14 April, 2015

Home Sweet Hildesheim

In a Facebook post last week I promised a blog post about my new city of residence, Hildesheim. Well, here it is!

Before I moved here I really had no idea what Hildesheim had to offer. I'd spent all my energy on getting into the university and finding a place to live and I completely forgot to find out anything about my new home before I arrived. My first impression of Hildesheim was of a city that couldn't really decide if it wanted to be a cute little town or a big city. It has elements of both, as well as elements of old and new right beside each other. This old-and-new contrast is something that can be seen in many places in Germany, but it is especially striking here in Hildesheim because the city is celebrating its 1,200th year this year. The city was founded in 815, a year so distant that we can barely even imagine what life must have been like back then.

My dorm, which I already wrote about in my previous post, is walking distance to the city center, so one of the first things Maxim and I did when we arrived here was wander into the city and start exploring. Here's what we found:

The old town hall.

The previous pictures are all of different buildings around the Markt, or main market square. True to its name, there actually is a market held here on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. The buildings look old, but they were actually built quite recently (all except the town hall building in the first picture). The original buildings were destroyed during World War II by American, British and Canadian bombs, and in 1990 they were rebuilt with donations from Hildesheim's residents.

Old church surrounded by new (ugly) buildings. This is a theme in Hildesheim.

These cool bay windows can be found on several buildings around the city. (If you're wondering, that huge word Zahnarzt near the top of the building means dentist, or literally "tooth doctor.")

The picture above and the picture below are of buildings that are literally right across the street from each other. This is a great example of the contrast I was talking about.

The Hildesheimer Dom, or the Hildesheim Cathedral, is one of two UNESCO World Heritage sites in Hildesheim. It, like the buildings at the Markt, was also destroyed and then rebuilt after the war.

A cute residential area we walked through with Maxim's parents while they were visiting.

I think this is my favorite street in all of Hildesheim. Isn't it adorable? It has that wonderful old German architectural style that's so recognizable.

The St. Michaeliskirche, or St. Michael's Church, is the second UNESCO World Heritage site in Hildesheim. As with many other sites, it was destroyed during WWII and later rebuilt.

In addition to the theme of old and new side by side, another theme comes up again and again in Hildesheim: destruction and reconstruction. So many breathtaking sights and the majority of the old city center were destroyed during World War II, and Hildesheim is not unique in this respect. Almost no cities in Germany were spared from Allied bombings, and some cities, the prime example being Dresden, were completely burned to the ground. I've seen pictures of Karlsruhe, where I lived last year, from 1945, and I was shocked by what I saw. Streets I walked down everyday were unrecognizable piles of rubble flanked by burned-out shells of buildings. Although I haven't seen pictures of post-war Hildesheim, I know it fared no better than Karlsruhe. It makes me so upset to realize how much devastation the war caused Germany. Things that had been around for centuries were leveled, never to be seen again. While some cities, like Hildesheim, were able to rebuild many of their historic buildings, other cities were not. If it hadn't been for all the senseless destruction, I wonder how different Germany would be today and how different my life here would be.

I'm not sure exactly what point I'm trying to make, other than the fact that as soon as you look beneath Germany's surface, the effects of World War II are hard to ignore. (I've also written about the less tangible effects in another post about patriotism.)

Wrapping up on a lighter note, I like what I've seen of Hildesheim so far. Like most German cities, the center of the city is dominated by a pedestrian-only shopping area, which I adore, and I've already discovered several great cafes and restaurants. And with only around 100,000 residents, it's a manageable size for me. I already feel like I have a good handle on where the main things that I will need are, and orienting myself in the first days and weeks was a breeze. I look forward to exploring more and seeing what else Hildesheim has to offer.

My next big adventure will be my classes at the university, which started yesterday. Once I get into the swing of things there I will write about that, as well as the stress-inducing, nail-biting process of getting enrolled and registered for classes. Stay tuned!

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