Where time stands still
Quedlinburg was totally unknown to me during childhood, despite spending many summers in nearby Wolfsburg. But Wolfsburg was in the west and Quedlinburg in the east of Germany. During the German reunification, hidden gems became clear to us and Quedlinburg was on top of that declared a World Heritage by UNESCO. No wonder it was a "must go" destination for me for several years until I finally got here in 2005.
I have been to many World Heritage sites in Europe, but never to one where time seems to stand still the way it does in Quedlinburg. Admittedly, we went here in November, off season, but you would still expect tourists to come to such a famous place all year round. It is not too far from Berlin and so, a popular daytrip. Despite this, the town was almost deserted, and I think that whilst it is a lot more crowded in summer, it is truly a hidden gem. Go before it is exploited!!!
In GDR days, Quedlinburg was not as tourist promoted as nearby Wernigerode, but the government still realised its potential and tried not to ruin too much. That doesn't mean there was money to put into it - see my local custom comment on that. Today, this means hundreds and hundreds of half timbered houses and the Quedlinburg is a town where you can be content with just strolling around admiring it all rather than chase famous sights and queue up for museums.
The old part of town is centered around and below one of the small foothills of the Harz mountains, the Schlossberg, and whilst Wernigerode is closer to the high Mount Brocken, Quedlinburg still has a pretty setting with plenty of opportunities to go hiking and the hills give the town a nice panorama. Opposite Schlossberg is for instance also Müntzenberg, the hill where the poor and odd in society lived in medieval days.
Where the unusual name comes from? It is thought that it is from a nobleman called Quitilo. The full town name of Quitilingaberg is first recorded in 922. Miraculously escaping major damage in WWII (the cathedral on its hill got its flat towers when repaired after WWII damage), it is a town which feels wonderfully unspoilt and natural and where only 25000 people have 1200 half-timbered houses to feel proud of.