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Halle (Saale)

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Halle is the largest city in the German State of Saxony-Anhalt. It is also called Halle an der Saale (literally Halle on the Saale river, and in some historic references simply Saale after the river) in order to distinguish it from Halle in North Rhine-Westphalia. The current official name of the city is Halle (Saale).

It is situated in the southern part of the state, along the river Saale which drains the surrounding plains and the greater part of the neighboring Free State of Thuringia located just to its south, and the Thuringian basin, northwards from the Thuringian Forest. Leipzig, one of the other major cities of eastern Germany, is only 40 km away.

History

Halle's early history is connected with harvesting of salt. In fact the name Halle may be derived from a Pre-Germanic word for salt. The name of the river Saale also contains the Germanic root for salt and salt-harvesting has taken place in Halle at least since the time of the Bronze Age.

The town was first mentioned in 806. It became a part of the Archbishopric of Magdeburg in the 10th century and remained so until 1680, when Brandenburg-Prussia annexed it together with Magdeburg as the Duchy of Magdeburg. In 1815 it became part of the Prussian Province of Saxony.

After World War II Halle served as the capital of the short-lived administrative region of Saxony-Anhalt, this was until 1952 when the East German government abolished its "Länder" (States). As a part of East Germany (until 1990), it functioned as the capital of the administrative district ("Bezirk") of Halle. When Saxony-Anhalt was re-established as a Bundesland, Magdeburg became the capital.

Main sights

  • Giebichenstein Castle, first mentioned in 961, is west of the city centre on a hill above the Saale river.
  • Moritzburg, a newer palace, was built in 1503. It was the residence of the archbishops of Magdeburg, was destroyed in the Thirty Years' War, and was then a ruin for centuries; rebuilt in 1904. Today it is an Art Gallery.
  • The Cathedral, a steepleless building, was originally a church within a Dominican monastery (1271).
  • Halle-Neustadt, most of it built in the 1960s, is situated in the west of Halle. The complex is an example of GDR socialist housing development, as well as an example of successful growth.

Industrial heritage

The Halloren-Werke, the oldest chocolate factory in Germany, was founded in 1804. Old documents are on display and a chocolate room can be visited at Delitzscher Street 70. The original "Halloren-Kugeln" are sold in a box of eighteen little pralines.

Salt, also known as White Gold, was extracted from four "Borns" (well-like structures). The four Borns/brine named Gutjahrwell, Meteritzwell, German Borne and Hackeborn, are located around the Hallmarket (or "Under Market"), now a market square with a fountain, just across from the TV station, MDR. The brine was highly concentrated and boiled in Koten, simple structured houses made from reed and clay. Salters, who wore a unique uniform with eighteen golden buttons, were known as Halloren, .

Within East Germany, Halle's chemical industry, now mainly shut down, was of great importance. The two main companies were Buna and Leuna, and Halle-Neustadt (Halle Newtown) was built in the 1960s to accommodate the employees of these two factories.

Science and Culture

The University of Halle was founded here in 1694. It is now combined with the University of Wittenberg and is called the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg. The medical school there was founded by Friedrich Hoffmann(1660–1742), Hoffmann's anogyne or Hoffmanns Tropfen.

The famous Baroque composer Georg Friedrich Händel was born in Halle in 1685, where he spent the first 17 years of his life. The house where he lived is now a museum and houses an exhibition about his life. To celebrate the composer, Halle stages an annual Handel festival every June.

The German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina is one of the oldest and most respective scientific societies in Germany.

Halle accommodates Germany's oldest Evangelic Bible college, known as MarienBibliothek, with 27,000 titles.

In the past Halle was a centre of German Pietism and played an important role in establishing the Lutheran church in North America, when Henry Muhlenberg and others were sent as missionaries to Pennsylvania in the mid 18th century. Henry Muhlenberg's son, Frederick Muhlenberg, who was the first Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, was a graduate of Halle University.

The Silver Treasure of the Halloren is displayed occasionally at the Technical Museum Saline, Mansfelder Street 52. It is a unique collection of silver and gold goblets dating back to 1266. The ancient craft of "Schausieden"( boiling of the brine) can be observed there too.

The Beatles Museum, Exhibition Beatles until 1970, is open from Wed–Sun 10 AM – 8 PM at Alter Markt 12.

The Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte houses the Nebra sky disk, a significant (though unproven) Bronze-age find with astrological significance.

Halle Zoo contributes to the EAZA breeding programme, in particular for the Angolan Lion and the Malaysian Tiger. Halle is also known for its thriving coypu (or nutria) population, which is native to South America.

Weather: according to Eurostat (Statistics in Focus 82/2008), Halle is the rainiest city in Europe with 266 rainy days per year.

Transport History

Ludwig Wucherer (1790 – 1861), who fought Napoleon as a member of “Lützower Freikorps”, was later elected Councillor. He made Halle an important train connection point in Middle Germany. In 1840, he opened the line Magdeburg - Köthen - Halle, and Halle-Leipzig, a connection between Madgeburg and Dresden was completed. In 1841–1860, other lines to Erfurt, Kassel and Berlin followed. Halle’s trams have been running since 1891. See also Halle (Saale) Hauptbahnhof, the main railway station.

Notable residents