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Fishermen's and Tanners' Quarter

View from "Häuslesbrücke"

There’s no better place to forget the present than on a walk through Ulm’s fishermen’s and tanners’ quarter (Fischer- und Gerberviertel). Its enchanted world of half-timbered houses lapped by water begins just a few steps to the south of the modern city centre. Glittering river Blau, dripping mill wheels, twittering sparrows. The streets run up to the gates in the city wall, where they are greeted by the magnificent view of the Danube. All this makes the erstwhile artisans’ district the city’s most popular tourist attraction after the Ulm Minster.

Bridge over the river "Blau"

Two branches of the river Blau run through the quarter and then flow into the Danube. Many of the beautiful buildings from the 15th and 17th century actually have part of their foundations in the water. Because the soft ground has given way, the buildings have subsided over time. This tilting is what gives the Fischerviertel its typical charm.

Guests sitting in a restaurant

Fishermen settled on the land during the Middle Ages. They headed out onto the Danube in small boats and returned with fresh fish. Shipbuilding later developed into an important economic sector, producing shallow wooden boats with box-shaped structures. These later became known as The Ulmer Schachtel (boxes) due to their design. They transported people and goods to countries further down the Danube.

Colourful tanners' houses

Although you usually hear people refer to the Fischerviertel, the proper name of the district is the "Fischer- und Gerberviertel". The position next to flowing water was also ideal for the tanners ("Gerber"). Their houses bear impressive witness to leather production. The animal skins were processed and left to drip dry on the galleries (balconies) that rise on wooden pillars from the shallow water. The water power also kept a total of seven mill wheels running.

tanners' houses

© Verlag B. Walcher, Ulm 1914

Of course, life in former times had little to do with old town romanticism. A terrible stench from the rotting animal skins permeated the streets. That’s no longer a worry today. Instead, you can enjoy the atmosphere in a café or restaurant. They’ve understood good food and drink in the Fischerviertel for centuries.

Text: Marlene Müller