They are far more than architecture—they are historic treasures and the heart and soul of this beautiful land.
By Alevtina Altenhof
It runs like a ribbon through unique landscapes and historically significant places and sites—the German Fachwerkstrasse (The Half-Timbered Houses Route). Over 1800 miles, it crosses the territories of six federal states between the river Elbe and the Black Forest and passes by some 100 towns in which you are immersed into an abundance of half-timbered buildings stemming from various epochs in the past: the Medieval Age, the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical periods. These towns are examples of living history; frequently there are entire villages, town squares or streets consisting of half-timbered buildings that are of unprecedented historical value. Whenever I see such a house or an entire ensemble of half-timbered buildings surrounding a market square, I stop to admire this type of architecture and appreciate its uniqueness, associating it with what we understand by the German word “Gemütlichkeit”.
They are not just houses from a Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale. In fact this type of construction has been universally acknowledged as being highly ecological and environmentally friendly. In 1975, in order to make the general population more aware of the value of this particular architectural style, the “Association for Historic Half-Timbered Architecture in German Towns” was founded. Including 50 member towns at its inception, ten years later it expanded to include over 100 towns from almost all federal states. The target of the project has been to preserve the valuable historical relics by learning how to maintain and renovate them. The association also became concerned with the question of promoting tourism and has taken the initiative in fundraising and seeking financial sponsorship to keep the buildings “alive”. As a result, the project “Deutsche Fachwerkstrasse” was launched in 1996 and the first section of the road opened to visitors. Meanwhile, the German Half-Timbered Houses Route has earned the reputation of being one of the leading holiday routes in the country which gives its visitors positive impressions, unforgettable experiences, and a great deal of pleasure.
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