Erbach in the Odenwald – the ivory city with medieval charm

In August 2022, we are on our way from Berlin to Switzerland, via Thuringia and the Odenwald.

Now we are in the Odenwald, where today we have seen the Castle Wildenburg and the Abbey Church of Amorbach. On our way back, we stop at Erbach, the city of ivory carving. 

We park our car and cross the river Mümling lined with half-timbered houses.

We stand on the Market Square. The protestant City Church of Erbach (1750) can be accessed through the gate called “Städtelbogen”.

The City Hall is from 1545. The statue is called Räibock and commemorates the day labourer Johann Adam Fleckstein (1849-1917). He was a known character at Erbach. He worked as a carpenter, as a messenger or he waited at the train station to serve incoming passengers as a porter. The citizens liked his odd humour. He wears a servant’s cap and a carpenter’s axe and a saw. 

A second monument decorates the Market Square. It is Duke Franz I zu Erbach-Erbach (1754-1823). He was probably the most important duke of Erbach. 

The dukes of Erbach resided in the Castle, built from 1736-1902 (first in Baroque and later in neo-Baroque style). The castle we see today was built reusing foundation walls and the oak posts of the former moated fortress from 1140 that later was reconstructed as a Renaissance castle to finally become the Baroque castle of today.

The donjon from the year 1200 has remained, the Gothic pinnacle is from 1497. 

Today, the castle presents the antique collection of Duke Franz I and the collection of ivory artefacts.

In 1783, Duke Franz I introduced ivory carving to Erbach after having travelled through Europe for six years. On his educational journey, he saw collections of precious ivory works and also learnt how to process ivory. Back at Erbach, he set up his own ivory workshop.  Ivory became an important economic sector at Erbach. The rose of Erbach won a prize at the World Exhibition of Vienna in 1873. Erbach attracted artists, became the German ivory centre and founded the school for ivory carving in 1893. Because trading elephant ivory has been restricted since 1973, the artists now use mammoth ivory that mostly comes from Siberia in Russia. While in former times, ivory shops could be found in almost all streets of Erbach, I now only find Jürgen Schott’s workshop on the internet. 

On the Market Square, we visit the shop of Jürgen Reimer, also an ivory artist. I like the finely carved animals. 

Nearby, I notice this boy telling his father “Vadder-do!” meaning “Dad – this way!”. It seems to be urgent for dad.

Where does “Vadder” (father) have to go to so urgently? The children’s town rally offers three options for the answer: (1) the church, (2) shopping (3) the toilet. Now, it is your turn to guess…

We have a different solution; we take a seat on the Market Square in front of a nice restaurant to round off our visit with a coffee.

We leave the charming medieval city, again crossing the river Mümling.

From our two hours visit, I will keep good memories of the historic ensemble of the medieval city of Erbach. May be, I would have to return to explore more medieval streets, the pleasure garden with the orangery along the river Mümling and the workshop of Jürgen Schott.  

Tomorrow, we will return to Switzerland, after four wonderful weeks of travelling: Riedlingen, Ulm, Nebra, Berlin (here I enjoyed the eye twinkling of the City Cleaning Service and commented about the Heidelberger Platz), Thuringia with Neustadt an der Orla, Castle Burgk, Schleiz, Plothener Teiche (ponds), along the dams of the upper Saale, Lehesten, Lauscha, Weimar, Rudolstadt, Erfurt, Arnstadt, Eisenach, Schmalkalden, Steinau an der Strasse, and the Odenwald with Lindenfels, the Castle Wildenberg, Amorbach and now Erbach. 

 

Source:

 

Amorbach and its Abbey Church

After having climbed up to see the Castle Wildenberg, we visit Amorbach and its Baroque-Rococo Abbey Church.

 

Amorbach is a small medieval city in the Sandstone-Odenwald

Known in the 10th century as Amerbach or Amerbach, the settlement evolved around the Benedictine monastery and became a town in 1253. We are in the Sandstone-Odenwald; dark red sandstone bricks characterize the buildings, such as the catholic church St. Gangolf, built in the 18th century. 

The City Hall, covered with slates, is from 1479. I could not find out who the man is that sits on the bench in front of the City Hall.

Next to the City Hall we have lunch in the Ristorante Pizzeria di Marina.

Around us are medieval houses. The Internet contains a long list of notable buildings at Amerbach.

 On the way to the Abbey Church, we come across the former monastery mill (Klostermühle) that was built in 1448 as the inscription above the gate says. It was the mill and bakery for the monastery. Now it is an inviting coffee bar

 

The Amorbach Abbey Church – have we seen a cock on the belfry?

Abbeys are catholic institutions, and I have never seen a cock on the belfry of a monastery church. I rub my eyes. This IS a cock. Let us look into the history of the abbey to understand, how the cock ended up on this belfry. 

The Abbey of Amorbach is from the 8th century. It was one of four abbeys that were founded in Carolingian times to bring Christianity to the Odenwald. In 1446, the abbey acquired the relics of Saint Amor and Saint Landrada and became a pilgrimage site. In 1740-1744, the Abbey Church was reconstructed, whereby the Romanesque west towers from the 12th century were incorporated. 60 years later, in 1803, the abbey was dissolved and given to the duke of Leiningen as a compensation for the lands left of the Rhine that they had lost to the French. The principality of Leiningen was founded, and the abbey became the residence. The noblemen of Leiningen originated from Palatine near Dürkheim, and they were protestant. They handed the Abbey Church over to the (Protestant) parish of Amorbach. The principality of Leiningen ceased to exist already in 1806. It was passed over to the Grand Duchy of Baden (Grossherzogtum Baden) and in 1816 to the Kingdom of Bavaria. The noblemen of Leiningen still own the abbey today. 

Now, we know, why there is a cock on the belfry of the Abbey Church: The church has become Protestant and many Protestant Churches show the cock on their towers.

This is the bird’s eye view of the abbey that I found, when visiting the church. 

Inside the church, we find an overwhelmingly rich decoration – late Baroque/early Rococo.

Six red marble columns frame the altar picture that shows Mary arriving in heaven. Above the black beams is the Holy Trinity. The statues of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, flank the altar.

The iron screen was made in 1748-50.

The organ was set up in 1782 by members of the organ-building Stumm family; it was at that time the largest organ in the world.

In front of the organ is the plain protestant communion table.

The frescoes mainly tell the story of Saint Benedict.

Impressed by the rich decoration, we leave this place full of history. Our next target is the ivory town Erbach, not far from here.

 

Sources:

The Staufian Castle Wildenberg on a hill near Amorbach

In August 2022, we travel back from Berlin to Switzerland, visiting Thüringen and the Odenwald and staying with an old family friend near Heidelberg.

Now, we have walked up a steep path and stand in front of the Staufian Castle Wildenberg (Burg Wildenberg), located on a hill in the middle of the forest.

We are in the Odenwald near Amorbach; the area belongs already to Bavaria. 

Source: Wikipedia entry about the Odenwald (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odenwald#/media/Datei:Odenwald_-_Deutsche_Mittelgebirge,_Serie_A-de.png).

Above the entry gate, the coat of arms, two wheels with seven spokes and three stars in two fields, welcome us.  

The castle was the seat of the noblemen of Dürn. 

Ruprecht von Dürn founded the castle in 1170. He belonged to the close circle of Friedrich I Barbarossa (1155-1190). Ruprecht was from Dürn, today called Walldürn. The coat of arms of Walldürn contains a wheel with six spokes. Perhaps the wheel above the entry gate (though with seven spokes) is related to the noblemen of Dürn. I could not find anything about the stars.

The Dürn enlarged their Castle Wildenberg in 1220.  In the late 13th century, the noblemen of Dürn sold the castle to the Diocese of Mainz. The Diocese installed the local administration of the territory here. The panel says that the castle was damaged during the earthquake of Basel in 1356. Interesting. Did “our” Basel earthquake reach the Odenwald, about 300km north of Basel? This is new to me – very interesting – and I could not find sources on the internet that would give me more information about that. 

The castle has been a ruin since 1525. At that time the farmers burnt it down in the German Peasant’s War (Deutscher Bauernkrieg). 

We enter the castle. This finely engraved column decorates the entry.

We continue to the inner courtyard separated by this wall that was added in the 15th century.

We approach the entrance to the palace (Palas) in the northern part of the castle.   

The palace (Palas) is 200m2 large. On the ground floor are the winter rooms with the fireplace, about 9m2 large. 

The fireplace is finely decorated.

Historians assume that Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote parts of his medieval romance Parzival here, as he emphasized that the fireplace in the Castle of the Holy Grail is much larger than the fireplace in the Castle of Wildenberg. No one at the Castle of Wildenberg had ever seen a fireplace as large as the one in the Castle of Holy Grail, he wrote in his Parzival.

The second floor of the Palas, added in 1220, is famous for the early Gothic arcade windows. They brought light into the hall that was probably used for festivities in summer.

We did not feel like leaving this beautiful place full of history.

But it is lunch time, and we are getting hungry. We take the steep path down, where our car is waiting for us. Our next target is Amorbach, where we hope to find a restaurant and where we intend to visit the famous Abbey Church of Amorbach.

 

Sources:

 

Lindenfels – the pretty dragon city clustering around the medieval castle

On our way to Switzerland, from Berlin and Thuringia, we spend one night at Lindenfels in the Odenwald.

 

Some pretty spots in the city of Lindenfels

Lindenfels is located on 360m in the Odenwald north of Heidelberg. It is a spa resort…

… with pretty half-timbered houses …

… and some cosy gardens.

This shingled house has an interesting history that is explained on the panel: It was an inn and a brewery, acquired by Michael Rauch in 1850.

At that time, Lindenfels founded its tourist organization, and Rauch was one of the founding members. Peter, the youngest son of his nine children, took over the inn before the First World War. In 1949, Peter’s son, Heinrich, carried on with the inn. From 1969, Heinrich’s foster daughter Else lead the inn with her husband. The inn was closed in 2003. Recently the great-great-grandson of the original buyer, Michael Rauch, has bought the house back.

By the way, five members of the family Rauch emigrated to America in the 19th century. They have many descendants, and their name is pronounced “Rauk”.

What a tradition!

 

The castle Lindenfels guards over the village

Above the village are the ruins of the castle Lindenfels.

The castle was founded in the early 12th century by duke Berthold Junior. He was the bailiff of the monastery Lorsch (not far from here). In 1277, the castle was taken over by the Electoral Palatinate (Kurpfalz with the centre Heidelberg).

The nucleus of the original castle from the 12th century has been preserved as a ruin.

In the 14th century, the small city Lindenfels emerged around the castle. Up to the 16th century, the Electors (Kurfürsten) of Heidelberg used the castle as a secondary seat.

As the information panel in the castle shows, it was an impressive castle in 1634.

The Electors enlarged the castle of Heidelberg in the 16th century, lost interest in Lichtenfels, and the castle decayed. The citizens obtained building material here.

As the panel shows, by 1891, the castle had become a ruin.

We climb up to the lower defensive wall and take a photo of the Odenwald hills. We are in the crystalline, western part of the Odenwald (see post scriptum).

Now we are on top of the ruin, again enjoying the view of the Odenwald.

Emperor William First is venerated with this monument.

“To our beloved emperor”, the people of Lindenfels say thankfully. I cannot find out, what he has done for Lindenfels.

In the castle, there is this huge sycamore (Bergahorn), a natural monument. Beware of hornets, the panel on the mighty old tree says!

The foundation of the Savings Bank (Sparkassenstiftung) of Starkenburg is setting up the summer open air cinema which will take place this weekend.

I do wish you good weather for the weekend! I would have liked to watch the film of Monsieur Claude with his sons-in-law from all nations and all religions.

 

Lindenfels – the dragon city

Lindenfels is located on the Nibelungen hike (Nibelungensteig commemorating the Song of the Nibelungs). In the song, the dragon Fafnir was killed by Siegfried.

In 2010, the city named this lump of rock “dragon rock” (Drachenfels). On 25th of November 2009, it had broken off under the castle, slid down, destroyed two castle walls and stopped here above the spa gardens.

A dragon guards the “dragon rock”.

In 2010, Lindenfels participated in the competition “ab in die Mitte” of Hessen and won the first prize for their project “Lindenfels – the town of dragons”. The city opened the dragon museum (Drachenmuseum) and organized a parade of colourful dragons. The dragons of the parade now decorate the city and the hiking paths around Lindenfels.

We come across this dragon the colour of which may have faded in the meantime.

Under the castle, Siegfried fights the dragon Fafnir. It is a rather abstract interpretation of Fafnir and Siegfried.

We leave the dragon city Lindenfels with its castle, gorgeously located in the hills of the Odenwald.

 

Post Scriptum: Short insight into the geology of the Odenwald

This is the morphological map of the Odenwald, north of Heidelberg and with the small Odenwald (Kleiner Odenwald) in the south around the river Neckar.

 

Source: Wikipedia entry about the Odenwald (https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odenwald#/media/Datei:Odenwald_-_Deutsche_Mittelgebirge,_Serie_A-de.png)

In the Lindenfels castle, a panel divides the Odenwald into the “crystalline” (western) and into the “sandstone” (eastern and southern “small”) Odenwald.

In Lindenfels, we are in the crystalline Odenwald. Here, the Odenwald is like a window giving insight into lower levels of the earth crust, as Peter Rothe, p. 77, writes. What we see, is crystalline bedrock (kristallines Grundgestein), mostly various kinds of granite.

This is, in a nutshell, what happened: About 300 million years ago (late Palaeozoic), the Variscan mountains evolved here. The rocks were transformed both by pressure and temperature becoming what we call crystalline bedrock. The bedrock was covered by sediments. About 50 million years ago, the area was lifted which caused it to break apart. Part of the “broken” area dropped down by 3000 meters and formed the Rhine valley rift. The western Odenwald mountains “lost” their sediments; they were eroded and deposited in the Rhine valley. The crystalline bedrock, uncovered from the sediments, provides insight into lower levels of the earth crust. The bedrock consists of various kinds of granite (magmatic rocks) that invaded the existing metamorphic rocks from below. Geologists observe the stripes of the “original” metamorphic rocks (gneiss and mica slate or Gneis and Glimmerschiefer) amidst the prevailing granite rocks (map in Rothe, p. 78). The more resistant granite rocks remained as mountains.

The soil is rich in nutrients. Broad-leaved forests and agriculture dominate the landscape.

The eastern and southern Odenwald is different. It is dominated by sand- and claystone (Sand- und Tonsteine). They are sediments deposited, when, in the Mesozoic, the area was covered by lakes and traversed by rivers (about 240 million years ago). I came across this sandstone rock at Neckargmünd on the river Neckar.

The sandstone Odenwald is low in nutrients and covered by conifers. The landscape is dominated by table mountains.

Later in the Mesozoic, the eastern Odenwald was a seashore, as shell limestone (Muschelkalk) and sea fossils tell the geologists.

This post scriptum is a short insight into the geology of the Odenwald. Not being a geologist, I tried to understand the overall picture that Peter Rothe gives about the Odenwald in his book “die Geologie Deutschlands”. It was the old family friend that we visited south of Heidelberg who gave me this book. Her mother was a geologist and so was my mother. Thank you so much. My mother would be happy, could she watch me diving into this well written book. I admire, how geologists can read the landscape and some vertical sections to derive the history of the earth from them.

We will next explore some cultural sights at the Odenwald with the old family friend.

 

Sources:

 

Steinau an der Strasse – the city of the Brothers Grimm

In August 2022, we are on our way back to Switzerland, coming from Berlin and Thuringia. On the way, we stay one night at Steinau an der Strasse.

 

Steinau an der Strasse – is this a noisy place? No, “Strasse” commemorates the medieval Via Regia

First, I frowned at “Steinau an der Strasse“. Why “an der Strasse” (“on the road”)?  Is it a noisy place with the houses lined up along a busy road? No, not at all. It was one of the cities on the medieval trade route Via Regia (from Frankfurt to Leipzig and beyond), and this is why it has the attribute “an der Strasse”.

These are some meters of the original cobble stones; it must be a bumpy experience to travel on such a road.

The cobblestones, retrieved nearby (between Salmünster and Steinau), were installed in the city in 2006, as the panel says.

In 2007, Steinau opened a museum about the Via Regia, the trade route between Frankfurt and Leipzig, as the Stadtchronik (town chronicle) on the Steinau homesite says.

Twinkling with an eye in 2007, Steinach installed the milestone that welcomes travellers (Reysende) and invites them to spend some Euros in the shops, inns and restaurants (läden, herbergen und tavernen) so that these will not be in need henceforth (auf dass diese fürderhin nit noth leyden).

We conform to this wish. We spend one night in the friendly B&B Burgmannenhaus on the Market Square (called am Kumpen).

On the ground floor, the shop “Wilde Speisekammer” sells local specialties, including venison products, as the owner is a hunter. The owner tells me that the guards of the nearby castle once stayed in this house (“Burgmannen” can be translated as “castle men”).

 

The Brothers Grimm lived at Steinau

In the Amtshaus (administration building), the bailiff (Amtmann) Philipp Wilhelm Grimm lived with his family from 1791-96. His sons Jakob und Wilhelm Grimm later became world-famous as linguists and fairy tale collectors. The Amtshaus was built in 1562. It is a museum today.

Fairy tales are present all over at Steinach. This house has been painted with fairy tale scenes, such as Hänsel and Gretel, Snow White, Red Riding Hood (Rotkäppchen), the Wolf and the seven little Goats or Gänseliesel (Liesel with the geese).

On the Market Square, the fountain tells more fairy tales, such as Frau Holle (Mother Holle).

Dragons also belong to the world of fairy tales and legends.

In 2006, Steinau received the official attribute Brüder-Grimm-Stadt or city of the Brothers Grimm.

 

The city centre has been well preserved with medieval half-timbered houses

We stroll along the streets of the city centre and find well preserved medieval half-timbered houses. This is the view of the main street.

The “Kemenate derer von Hutten” (bower of the von Hutten family) was built in 1557. It was reconstructed in 1732 to serve as the Lutheran parochial house, as the plate on the house explains.

 

Market Square with City Hall and Saint Catherine Church

The City Hall was built in 1561.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria is the city saint. The first church was built here in the 9th century. What we can see today is mainly late Gothic from 1481-1511. I find the two naves interesting, as seen from the castle.

 

The Renaissance Castle

The Renaissance castle of Steinau was built in 1528-55. It was a representative building for the duchy of Hanau (Obergrafschaft Hanau). Temporarily it served as residence of the duke, later it became the seat of the duke widows. Steinau was the centre of the duchy of Hanau.

I like the staircase in the castle.

Today the castle is a museum. It makes the life of the former dukes of Hanau-Münzenberg revive. In addition, it hosts another exhibition about the Brothers Grimm, besides the museum of the Brothers Grimm in the house, where they once lived.

 

Our culinary experience at Steinau

We have dinner at Ali Baba. It is a small Turkish restaurant, well liked and visited by the people from Steinau. I do not remember, what I have ordered. But I remember, I enjoyed the meal, and I enjoyed the service provided by the extremely friendly and hard-working wife of the house.

Our breakfast was served in this cosy small dining room in the Burgmannenhaus. It was a delicious small breakfast with fresh fruit and yogurt.

After one night, we leave the welcoming small city Steinau and der Strasse; our next destination is the Odenwald.

Perhaps I will return one day to explore the museum of the Brothers Grimm (in the house, where they lived), the Museum Steinau (about the Via Regia) and the Renaissance castle (about the life of the dukes and again about the Brothers Grimm).

 

Sources:

To Berlin – on the tracks of the Nebra sky disc

In August 2022, we travel to Berlin, with stops at Riedlingen, Ulm, Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Nebra. Now, we are at Nebra and learn about the Nebra sky disk.

 

The oldest known representation of the sky: The Nebra sky disk was found by bandit archaeologists

This is the Mittelberg in Sachsen-Anhalt, 252m high, near the village Nebra, where bandit archaeologists found the Nebra sky disk in 1999.

They found the disk near the white lookout tower. I took the photo in front of the museum Arche Nebra that points to the Mittelberg.

The location of the find has been marked with this sky mirror.

The Nebra sky disk is the oldest known depiction of the cosmos, created around 3000-4000 years ago. It is made out of bronze with a decoration in gold.

At the same place, the bandits found two swords made out of bronze, hatchets, chisels and bracelets, as displayed in the window of the Arche Nebra museum below the Mittelberg.  

It has been built by Holzer Kobler Architekturen.

 

The detective story – how the Nebra sky disk returned to Sachsen-Anhalt

According to the law of Sachsen-Anhalt, archaeological finds belong to the state. Nevertheless, the bandits sold their finds to a dealer at Cologne. Until 2001, it changed owners several times. As it soon became known that the disk was the property of Sachsen-Anhalt, it was worthless for the legitimate art market. 

In January 2002, an agent tried to sell the disk to the state archaeologist of Sachsen-Anhalt. The state archaeologist pretended to be interested. In February 2002, he met the agent at the hotel Hilton of Basel pretending to verify the authenticity of the find and buy it. The Swiss Police confiscated the disk. The finder, the receivers and the agent were sentenced.  

In April 2002, the Nebra sky disk was exhibited in the Prehistoric State Museum of Halle.

 

Interpreting the Nebra sky disk

What I can understand on the disk are the crescent moon next to the Pleiades shown as a cluster of seven spots. The big golden circle is indicated as representing either the full moon or the sun.

The Pleiades and the crescent moon mark the moments for seeding and harvesting, also at that time. 

The two peripheral arrows added later indicate the summer and winter solstice dates.

 

Approaching the Nebra sky disk

The sky disk made Nebra famous. Though the original disk is in the Prehistoric State Museum at Halle, the village Nebra and its suburb Kleinwangen have set up an infrastructure to attract and inform interested tourists at the place where it all happened.

The Hotel Waldschlösschen at Kleinwangen receives guests and…

… makes it clear: Here we are close to the findspot of the Nebra sky disk, close to the Mittelberg.

Just behind the hotel, the path to the Mittelberg starts – with this souvenir dispenser. 

It has faded a bit. I am not sure, whether it has been used a lot. We did not try. 

500m above the hotel, the museum called Arche Nebra invites to explore the Nebra sky disk. 

I was here in the evening and looked at the crescent moon above the Arche.

The coming morning, we climbed the Mittelberg, where the findspot of the disk is, as indicated by the mirror.

The tower nearby is split to illustrate the solstice dates marked on the sky disk.

We climb the tower and enjoy the view.

From the tower platform, we can see the local museum Arche Nebra in the south. It points uphill to the location, where the disk was found.

We walk back down again. It is a beautiful round tour. We visit the museum Arche Nebra to learn more about the disk. However, we decide to postpone seeing the original disk at Halle; the State Museum has just sent the original to Holland.

We say good-bye to the animals at the back garden of the friendly hotel Waldschlösschen with its emus (look at their offspring)…

… and the dwarf goats that climb around with agility.

What a charming backyard.

 

The sun observatory Goseck – a good complement to the Nebra sky disk

Some 20km away, we stop near the sun observatory of Goseck. It is 7000 years old.

The palisades appear behind a field of sun flowers.

In 1991, archaeologists discovered the ring ditch (Kreisgrabenanlage) from the air. They investigated it and reconstructed it with 1758 tree trunks.

We access the ring ditch.

The diameter is 70m. The panel shows, how the winter and summer solstice dates as well as the spring festival of May 1st can be observed…

… based on the “holes” in the palisades, just as on the Nebra sky disk.

Enough prehistory. Now, we head north. 

 

To Berlin with a wet stop in the Wörlitz park

On our way to Berlin, we make a short stop at the Wörlitz park. As we leave the car, it pours with rain. Immediately, we are wet through. We have a quick look…

… and postpone exploring this park for better weather. 

We arrive at Berlin. The city is dry. The Grunewald is burning behind the AVUS. The AVUS highway to Charlottenburg is closed. Ahead of us are dry and warm summer days in my mother town.

 

Sources: Panels in the Arche Nebra museum and at Goseck.

To Berlin -stop over at Rothenburg ob der Tauber

In August 2022, we travel to Berlin, with stops at Riedlingen, Ulm, Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Nebra. On our way from Ulm to Nebra, we have our lunch break at Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

 

A hundred years ago, my grand-father was at Rothenburg ob der Tauber

My wish was to find the place that my grand-father Hermann Radzyk painted about a hundred years ago. 

I found the place: It is the Siebersturm (city gate) and the Plönlein ( a slightly slanting half-timbered house). Rothenburg tourism says, this is probably the most photographed landmark of Rothenburg.

 

A short stroll through the medieval streets of Rothenburg

Rothenburg, located on a rock above the river Tauber, was a flourishig free city that lost its importance after the War of 30 Years (1618-1648). It preserved its old city image until today. It is a tourist hot spot.

The wall with the gates surround the city. We walk outside the wall (I believe this is the Klingentor) to have a picnic under a shady tree.

We continue to the Burggarten with the wonderful view of the Tauber valley and… 

… we enter the city through the Burgtor.

We stroll through the Herrngasse with the half-timbered houses.

The teddy from the Teddyland Shop greets us.

We feel hot, The temperatures are at about 35 degrees and the sun burns. We eat an ice cream in the shade. Just too hot to walk in the streets now. I would like to return and explore the treasures of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, when temperatures are cooler.

 

 

Good-bye Rothenburg ob der Tauber

We return to our car. We want to get to Nebra today. A ride of three and a half hours is ahead of us.

 

Sources:

Website of Rothenburg ob der Tauber Tourismus https://www.rothenburg-tourismus.de/ and https://www.rothenburg-tourismus.de/entdecken/top10-sehenswuerdigkeiten/das-ploenlein/ 

To Berlin – staying overnight at Ulm

In August 2022, we travel to Berlin, with stops at Riedlingen, Ulm, Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Nebra.

 

Friendly hotel Zehntstadl at Gögglingen near Ulm

We stay overnight at Ulm, or more precisely at the suburb Gögglingen. We have booked our room in the hotel Am Zehntstadl. It is a quiet place with a friendly manager and welcoming staff. This cute shoe wiper (Schareisen or Schooryse) illustrates the ambiance perfectly.

We have a wonderful dinner at the Pizzeria Romantica. The cook is from  Sardinia. He DOES know, how to prepare delicious antipasti.

 

Walking along the Danube

After dinner, we walk along the Danube (Donau),…

… enjoy the evening…

… and wonder, whether the starlings are already getting ready to fly south.

 

Quick stop at Ulm

In the morning, we have a quick look at Ulm. 

Ulm is located on the Danube, where the creek Blau, split into two arms, joins the Danube.

We park our car in the Fischerviertel and cross the two arms of the creek Blau. The ducks cool down here.

The weeping willow hangs over the Blau.

We stroll through the  streets of Ulm. Saint Christopher welcomes us travellers. 

Ulm has been known since 854. It was a royal palace that was later fortified. The first bridge across the Danube was built in 1174.

Located at the junction of trade and pilgrim routes, it became  a free imperial city in 1184. The city flourished until about 1500.  

In 1397, the “Grosser Schwörbrief” (Great Oath Letter) defined the duties of the mayor, the guilds and the patricians. The Schwörhaus (Oath House) was erected as the place, where the oath was to be renewed every year.

The power of Ulm culminated around 1500; it owned large territories north and south of the Danube and was a the political leader of Swabia. It was a trading spot, e.g. for iron, textiles, salt, wood and wine. In addition it was a major center of arts.

The decline started in the 16th century and in 1770, the city went bankrupt. It had to sell some of its territory. In 1802, Ulm and its territory was integrated in Bavaria and in 1810, Ulm, with its territories north of the Danube, became part of Württemberg. Ulm was now a border city between two kingdoms, Bayern and Württemberg. Ulm was deprived of its main economic basis south of the Danube: For instance, the dockyards, the wood trading centers and factories, the landing places for the rafts or major agricultural areas for Ulm were all in the territories south of the Danube.

In the middle of the 19th century, Ulm recovered. After having been attached to the railway system, industrialization evolved. For instance Leube rediscovered production of cement, forgotten since late antiquity and founded the first cement factory in Germany. 

Starting in 1944, bombings destroyed 80% of the old city centre. It was rebuilt mostly in the style of the 1950’s and 1960’s. In 1967 the university of Ulm was founded. 

 

The Minster with the highest belfry worldwide

Construction of the Minster started in 1377 and ended in the 19th century, when the city recovered. In 1890, the belfry was completed; it is the highest belfry worldwide.

I could not find out who the figure is above the solar clock. 

The gothic Minster was mostly spared from the bombings of the Second World War. 

The freso on the quire arch is from 1471 and shows The Last Judgement. I can see the four evangelists on the gothic vaults.

Above the baptismal font of 1474, we notice the pelican that feeds his offspring with its own blood; it is a symbol for Christ. 

 

The City Hall

Construction of the City Hall started in the 14th century. Its appearance today is mainly early Renaissance. The bombings mostly spared the façades with its paintings from the16th century.

The astronomical clock is from 1520. It is said to be one of the most complex astronomical clocks of Southern Germany. It shows the current zodiac, and it has additional clock hands for the sun and the moon. 

This window at the eastern façade is from the early 15th century and shows Charlemagne.

 

The Kornhaus

The Kornhaus was a granary, built at the end of the 16th century. The paintings pretend bricks. The bombings did not destroy the façades.

Today the Kornhaus is used for exhibitions and concerts.

 

The sparrow of Ulm

At Ulm, we come across sparrows again and again. For instance, at the Hafengasse, it invites to go shopping. It carries a branch in its bill.

The people from Ulm venerate the sparrow, beause it taught them, how to lay the beams on to the cart that they needed to build their minster: not crosswise, but lengthwise. That is why, a sparrow with a branch in its bill decorates the roof of the Minster. Also the children’s and youth choir of Ulm is called “Ulmer Spatzen” (sparrows of Ulm); it has gained many awards.

 

Good-bye Ulm

We leave the city centre at the Metzgerturm.

An artist has installed some white cables to decorate the Metzgerturm.

We walk along the Danube. Boats are on the Blau, where it joins the Danube.

We return to the parking house and continue our way north to Rothenburg ob der Tauber and to Nebra.

Sources: Wikipedia entries for Ulm, its minster, its city hall with the astronomical clock and the Kornhaus.

To Berlin – stop over at Riedlingen

In August 2022, we travel to Berlin, with stops at Riedlingen, Ulm, Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Nebra.

Our first stop over is at Riedlingen on the Donau, located at the southern border of the Schwäbische Alb. It is a pretty place on the river Donau. 

It is hot and people cool down in the still young river Danube.

The small city is proud of their half timbered houses.

Riedlingen is part of the German route of half timbered houses (Deutsche Fachwerkstrasse).

It is a popular stop on the Donau cycling route.

This is Saint George’s Church, located above the village.

The market square tells us that this small city, known to exist since 835, was a market place on the medieval Donau route. In 1680, it became part of Vorderösterreich and in 1805, it was integrated in Württemberg.

Amidst many cyclists on their tour along the Danube, we find a table in the shade and have an ice cream.

Refreshed we continue our way north.  

Our next stop will be at Ulm, where we plan to stay overnight.

Sources: Wiki entry about Riedlingen and home  site of the city.

Limburg with the colourful cathedral and Bonn – the former German capital

In November 2021, I make two stop overs. The first one was at Frankfurt. Now I visit Bonn, the former German capital and, on the way, I have lunch at Limburg with the beautiful cathedral. 

 

Lunch break at Limburg with the Limburg Cathedral

On the way from Frankfurt to Bonn, I have my lunch break at Limburg to see the cathedral. I am surprised to find such a colourful façade. 

I was here in summer 1965, at the age of 14 years, with my mother. I remember the cathedral to be grey, as on this postcard that I bought at that time.  

57 years ago, I pasted this postcard into my photo album adding the description “Limburger Dom”. 

I am puzzled. Now, in 2021, I do not recognize the cathedral at all. It was grey, and now it is colourful. From the wikipedia entry about the Limburg Cathedral, I learn why: “Between 1968 and 1972, the polychrome exterior was restored, using remains of the colour from the period before 1872 in order to reconstruct the old patterns”. Now I understand: In 1872, the medieval colours of the cathedral had been removed. The cathedral became grey, as I saw it in 1965. Three years later, in 1968, the medieval colours were restored to what they were before 1872. And this is why, I now find such a colourful cathedral.

From outside, the cathedral with its seven towers has a Romanesque appearance. Inside, I recognize early Gothic elements.  

The cross above the altar is the copy of the “Crucifix of Walsdorf” from the 13th century. The original is in the museum of Wiesbaden. The former rood screen (Lettner) separates the ambulatory from the choir (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p.13). The modern windows that we see in the choir have been made by Hubert Spierling (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p. 18). 

Building the present cathedral started at the end of the 12th century, in Romanesque style. While progressing with the construction of the cathedral, more  and more early Gothic elements were used. The Gothic appearance is reflected by elements such as the triforiums…

… or the vaults. 

I look up into the cupolas. There is the fresco of the archangels Gabriel and Michael – if I understand correctly they are of Gothic origin.

Konrad Kurzbold died in 948. This is his tomb slab from the 13th century. He is venerated in the cathedral, because he is considered to be the founder of the original church built here and devoted to Saint George.

Around his tomb slab are guards such as this figure reading… 

… or the dog (I am pretty sure, this is a dog).

Behind Konrad’s tomb slab is the fresco with the roots of Jesus. It is from the year 1638 (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p.15).

Also from the 17th century are the Hortus Deliciarum,…

… Christophoros (repainted in 1935),…

… and Samsung, pulling out a tree (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p.12).

There are some frescoes from the early 13th and some from the 15th century. As an example, I take Christ at the tree of life from the 13th century (Der Dom Limburg an der Lahn, p.20). 

I like the play of light of this modern window with the plain and solemn altar, perfectly adorned with flowers that match the colours of the window. I cannot find out who the artists were.

I leave the cathedral and look back at it once more admiring the colourful façade.

The cathedral is located on a rock above the Lahn river. I take the steep streets of Limburg to get down…

… taking with me some impressions of the medieval timbered houses.

I pick up my car, return to the highway and continue north to Bonn.

 

Arriving at Bonn to meet my cousin and his wife

My cousin Peter and his wife live near Bonn. I settle in my hotel and visit them in their house. I am invited for an excellent dinner.

We study our family trees. On my mother’s side, my grand-mother and his grand-father were cousins, as I understand. Furthermore one great-grand-aunt of my mother married the great-grand-father of my father. Hence we are “distant” cousins and we are cousins “twice”. It was in the unfortunate 1930’s that our grand-aunt Helene studied our family tree back to the year 1300. She took much care of her relatives – among them my cousin and me. We met at a family event and stayed in loose contact thereafter.

The next day, my cousin and I take the suburban train to Bonn. Without my cousin, I would have never had the idea to visit Bonn.

 

Bonn – the former seat of the elector and the former capital of the German Republic

We start our visit on the left shore of the Rhine, at the “Alter Zoll” or bastion, the only part that remains of the former ramparts of Bonn. In the background we can see the Siebengebirge, a great recreation area for the citizens of Bonn.

In the 13th century, the electors of Cologne (Köln) chose Bonn to be one of their seats. They built this magnificent electoral palace of Bonn; it is now part of Bonn’s university. 

Currently it is under renovation. The white tents and the construction barriers create an uncomfortable atmosphere, especially, when it is raining as it does today. I will have to return to see the palace, when the renovation has been completed.

The palace garden (Hofgarten) is a green meadow. The Academic Art Museum (Akademisches Kunstmuseum) presents Roman and Greek statues. It has been constructed by the Neoclassical Berlin architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel; I have come across more of Schinkel’s works at Berlin. 

 

There are many world-class museums at Bonn; there is even a “Museumsmeile”. However, today, I want to explore the city. 

The Old Town Hall was built in Rococo style in the 18th century. It shines in pink and is decorated with gold. The last renovation took place between 2010 and 2011.

Various important persons stood on the gilded stairs, among them Charles de Gaulle, John F. Kennedy, and Mikhail Gorbachev.

 

The Minster of Bonn (Bonner Münster)

The Minster of Bonn (Bonner Münster) is nearby. The original church was devoted to the legendary Roman legionnaires Cassius and Florentius (both martyrs of the Theban Legion – like Mauritius who is famous in Switzerland). Building the minster started in the eleventh  century, in Romanesque style. Construction lasted until the middle of the 13th century, in early Gothic style. In 2017, the church was closed for total renovation. While the renovation is still going on, the church has just been reopened in October 2021.

In the nave, the lower arches are still Romanesque, the upper arches and the vaults are Gothic.

The representatives have ventured to combine modern art with the traditional Romanesque-Gothic architecture: Five modern artists present their works to underline the idea of “light and transparency” (see “Weiter Raum: Bonner Münster wagt Begegnung mit moderner Kunst“). 

I like the atmosphere created by the combination of modern and traditional art – a pity that the exhibition of the modern works will end in January 2022. 

I recognize him, this is Nepomuk (1345-1393), the priest that denied to tell king Wenceslaus IV of Bohemia  about the confessions of his wife, the queen, and that was sentenced and thrown into the Vltava (Moldau). He is present on so many bridges in Europe.

At the charming Romanesque cloister, we take a break from busy Bonn.

It is interesting to note that Emperor William II of Germany had his Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin modelled after the Minster of Bonn.

This photo of the Memorial Church at Berlin has been taken by me in 2019; I found it on a panel in the church museum. Today, the ruins of this church are a memorial and a modern church has been built around it.

 

Behind the train station, we say hello to the Neanderthal man who lived 40’000 years ago

My cousin looks forward to showing me one gem of the museums of Bonn, the Rheinische Landesmuseum. Here, we say hello to our ancestor, the Neanderthal man (Neandertaler) who, 40’000 years ago, lived in the Neandertal and has resided in this museum since 1877.

The Neandertal was a beautiful canyon between Düsseldorf and Wuppertal (north of Bonn) that became a quarry in the 19th century. Workers detected some bones and threw them away. The owners of the quarry rescued 16 larger bones and handed them over to researchers who identified them as belonging to a stone-age hominid. Later, more bones were found in the area and three fragments complemented the bones found earlier by the workers – they complemented them exactly. The bones are in the glass case and a reconstruction of the Neanderthal man stands behind the bones. 

The Neanderthal man is being examined in a multidisciplinary project. DNA analysis shows that he has contributed about one to four percent to our genes, I read on the site of the Landesmuseum. 

The exhibition explains, how the Neanderthal man lived. One example is his ingenious way of gluing wood and flint to produce tools. He used birch pitch, as this sample demonstrates. 

We walk through the other departments that explain the history of the area, and we admire a lady teacher with her young pupils that listen with attention.

I want to come back to Bonn to explore more of its museums. Basel praises itself of being “the city of museums”, and now I have discovered a second such city, namely Bonn, with the Museumsmeile and many more museums. Beethoven was born at Bonn  in 1770, and also his house is a museum. 

We have lunch at the friendly Vietnamese restaurant Cay Tre in the city centre at Friedrichstrasse. In the evening, we share an excellent dinner at the Golf Club restaurant of Sankt Augustin.  Bonn is a somewhat hidden gem in Germany. 

 

Good-bye Bonn 

In the morning I enjoy the well prepared breakfast at my hotel, laughing with the napkin under my plate. 

In the right hand lower corner I find the announcement “¿Quiere Usted crecer ocho centimetros? – … con el grandioso  CRECEDOR RACIONAL… quedará convencido del maravilloso invento, última palabra de la ciencia.” (Do you want to grow by eight centimetres? … with the great RATIONAL GROWER… you will remain convinced of the wonderful invention, the last word of science). The product is sold in Buenos Aires, Entre Rios 130. Or it WAS sold there, may be, it no longer is. Anyway, I am not sure, whether this “CRECEDOR” would work for me… and then – eight centimetres is not really the full size of a head, is it? I love to study my napkin during breakfast.

Good-bye Bonn and good-bye Peter, I thank you and your wife for your hospitality.

 

On the way to Berlin with a short stop near Helmstedt

I leave the hotel and, on the highway, I reach the former inner German border near Helmstedt (ehemalige innerdeutsche Grenze 1945-1990). 

Then, in November 2021, I thought, such borders have disappeared completely, and I could not imagine that they have ever existed.

Now, it is March 2022, and, while writing my blog, I look at this photo with deep concern. Let us hope that these times do not return!

 

Sources: