“The Little Ghost”
or “A Journey of Discovery in Quedlinburg”
The four children attentively observe the old town hall but seem to be somewhat irritated by the Gothic building, which is one of the oldest town halls in central Germany and the core of which dates back to the 14th century. The fact that my five to nine-year-old children are so fascinated by the building is not, however, due to a particularly strong interest in architecture and history but instead the successful result of a little trick I decided to try. The evening before our trip to Quedlinburg, I watched the remake of the film “The Little Ghost” from 2013 with my children. In the film, the little white ghost created by Otfried Preußler haunts Quedlinburg Town Hall and floats around the streets and lanes of the World Heritage Site. Filming took place in the town hall, the marketplace, the Schuhhof square and the streets Hölle, Pölle and Stieg. I thought that my children might take a more enthusiastic approach to exploring one of Germany's best-preserved half-timbered towns if they were able to rediscover scenes from the film at the same time. And now they are here, their gaze wandering from the large wooden door to the town's golden coat of arms and even higher. "I've got it!" shouts my oldest, "The tower is missing!" And right he is: the tower that plays an important role in the film was actually added to the shot during the editing process.
It turns out that my special trick to get the kids interested wasn't even necessary, as we find out just a few minutes later in the town's official (and green!) Tourist Information Centre! Alongside the normal information leaflets and maps of the town, the centre also features a special highlight: the Quedlinburg treasure map! Seven-year-old Theo reads it aloud: “The first stroke on this treasure map was drawn over 1000 years ago, when Henry the Fowler, the first King of Germany, ordered that his favourite castle be built in the town. As he lay dying, he gave his wife Matilda this map, the castle and his estates as his final gift. The castle was used as the site of an important church school for noble women. The King granted the members of this educational community the right to trade and to mint their own coins...” These few sentences alone were enough to provide my children with a simple introduction to the “cradle of the German Reich” and its political, intellectual and cultural history.
If you decide to play the game and use the flags positioned in various locations on the map to guide you around Quedlinburg, you'll end up learning a great deal about this unbelievably vibrant town and its history dating back more than a thousand years. We, for example, learnt where to find the Schreckensturm (Tower of Horror), a thick-walled structure designed as a inescapable jail for criminals, liars and thieves; found out where the successful merchants of Quedlinburg built their houses and discovered how they transported their goods up into their attics. The children were taken to one of the town's oldest houses, where they learnt how the typical post-and-beam structure was successfully used. The treasure map also, of course, leads you up to the collegiate church and its famous treasury, which not only features jewels, gold and pearls, but also valuable books, caskets and liturgical items.
After a good two hours, we have explored Quedlinburg, rediscovered the scenes from the film and, of course, solved the mystery of the treasure map. Armed with the solution and proud smiles on their faces, my four children march back to the Tourist Information Centre to pick up the reward promised on the map. They are presented with a great laminated treasure hunter's pass containing their very own fingerprint and a voucher for a free ice cream from the neighbouring Café zum Roland – and are therefore not only now officially qualified treasure seekers, but also huge fans of Quedlinburg! This means that we'll definitely be back! Maybe next time we'll go for a ride on the little Bimmelbahn tourist train or enjoy a guided night tour with the town's historical night watchman. Who knows, we might even make it back for the Advent period, when Quedlinburg market square is transformed into a Christmas wonderland.