Altstadt - Old Town, Koblenz
Florinsmarkt is at the northern edge of Koblenz's Altstadt (as it now exists), towards the Mosel riverside. As well as the rather interesting Florinkirche (see separate tip) there are three historical buildings of interest:
1. The main photo shows Bürresheimer Hof, a large and rather attractive building dating from the late 1600s which was once part of a larger complex of buildings. In 1847 it was purchased by Koblenz's Jewish community and served as the city synagogue until 1938, when the interior was wrecked during Kristallnacht (9-10 November). The only reason the synagogue was not also set on fire was because of fears the fire would spread to nearby buildings.
Second World War air-raids caused even more damage. the Jewish community sold the property back to the city and, in the mid-1950s, it was rebuilt and restored.
2. The red-and-white building to the east of Bürresheimer Hof is the Altes Kaufhaus. Originally built in the 1400s, it was reconstructed in the late 1600s and soon afterwards badly damaged by bombardment during the Nine Years War (with the French). It was rebuilt yet again in the 1700s and was, inevitably, very badly damaged during the Second World War. So what you see today is a reconstruction of a reconstruction of a reconstruction!
Underneath the clock is a weird relief portrait, supposedly of the robber baron Johann Lutter of Kobern. He is said to have rolled his eyes and stuck out his tongue as he was hung (I suspect those actions were not deliberate!) and the eyes and tongue of the portrait move when the hour strikes.
3. To the east of the Altes Kaufhaus is the red, turreted Schöffenhaus. This building originally dated to the early 1500s and was built against the city wall and ramparts. Like the other buildings in Florinsmarkt, it was severely damaged by bombing in the Second World War and what you see today is largely reconstructed.
All three buildings have served various purposes in their lifetimes, most recently forming part of Koblenz's MittelRhein Museum. That museum is now housed in the spanking-new Forum Confluentes structure so, in 2013, all three historical buildings on Florinsmarkt were sold to a private investor. All are 'protected' so, hopefully, nothing will be done to damage what little historical value they still have.
The Blumenhof is a rather lovely series of gardens which surround Basilika St Kastor, to the north-west of Koblenz's Altstadt.
The gardens include the 'courtyard' of the Ludwig Museum, an art museum housed in a building known as the Rheinbau. This building, originally dating from 1279, was part of a horseshoe-shaped collection of buildings on the site, all of which were destroyed during Second world War bombings. Only the Rheingau, the main building, was rebuilt later the war although you can still see some of the courtyard walls and a little of the late Gothic chapel which was built in the mid-1300s (and destroyed in the Second World War).
The garden immediately outside the Ludwig Museum is a 'sculpture garden'. Then, to its south, there is a flower garden with fountains and the remains of the chapel mentioned above. To the rear and south of the Basilika are two other gardens, with themes of peace and meditation.
Unfortunately, the heavens opened during my visit so my photographs don't do the place justice and I didn't explore as much as I would otherwise have done.
Look out for the row of old gravestones set into the external wall of the Blumenhof.
It's free to enter the gardens. Opening times are:
May > August 0800 - 2130
September > April 0800 - 2030
If you walk to the southern side of the Liebfrauenkirche you'll find Michaelskapelle, which originally dated from the early 1300s and served as the cemetery chapel for the extensive graveyard which surrounded the Liebfrauenkirche until it was abandoned in 1777.
The chapel was constructed on the remains of one of the towers of Koblenz's Roman walls. That led to its needing to be strengthened and rebuilt in the 1500s and 1600s.
Michaelskapelle has two stories, with an external staircase leading up to the upper chapel. In the late 1700s the lower part was used as an ossuary when the cemetery began to be cleared though it is now just a storage area. I assume the bones have all been reinterred somewhere else.
Unfortunately the chapel was closed when I visited and I could find no information about its opening times, if any. But it's worth a look from the outside anyway. If you go down to Am Plan below, and look underneath the metal staircase, you can see a tiny part of the remaining Roman city walls on which the chapel is built..
I wandered past this intersection on my way back from a Euromeet post-meet meal, found the oriel windows of each of the four buildings fascinating and took photos.
It was only later that I realised they are a valid point of architectural interest, albeit one which (like so much of Koblenz's Altstadt) has been reconstructed and re-created post-war.
The 'four towers' are actually the four elongated oriel windows on each of the corner buildings at the junction of Strassen Am Plan, Löhrstrasse, Altengraben and Marktstrasse. The originals were first constructed in 1608 but were destroyed in 1688 by the bombardment during the Nine Years' War. The ones which you can see now are:
1. Strasse Am Plan: 1692, destroyed in 1944, reconstructed in 1950.
2. Löhrstrasse: 1691, destroyed 1944, reconstructed 1960.
and the two on Marktstrasse: one is the original, dating from 1691 and managed to survive the Second World War almost unscathed. The other dated from 1689, was destroyed in 1944 and reconstructed in 1948.
Obviously the buildings themselves were reconstructed post-war not just the elaborate oriel windows or 'towers'.
It is thought that the originals were the work of the architect Johann Christoph Sebastiani.
Münzplatz lies in the north-west of Koblenz's Altstadt. It's a large expanse of largely empty space which was once the site of Koblenz's mint and other buildings associated with creating coinage.
Those buildings were almost all demolished in the early 1800s, with only the 'Muenzmeisterhaus' (mint master's house) still remaining on the eastern side of the square (and under restoration when I visited). It dates from 1763.
I rather liked the modern sculpture of the jolly policeman and the vegetable seller. This is what it represents (feel free to do your own translation!):
'Die Maatfrau sät zom Schutzmann,
'Dat es mir jetzt zo bont!
Do hat gepinkelt am mein Mann,
dä Nobersch ihre Hund!'
The fresco is on the side of the archway across Paradies, which leads from Burgstrasse into Münzplatz. It dates from 1911 but, despite my best efforts, I've not be able to find out anything more about it.
On the first weekend in July you will find a musicfestival in the old town of Koblenz. There are bands with live music, dancing acts and food in all the streets and places in the old town. You can meet the Schängelcher, the inhabitants of Koblenz and have fun.
Gauklerfest (Festival of buffons)
a festival with clowns, comedy, walking acts, music around the city, held on the first weekend in August. Most things are free, no entrance fee. So go to the oldtown. They want to celebrate it in the old town and on the fortress Ehrenbreitstein. So one year (2014) it is in the old town, the other year it is in the fortress. You will have a lot of fun.
This "Coin Square" is where the mint used to be, back in the days when they were allowed to mint their own coins for this region.
This statue is of a jolly market woman talking to a jolly police constable in some jolly earlier century of Koblenz's history. On the statue there is a plaque with a jolly verse in the local dialect, saying that the market woman is complaining to the constable about a neighbor woman whose dog has peed on her husband.
Second photo: Speaking of jolly local traditions, the manhole covers in the Old Town all show a mischievous young boy called the "Koblenzer Schaengel" who was, like so many, a child of a Koblenz mother and a French father during the times when one of the French armies occupied this area. Sometimes all the inhabitants of Koblenz are referred to as "Schängel", though that is no doubt an exaggeration. "Koblenzer Schängel" is also the name of a free weekly newspaper that has been published here since 1964.
Third photo: These paintings, dated 1911, are in a street called Paradies which leads from the Burgstraße to Münzplatz.
Fourth photo: The Marktstraße is a busy auto-free shopping street near the Münzplatz.
The Old Town of Koblenz is a delight to stroll. There is a wonderful main square where you can choose from many restaurants and cafes to enjoy a meal, or a coffee and to people watch at the same time. There are also many lovely little shops selling not only necessities and souvenirs, but also, clothing and local crafts. I love the little alleyways which are to be found in and around the square.
With the growth of cheap low-cost flights, more and more people have discovered the delights of german Christmas markets.
The one in Koblenz has all the normal ingredients of a 100 or so wodden stalls, mulled wine in the air and nativety crib (with rabbits for some strange reason) amusements and toms of Bratwurst on the griddle.
The market is a little spread out around the old town, but the centrepiece is in the 'plan'.
A good choice, and easily walkable.
At the Mosel promenade, close to Balduin bridge, you will find this beautiful little castle. Alte Burg (Old Castle) was built on the foundations of a round tower dating back to the times of the Roman empire. In late 13th century the original structure was extended by order of Archbishop Heinrich II von Finstingen. A moated castle was built which became part of the city fortifications. During the centuries that followed Alte Burg has continuously been modified and reconstructed and Renaissance and Baroque style extensions were added. The building has 2 towers facing the Mosel and a 3rd for the richly ornamented spiral staircase built in 1557. During the Nine Years’ War, troops of the French King Louis XIV besieged Koblenz and large parts of the old town, including the castle, came to harm. The structure has been damaged a 2nd time in 1794 during the intrusion of the French revolutionary troops. Between1806 and 1897 a tinware factory settled in the old walls. After the shutdown of this factory the building was sold to the municipality of Koblenz.
During WWII Alte Burg gladly suffered minor damages only and between 1960 – 1962 the castle has been renovated costly and today it’s one of the main landmarks of Koblenz again. Alte Burg houses the City Archive and the City Library and can’t be visited, unfortunately. But the whitewashed walls and the beautiful towers nevertheless are worth a photo. After all it’s the only medieval structure at the old town that has outlasted the centuries and the eventful history of Koblenz without ever being destroyed.
At the old town you can find this beautiful early 16th century building called Schöffenhaus (lay assessors’ house). It was built next to the merchant’s house between 1528-1530 by order of archbishop Richard von Greiffenclau (died 1531). During the Nine Years’ War (in 1688) the lay assessors’ house was destroyed but in 1724 it was reconstructed. Damages of WWII were remedied during 1962-1964 when the building was converted into a part of the Middle Rhine Museum.
The most beautiful feature of Schöffenhaus can be seen at the building’s rear. Standing at the Moselle promenade you can see a fabulous rectangular oriel with leaded windows, wonderfully decorated and partly gilded.
On top of the staircase tower of Schöffenhaus you can also see a cupola crowned by a brazen star. The alley way next to Schöffenhaus is named after this feature: it’s called Unter'm Stern (Under the Star).
When you're at St. Florin's square and you're visiting (or passing) the Mittelrhein Museum, do have a closer look at the museum's facade. The Gothic style building originally was a merchant's house and later was used as a place of assemblies and festivities. The early 15th century building is one of the most beautiful old town houses of Koblenz. And its tower houses a real particularity: a relief showing a man's face with his eyes moving in accordance with the clock right above. The clockwork makes the eyes roll each second and at hourly intervals the relief will stick its tongue out. ; )
There's a legend about the origin of the eye roller relief that says that it depicts a 16th century robber baron called Johann Lutter von Cobern who did mischief in this area and therefore was beheaded at the market square of Koblenz in 1536. Shortly before his execution he predicted prosperty to the town if only the councilmen decided to raise a momument for him.
The date of the 1st putting up of the eye roller relief is uncertain but it's safe to say that a mask similar to the present one has already been gracing the assembly hall in 17th century.
The town of Koblenz was bordered in history on two sides of a triangle by the rivers of the Mosel and the Rhine, and on the other by city walls. Koblenz has been fortunate in keeping it's old town in tact. Although the city walls have gone to make way for the 'new town', it is still a relative term. Really modern stuff has thankfully been banished to the outskirts of town with just a few pimples of modernity intruding into the historic core.
The compact old-town is a pleasing mixture of squares, museums, tiled roofs, cobbles and frescos that just shouts 'German stereotype'. It is almost as if it had been planned as a disney film-set with a pied piper leading the boys and girls through the streets whilst gingerbread men sing from behind wooden latticed windows.
The 'plan' inparticular, the main square is a very aesthetically pleasing place to be, none more so than during the Christmas market.
Koblenz has a number of fountains. This one was interesting due to the intricate carving.
Also the pigeons have figured out where to go to get a drink (look at the centre of the fountain -- not the one on ledge in front of the fountain; he's waiting in line).