the German Technical Museum in Berlin, along with a complete Z-22 from around 1957. In Munich there is a full-scale working replica of the Z-3 on display at the German Museum.