We live in the city of Halle (pronounced like holla), on the Saale River, in Eastern Germany — 30 mins by train to Leipzig and about 90 mins to Berlin. It’s a university town, home to Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. Our housing is between campus buildings but feels very different than a typical American college campus. It’s hard to explain how it’s different. It feels more serious, I guess. I saw some college girls giggling and running with each other the other day and my first thought was “they must speak English!”. I then realized it was just a behavior I haven’t seen much around here. It sounded so familiar!
One of the first things we noticed upon moving here is that graffiti/street art is everywhere here. This store selling speciality spray paint is just a few steps down our street. I do see the art in “street-art” and think it’s great when people want to paint their own property to express themselves but I am very sad when it looks like previously beautiful historic buildings have been vandalized. I’m not sure how the German people feel about it. I’m guessing it’s generational.
There are also a lot of abandoned buildings here. The older groundskeeper in our building has lived here since before the wall went down. He said that in it’s prime Halle had a population of 500,000 but has since dropped by almost half. It is still thriving but just in a smaller way.
An abandoned building across from our apartment.
Even the playgrounds are not immune to graffiti.
No one has explained this to me but it appears that there is a lot of tagging being done to mark areas as “Antifa” or antifacist. There are often references to Nazis and sometimes dates which makes me think there are specific events that prompt these tags.
An old abandoned communist building.
I think this says, “Through Work comes Happiness”.
There is also a big movement to welcome refugees and we see signs, graffiti and stickers all over the city. Protests are also common. We have started to notice, just this week actually, the presence of what appear to be refugees. I’m hoping I can volunteer to help in some way while we’re here.
There are many lovely parts to Halle. The marktplatz in the center of the city is a 10 minute walk from our home and there is a daily market with bread, meat, flowers, cheese, fish and ready-made food. I love it. I need to learn all the names for the speciality meat and fish because right now its super intimidating. I stick to the flower and produce stands mostly.
It seems that almost every weekend there is a festival of some kind with carnival rides, food stands and little shops selling everything from animal fur to holographic art.
The marktpatz during the Salz Fest (Salt Festival).
Our walk on the way to the marktplatz. It’s normally quite crowded. I’m surprised there are so few people in this picture — it was probably a Sunday when stores are closed.
Halle was the birthplace and hometown of the composer, Händel.
Halle-Neustadt, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Halle, has a very different feel due to the residential block apartments built in the 1960’s. It was a planned city during the DDR period when people flooded the area to work in the factories. They actually separated from Halle for a time and called themselves “The City of Chemical Workers” but have since rejoined the city.
A mural installed in the heart of the communist years depicting workers with Karl Marx and other themes from 1972.
A fun little zoo.
This was taken one of our first nights here. We went to a traditional German restaurant. We toasted to this amazing opportunity and pledged to do our best to balance work, travel and togetherness. So far, so good!
Their beer is better than ours. I’m normally a beer drinker with little taste for hops (or whatever else you people like). I normally prefer something light and mild but their beer has more flavor and still goes down so smooth.
We were blown away at how accommodating they are to babies, especially in restaurants — including a changing table with stuffed animals, wipes, diapers, baby powder and more. We thought it might be just one restaurant but its pretty universal.
The German people are very accommodating to children and give out gummies or candies to kids all the time. Apparently they are not as concerned with choking here since they give little toddlers like James hard candies, sausages and gummies with no concern (it seems). I would never want James to choke so I, very kindly, eat his candy. Also — anytime we try to buy milk for him in a cafe while traveling within Germany they always give it to us for free when they hear its for a child. It’s a little thing — but it makes such a kind impression!
This is at the Frankesche Stiftungen where Mark does his research. It a beautiful campus with a very interesting history. It has retained a lot of charm from its beginning and the design elements feel very unique. I encourage you to read more if you’re interested!
The Halle Opera House is just a couple blocks away from our apartment. We are longing to go but haven’t found a babysitter yet.
Their version of a post office. I’m still confused by the system. My understanding is that they don’t have a government run post office so a handful of different companies deliver mail. I’m not a fan so far. USPS for life!
The University campus.
There is so much history in this cemetery. It appears at some point long ago they rebuilt a stone wall at the entrance and used broken pieces of old tombstones. You can see words and dates peeking out in a few spots. That sort of thing is SO interesting to me. I want to know — did they do it by accident? Did they do it because they didn’t have any other resources? Are there unmarked graves? So many questions.
The Kunstmuseam Moritzburg is a stunning monument and I can’t believe we took so long to visit. The dichotomy between old and new architecture is breathtaking. They left the ruins as is and built these dark glass walls hugging the inside frame. It is truly stunning. The castle was originally a residence for an archbishop in the 1500’s, with additions in 1900. It’s now an art museum. There is still a Lutheran chapel in use (that we plan to attend soon) and a cute little cafe too — with a play corner for the kids, of course.
A Beatles Museum that we haven’t been to yet. Funny location for one, isn’t it?
Halle was an important Reformation landmark. Luther often preached during stops in Halle and his original death mask is found in the Market Church.
The Pauluskirche is stunning and in a beautiful neighborhood. I walk this direction every chance I get.
A lovely little botanical garden that we visited one of the first weeks. James loved the open space and we enjoyed chasing him around in the beautiful garden.
The public library is small and they have only a handful of English language books but it’s still a nice escape when we need to change things up a bit. And now that we finally have our residence permit we can actually check out some books! We have some German and some English books at home but they get old quickly. Of course James always asks for the German, which is not fun for me because I don’t know where to put the emphasis or how to pronounce everything…I’m learning with him! He says pilze instead of mushroom, blatt instead of leaf, wolf with a v-sound, katze/hund/tschoos/danke/bitte/du/hallo/oma/opa — I’m sure there’s more but those are the basics. It’s fun to hear him speak both English and German so much already!
Our time in Halle, in a nutshell, over the last two months.
Taking a little outing to Leipzig tomorrow. Excited to see “the Brooklyn of Germany”. More soon!