Set in rich farming country fifty minutes by train east of Dortmund, idyllic SOEST was another medieval Hanseatic League member on the Hellweg, with trade links reaching as far as Russia. Cologne’s archbishops founded a Pfalz or residence here around 960–965 AD, and were for centuries the town’s overlords; Soest’s fifteenth-century struggle to be rid of them triggered its decline and by 1500 its glory days were over, leaving an enchanting townscape of half-timbered houses and striking, sage-green sandstone churches whose charm even wartime bombs couldn’t erase. Most of what’s worth seeing is within the surviving medieval defences, a circuit of which makes a pleasant way to spend an hour or two.

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