And now, as promised, photos of my recent trip to Halle on Saale Lots of beautiful old buildings and some not so beautiful examples of Communist era architecture. Some of the photos were taken while snow was falling and thus look a little grey and grim.
On YouTube I found this home video showing Halle in the spring of 1990, i.e. a few months after the fall of the Wall. And here is another home movie of Halle, shot in 1981. The city here looks very much like I remember it. Here is another home movie that’s even older, filmed by an American searching his roots in Halle in 1969. You can even see Halle Neustadt under construction. The videos show some of the same locations I photographed 23 to 44 years later, so it’s interesting to compare and contrast.
The market square with the Market Church and the so-called Red Tower, which together make for a striking skyline. Between church and tower, you can see the Händel monument. The market square is full of people and market stands because of the annual Easter fair.
The front of the late gothic Market Church. Georg Friedrich Händel was baptized here and learned to play the organ. The church has been newly restored. Back in the 1980s, when I first saw it, it was pretty much black. Also note the sausage stand in front of the church, part of the annual Easter fair with its unique slogan “Don’t Worry, Be Curry”, a reference to the popular German fastfood specialty Currywurst.
A close-up view of the Red Tower, a 15th century bell tower. It still looks pretty grim due to the overcast weather and snowfall, but this is nothing compared to the 1980s, when the tower was black with soot.
A statue of Roland, that hero of medieval legend, on the facade of the Red Tower. Medieval Roland statues may be found in towns and cities all over Germany. Bremen has one of the biggest and most famous Roland statues.
A photo of Bremen’s Roland may be found here BTW.
This statue on the market square of Halle is devoted to Georg Friedrich Händel, the most famous son of the city. Apparently, Händel has borrowed the Fourth Doctor’s scarf, since it was really bloody cold when I was there. The grey building in the background was a department store even in Communist times and now belongs to the Galeria Kaufhof chain.
The so-called Stadthaus, a 19th century building on the Halle market square. It housed part of the city administration until WWII. The actual townhall is a grey postwar building, since the medieval townhall was destroyed in WWII.
This historical house on Halle’s market square houses the Halloren Café, a coffee and chocolate shop operated by the Halloren chocolate company, purveyor of fine chocolates, including the famous Hallorenkugeln, since 1804.
A random Llama displayed as part of a petting zoo on Halle’s market square during the Easter fair.
A striking fountain with dragons and a golden ball on the Hallmarkt square.
A fountain on the snow-covered Hallmarkt and striking graffitti alluding to Halle’s musical history overlooking a building site.
The so-called donkey fountain on the Old Market. The fountain retells the local legend of a donkey and its owner who came into the city just as the city was awaiting a visit from Emperor Otto I. The Emperor was delayed and so the donkey and its owner got to walk on roses.
Two striking and beautifully restored Victorian buildings at the entrance to the Große Ulrichstraße, the main shopping area. The cables crisscrossing this and other photos are the contact wires for the tram network.
Another beautiful turn of the century building on Große Ulrichstraße. Note the contact wires.
Detail of a beautiful 19th century building on Große Ulrichstraße. In West Germany, a lot of 19th century buildings that had survived WWII were torn down in the 1950s and 1960s to make way for “modern” buildings. East Germany, perpetually short of money and accomodation for its citizens, preferred to keep crumbling 19th buildings around as long as halfway feasible and build new housing estates (we’ll see one of them later) on the periphery of towns. As a result, the centres of East German usually have more surviving pre-WWII architecture than comparable West German cities.
Another beautifully restored 19th century building on Große Ulrichstraße, which nowadays houses the bar of the Thalia Theatre next door.
This label scar above a door in a courtyard of a building now occupied by the University of Halle advertises a print shop specializing in posters and advertising materials. I suspect that this label scar dates back to before WWII.
Here is an explanation of the background of this particular sign.
The lingering shadow of Communist East Germany is still visible in modern day Halle in this sign advertising a HO meat product store. HO was a state-owned chain of restaurants, bars and grocery stores in Communist East Germany.
Wikipedia has some more background information on the HO stores in East Germany.
And now for the architectural legacy of Communist East Germany, the so-called Plattenbauten, large scale council estates built from pre-fabricated components. Halle has one of the earliest Plattenbau neighbourhoods in East Germany, Halle-Neustadt (Halle Newtown), Ha-Neu for short in a play of words on Hanoi, which was planned in the 1960s to provide homes for the workers in the chemical factories of nearby Schkopau and Leuna. Halle has been a centre of the chemical industry since the Third Reich. In addition to Leuna and Schkopau, whose plastics factory had the world’s worst advertising slogan “Plaste und Elaste aus Schkopau” (because if your chemical factory is in a town with the ugly and hard to pronounce name Schkopau, you should absolutely advertise that fact to random passers-by via a giant highway sign. Honestly, those people needed Don Draper), there’s also Bitterfeld and Wolfen, former home to the Agfa, later Orwo, film factory. Here’s a promotional film about Halle-Neustadt from the 1970s, which shows the ideal. And here comes the reality.
The heart of Halle Neustadt, the outdoor shopping mall Neustädter Passage. It all looks rather post-apocalyptic.
The view from my hotel room window across the Neustädter Passage. Le Corbusier’s dream turned into Halle’s nightmare here.
The former “Haus der Dienste” or House of Services in Halle Neustadt. This building once contained offices of all sorts of administrative services, post officer, bank and the like. Now it houses a 23-hour open gambling hall (they close for one hour a day to clean the place and empty the slot machines) whose noisy signs drown out the subdued Communist era neon sign on top of the building. It’s probably telling that services for the 50000 people (down from 90000 at its peak) of Halle Neustadt have been replaced by a gambling hall which preys on the poor.
A typical apartment block in Halle-Neustadt. Some of the blocks have been restored and upgraded, this one looks largely unchanged since Communist times. Hard to imagine that flats in these blocks were once sought after.