Autumn in Halle, Westfalen is a wonderful experience of muted colours, warm rooms and falling leaves. We arrived to slight drizzle at my man’s hometown. Europe has had a late and hot summer, so the autumn colours are not so advanced as would normally be the case at this time of the year. Our friends welcomed us with the obligatory kaffee and kuchen – coffee and cake. The tea light candles were lit around the table as we caught up on news.
Halle is a township of about 21,000 people and is surrounded by the forests of Teutoburger and Tatenhausen. Earliest records state the town was officially named in 1246 and 49 citizens were recorded around 1500, 26 of whom were bonded to the noble landlords Steinhagen and Tatenhausen.
The town has a history of agriculture, grain, flax and hemp grown in earlier times, with animal husbandry. It still has a farming community feel but now boasts the Storck confectionary company headquarters and the giant Gerry Weber Stadium, which hosts several international tennis tournaments. Members of our extended family worked in the now defunct hemp factory and for Storck. This family business began in 1900 making candy with 3 employees and now has over 6000 employees. In Australia, we enjoy their chocolates and the original Werther candies, named after Werther, the neighbouring village to Halle.
Our friends took us on a tour of the small communities. In Steinhagen we visited a kuerbis or pumpkin farm, which was a dream destination for anyone interested in Halloween. Pumpkins of all shapes and varieties were on display and we took away recipes for every conceivable pumpkin dish you could imagine. We enjoyed kuerbis soup, bread and tortellini in our brief stay.
We next stopped by the egg Bauernhaus or farmhouse, a museum of Westfalen farming history. The farmer, a woman of later years, explained how difficult it was to continue traditional farming practice, where hens are housed humanely. The younger generation are not interested, she said.
Our last stop was at the little Catholic church at Stockkampen. The Protestant reformation in the 16th century converted the majority of the population of Halle but the Grafs of the Tatenhausen castle retained their Roman Catholic religion and the small community of Stockkampen remains largely of that faith. The little church is surrounded by the Tatenhausen Wald, a previous training ground for my man’s youthful middle distance running success.
Another haunt from his youth is the Kastanienen Allee leading to the Kaffeemuehle. The beautiful chestnut trees were just turning colour and mixed with the beech, birch, maple and oak made a natural archway leading to the Kaffeemuehle.
This interesting monument was built in the late 1800’s by Hermann Hagedorn who wanted to promote nature by providing a walk to a hilltop cafe, shaped like a coffee grinder.
During the Second World War a British Halifax bomber crashed into the forest below the Kaffeemuehle. A photo with the history now marks the spot. My man remembers going to retrieve scrap metal at the time!
We wandered back into the township to explore the old town square around St Johannes Evangalische church. The old fachwerk or timber framed houses from the 16th century surround the church. We went into the history museum which promotes the work of the artist Christo and were treated to a fabulous explanation of how Christo came to Halle, by the rather extraordinary and eccentric curator. The museum promotes art by young people and provides a place to experiment. You never know what you will find until you go exploring.