Not only is the region between the heath and the Harz always worth a visit; it also lets you travel through time. While this may sound like science fiction, it’s something anyone can experience from Gifhorn to Goslar and from Peine to Helmstedt – with ZeitOrte, locations that bring history and the future to life.
Who hasn’t dreamed about going back in time and finding out for yourself what went on in other eras? How people lived hundreds or thousands of years ago in the place where we now relax outside an ice cream shop or stroll through a tidy city centre? Or what things were like before humans even appeared on the scene? And finally: who wouldn’t like to take a peek at tomorrow and see what the world of the future looks like?
You can take just such a journey to other ages at more than one hundred places in eastern Lower Saxony, known as the ZeitOrte. Travel back and forth between five different eras: ‘Primeval Times and the Stone Age’, ‘Middle Ages & the Renaissance’, ‘Baroque & the Enlightenment’, ‘Industrialisation & Modernity’, ‘The Present & Future’. Every ZeitOrt provides a detailed look at the respective era in that precise location. Start your expedition with us!
Eye to eye with primeval creatures
We take the longest leap into the past right at the outset. Back to primeval times! In the Geopark Information Centre in the centre of Königslutter, you get to explore the geology of the Braunschweig region at an exhibition extending across four floors, encounter the residents of eras long past and experience their former environments. Rocks and fossil finds provide a vivid introduction to life in the Geopark Harz area, the Braunschweig region, and Eastphalia at the time of the dinosaurs and long before. Check out the reconstruction of one of the region’s former rulers, the long-necked Nothosaurus. Or get down to the details and marvel at insect fossils of stromatolites from Poseidon slate and embedded in red sandstone. It’s an inspiring concept that has been recognised as a ‘Global Geopark’ by UNESCO.
You will encounter other primeval creatures in the Salder House city museum in Salzgitter. This museum itself lets you take a small journey through, as the building constructed in the magnificent Renaissance style bears architectural witness to periods extending from primeval to modern times. Here you will encounter one of Lower Saxony’s most spectacular residents of all time: the fishlike Ichthyosaur, who lived here in the early Cretaceous period. The well-preserved skeleton was discovered during ore mining operations in Salzgitter and is considered a sensation in the field of paleontology. The Ice Age garden on the grounds of Salder House lets you prepare yourself for journeying on to the next epoch: the Stone Age.
Stone hard times
You now travel a few dozen million years forward in time, but only a few dozen kilometres east from Salzgitter, where you can now explore archeology in the chancellery, the archeological museum in Wolfenbüttel. On an exhibition space measuring over 1,000 square metres, you come face to face with Braunschweig’s first known human resident, a Neanderthal. Experience their world, and you’ll see that Braunschweig’s population had an immense curiosity in science even during the Stone Age: cranial operations were carried out on Stone Age humans! You can delve into the Stone Age yourself at hands-on stations and try the techniques our ancestors used. Pounding rocks and grinding grain under conditions just like those at the time – it must have been hard work.
You can then take your insights into Stone Age a step further in the historical museum at Gifhorn Castle (Schloss Gifhorn) (by the way, you can also take a peek at yet another age, as the castle of the House of Welf itself dates to the 16th century and offers impressive contemporary documents from that epoch). In the prehistory collections, you witness how early humans developed from nomadic hunters and gatherers to become settled farmers – and it’s no wonder, as people still like to settle in the region to this day.
Middle Ages and the Renaissance
Jump ahead another 10,000 years and immerse yourself in monastery life during the Middle Ages. The ZisterzienserMuseum Kloster Walkenried, a monastery museum belonging to the Upper Harz Water Management System UNESCO World Heritage Site today, was home to deeply religious men for more than 400 years. The Cistercian monks made Walkenried one of northern Germany’s most influential monasteries in the 13th century. The famous monastery with two naves is unique, and the acoustic and visual presentation of monastery life in the Middle Ages is just as special – especially after dark, when hundreds of candles bring the atmosphere of the time back to life.
A strict separation between genders was naturally maintained at the time. A full 150 kilometres separate Walkenried from Kloster Isenhagen, the abbey where the Cistercian nuns sought to draw near and commune with God. Here at the eastern edge of Hankensbüttel in the Südheide Gifhorn region, you can experience life in a convent during the Middle Ages. However, a rich art collection ranging from historic furniture, to delicate goldsmithing, to precious textiles with coral embroidery indicates that the women were obviously very capable with worldly goods as well. The convent is still occupied today.
Shedding light on the Enlightenment
In the midst of the Baroque, an era so that was so important in terms of art history, rational thinking began to emerge around the year 1700. This shift centred on a belief in natural sciences and progress by moving beyond traditional, established structures. It was the dawn of the Age of the Enlightenment. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, a librarian in Wolfenbüttel, was one of its most distinguished thinkers. You can get up close to the great German writer at an interactive, modern exhibition in his residence, where he wrote the world-famous drama ‘Nathan the Wise’. Directly next door is the Herzog August Bibliothek, a library with more than 900,000 volumes and Europe’s leading collection of manuscripts, where you can immerse yourself in the spirit of that time. This centrepiece of the Enlightenment was already celebrated as the eighth wonder of the world 300 years ago. It was the world’s largest library in the era of Count August at the end of the 17th century!
Explore fine visual arts from the Baroque in the newly renovated Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum in Braunschweig. From Rubens, to Rembrandt, to Vermeer – the paintings on display still captivate centuries later and let us see through the eyes of the old masters even today. This museum has been an institution of international renown since 1754.
The dawning of the modern era
We’re gradually making our way to the present day. ‘Industrialisation & Modernity’ is the next-to-last leg on your journey through time. This new age brings upheavals in everyday culture along with it. Take a listen to this era’s diverse range of music! Experience 250 contemporary musical instrument exhibits from 250 years of musical history on more than 700 square metres of exhibition space at the Museum Mechanischer Musikinstrumente (Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments) in Königslutter. Nearly all of the instruments can be played. You really get an earful on a tour here, from the street organ, musical clock and carousel organ, to the silent film orchestrion, automatic gramophone and music box.
You can then see where and how some of these instruments were used in the ZeitRäume Vechelde-Bodenstedt, a historical landmark in the Peine district. Discover the world around the turn of the twentieth century! The centrepiece of ZeitRäume is a prewar farm, which is furnished true to the times with an inn, bowling alley and dance hall. Take a leap to the era of your grandparents and great-grandparents, and celebrate with them. This was once the site of enthusiastic drinking and dancing to live music, and the site of all those stories that many people heard so often in their own childhood. Multimedia information stations turn the ZeitRäume into a ZeitOrt, offering insights into history from the time of the emperors to the postwar era. You’ve nearly returned to the present day again.
Back to the future
The final leg of your journey through time takes you to the present and future. This is where the industrial, cultural and scientific region invites you to visit numerous ZeitOrte which are not only highly up-to-date and in step with the times, but also enable a glimpse into the future. For instance, you can experience what’s currently moving the world of art in the prominent art associations in Braunschweig, Wolfsburg or Wolfenbüttel. Changing exhibitions present highlights of contemporary art that are shaping our time, while always looking to the future at the forefront of the avantgarde.
Here on Earth, you thoughts may well take flight to the extraterrestrial from time to time: while we’re unable to travel from star to star yet, you can get a taste of interstellar sightseeing in the highly modern Planetarium Wolfsburg. The projection system – the only one of its kind in the world – features high-resolution video images that fill the entire dome, while the star projector causes thousands of stars to sparkle at the same time. By the way: if you want to link the future of humanity together with your own, you can even get married here.