Half-timbered old towns aren’t unusual in Hesse, yet even by the standards of the region, FRITZLAR’s Altstadt is magical, surrounded by its medieval defences and with a central Marktplatz of such theme-park quaintness you pinch yourself to believe that the houses – which are perfectly genuine – weren’t built that way merely to attract tourists. The most eye-catching is the crooked Gildehaus, or Kaufhäuschen, which was built around 1475 and was the guildhouse of the Michaelsbruderschaft, one of the first German trade guilds, which survived into the mid-nineteenth century.

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