Climbing the Minster
Climbing the tallest church in the world is the great attraction of any trip to Ulm.
The Minster is measuring 161,5m and containing 768 steps.
From the top level at 143 m there is a fantastic panoramic view of Ulm in Baden-Württemberg and Neu-Ulm in Bavaria.
The final stairwell to the top (known as the third Gallery) is a tall, spiraling staircase that has barely enough room for a few persons.
On the street behind the new town hall/tourist office (the big white building in the Munsterplatz) there is a discount bakery where a lot of Ulm residents go for their bakery needs.
I shopped there regularly and saved a bundle of money.
The produce is fresh and very tasty. There is a fairly good variety of things to have and they're all pretty cheap. I got 2 pretzles, 2 cinnamon type rolls and 2 more pastries for about 2.50 Euros.
you have to bag your own buys but bags are provided in plentiful amounts.
- Budget Travel
Friendly doctors in Ulm
Ulm has become almost a home city for us and our dogs. Every time when SV BSZS take place there we don’t miss an opportunity to have a walk around the city with our dogs. It’s not only a pleasure for us but helpful.
In 2009 we visited a veterinary clinic in Wiblingen (close to Ulm) where we made X-rays pictures and genetic expertise for our dogs. The staff was very friendly and you can see the doctor with the dogs on the picture.
Walking round the city of Ulm you'll notice figures of sparrows everywhere - big ones in the streets and streams, small ones in souvenir shops. The sparrow has become Ulm's symbol due to a legend which shows that Ulm's inhabitants have always had brains:
When the Münster church was built, the Ulm citizens started to carry the timbers into town. A row of men walked shoulder to shoulder and carried a huge timber in front of them. Of course they didn't fit through the city gate like that. Then one of them observed a sparrow who carried long straws into a hole to build its nest and said, "Aaah, that's it!!" From the bird they learned how to get the timber through the narrow gate: lengthwise!
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Fischerstechen every four years in Ulm
Fischerstechen is a really old custom in Bavaria (translates to pricking of fishermen). It is not only found in Bavaria, but that's where it's most popular. And good old Ulm puts on quite a production at their Fischerstechen. And it seems the entire town comes out to see it so it's a lot of fun!
There are 3-5 people in a boat who try to fling 3-5 other people on a second boat into the rather chilly river (Donau or Danube). To do this they use lances. The pushing movements of the lances gave the tradition its name: The "pricking" of fishermen.
The boats and the respective pairs are decided by drawing lots. Those people with the least penalty points get into the last round. Penalty points are given each time a man is flung into the water.
The "Fischerstechen" takes place around the 15th of August (holiday of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary) every four years. So you're in luck, if you're headed to Germany this summer because I was there for it in 2001.
To witness this spectacle head down to the Donau river.
- Historical Travel
Man of the Century
When old Cliffie lived in Germany, he taught at a secondary school called the Albert Einstein Gymnasium. Einstein, Time Magazine's Man of the Century, was born in Ulm in 1879. He subsequently became a Swiss citizen and then, in 1940, a citizen of the USA. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1921 for his discovery of the 'law of the photoelectric effect'. But his greatest achievement was his General Theory of Relativity. Anyone who can really understand it deserves a crate of Ulmer Bier!
Nabada – Bathing down the River
I can explain you what this word means. But how should I explain how to pronounce it?! But let's try, nothing is impossible ;-)))
It surely is not pronounced Na-ba-da, like dadada LOL It is more like Naaaaaaa-baaaaaa-da, with the stress on the first syllable, and the last a as short and insignificant as the “the” sound in English, just the start not as th but as d… Well, try it, and if a Ulmer understands you you have learnt a unique Swabian word ;-)
Nabada. The first syllable “na” stands for the Hochdeutsch word “hinunter”, meaning: down. “Bada” is Schwabisch for “baden”, meaning: to bathe. So the whole word means: hinunter baden, or: to bathe down. And the “Nabada” as a noun means: bathing down, and actually: bathing down the river. And there we are: bathing down the Danube river.
This is exactly what happens at the Nabada. Boats, floats, airbeds and other inflatable items, bicycles on inflatable tyres, kayaks, kids swimming pools, barrels, and of course, a lot of people are bathing down the river in a carnival-like procession. (Not to forget the emergency services of DLRG, the German Life Savers Community…)
It really is a bit like the carnival processions of Cologne and Mainz, just that the big themed waggons are not on wheels but on boats. Even music bands are floating down the river, accompanied by hundreds of locals in and on their makeshift floating devices. Take care, some of them try to bucket you from their floats, others would shoot at you with water pistols. The battle call in and outside the water is:
“Ulmer Spatza, Wasserratza, hoi, hoi, hoi!”
(Ulmer Spatzen, Wasserratten – Ulm Sparrows, Water rats)
The Nabada track is about 7 kilometres, from the start of the historic city centre to the fairgrounds (Volksfestplatz) in Friedrichsau.
It starts at about 4pm on Schwörmontag, the third Monday in July (20 July in 2009).
In case of rain the Nabada is cancelled. To find out you either have to look up to the cathedral’s spire (they put out red baskets if the event does not take place) or call the city’s info phone (0731) 161-0.
The biggst crowds are along the city wall. A more relaxing place to enjoy the procession is Friedrichsau. Either take the tram or bus to Donaustadion, or walk. If you want to go there by car, best you park at the carpark of Volksfestplatz or Donauhalle, and from there walk to the riverbank. You have to be there early to get a good place right at the waterfront. Best you take a blanket or folding chairs with you, so you do not have to stand the whole time while waiting for the themed boats. You do not necessarily have to bring your own food and drinks, there are stalls every some hundred metres, and if you are close to Volksfestplatz you have the full choice.
Apologies for my not so flash photos. But when I attended the Nabada the last time I was happy that it took place at all, as we had drizzle and even light rain. So the start was delayed. But lucky me it took place. Just imagine it with blue sky and sunshine, it is wonderful :-)
Photos as soon as I get closer to my external hard drive... ;-)
- Sailing and Boating
- Historical Travel
Ulmer Schachtel - Zille
What could be a Ulmer Schachtel, an Ulm Box, or: Box of Ulm?
“Schachtel” is the derogatory expression for “Ulmer Zille”.
Those Zillen were the boats on which goods were transported on the Danube before the railway network was built.
The Danube has been the longest and most important channel of trade in Europe for thousands of years. Ulm was the start of this shipping line, as thanks to the waters of the much mightier river Iller (coming from the Alps) and smallish river Blau the Danube became navigable right in Ulm.
Literally everything was shipped, from goods to emigrants to soldiers.
The boats were a kind of houseboats, with tiny houses like glued onto simple boats.
You can still see some Ulmer Schachteln on the Danube, they use them for tours on the river, and on the local holiday (Schwörmontag) to transport prominent people and music bands. You can also see the simple version of the boat, without the houses on top, then you would rather call them with the official word Zille. These are used for the so called Fischerstechen on Schwörmontag, traditional fights where two guys standing on the boats try to push each other into the river with the help of poles.
Ulm’s Zillen normally are painted in white and black stripes, the city’s colours.
You can see them at several places on and near the Danube. One, for example, is at Fischerplätzle, in front of Schönes Haus.
Also a very quaint old pub (“Zur Zill”) in a historic building from 1851 is named after those boats. It is located in Schwörhausgasse 19. It is a place where you would find an eclectic mix of locals.
Photo 2 shows the sign of "Zur Zill".
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Donaufest and Bindertanz (Coopers' Dance)
Apart from Schwörmontag, the City Fest in June has always been one of my favourite festivities in Ulm. However, I would not consider myself as a real expert on Ulm’s festivals and events, as I often had to work and/or travel while the rest of the city were partying, be it on weekends, evenings, nights… No, I do not complain, and I do not really love big crowds either, being jostled around, feeling other people’s (good or bad) breath around my neck, smelling sweaty armpits, queuing for food and drinks, noise, and getting out of the way of drunken folk. This City Fest in June was just a party on and around Münsterplatz, with music and international food stalls, so a celebration of Ulm’s multi-cultural society.
However, such celebrations are a good opportunity to meet friends, enjoy simple food and live music.
Every two years Ulm celebrates the Internationales Donaufest (no translation needed…). It is a ten day cultural and culinary festival of the nations living along the Danube from the spring in Germany to the Black Sea in Bulgaria. It took place the first time in 1998. . On my last visit in August/September 2010 I was in Ulm on one of the Donaufest days. There were food and arts and crafts stalls on the lawns between the Danube and the city wall, and zillions of colourful flags on the wall. Really nice to look at – but not veeery much different to other festivals in Ulm. But sure, you always need opportunities to have fun and go out, this is another one in the rich calendar of events in the city of Ulm.
The traditional Bindertanz, not to mix up with the Fishermen’s Dance in the years of the Fischerstechen, takes place every four years only. This is the dance of the coopers (cellarmen/those guys who “bind” wine barrels, thus the name Binder) and is extremely picturesque. The coopers who started the dance tradition in 1745, wear red knee breeches, white shirts, white wigs and black three-pointed hats. Their dance ritual includes freshly bound garlands, and in the procession a guy rolling a 120 litre wine barrel plays an important role.
The coopers dance on the two Sundays leading up to Schwörmontag, on several squares of the city, and also at the Schwörfeier at Weinhof on Schwörmontag. But as said, every four years only, whereas Schwörmontag is celebrated every year. They do so in the years before the Fischerstechen and Fischertanz (next time in 2009), so the last time in 2008 and the next time in 2012. (Well, really nearly too difficult to remember…)
Photos 2 to 4 give other impressions of the Donaufest area near Fischerplätzle. You can see more food and crafts stalls, as well as the very brown Danube after days of heavy rain.
- Arts and Culture
- Food and Dining
The Christmas market takes place in Münster square. It is not one of the big tourist markets, rather an 'off the beaten path' tipp. I found the atmosphere very enjoyable and the assortment of the stalls quite nice. The little wooden huts gather in groups round the huge Münster steeple. The square is wide enough to allow enough space between them, you can move and don't find this squeezing and pushing through overcrowded narrow lanes other markets have.
Apologies, unfortunately I didn't take a single photo, I don't know what was wrong with me...
- Family Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Ulmer Zuckerbrot (Ulm Sugarbread)
This is one of Ulm’s many specialities.
Zuckerbrot (Sugar Bread) is a traditional baking stuff made with yeast and many spices.
There is a bakery named Zaiser in Herrenkellergasse (between Hafenbad and Platzgasse) where you will get it for sure. They have a big golden sign stretching over half the street, saying: Ulmer Zuckerbrot. So you cannot miss it.
It is only the real thing if you can smell aniseed. Tastes nice with some butter :-)
Photos 2 and 3 show the Zuckerbrot.
- Food and Dining
Schwörmontag/Schwörwoche (Oath Monday and Week)
As said in other tips already, Schwörmontag is Ulm’s biggest day of the year. It is the end and pinnacle of the Schwörwoche festivities. In 2009 the date is 20 July.
At about 11am of Schwörmontag (third Monday in July) the Lord Mayor starts his speech (Schwörrede)on the Schwörhaus balcony. At the end of his speech the Schwörglocke (Oath Bell) rings, and he swears to be a true and honest representative of the rich and the poor, in German: “… Reichen und Armen ein gemeiner Mann zu sein in allen gleichen, gemeinsamen und redlichen Dingen ohne allen Vorbehalt, so wahr mir Gott helfe“. This is the renewal of the historic oath, given in the Großer Schwörbrief (Great Oath Bill) from 1397.
In case of rain the Schwörfeier (Oath Celebration) takes place in the cathedral (Ulmer Münster).
The highlight of Schwörmontag is the so-called Nabada on the Danube, a kind of Carnival procession on the water. This starts at about 4pm and can be seen on a 7 kilometre stretch on the Danube, so from along the whole historic city centre to the fairgrounds in Friedrichsau. (See extra tip)
After that many people flock on the fairgrounds (Volksfestplatz) for the last of the ten days of the fun carnival with roundabouts, lottery booths, candy floss, food and beer, others first attend the traditional football game of SSV Ulm 1846 against a popular team at Donaustadion.
The whole park is filled with music and fun. There are the traditional beer gardens (Teutonia, Liederkranz, Hundskomödie), but also lots and lots of other mobile beer gardens that are put up for the day only. Such congregations of people sitting together are called “Hockete”, the word deriving from the verb “hocken”, which in Hochdeutsch means: to squat. In Schwäbisch (Swabian) it just means: to sit. All over Friedrichsau coloured lightbulbs lighten the night. Best you bring a blanket or folding chair if you want to sit on Dianawiese – a big lawn in Friedrichsau – and secure a good seat along the river for the Nabada.
On nearly all squares in the city you find such outdoor seating for more “Hockete”, and there is live music and food stalls at nearly every corner. The whole city becomes one big party place.
More events of Schwörwoche (Oath Week)
A very much loved part of Schwörwoche is the Lichterserenade (Serenade of Lights). It takes place on the Saturday before Schwömontag. It starts between 9.30 and 10pm, just when it is dark enough to enjoy about 10,000 lit candles floating on the Danube. They are set onto the water at the height of Fischerplätzle and float down to Friedrichsau park, thus create a several kilometres long trail of light. And if this were not already impressive enough, they shoot fireworks into the sky from floats on the river.
On the Sunday evening before Schwörmontag (so on 19 July in 2009) there is a big open air concert on Münsterplatz. This is one of the few events you have to pay for if you want to have a closer look – but really, if you stay outside the barriers you hear as much as from close up, just do not see the star or the band. This year (2009) Simply Red will play. Be warned: The crowds outside the enclosed area are huge. You will still succeed to make your way through but it will take a while. If you want to get from A to B quickly take a more distant itinerary.
Tickets for Simply Red/start at 7pm, cost 61.55 Euro. See here:
Every four years only the so-called Fischerstechen (Fishermen’s Fights) takes place on the two Sundays leading up to Schwörmontag. The day starts in the city centre with a beautiful procession of about 300 people in historic costumes. Then they perform historic dances on various squares (Fischertanz). In the afternoon the actual Fischerstechen of traditional Ulm characters takes place on the Danube. These fights comprise 15 fighting couples, for example, the Tailor of Ulm fights against the Ulm Sparrow, the King of Bavaria against the King of Baden-Württemberg, etc. These fights are fought in narrow boats (so-called Zillen) on the water. The contenders stand in the boats and have to try to push their opponent into the water with the help of a spear-like pole. It is comparable to the medieval Knights Fights on horseback, just that the Ulmers use boats and not horses, and it takes place on a river and not in an arena. (I have seen such historic fights also in Sète/France, for example, so Ulm is not unique, just the fighting characters are.
The spear is 2.80 metres long and is has a padded disc at the sharp end, so nobody gets injured during the fight. Three guys move the ten metre long boats, the fighter stands on a platform at the front. The winner qualifies for the next round of the tournament until the winner is found in a final. Not only fighters who fall into the water are losers but also those who step into the boat from the platform or loses his spear.
The next dates for the Fischerstechen are 12 and 19 July 2009, after that you have to wait until 2013 for the next event.
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Abt Glockenspiel Plays a Tune every Hour
The best days of Ulm’s most prestigious department store named Abt are over but the signs of those days can still be seen and enjoyed.
The Glockenspiel (or: carillion) is at the right upper corner of the building at the corner of Münsterplatz and Platzgasse, and plays a tune every hour.
It was installed to the 100 year anniversary of Abt (their slogan always was: Abt hat’s = Abt has it) which was founded in 1879.
The bells are made of Meissen porcelain (Meißner Porzellan).
At the bottom, in the pendulum, sits a sparrow, the city’s symbol.
Another lovely feature of the building is a bit to the left of the glockenspiel and slightly higher, just below the roofline: a boat, called Ulmer Schachtel (Ulm Box), with quite a lot of people in it.
Photo 2 shows the Ulmer Schachtel, photo 3 features both artworks on one picture.
- Arts and Culture
Kiss but Don't Lie
Kussgässle und Lügenbrückle
(Little Kiss Alley and Liar's Bridge)
In the Fishermen's Quarter (Fischerviertel), Ulm’s little Venice, you find many narrow cobblestone alleyways and bridges that lead over the two arms of the river Blau.
One of the narrowest alleyways is named Kussgässle. This means: Little Kiss Alley. You have to know where it is because there is no sign. So when you are in Kussgässle and someone you like or even love is with you, you should kiss – best someone you know ;-)
Kussgässle is near Schiefes Haus (Leaning House) and Ulmer Münz (Mint), just on the shortest way from Schiefes Haus to Fischerplätzle (Little Fishermen's Square) and Zunfthaus restaurant.
BTW The super narrow bridge from Kussgässle to Zunfthaus is called Lügenbrückle (Little Liar's Bridge). It is said that you fall into the river Blau if you have told a lie. So take care!
Photo 2 is without the kissers.
- Arts and Culture
More Festivals – Culture, Sport, Christmas Market
I might write tips about the following events at some point but for now let me just list some more events that take place in Ulm on a regular base:
Wiblinger Bachtage: Bach music, in 2009 from 21 June to 5 July. They do not take place in the sururb of Wiblingen only but all over Ulm and Neu-Ulm.
Christmas Market (Ulmer Weihnachtsmarkt): On Münsterplatz in 2009 from 23 November to 22 December. More than mulled wine and sheep… Mon – Sat 10am – 8.30pm, Sun 11am – 8.30pm
Ulmer Zelt:More than 70 cultural events under canvas in Friedrichsau park, in 2009 from 20 May to 4 July.
Ulmer Donau-Cup:An event I always reported about. A sprint regatta in rowing (Ruder-Cup), with start at Herdbrücke and finish at Volksfestplatz. Since quite a while dragon boat races (Drachen-Cup) are included in the programme very successfully. In 2009 from 26 to 28 July.
Einstein-Marathon: This running event started in a humble way as City-Lauf, with just relatively short distances around the cathedral. In 2005 it was extended to a marathon and half marathon but still offers short City-Lauf distances. A former colleague, a long distance runner and an athletics coach are heavily involved in the organisation. In 2009 on 19 and 20 September.
A brandnew running event is Die Lange Nacht von Ulm which is a 100 km run which offers the option of running 50 km only or a relay. On 12 July 2009. Link at the bottom of the marathon website:
Landesposaunentag (Baden-Württemberg’s Trombone Day):A huge festival that takes place every two years on Münsterplatz. Next time in 2010.
More festivals and events on the Tourism website:
- Arts and Culture
- Water Sports
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