Hidden behind the Swabian-Franconian Forest and some hills, travelers found the town of Schwäbisch Hall 850 years ago. They still do today. And they are impressed.
Berlin/Schwäbisch Hall, August 18th, 2020, update August 4th, 2021 (The Berlin Spectator) — On a hot August day, happy ducks waddle around on one of two tiny islands in the Kocher river that flows through the old town of Schwäbisch Hall. The birds are rather corpulent, just like quite a few human inhabitants, because there is plenty of nourishment down here.
Putting on Pounds
While the ducks rely on bread crumbs they receive from passers-by every few minutes, the humans consume the best food available in Germany. They do not have to go far to get it because it comes from their own turf. Over here, the kind of ‘Käsespätzle’ they make are too good to be real. So are the onion cake, the potato salad and everything else they prepare and eat.
Visitors who come to this town in Germany’s southern federal state of Baden-Württemberg should be aware of the fact that they reached a region where people usually put on a few pounds. And they should expect severe language issues. Foreign tourists who believe they speak German will be proven wrong.
But the same applies to Germans from further north. They need subtitles whenever a local from Schwäbisch Hall says anything. The dialect they speak down here even includes its own conjugations for important verbs. Those do not sound German at all. Language students who come from abroad to study German at the local Goethe Institute will actually have to learn two languages if they want to get by in Schwäbisch Hall.
People down here are friendly. Most are always willing to chat with visitors, either in English or in what they call German. They will give directions and explain the city to people. The locals may not really see the beauty anymore because they have it right in front of their eyes every day. But they are proud of their town, and they have every reason to.
Locals in Schwäbisch Hall disagree when their town is being declared as Swabian, even though its name suggests it is. Officially, the region they live in is ‘Hohenlohe’. Whatever the region might be called, it just does not get more beautiful than this. Whoever wants to see and experience a medieval town located in a wonderful countryside should hit Schwäbisch Hall.
From Salt to Car Seats
The modern version of this place is known all over the country for its big home loan bank which carries the name of the town, and for Recaro, a sports car seat factory that exports its products to countries all over the world.
In the 12th century, Schwäbisch Hall was built around a salt spring at the Kocher river. At first, it had a handful inhabitants. By now there are 40,000. Many decades ago, the town’s name was a lot easier to pronounce. It was simply Hall. The ‘Schwäbisch’ (Swabian) part was added later.
Culture at St. Michael’s Church
The town was first mentioned in a document in 1156, more than 850 years ago. But humans have lived in its region even during the Neolithic, starting in the year 6000 BC. Hall is among the oldest towns in Germany, also because it is located in the area in which the Romans were very active. Economically, Schwäbisch Hall, or Hall, relied on salt for centuries. This resource made it a wealthy town. For a long time, Hall was also known for coinage.
Schwäbisch Hall always was a magnet since it offered jobs and culture. This is still the case today. The annual ‘Freilichtspiele’, a big cultural event, takes place on the enormous stairs in front of St. Michael’s Church. It pulls audiences from the northern half of Baden-Württemberg. In the Corona summer of 2020, the ticket contingent was limited. That way, the organizers made sure a distance could be kept between people in the audience.
Human Bones Chamber
Tourism is big. Apart from its stunning beauty, Schwäbisch Hall offers excellent restaurants such as the legendary ‘Entenbäck’ and many others. The old town, its narrow alleys and medieval appearance are truly impressive. There is beauty at every corner. Especially Mauerstrasse, a street at the Kocher riverbank, is the perfect photo object.
St. Michael’s Church is enthroned up on a hill overlooking Schwäbisch Hall’s old town. The building itself is impressive too. It features a beautiful exterior and interior, a giant organ with a killer sound and a spooky chamber that contains piles of human bones. They are hundreds of years old.
View From Above
Climbing the tower is mandatory for anyone who feels the inner urge to see Schwäbisch Hall from above. The outside part at the very top of the tower has been closed since 1994 because of suicides. But a few windows above the level of the church’s giant bells provide a great view of all the beauty.
Besides, climbing up the narrow circular stairs in the tower will at least get rid of some of the alarming calorie intake. No, ‘Spätzle’ and onion cake are not calorie-free.
The English version of Schwäbisch Hall’s official website can be accessed here.