Arriving in Wurzburg, the beautiful Marienberg Fortress, the first residence of the prince bishops looms above the Main River. Nearby the Pilgrimage Church can be reached by ascending the 352 steps; your reward is stunning views of the fortress and the city. A city tour reveals a wealth of beautiful buildings and churches. The finest of them, the “palace of palaces” is the palace of the Schonborn family of prince bishops.
Inspired by Versailles, the Prince Bishops palace, know as the Wurtzburger Residence, was completed in 1744. A highlight of any trip here is a visit to this famous palace and adjoining gardens. Today a UNESCO world heritage site it contains two massive domed ceilings, spanning 200 feet by 300 foot. An engineering feat in its time, it is miraculous that they have survived.
The palace was designed with the most modern features. Carriages pulled inside to the impressive staircase for their honored guests to alight. The King would descend the steps, only sufficiently to reflect level of importance of his visitor. Only once did he descend all the steps to meet the carriage of Maria Theresa.
Built in the Baroque style, the palace was completed on 1780. Still, the beginnings of the rococo style are evident in the plasterwork. Instead of simply frescoes, walls and ceilings are adorned with a mixture of painting and plaster work. Plaster curtains seem to sway in the breeze; cherubs plaster legs that dangle from the ceiling, musicians plaster trumpets jut from the walls. The cooperation between the painter and plaster worker created a three dimensional masterpiece.
Wages were high for such skilled labor. During its construction the ceiling, the fresco painter received the wages equal to that of 1500 brick masons. After constructing the massive domes, the ceiling painting took an additional 14 months to complete.
The impressive hall of mirrors is based on Catherine’s Palace famous amber room in St Petersburg, Russia. Glass, with scenes painted on the back, was covered with mercury, to create an effect similar to ambers glow. As World War II progressed and it became clear the palace would likely be bombed, an effort was made to remove the glass. Unfortunately it was so well glued in the plaster that the pieces cracked. The remaining glass was completely destroyed. Today, all that remains are the two original panels that cracked upon removal prior to the bombing. Now redone with modern mirrors, the effect is nonetheless impressive.
In preparation Most of the chandeliers and other furnishings were removed from the palace, and today many rooms in the palace have been restored.
Two kinds of bombs were dropped during the war incendiary, and explosive. Incendiary bombs burn everything, and explosive bombs pack blasting power. While Incendiary bombs struck the Wurtzzburger Residence, the two domed ceilings survived because they contained no wood. The remainder burned. Completely rebuilt after the war, the task of removing the grime from the domed ceilings took 4 years. Today the palace and gardens are restored to their former glory.
Most buildings have been reconstructed including palace.
Discover Germanys’ Romantic Road
What’s in a name? This one, devised by travel agents in the 1950's, describes the road between Wurzburg and Fussen, Germany. An apt description given you’ll get to explore storybook German villages full of multi story plaster and timber houses crafted to fairytale perfection on what was once a trade route. The crown jewel of them all is Rotenberg ob der Tauber.
This 13th century medieval walled city is filled with narrow lanes and alleys, half-timbered houses and clock towers that chime on the hour. A fully intact city wall, 1.5 miles long, is still lined by battlements and circled by stairs and walkways; perfect for exploring. At its peak in the 15th century the city was home to around 6000 residents, at a time when Germany’s major cities had not even been settled.
Constructed at a time when security was paramount. Gates were closed nightly to prevent attack. Perched high above the valley floor the charming fountains served an added purpose. Cisterns located under the fountains would continue to provide fresh water even in the event of a prolonged siege.
Today the number of visitors dwarfs the number of residents. Annually around 2.5 million tourists include a day trip here on their itinerary, but a fractional number spend the night. With so much charm, just go ahead and plan to stay.
Every pastry shop window is full of softball shaped desserts. Constructed of shortcrust, which is similar to a piecrust. The baker splashes it with plum schnapps and winds it around the handle of a spoon to form its shape. They are covered by chocolate, confectioner’s sugar, or nuts and sometimes filled with marzipan, this treat has been served here for over 400 years. With a name like schneeball, you simply have to sample one
Climb to the top of the town hall tower located in the city’s center market square. For only 1-euro, plus the challenge of ascending the 241 steps, you are rewarded with a bird’s eye view of the city.
The city’s most famous site is the church of St Jacob. Home to a relic that purports to contain some of Jesus’ blood; it has drawn many pilgrims. Today the city’s churches are mostly Lutheran, although they were built before the time of Martin Luther. A city policy that the church will be the denomination of the city council, brought the changes, and in its time those that did not change their religion, simply lost all their property.
Not to be missed is the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum. A glimpse at some of these diabolical horrors will leave you glad you’re a 21st century visitor.
Include a visit to the Katie Wolhlfahrt Christmas shop. Stroll through rooms chocked full of different style ornaments, trees and themes. Explore the Christmas Museum, with old Christmas cards, advent calendars, and ornaments, even Mini Christmas trees sent to World War II soldiers. Encompassing a huge display, the throng of tourists makes even moving in this winter wonderland challenging, but worthwhile.
Like many German cities, almost 40% of the city was destroyed during World War II. Partially rebuilt with private donations from all over the world after the war, it is once again historically accurate. Today this gem is the highlight of a tour of Germanys Road.
My tower is bigger than your tower.
Apparently status symbols have been with us for centuries. Today it might be your Lana Marks handbag or your Mercedes AMG Black, but in medieval Germany your status was determined by the height of your tower.
At one time Regensburg contained many towers, today over 20 towers still remain. The large medieval city center, with over 1300 original structures, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Here merchants once flaunted their wealth by building the largest possible tower. The towers had a basis in practical use as storage for merchandise. However many of these towers’ upper floors were empty, having never been used except for display of wealth. Even today many towers still remain unfinished inside.
Originally a Roman city, one city gate remains from 179AD, the Porta Praetoria. To put that into perspective, and it’s an astonishing number, the gate is 1835 years old. The stones were installed without mortar, and are held together by a lintel stone. Now called the Watergate, the Roman ruins are a living reminder of the city’s history.
Always a prosperous town, Regensburg’s wealth also came from salt. It’s hard to understand today how important salt was. Salt mining goes back over six thousand years. Even the word “salary” derives from salt. Today Regensburg’s historic salt storage building is a visitor’s center. Constructed from massive German oak timbers several feet across, the interior now displays photos of the city during World War II. Fortunately the Messerschmitt plant was located outside of the city, so when it was bombed, much the center of the city was spared.
The old stone bridge, adjacent to the salt storage building, was constructed in 1200. This bridge once used by knights crossing the Danube making their way to the Holy Land and is still in use today.
On display in many of the shop windows, the classic German dirndl skirt is making resurgence. Shoppers here can find plenty of stores to explore. Mouthwatering displays of chocolates tempt browsers to sample some of the multitude of varieties.
Foodies will love trying the authentic sausage at Jacobs. This factory and restaurant has been in operation, in the same spot since 1135. Located by the river, sit and savor the smoky sausage, served with authentic German sauerkraut. Accompanied by mouthwatering fresh baked Rye rolls, homemade sweet spicy mustard, and the locally produced black beer this meal will have you coming back for more. The history in this town is astonishing. Germany may have had the first food laws, describing penalties for what could and could not be put in sausages. Although, Otto Von Bismarck said, “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.”
The Regensburg Cathedral, Dom St Peter, contains, amazing stained glass dating back to the Middle Ages. A Renaissance tower built in 1200. Still remains. Originally scheduled for removal upon completion of the gothic cathedral, unfortunately the cathedral leans on tower. Still visible today, at the time it was used to store grain. More information can be found at http://www.sacred-destinations.com/germany/regensburg-cathedral
For endless shopping, delicious food, beautiful stained glass, and a look back at status symbols from the past, Regensburg has plenty to offer.
Bombed heavily during World War II, Nuremberg is one of the largest remaining walled cities; large sections of walls remain interspersed, with imposing entry towers. Even the churches suffered heavy damage. However, unlike many of its counterparts, Nuremberg was not rebuilt in the original style after the war, consequently many of the buildings are modern. The result is pockets of charming historic buildings, surrounded by a more modern city. With a population of 500,000, it is less a tourist destination, and more a thriving community
World War II history buffs will have much to discover. Located just outside the city lies the ruins of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds. Spend a day exploring the exhibits, and imagine what it would have been like at its peak. Visit the Memorium Nuremberg Trials. This museum, opened in 2010, is located in the venue the Nazi trails took place. Visit the actual courtroom, when court is not in session.
Shopping is plentiful. In the main square a tempting produce market sets up daily. Ogle the beautiful flowers, fresh fruits and vegetables, with local mushrooms the size of your hand. The smell of homemade breads and pastry, and sizzling sausages tempt passersby to indulge in a treat.
Home of the largest Christmas Market, by early November the feel of the holidays are in the air. Rustic booths, draped with glowing lights, and bedecked with carnival like lighted signs proclaim their wares line. The streets are chock full of tempting treats. Choose from lebkucken, German gingerbread, German mulled wine, savory local sausages, or steamy crepes served with your choice of toppings. My personal favorite is banana with Nutellla, a mouthwatering chocolate hazelnut spread. www.christkindlesmarkt.de
In the historic center, the main square steals the show. The face of the Church of Our Lady while still in the traditional Gothic style, houses a giant mechanical clock. Like a traditional German coo coo clock, every day at noon the prince electors circle the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, minstrels lift their horns and ring their bells, while the clock booms out the time. From the square the historic gothic churches of St. Lorenz and St. Sebald, and the Old Town are all within an easy stroll.
The highlight of the main square is the Schoner Bunnen, or beautiful fountain. Surrounded by wrought iron grillwork, legend has it if you turn the gold ring three times your wish will come true. The current fountain was erected here around 1385, while remnants of the original sandstone fountain can be seen at the German National Museum. “The fountain soars 63 feet upward and features 40 sculptured figures which reflect the world-view of the Holy Roman Empire: the pool is decorated with figures representing philosophy and the seven liberal arts and above them are the four Evangelists and the four Church Fathers. In the middle are the Seven Electors and Nine Worthies and above them Moses and Seven Prophets.” www.travelsignposts.com
Towering above the city is the Kaiserburg, or Imperial Castle.
An occasional residence of the Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire
between 1050 and 1571, much of the palace was destroyed during the war. It was rebuilt not back to its previous Gothic state, but to an ideal intended to resemble the original construction.
A thriving metropolis, history buffs, and holiday shoppers, will enjoy all that Nuremburg has to offer.
Revisit the Middle Ages in Miltenberg, Germany
Miltenberg lies on the left bank of the river Main on a narrow strip of land between two mountain ranges. Always a small community, even today the population is only 9500 residents. The allure of this charming city is in her authenticity, and compact size
Towering on the hill above the town, the Mildenberg Castle was constructed around 1200. By 1379 both city gates had been constructed, and a town fully established. Bordered by the Main Gate, and the Wurzburg Gate the medieval core runs almost two miles from tower to tower. Unlike so many other German towns, no wall surrounds this community due to the proximity of the protective mountain ranges. Nestled in the Olden Wald forest, this town is picture perfect.
Miltenbergs’ influence grew due to the strategic location at a narrow place in the river. Originally a part of the Electoral Mainz, its coat of arms, which resembles a wheel, is still visible on some of the buildings. A policy allowing residents free use of timber from the community owned forest encouraged construction from the 15th through the 17th centuries. A mix of architectural styles on the winding thoroughfare, timber and plaster construction provides uniformity.
Due to trade, the wealth of the city grew. However, “prosperity ended abruptly in
the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), when the area was devastated and
depopulated.”(Travel Sign Posts) Later annexed by Bavaria in 1816, the actual
district of Miltenberg was not established until 1972.
The Hotel Zum Riesen is located here, said to be one of Germanys oldest inns, restored, it reopened in 2001 as the Brauhaus Faust.
Wander through all of the shops; many geared to the locals not the tourists. A butcher’s window displays all sorts of sausages and “wursts” both fresh and canned. Expect to find many unusual kinds of sausage, with everything from blood sausage to white sausage. Served with a German Beer, and a soft pretzel, what could be more traditional?
Stop at a local bakery for the most amazing apple strudel. One bite of this melt in your mouth delicacy and you will be lined up for more.
A charming fountain, with an unusual sandstone carving was once used for water, stands in the main square. Adjacent, the St Lawrence’s Chapel, a Renaissance church is also constructed of sandstone. The source of “Heunensäulen” or sandstone columns intended for use in the Mainz Cathedral. Unused, one was returned to the city in 1975 to commemorate the cathedrals 1000th anniversary and stands in the cathedral square.
Unlike so many other towns, Mildenberg is authentic. Not suffering either fire, or war damage. In addition the devastation of the 30-year war actually contributed to the preservation of this medieval gem. Whether for the Christmas market, as an excursion on a river boat cruise, or as a stop on the red wine trail, find the time to explore this authentic marvel.
Time stands still in Bamberg.
Pinch yourself; it’s hard to remember this is the 21st century. Find yourself in the center of this medieval town in the north of Bavaria, and you will believe that time has stood still. A UNESCO world heritage site; since the 1950s Bamberg has undergone a continuous program of restoration of its historic properties. Amazingly around 93% of the original buildings remain.
What makes Bamberg unique according to UNESCO is that “it covers the three centres of settlement: The Bergstadt, with the cathedral, the former Prince-Bishop's Residence, the Parish Church of Our Lady and the former vintners' settlement; the Inselstadt, between the two-arms of the Regnitz River, which was founded in the 12th century with a market; and the Theuerstadt, a late medieval area of market gardens with scattered houses and large open spaces, which has retained this character to the present day.”
Start your exploration at the unusual town hall. Created when wood beams were driven into the riverbed for the foundation, it is part of a bridge on the Regenitz River. To this day the building seems to perch precariously on edge, ready to drop in at any time. Once completely encased in plaster, one section fell off when a bridge nearby was bombed during World War II, and has remained naked. The remainder whimsically painted, includes a plaster leg that sticks out of an imaginary hole at the base of the building
Along the confluence of Regenitz and Acmy Rivers many buildings abut the water. Called little Venice, while the buildings are not as grand as those in Venice, they are quintessentially German. Boats moored nearby bob in the current and rowboats are tied up at tiny docks behind wood timber and plaster houses.
Many original structures were covered over with plaster or stone to prevent fire. Restorations reveal the original timber and stucco buildings hidden behind the facades. Wander the maze of streets, and revel in the massive size of this historic community
Climb the steep steps to the Prince Bishop’s Palace and the massive Church of Our Lady. Home to the most northerly buried pope, he died after a very short time in office and under mysterious circumstances, likely poisoned. He died in Rome and was brought to Bamberg at a time when such distant burials were unheard of. In the basilica you can view the carved likenesses on the massive tomb of King Henry of Germany and Canonized Queen Cunigunde who advanced cause of Christianity in Germany.
After all the sightseeing a snack is in order. Stop at one of the amazing pastry shops that serve dessert to perfection. Windows are chock-full of tantalizing dessert selections, macaroons, tarts, cookies, chocolates, and elaborately decorated cakes. Your order comes wrapped like a present in decorative paper and is graciously presented. A tantalizing flavor, a lightly sweet, flaky pate sucree crust is covered with a perfectly proportioned layer of honey nougat, then smothered with a layer of roasted hazelnuts, that glisten with a light sugar glaze. Almost too beautiful to eat, and yet consumed instantly.
Local resident Willy Messerschmitt designed the M17 sports plane in1925. He won many competitions with this plane, allowing him to build the first Messerschmitt factory. Thankfully for Bamberg he located the Messerschmitt plane factory in nearby Regensburg preventing excessive damage during the war. The result is nothing short of amazing; with so many authentic historic buildings you could easily forget what century you are in.