Old Kempten is historically and topographically divided into two independent cities and states with the same name. A settlement formed around the Benedictine abbey already in the early middle ages. The settlement grew into a town in the run of the centuries and, together with rising wealth and influence, the self-consciousness of the citizens and the wish for independence grew. In the 13th and 14th century the town obtained some privileges from the emperors, but full independence and the status of a free imperial city (Reichsstadt) was achieved through the so-called "Great Purchase" in 1525: The abbey had been plundered in the Peasants War and the abbot needed money, so he sold all his remaining governmental rights to the city. Soon after the imperial city introduced the reformation within its boundaries, while the abbey remained catholic.
Between Stiftsstadt and Reichsstadt there is a significant step, or terrace, in topography. There is no visible "border", the streets and townhouses just continue, but you will notice the terrace which is covered by either stairways or slopes in the streets.
The former Reichsstadt area is Kempten's "downtown", the busy part of the city with shopping areas, pubs and restaurants, and the city hall. Townhouses date from all eras. Especially around St. Mang church you will spot a couple of medieval houses like the one in photo 2.
Old Kempten is historically and topographically divided into two parts. The abbey was a religious institution and at the same time possessor and ruler of a worldly territory. Their abbot had the rank of a prince. The settlement around the abbey developed into the so-called Stiftsstadt, located on higher ground around and behind the basilica and Residenz and ruled by the prince abbot, while the city on the lower terrace towards the river gained independence as a free imperial city.
Stiftsstadt has a lot of baroque architecture. Many of these buildings are related to the prince abbot's government and administration. Kornhaus (the former grain storage), Kunsthalle and Zumsteinhaus are now occupied by different museums. The quarter behind them looks like a quiet and upscale residential quarter.
Kempten is one of the oldest known settlements in Germany, its history begins with the ancient Roman city of Cambodunum. Kempten and Trier are competing who is really the oldest, then there are Speyer, Worms, Köln and Augsburg who also have their say in the matter. Superlatives seem to be important...
Fact is, though, that Kempten is older than 2000 years. The first dated proof of the settlement's existence is from the year 15 B.C. Archeological proof for those early years and the time before that date is scarce and not much is known about the beginnings. (Don't we all wish for a time machine?) The Roman town was located on the right bank of the Iller opposite the present town centre. The right bank forms a rather high ridge, so the grounds up there were safe from flooding.
Fondest memory: Three excavation sites can be visited (see separate tips): the forum, the Roman baths and the archeological park with the temples: http://www.apc-kempten.de
Favorite thing: Kempten has been both a Celtic and Roman Town, but because it was mentioned by the Greek geographer Strabon, Kempten (a town of the Celtic Estiones named Kambodunon) has the oldest written evidence of any German city. Around 18-23 AD Cambodunum (as it was then called) was one of the most important towns in the Roman province Raetia and, at times, may have even been the provincial capital. In the following years the city was rebuilt on a classical Roman city plan with baths, forum and temples. Initially in wood, the city was later rebuilt in stone after a devastating fire destroyed almost the entire city in the year AD 69.
The Deutsche Bank and the Bank of America worked it out so you don't have to pay a fee to use your BoA ATM card to get Euros from the Deutsche Bank ATM. I tried it here in Kempten and was delighted to get Euro cash at the going rate with no extra fees. I plan on doing the same in Shanghai, China.
Fondest memory: Fondest memory is great cappuccino and cheesecake.