First of all, a word of advice. If you ever find yourself in Hildesheim and in need of a place to sleep, do not under any circumstances take a room at Hotel Schweizer Hof. I am not particularly fussy about hotels – as long as it’s clean, has a bed and the staff are reasonably friendly it’s fine with me. After all, I don’t go to places to hang around in my hotel room. The only thing I can say about my room at Schweizer Hof is that it did, indeed, have a bed. And the sheets had been washed. The shower, on the other hand, still had the previous guest’s hair in it. Niiiice.
I’ve been to Hildesheim twice now, both times to attend a seminar for work, but there was enough time in the evenings to look around the place. The city is primarily famous as the home of the “thousand-year-old rosebush” – allegedly the world’s oldest rose. Unfortunately, I was not able to see said rose bush on either of my visits. It’s located at St. Mary’s cathedral, which was closed for renovation both times I was there and will remain so until August 2014. Here are a couple of photos of what I could see of the outside of the cathedral anyway:
Hildesheim is a city of contrasts. On the one hand, you have the market square, which is absolutely beautiful. If you have read any of my travel posts, you’ll know how I feel about half-timbered houses and Hildesheim has some fantastic specimens. Also on the market square is the Town hall, one of Germany’s oldest.
I apologise for how burry the Rathaus photo is – it was blowing a gale and within seconds of me taking the photo the heavens opened, so we ran off to find somehwere dry!
Close to Market Square, just off the main shopping street, there’s a church – the Andreaskirche (St Andrew’s Evangelical Church), which boasts the highest church steeple in Lower Saxony.
There’s a little Italian restaurant on the same square – the Alte Munze. When my colleague and I ate there in 2011 the food was amazing, so if you’re looking for Italian food definitely give this place a go.
Now comes the contrast… as soon as you leave the main shopping area, the buildings stop being pretty. The hotel of doom was literally a five minute walk from the Andreaskirche, but the street it was in couldn’t have been more different. Run down, grey buildings mostly containing Chinese takeaways and kebab places, everything made of concrete and glass… And at the other end of the main shopping street, you’ll find the large concrete slab that is the city’s bus station (located right outside the train station).
Moving away from the city centre, the university (where the seminars were) is located in a residential area. Lots of green, which is nice, but also lots of modern housing… or what I call “toy town”, meaning everything looks the same. Disappointing after the beauty of the Marktplatz.
The other strange thing about Hildesheim is that, after 6 p.m., there is apparantly nothing to do. On the Saturday, our seminar finished early, so we went into town. But by 6 o’clock the shops were starting to close – only C&A and a dodgy looking hairdresser stayed open. And we hardly saw any bars, other than a few dodgy looking ones. So where do all the students go? Later that night, we ate at a place called The Outback Inn, which didn’t look like much from the outside but turned out to serve some pretty good food, but other than that we saw nothing. If I hadn’t seen the university with my own eyes I would have had trouble believing that this is a student town!
So to sum up, Hildesheim: Old rosebush (if you ever get to see it!), some gorgeous old buildings interspersed with really, really horrible looking streets, and absolutely nothing to do after 6 p.m. It might be worth a daytrip (if they ever allow access to the old rosebush again), but I wouldn’t recommend making it your sole holiday destination!