With an imperial past, a palatial prize of European Romanesque architecture and an Altstadt of medieval timber-framed beauties, GOSLAR is one of Germany’s treasures. A small town of just 48,000 people in the Harz foothills, perhaps, but a rich one figuratively and at one time literally. The area around the Markt is the town’s showpiece and from it a main street, Hoher Weg, drives south to the Kaiserpfalz. Also south of town is the Rammelsberg mine, which produced ores until relatively recently and now offers tours. But the set pieces are only part of Goslar’s attraction: simply rambling around its huddled Altstadt streets and seeking out its many small but diverting museums is a pleasure in itself.
In the tenth century the discovery of silver transformed this hamlet into one of northern Europe’s leading medieval towns, whose deep coffers were loved by emperors and coveted by popes. By the mid-eleventh century, less than a hundred years after the first miners shouldered their picks, an imperial Diet (conference) of the Holy Roman Empire was held in the Kaiserpfalz, Goslar’s new Romanesque palace. For over three hundred years the “treasury of German Emperors” ruled Germany’s loose confederation of states as the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor and the city spent its wealth on the finery it deserved as a free imperial city (from 1342). Even a collective belt-tightening after the duke of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel snatched the mine in 1532 had its virtues: as funds dried up, so too did new building schemes, preserving the Altstadt. As a POW camp Goslar was also spared World War II bombing.