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Ballenstedt is situated at an elevation of 225 m at the northern slopes of the Harz mountain regions. The earliest mention of Ballenstedt is found in a document of 1030 referring to count Esiko of Ballenstedt, later known as the founder of the House of Ascania. The village Ballenstede was first mentioned in 1297. By 1543, Ballenstedt had obtained the status of a town. In 1765 it became the residence of the princes (from 1806 dukes) of Anhalt-Bernburg. When the last duke of Anhalt-Bernburg died in 1863, Ballenstedt became one of five district towns in the, now unified, duchy of Anhalt. In 1902, Ballenstedt became a sporadic residence of the Dukes of Anhalt(-Dessau).
The castle of Ballenstedt [top left] originated as a collegiate monastery founded by Esiko of Ballenstedt in 1043. In 1130 Esiko's grandson, Otto 'the Rich', Count of Ballenstedt, and Otto's son, Albrecht 'the Bear', Margrave of Brandenburg, founded a Benedictine monastery. Albrecht was buried in the Romanesque monastery church in 1170. The monastery was partly destroyed during the Peasants' War in 1525. During the 15th and 16th century, the princes of Anhalt transformed the former monastery into a summer residence, which became their permanent residence in 1765. Until 1945, the castle remained in possession of the family.
The castle park [bottom left] was laid out as an English garden in the second half of the 18th century. The eastern part of the park was redesigned later by Peter Joseph Lenné.
The Allee (parkway) [bottom right] between the castle and the town was laid out in 1710. The basswood (linden) trees were replaced by chestnut trees in 1803.
Falkenstein castle [top right] is situated high above the Selke valley about
9 km southeast of Ballenstedt in the municipality of Falkenstein / Harz.
The castle was built between 1120 and 1180. In 1437 it came into possession (as a fief of the bishops of Halberstadt)
of the lords of Asseburg.
The acstle was rebuilt in Renaissance style in the 17th century, and was transformed into
a hunting lodge and summer residence by the counts of Asseburg-Falkenstein in the 19th century.