When you drive into the centre of Wolfenbüttel you will start to gasp about all these half-timbered houses. Behind each corner more half-timbered houses are waiting. One after the other. Old and stunning.
And there is a castle and parks. Everything is old. And well preserved. You can get a guided tour with historical figures like the damsel, Casanova or Lessing.
Talking about Lessing: You can visit the library with all theses old volumes as well. It is also very old. Or the town hall at the market place. Everything looks like some hundred years ago. And you can admire it all and take photos and visit it.
But… Wolfenbüttel is no museum. It is not a dusty past but again and again succeeds in combining old and new. A bridge is built between tradition and present times. Let’s take the town hall for example. It is used. People work here or get married here. The old half-timber can be seen inside and all the offices and meeting rooms fit in between the old wall structure. What about the library. It is used as well. Each book or volume you can borrow and at least read it in the reading room. Here one may do some research. You can visit the castle and with the damsel you get the feeling that until today someone lives inside of it.
The old town is alive. In the lower part of the half-timbered houses there are shops. Even some bigger ones or super markets. The streets are partly pedestrian zones and at the market place actually a farmer’s market takes place two times a week. In the winter times there is a Christmas Market and inbetween different festivals are on the agenda. Otherwise all the houses are just normally inhabited. Everything is busting. Or it will be revived.
Like the tradition of brewing beer. In former times only some ingrediences were used and those came from the surroundings. Grain, water, hops… That works… also today. So there are again 12 different kind of beers offered. Traditionally brewed but with a fresh twist. The ingrediences are mostly sustainable and there are thoughts about growing hops again nearby. So the old comes back into the present.
Again and again you will find some fresh new ideas behind the old partitions. Like street food. This is actually something very new and modern. It also sounds like it, as the english term is also used in German language. But you can also get street food in a historical house. A grill is put into the street in front of it and the sausage that you find on the barbecue comes from a traditional master butcher. Each ingredient, each supplier, each piece is questioned. The buns that come with the sausage are not liked by the customers? So I use the old fashioned ‚Heide‘ bread. It tastes very good with the sausage and comes from the bakery across the street. And so one thing leads to another. The sort of mustard. The tea. And the hot wine punch is organic and vegan. Totally modern but a good and old handicraft. For lunch you get two or three dishes – also as take away.
Two houses further down the street you can get curries and tomato sauce according to the rules of the paleo diet. So the stone age is actually old as the hills. But the diet is getting more and more familiar. So these products are gladly bought and used. You will als find spices, vinegar and other handmade products. Even a gin. Strictly according to the year. It tastes every year different. Because it is a natural product and there are always differences in the harvest and flavour. It is no uniform industrial good.
Or let’s talk about ‚Jägermeister‘. Nearly everybody knows the brand. But who knows that it comes from Wolfenbüttel? Again a very traditional product. Unchanged for decades. Even the logo and the font have only been changed very subtle over the years. But you can find this old fashioned typical green bottle today in more than 100 countries. In the bars and pubs in the world.
One more example? In Wolfenbüttel coffee is roasted by hand. In the middle of the cafe. A really old handicraft. Even if it is used for drinking your coffee in x different styles. As latte, cappucino, espresso or Irish coffee. The menu consists of several pages and includes very creative names for the drinks. Again each ingredient is questioned and carefully chosen. The coffee comes from plantations, that the owner of the place have met before while on a ‚coffee voyage‘. A personal supplier. Like in former times. A handshake agreement. You can feel it and you can taste it. Accordingly you can get handmade cookies and truffles. Fantastic.
Or the Lessing Theater. And old building. Affectionate and carefully renovated. The character of this dignified house was kept but inside you will find the newest technology and some amenities like a wide distance between the rows and comfortable seats. A great light and sound system and modern stage mechanics. But also accessibility was taken into consideration. So you will find directions in the handrail also in braille.
Your can validate your parking ticket yourself at the foyer and therefore park your car for free. Quotes from Lessing can be found at the walls, which – by the way – are hand painted. If you look really close you can see that the patterns are not perfectly. Just handmade. Attic and basement are also equipped with the newest technique which is also according to the rules of fire safety. The program is so wide and all-embracing that everybody surely will find something to his liking: theater plays, cabaret, opera, musical, dance, operetta, reading, vaudeville show… You name it. Children and youth programs. Workshops. There is an event nearly every day. Not a bit outmoded. But in an old cloak though.
What about shoemaking? In Wolfenbüttel this handicraft is still alive. Here shoes are not only repaired but also designed and hand crafted. In third generation. The special thing about it is, that you have any kind of shoe made. An idea or a scetch is enough. But you need some time. Waiting time for a handmade pair of shoes is between three and six months. But after that you can hold your own pair of shoes in your hand or rather wear it on your feet. Apart from the master 5 women take awl and last in their hands and think about new ideas again and again. And old handicraft which dies out in other places but has a future in Wolfenbüttel.
Last but not least something culinary. Right in the middle of nowhere exists a country inn that has become a bit long in the tooth and which has a furniture that might well suit as the setting for a historical movie. Venison dishes are on the menu. Now you could assume that those might be the usual roast venison with dumplings and red cabbage. You thought wrong! Here a young and lively team of chefs develops continuously new ideas for dishes that build bridges or link tradition with modernity. Like the ‚Wild Wrap‘. A wrap filled with small pieces of wild boar meat, vegetables and with an international twist: tzatziki. Here you can see how to make this wrap. So the traditional venison from the hunting ground right besides meets with modern food like wraps and burgers. Everything handmade and fresh and yummy.
Wolfenbüttel takes you by surprise at every corner or rather behind every half-timbered house. There are innovative approaches and concepts to be found time and again. We only got a small glimpse of it. There are definitely more ideas and entrepreneurs. And certainly there are some more among them who manage the balancing act between tradition and modern age. Maybe as much as there are half-timbered houses…
All Photos © Waltzing Meurers