Much of Kassel was destroyed in the war so there are three distinct kinds of buildings in the city: the first are the pre-War buildings which are made with brick and are more earth toned in color. These appear to be from the late 19th century and if you look closely you can see the scars in the stone work from the bombings. The second are the buildings that were rebuilt after the war. Everyone has the same decorative style but they use stucco instead of brick for the body of the building which gives them an almost plasticy feel, like these were mass produced knock offs (which in fact they were). The last kind of buildings are the modern ones. These range from classic Bauhause to poor-man’s Bauhause, from Soviet housing blocks to elegant towers-in-the-park. All these buildings are built literally right next to one another, seemingly everywhere. It makes for quite the juxtaposition.
The neighborhoods out near the big park which I walked around are very nice, Beverly Hills nice, with giant mansions, both old and modern, giant trees and nice cars where ever you look. The area from the ICE station to the city center, West and Wehlheiden, are a lot like the Back Bay with very nice side streets, large townhouses and attractive apartment houses. Here is where parts of the University is and where you find the mix of old, rebuilt, and modern buildings I talked about. The area along the tram line feels very much like Comm. Ave in Boston as it travels above ground near BU and through Brighton.
Leaving this area, which is mostly residential, we enter the city center. The nicest parts of the city are behind us and it’s all downhill from here (metaphorically and geographically speaking). The downtown, or Mitte, was pretty well destroyed during the war and the only buildings that remained were the major churches and the Rathaus, or city hall (well, sorta like a city hall). The rest of this center area is all modern and pretty dreary. There isn’t much character and street after street of mall stores, of which there are many duplicates of each, wear on the soul. There is a central plaza area, Königsplatz, which is where they hold all the festivals and where you can sit and watch people, but the place is pretty soul less (not as much as Government Center, however.)
Just north of the downtown is the dirty area of the city where the Soviet block housing can be found and where I’ve noticed most of the Middle Eastern immigrants live. There isn’t much here and it’s pretty depressing to travel through, but all the trams go this way so you have to see it. This area doesn’t have a name on the map but this is where the city splits to the north, Nord Holland is one way which is where the main University is (the main drag, Hollandische Strasse, feels very much like the BU stretch of Comm. Ave) and there are some cool bars up this way. This area seemed to survive the war ok but it being so close to the major industry and rail lines it isn’t as desirable as the West area. Just to the east is Wesertor and Iringshauser, both middle class areas which are residential but nothing to write about (seriously, I can’t think of the words to describe the mediocrity).
Here are a few more pictures. More to come.