Stop No. 03 Lower Market
The heart of Weiden’s historical district is the Lower and Upper Market which have been converted to a pedestrian mall during the reconstruction of the town. The Lower Market has developed into a recreational zone which both inhabitants of the old town and businesses and their clients can benefit from. The place is bounded by the Old Town Hall in the west and the Lower Gate in the east, and it is flanked by enormous gable town houses. The course of the old town creek has been replaced by a row of trees which give plenty of shade on warm days. The sandy ground is tough and can survive the weekly market, festivals, and a high density of people. Hence, the municipality created a public space which is a prime example for Weiden’s recreational quality and contributes to the town’s ecology.
The construction of the historical district with the Lower and Upper Gate at the center began in 1300. It was designed as a wide street market with side streets branching off on either side. The gable houses are Gothic; after the fires in 1536 and 1540, the houses were rebuilt in Renaissance style without losing their Gothic features. The bulk of the gable houses were known as “acre town houses” named after workmen who used to run both family businesses and small farms. The houses are divided into front building and rear building. It is argued that the front building was used for business while the rear building functioned as a barn. The second and third floor was living space and attic respectively. After the Thirty Years’ War, the old town streets were largely occupied by tanners because of the good access to water. The Rehmühl-Creek used to run through the Old Town Hall and along the Lower Market and the Untere Bachgasse. It supplied the inhabitants of the old town with both water for fire-fighting and service water. Today, the course of the creek can be only imagined in the rows of trees and some depressions in the paving stones.
Flaura and fauna:
The trees at Lower Market certainly catch people’s eyes. Chestnut trees line the northern portion of the market while the sand strip in the market’s middle has linden trees. These trees endow the pedestrian mall with a charming atmosphere in all seasons and give plenty of shade on sunny days. Furthermore, flower pots add to the pleasant appearance of the pedestrian mall. Rose trees are growing up the walls of the surrounding houses. Invisible to tourists, many courtyards are green islands in the midst of the historical district.
During the reconstruction of the Lower Market, streets and parking lots were replaced by granite cobble stones. A sandy strip between the trees stretches over the center of the place, effecting a reduction of sealed area. Thus, the interstices and the sand are able to store more moisture, hence improving the old town’s microclimate. Plants, especially trees, have the same effect.
Even animals can be found in the historical district. Being a nuisance to most people, pigeons are the most conspicuous animals not only in regard to their number but also to their fouling the old façades with their droppings. The Municipality Weiden refrained from killing or catching them. Instead, signs were put up not to feed the pigeons. In addition, nesting places were deliberately reduced by setting up nets and grilles to protect windows and roofs. Thus, the façades were shielded from aggressive pigeon droppings as well. It seems that the number of pigeons has decreased over the last few years.
At night, stone martens roam the parks and streets of Weiden, and bats may be observed looking for insects near church spires and over the historical district.
In 1972, the municipality began planning the redevelopment of the historical district and, in 1984, the redevelopment of the pedestrian mall came to a finish. The overall goal of reconstruction was to establish the historical district as a living document and to make shopping downtown more attractive. The Lower Market serves as a recreational space and is widely accepted by Weiden’s inhabitants as a meeting point of old and young people who, on mild summer nights, pack the cafés and bars in the open. Many people are reminded of a Mediterranean atmosphere.
The weekly market (on Wednesdays and Saturdays) is of great import for Weiden’s population. It combines an easy-going atmosphere with great shopping opportunities. Local producers take advantage of short transport routes and customers can purchase fresh, high quality, and organically grown foods such as bread, fruits, vegetables, and meat from trusted sources. Moreover, traffic was banned from the historical district to a large extent. The pedestrian mall is open for residents and deliveries with special permits only. Nevertheless, there are numerous parking lots in the surrounding area.
In the course of redevelopment, residential standards were highly improved by modernization of historical buildings and construction of new buildings. The goal was to keep the historical structure of front building and rear building of the old “acre town houses” and to adapt this structure and division of lots to new buildings. While the southern portion of the historical district is largely used for housing, the rest is used for shops, restaurants, and, to some degree, housing. The redevelopment effected a growth of high-quality living space and office space. Nonetheless, conflicts arose between the ideas of the developer and those of the Office for the Protection of Historic Buildings and Monuments. For example, a fashion store at Lower Market is a compromise between the call for stimulating business on the one hand and protecting the historical building on the other hand. This particular store was planned to become a magnet for the Lower Market. But, similar to the fate of other shops in that area, it had to close down due to customers’ recent preferences to shop at large supermarkets and specialty stores at the town’s outskirts. These stores are generally cheaper and offer parking lots right in front of their buildings. Moreover, downtown restaurants and the ensuing noise can become a real nuisance to residents, making it necessary to reach a compromise.
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