CELLE is just half an hour from Hannover but the distance in atmosphere is centuries. While the bombs rained on the state capital, this small town emerged unscathed, a charming miniature of the seventeenth-century townscape lost in Hannover. As one of the finest half-timbered towns in Germany, Celle gets more than its share of tourists; indeed it’s worth an overnight visit just to enjoy it free of day-trippers. However, it remains – just – more market town than museum piece. Either way, it owes its fame to the dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneburg. Banished from Lüneburg in 1378, the nobles crossed the Lüneburg Heide and made Celle an aristocratic Residenzstadt for nearly three centuries, encouraging the prosperity that built its streetscape. Celle is a testament that feudalism starts as a street plan: the ducal Schloss lies at the western edge of the Altstadt, whose parallel streets to the east run up towards it, a gesture of submission to the ducal yoke.

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