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The Helmstedt district: where history lives

Aussenaufnahme eines futuristisch gebauten Gebäudes (Copyright: paläon GmbH)

From the Schöningen spears of the Palaeolithic, to megalithic tombs, to the division of Germany and reunification: the Helmstedt region really lives and breathes history. And we can still sense this highly unique atmosphere in many corners of this region today.

Weapons, graves and watchtowers

The year is 1994, and archaeologists working on a rescue excavation at the local open pit mine accidentally come upon a breathtaking find: more than 10,000 bones from wild horses, seven complete wooden spears and other parts of weapons – all, believe it or not, more than 300,000 years old! It’s clearly a sensation, as such well-preserved wooden hunting weapons had never been found anywhere in the world prior to this. Today, the exhibits can be admired at the paläon Research and Experience Centre. Several tours take place each day and the centre regularly offers special exhibitions that are worth a visit.

Interested in even more ancient history? At the western edge of Helmstedt lies the most southerly megalithic tombs in northern Germany, the Lübbensteine. They were erected in the 4th millennium BC and served not only as a burial site, but also as the setting for mystic rituals. Even today, their special location with a sweeping view of the land between the Elm and Dorm ranges offers an unforgettable atmosphere – this is absolutely worth a visit!

However, Helmstedt has a very special connection to the division of Germany. At the ‘zonal border’, as it was called at the time, state and economic systems collided; the bleak border fortifications and the wall caused grief and suffering. Those interested in experiencing this atmosphere should be sure to take part in the ‘Grenzenlos’ (No Borders) tour hosted by the association of the same name: on this three-hour guided tour, you experience border history hands-on. Numerous relics such as watchtowers and border fortifications have been preserved true to the originals; the tour comprises the Helmstedt zonal border museum, the border fortifications in Hötensleben and the Marienborn border crossing point with its own memorial.

Those who wish to explore the former border without a tour and completely under their own steam can do so on the Grenzlehrpfad (educational border path), a 1-km signposted hiking route that begins at the edge of Brunnental on Landstraße 642 and offers important information regarding the history of the inner-German border at six information pillars. If you’d like, you can also download an audio walk here – an acoustic hiking guide for smartphones or MP3 players.

However, Helmstedt doesn’t just focus on the past: the annual Helmstedt University Days concern themselves with the question of what we can learn from Germany’s division. Here, historians, scientists and journalists from all over Germany come together to consider questions relating to the merging of East and West as part of lectures, discussions and an open exchange of ideas.

The palaeons famous Schoeninger spears. (Photo: paläon)

Good training opportunities and secure jobs

The Helmstedt region is among the smallest regions in Lower Saxony, and yet an array of important and in some cases globally renowned employers are based here.

This is the home, for instance, of Avacon, the largest regional electricity and gas supplier in Germany with a network area extending from the North Sea coast to South Hesse. More than 1,700 people work for Avacon, which was awarded the ‘Best Place to Learn’ seal for top trainers. The company provides more than 60 training and study places each year.

Helmstedt is also home to employers and trainers for the automotive sector, of course: one example is rpm GmbH, a bona fide high-tech factory that produces and develops prototypes for the global car industry. Not far from the town of Helmstedt is TEG mbH, which develops car drive systems, gearboxes and cooling systems and also supplies these as prototypes in small batches.

Love baked goods of all shapes and sizes? Erich Steinecke founded his first bakery to the north of Helmstedt in 1945. Today, Großbäckerei Steinecke is known throughout Germany for its great bread – including more than 60 varieties of bread and rolls. The company currently has hundreds of training places and job vacancies open in all areas, from production and sales to management.

If you don’t find the job for you there – no problem: you can also find further employers in the social, sport, biology and agriculture sectors in our article 'Working and learning in the Helmstedt district' .

On foot and by bike

In the area around Helmstedt, you can find the Elm mountain range with Germany’s largest beech forest, the Dorm mountain range with the Naturerlebnispfad (nature experience path), and the Elm-Lappwald Nature Park with an attractive network of hiking and cycling routes for the whole family. We particularly recommend the Romanik (Romanesque) cycle route from Königslutter to Helmstedt via Mariental. The 30-kilometre, well-signposted tour offers many sights along the way – such as the Imperial Cathedral in Königslutter, the megalithic tombs in Groß Steinum, the Walbecker Warte medieval watchtower and the St. Ludgerus and St. Marienberg monastery complexes. And pilgrims can delight in an exciting project: the new Braunschweiger Jakobsweg (Braunschweig Way of St. James) – which follows an old route from Magdeburg to Höxter via Helmstedt – was developed along the Westphalian Hellweg.

Now it’s time for a glass of milk! Or perhaps you’d prefer a beer?

Physical activity makes you thirsty. Milk fans can pour themselves a drink from the Loose milk vending machine in Warberg at any time of the day or night: simply insert a coin, position the container – and the milk will soon begin to flow, always perfectly chilled. If you’re looking for a beer at the end of the day, you can have beer sommelier Frank Wulke serve you up some speciality beers – or even brew them yourself: a full-day brewing seminar can be booked at the Kreativbrauerei Königslutter, a brewing school. Here, you can learn all about hops and malt and turn them into a delicious beverage. And anyone still in need of a nightcap after that will find one at the Dieckmann wheat distillery and liqueur factory – you will find DLG-awarded grain schnapps and delicious liqueurs based on almost 300 years of tradition here. Cheers!

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