The stuff of fairytales: Hamelin

Hamelin is set amid the gently rolling landscape of the Weserbergland hills and is an ideal base for scenic walks, bike rides, boat trips and tours on the water. The town also presents an opportunity to make friends with an animal that you'd normally go out of your way to avoid: the rat, which of course holds special significance for the locals.

Hamelin is a beautifully restored historical town with magnificent timber-framed and sandstone buildings, many of which date from the Renaissance period. The old quarter centres around Osterstrasse and Pferdemarkt square. Between them are narrow, winding lanes dotted with cafés and inns, cosy beer gardens and pretty little shops. It's the perfect area to stroll around, grab a bite to eat and browse for souvenirs.

Rats here, there and everywhere!

On the rat trail: the pavements in Hamelin are painted with thousands of these little animals which point the way to the main attractions in the town. Many of the sights are, of course, associated with the legend of the Pied Piper. So the story goes, a rat catcher was called to the town in 1294 but was subsequently cheated of his fee. In revenge, he lured the children from the town by playing beguiling melodies on his flute and they were never seen again. The Pied Piper house, one of Hamelin's largest and prettiest Renaissance buildings, stands right in the centre of town. As well as commemorating the fairytale, it also accommodates a restaurant. Don't worry though, the association with rats doesn't extend to the kitchen! In fact, the restaurant has an excellent reputation. The 'Wedding House' also pays tribute to the fable. Several times a day, a clockwork display of figures appears from a window of the building and tells the Pied Piper story. There is also a musical tribute: the Wedding House carillon chimes the Pied Piper melody at 9.35am every day, followed by the Weserlied at 11.35am. Every Sunday from mid-May to mid-September, an open-air Pied Piper play is performed at noon. Around 80 actors in historical costumes recreate the famous story of how the children of Hamelin went missing. 'Rats – The Musical' is another Hamelin institution and its name plays off the much-loved musical 'Cats'. Standing almost seven metres, the Tanzende Ratte sculpture installed on the banks of the Weser river offers a contemporary take on the fairytale. Gusts of wind set the rodent dancing in a joyous, gleeful display.

The other side to Hamelin

There's more to Hamelin than the Pied Piper tale, of course. Well worth visiting (and guaranteed rodent-free) are the town's beautiful churches. The Minster of St. Boniface dates back to the 9th century and is the oldest church in Hamelin. The market church of St. Nicholas was also built before 1200, while the Garrison Church from 1713 is a modest yet beautiful baroque building. A nice way to round off your stay in Hamelin is a shopping trip to the HefeHof. On the grounds of this former factory are shops selling organic produce and wine, specialist markets and international restaurants.

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