Marburg, one of the oldest German university towns, also has a community of students' fraternities. They have been established since 1815, after the liberation wars against Napoleon. Their original idea of standing for fatherland and patriotism might have been a good idea these days, but over the years it turned into a very much sick behaviour, mainly during WWII. After WW II, some of these fraternities have kept their…. Ideology (our country sadly does not well if ever act against “brownish” attitudes). It surely depends on each individual’s personal point of view as of how to perceive these fraternities. My view is very much negative, I despise them. But I lived and studied here and thus had experienced them as very much arrogant, foreigner hostile and elitist behaviour in the public, with a lot of provocative actions [like raising the right arm (!!!!!!) for greetings….].
The fraternities are facing a lot of protest actions, not only during festivities such as Labour Day (May 1st). It is mainly throwing of paint bombs by some liberal students. On one of the houses, Alemania in Hainweg, you can also see that they have a definite need to protect their coat of arms from the paint bombs by shielding it with a piece of plastic.
I wrote this tip in September 2006, but have exchanged photos and revamped the text (April 2009).
When you walk around the hills of the old town take the time and stop once in a while to admire the beautiful gardens. Even if there is often not much space, the people love their little green patches and take extra special care of the plants. Some houses have beautiful big gardens, lovely retreats from long days or for the weekend. My favourite ones are between St. Mary church and Kugelkirche and the tiny gardens in front of the houses next to Kugelkirche.
I wrote this tip in September 2006, but have exchanged photos and revamped the text (April 2009).
Yes, this is very important: try to be at the market place on the hour, because the clock or better clock system is very funny to watch. This is fascinating because the whole mechanism is rather old and still excellent functioning. Clock maker Christoff Dohrn planned this whole ensemble in 1528. It was restored in 1889 and is running since without any problems thanks to the excellent maintenance and care of Hans Schira, concierge at the city hall*. Ok, what is special with this clock? Every hour it makes sounds and the surrounding figures move. First of all the cock at the top (photo 4) beats its metal wings, then the trumpeter blows his trumpet (photo 2), both cock and trumpeter beat and blow the number of hours. Mrs. Justitia (photo 1), without the usual blindfold lets her scales swing and Mr. Death (photo 3) turns the watch glass. He is a bit old, if you look carefully at photo 3 you can see that he is in need of knee surgery (left knee), maybe the cold winter days made his kneecap vanish? This all produces this funny noise and if you listen carefully you will hear the scale and the watch glass move and hear that the supposed crowing is not done by the cock but by the trumpeter. Oh, and the bowl with the moon below the cock is also turning. If you open the link below and wait until 2 minutes and 43 seconds you can hear this all. I forgot to take a video when I was in Marburg. Maybe next time and maybe next time I try to book a guided tour on the loft to hear this all better. But don’t worry, this sound is audible almost everywhere on the southern slope of the castle hill.
(* haha, now that I read what I wrote, it sounds as if Mr. Schira is taking care of the clock since 1889.... no, not of course, he is the actual concierge)
(This tip is not new. I only shifted it from off path to the local custom section. But then it appears new....)
Maybe to add some special feeling for a historical atmosphere, a little vineyard has been set up at the castle's southern part. It is too small to be turned into some wine – but well, maybe it's a special wine, just made for the castle ghost?
Update, April 2009:
In the meantime I found out that it is not the castle ghost (but who knows what happens during the night) who takes care of this vineyard but a private initiative of locals who have rented this little piece of land. They recultivated some old grapevines and make their wine in a little cellar in the walls of Bickell-Treppe (the stairs up to the castle). Because it is only a small quantity, they won’t sell it but keep working on the quality and improve it.
A closer inspection of the physical faculty is something you might like to do if you are interested in physics or geophysics. It was here where Alfred Wegener was working (1909-1919) and it was here where he first published his theory about what was only later recognised as facts: plate tectonics. Physics is located in Renthof, which is on the way to the castle via the “secret path” or from Wettergasse onward up the hill (behind the statue of Christian). The building on the right (northeastern) side is the one where the memorial plaque to honour Wegener is located and also the one with the observatory (for weather rather than for astronomy, main photo) is mounted on top. But the main building (photo 2) is also interesting despite its rather plain architecture. It has lovely relief work and statues at the façade. I consider myself very lucky to have had my lessons in physics here in this building, in an auditorium of the old style (half round and steep).
The department of physics is well aware of their history and tradition and one of the rare faculties in Marburg which really takes care of and wants to attract foreign students – their website has a very much extended English version (see link below). No wonder that the students who are responsible for the setting up of camera obscura at the castle have made an English flyer for this as well. Congratulations to the foresight and innovation of these guys :-). In case you are interested in physics, read the fascinating 28 pages pdf about history of the department of physics.
This house near the market place, at Markt 18 (street) to be precise, is one of the oldest stone houses in Marburg, built before 1319. Moreover it is a secular house, which is unusual because stone as building material was too expensive these days and almost only used for castles and churches. It is not easy to define the exact building date but it was already built before the big fire in Marburg 1319 and in some parts inside are still showing signs of the fire. It has a beautiful stepped gable and two very different functions. The main house itself is home to the Registry Office with the bright red entrance door and down the steps at the outside (main photo) is one of the most famous cult pubs of the city: Hinkelstein. It got its name due to a huge menhir which hangs above the bar.
Well, I don’t know if I should recommend to get married here. I got, ages ago and it was … not successful. But this has nothing to do with this house more with my stubborn refusal to subjungate to egocentric patriarchs (no matter where).
Walk uphill from the market place, pass St. Georg fountain and then it is to your left. You cannot miss it, it is the only dark stone house.
Opposite of Elisabethkirche (to the south) is the good old institute of physiology and pathophysiology. To the first time visitor it looks as if it belongs to the church, as the architecture is almost similar. But this was intended end of 19th century, in a way to demonstrate that modern science and belief in god can peacefully coexist. Next to the institute (in Pilgrimstein, street) is the institute of microbiology, so the students and staff can both work hand in hand. No photo of the latter, unfortunately, because I was maybe too shocked to take photos during my visit in May 2008. Since I know the microbiology, the house was fully always covered with ivy and looked very much romantic, but they obviously have removed this lately (before I came back) and now it looks almost naked. I spent many evenings and days inside, because my ex-husband (dentist… what can I say) wanted to work on a scientific topic for his thesis and chose the effect of a newly developed antibiotics. He didn’t have much time though and it was me finally who worked on the tests. Since then to the annoyance of my physicians I refuse to take antibiotics without a proper antibiogram.
Between both institutes is a tiny garden and memorial to one of the greatest German physiologists, Emil von Behring.
When you walk through Wettergasse to admire the half-timbered houses and when you have arrived at a point where you can either continue down Neumarkt (street) into Steinweg for more half-timbered houses and Elisabethkirche or continue walking uphill to the castle through the “backdoor” (= the secret path up to the castle) you are at the so-called Wasserscheide (water divide) of Marburg. And this is where they have placed a statue of Christian, the porter (the German word is even more funny, old German: Dienstmann, which literally translates into service man, but has a funny dusty old sound to it). Christian was the officiating porter No. 4. He must have been a very funny guy, didn’t mince his words, was almost always squiffy and had always a cheroot in his mouth. Marburg must have missed him very much, that’s why they have set up this little bronze statue as memorial.
This house is my absolute favourite, the perfect dream in red. You might have guessed this, it is the one I have on my intro page. I often stood in front of it and was dreaming how it would be living in the third floor with this magic balcony and be surrounded by this magnificent wooden carvings. This house is certainly unusual for half-timbered houses with its many details, the oriel and the dormer window, the little tower and the many edges. But this adds to the beauty and the eye catching effect. It has a good location, because Wettergasse narrows down to the north (further on from the angle of where I took the photos), so it stands like a red ship among the other houses.
This house is in Wettergasse, on the western side, with its façade to the south (balcony) and east (oriel). So the best time to take photos is in the morning, when the sun has risen just above the eastern side of Wettergasse.
The name of this house is a bit misleading. Despite it is called Haus Grimm it is not the house where the famous Grimm brothers were once living, but it is the one of Justizrat Carl Grimm (a special kind of lawyer, no English translation possible). It was very big once with depot and stables in the first floor. Remarkable is that this house does not have many windows in the side wall but almost the whole first and second floor façade are all windows, these cute bull’s eye panes, brought here from Innsbruck in Austria. The wooden parts are very richly decorated with many scratched images and ornaments in the plaster.
This house is in Ritterstrasse, on the southern side, with its façade to the north. This makes it a bit difficult to take good photos, but the best time is certainly in the (early) morning, when the sun is high enough to highlight it. Later in the morning is too late, because then the sun would be behind it (like in my photos).
The house is located on the way to the church of St. Mary, if you walk north from the market place and then turn left (west) into Ritterstrasse.
This house is definitely not difficult to find, because it is located at the market place (where Barfüßerstrasse leads further west). In the half-timered house timeline it is rather new, of 1884 only (as the sign says, photo 3). This becomes obvious when you look at how the house is built: bricks instead of the typical clay/hay structure between the main wooden beams. Also, the several oriels and dormer windows are signs for the “modern” half-timbered architecture. The beams are lavishly carved and painted with flowers and ornaments. And of course an inspricption with a poem is not lacking. This one says Deutsches Haus, Deutsches Land, Schirm es Gott mit starker Hand, traslates into “German house, German country, may God protect it with strong hand”. [This inscription is of 19th century, when these words meant something good and not like now, where words like these have definitely a dark brown nazi-sick colour.]
This house is at the market place, on the western side, with its façade to the east and south. So the best time to take photos is from morning to early afternoon (as in my photos).
Marburg’s oldest half timbered house is located “behind” the old university at the corner of Hirschberg and Reitgasse (which leads uphill to Café Vetter), house number is Hirschberg 13. It was built in 1321 (according to dendrochronological tests) and is considered to be one of the earliest half-timbered houses in Germany. The vertical wooden beams are covering all three floors, typical for the building style of these houses. And also typical is the fact that each floor is a bit bigger than the one beneath, which makes the façade look as if it would topple over. But it does not, this was usual in the Medieval times, because the tax one had to pay was based on the size of the ground floor. Consequently, the upper floors were extended to give more room.
The other houses of Hirschberg are also beautiful. The blue one at the corner (photo 4) is of 16th century with magnificent carved corner beams.
Hirschberg 13 is located in.. haha, Hirschberg (street), on the eastern/southern side, with its façade to the south/west. So the best time to take photos is during midday. The other houses have the façade to the east, so the best time would be in the morning.
When you do a half-timbered houses walk through Marburg you might find two different house numbers at some of the houses. I noticed it but without the help of Mr. Lucker of Hesse-Stübche I would never have found out what this means, because it is mentioned nowhere. These unusual house numbers are painted on the wood and not on little metal plates (these are the actual ones) and their origin is quite funny. When Napoleon came to town in 1806 to ransack around and destroy the castle fortress, he decided to number the houses. His riding troops got paint buckets and had to do this, that’s the reason why these numbers are higher than the usual eye-level. Only a couple of houses have their old numbers restored, like the one in Metzgergasse 5, Napoleon’s number 243 (main photo) and a house in Weidenhäuser Strasse (across Lahn river, photo 4). What I found extra cute is that the owners of the house in Metzgergasse (the Lucker family of Hesse-Stübche) have painted their today house number 5 in the Napoleon style as well (photo 5).
Thanks Mr. Lucker for telling me this all!
Opposite of the house with the cute faces in Barfüsserstrasse is another prominent house, which belonged to a merchant once. The inscription says that it is dated 1525 (photo 3), but dendrochronological tests showed that it must have been newer, because the oaks used for the beams have been cut between 1674 and 1677. On the show-side to the street it has several highlights, such as Hermes, Greek god of travellers and trade, with the Green Man above his head, in one of the corner beams (photo 4). On the horizontal beams are several images referring to trade, like the ones in the main photo and photo 2, and also images of an owl, symbol for wisdom, and of Landgrave Philipp (founder of the university) and Emperor Wilhelm II, who wasn’t even thought of in 17th century. But this shows how much the façade of these houses were reflecting the owners’ businesses and the times, because they were often restored according to the events of the time. This one was restored in 1907, as it can be seen in the photo of the Hermes statue. And by then, Wilhelm II was emperor.
This house is in Barfüsserstrasse, on the northern side, with its façade to the south. So the best time to take photos is between morning and afternoon, because the sun arrives here almost during the whole day.
Yes, they are. They can have maybe the oldest house complex all to their own! Their faculty is located behind Elisabethkirche and the houses once were built by the Order of the Teutonic Knights in 13th century. It was their living quarters and rooms for general purposes like praying, kitchen, storage of goods and stables. The main storage for grain was next to it, that’s where the Mineralogy Museum is now (see to-do section). The whole complex is being called Deutsches Haus, a reference to the Teutonic Knights; their German name was Deutschhausritter. The entrance portal is newer though, of Renaissance times.
As I could see on newer photos, the tree in my main photo has been cut in the meantime. This is because they are doing archaeological digging around Elisabethkirche, with the purpose to find more evidence like graveyards of the Teutonic Knights.
This Deutschhaus complex is facing to the south and except of Elisabethkirche there is no building which hides the sun.
The Homepage of Faculty of Geography has more information about the location and its history, but… you guessed, in German only.