"Opera and cycling in Bad Hersfeld" Bad Hersfeld by Nemorino
Bad Hersfeld Travel Guide: 16 reviews and 37 photos
Bad Hersfeld was only called "Hersfeld" until 1949, when they finally got state permission to use that highly coveted word Bad in their name.
It is a town of 30,000 people in the eastern part of Hessen, conveniently located on the regional bicycle route R1 and also on the main railway line between Frankfurt am Main and Dresden.
Operas and plays at the Bad Hersfeld Festival are performed in the Stiftsruine, the remains of a large church that was originally built between 831 and 850. This church has not had a roof since In 1761, when it was destroyed by a withdrawing French army.
To protect the Festival audiences and performers from the elements, the church can be covered by a retractable textile roof, known locally as "the umbrella" because it is suspended from a single large pole and can be folded or unfolded as the need arises.
On the two days I spent in Bad Hersfeld it didn't actually rain, but it was somewhat overcast part of the time, and they left the umbrella extended, covering the church, the entire time. In fact someone told me that for opera performances they always leave it extended for acoustical reasons, so the sound doesn't disperse into the atmosphere. So it really isn't an open-air performance, more a performance in a ruin covered by a tent.
Update: In August 2012 Bad Hersfeld presented a new production of Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), alternating with Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). Both of these were sung in German translation, not in the original Italian.
On the lawn behind the Stiftsruine are statues of the two most famous people to have come out of Bad Hersfeld. Both of these men are called Konrad, and the other one is much better known in Germany, but the one who interests me particularly is Konrad Zuse (1910-1995), the inventor of the computer. (Well, one of them, anyway.)
Zuse was not a Nazi, as far as I know, but he did his major work in Nazi-controlled Germany in the 1930s and 40s, which meant that he was totally isolated from parallel developments in Great Britain and the United States.
Neither the Nazis nor the German military were much interested in Zuse's crackpot invention, which was perhaps fortunate for the rest of the world, but for Zuse it meant that he had little support for his work, and was left to putter around on his own. He was inducted twice into the German army, but was deferred both times because of his job as a statistician at an aircraft factory in Berlin.
He did manage to build four prototype computers in those years, the Z-1 in 1936-38, the Z-2 in 1940, the Z-3 in 1941 and the Z-4 from 1942-44.
These prototypes were destroyed by bombing attacks in the Second World War, except for the Z-4, which survived because Zuse managed to smuggle it out to Switzerland in 1944. There it was installed at the Technical University in Zürich, where it performed useful calculations for a number of years before being phased out in 1956.
After the war Zuse founded a computer company, the Zuse KG, which he moved to Bad Hersfeld in 1957. By 1967 the company had built 251 computers.
A full-scale working replica of the Z-1 can now be seen at the German Technical Museum in Berlin, along with a complete Z-22 from around 1957. In Munich there is a full-scale working replica of the Z-3 on display at the German Museum.
Bad Hersfeld has a number of fine half-timbered houses to look at, such as this one on the street called Neumarkt, near... more travel advice
If your bicycle has a flat tire or something you could always take a train to Bad Hersfeld. I have often gone through... more travel advice
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