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The Cathedral of St. Peter and St. George in Bamberg is a late Romanesque structure that sits atop Domberg, one of the seven hills in the town. It was founded by Holy Roman Emperor Henry II in 1004 and consecrated in 1012. The cathedral was destroyed in a fire in 1081, rebuilt in the early 1100s only to suffer destruction by a fire again in 1185. The cathedral we see today is the second reconstruction, completed in 1237. During the 17th century, the building was updated with a Baroque interior only to be restored to a neo-Romanesque look in the late 1800s.
The four towers on the exterior make the cathedral easy to spot from just about anywhere in the city. The interior has two aisles beside the nave and two choirs, one east and one west. Pope Clement II, who was bishop of Bamberg prior to becoming Pope, is buried in the west choir. His tomb dates back to 1240 and is the only Pope buried north of the Alps. Pope Clement was buried in Bamberg at his request.
I have created additional tips for other famous artifacts and artworks in the cathedral: the tomb of the cathedral’s founder Henry II and his wife Kunigunde, the equestrian Bamberg Rider statue and the Altar of the Virgin Mary by Veit Stoss.
Upon entering the cathedral, I purchased a small booklet that provided me with some additional historical details of the building and the significant artworks. The booklet also had a good map of the cathedral. For only €1, I got my money’s worth since I used it as I looked through the cathedral.
I did not get to see the Prince’s Portal – the side door with beautiful sculptures around the portal. It was January and during the winter months the portal is covered with a wooden box to protect it from the harsh weather. On my next visit to Bamberg in the spring, this is top on my must-see list. However, because we were there in early January, the cathedral was still beautifully decorated for Christmas.
Written Mar 21, 2013
“This Cathedral, towering in all its might and grandeur above the Rhine plain, would have remained in my memory, even if I had never seen it again.” – author Anne Seghers.
Begun in 975, the Dom is one of three Romanesque imperial cathedrals along the Rhein (the other two are in Worms and Speyer) and served as the location of seven coronations through the years. The original church burnt in a fire in 1036 and was rebuilt with the red sandstone starting the following year, continuing through 1239. It has endured several fires and has had several additions along with being reconstructed due to the fires.
While the original plan was in the Ottonian architectural style (pre-Romanesque) the church is very much a Romanesque style church with three naves and two chancels (one in the east and one in the west) and two transepts. The cathedral is built in the red sandstone that is predominant in the Mainz area. The center nave has small windows at the top of the walls above some very nice murals with gold in them. The ceiling was replaced (probably after one of the fires) with a ribbed vaulted ceiling of the Gothic era in the 13th century.
Beside the church is a lovely green cloister lined with statues and reliefs open to visitors. On a clear day the view upwards towards the six towers is very nice. There are also public restrooms in the cloister, something you don’t always see in cathedrals (fee is 30 cents). Below each of the chancels is a crypt with a chapel. The stained glass windows in the cathedral are interesting – there are some recent more modern windows in the side chapels and along the bottom many of these windows is a running timeline of the various bishops of the cathedral.
Mainz was the ecclesiastical center north of the Alps from 746 on through the work of St. Boniface and became a Holy See somewhere in the years 975-1011 for the Bishop of Mainz. However, Mainz lost its archbishopric in the early 1800s and is now a diocese.
During World War II, Mainz was a target for Allied bombs many times. While the cathedral was hit in August 1942, much remained intact and was restored. Currently, there is a renovation project going on at the Dom and you will find (as with many cathedrals) the outside has scaffolding on it. The project also includes the inside so you will have to tour the cathedral working around the work crews.
The cathedral is surrounded by buildings, some of which are now shops and restaurants. You can enter from the market square side of the cathedral; it is open daily with guided tours available through the Cathedral Information Center (phone number below).
Visit Googlemaps for the location of the cathedral.
There is also an Episcopal Cathedral and Diocesan Museum at the cathedral that houses religious art treasurer from the Middle Ages and modern periods.
Each December, the marketplatz beside the cathedral hosts the Christmas Market.
Written Mar 21, 2013
The Fulda Cathedral was built in the 1700s in the Baroque style on the site of the former Ratgar Basilica and burial site of Saint Boniface. The German architect Johann Dientzenhofer was commissioned by Prince Adalbert von Schleifras, whose coat of arms can be seen above the main portal and above the high altar (I was intrigued by this rather ornate coat of arms and had to research the ownership of it). Fulda’s church did not receive cathedral status until 1752 when the Fulda Diocese was created, turning the Prince-Abbotts into Bishops.
Because Saint Boniface is entombed in the Fulda Cathedral, the church has been a pilgrimage site for centuries and is still visited by pilgrims today. Boniface’s tomb is located behind and below the high altar – enter from either side of the high altar via the steps that lead down to the tomb. There is a small chapel in the tomb area. On the day we were there, a group of young children, probably 8-10 years old, were visiting; their sincerity of worship was refreshing.
The cathedral is has a triple nave and its interior is designed loosely on St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, although much smaller. The white walls and baroque sculptures and painting give the nave a bright refreshing feeling. The dome in the center of the transept is 39 meters (127 feet) high; the architect was inspired in his design of the dome by the Gesù Church in Rome – although I prefer the Fulda dome better as it is brighter and lighter in keeping with the rest of the cathedral. Around the corners of the base of the dome are frescoes of the four Evangelists. I enjoyed seeing the evangelist Matthew’s foot sticking out from the fresco, appearing to rest on the painted cloud beneath it (Matthew is in the fresco to the right of the high altar under the dome).
On the right transept there is a statue of St. Peter, which appears to be a duplicate of the statue of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica – complete with worn toes from frequent rubbing and kissing by the faithful. A small sign on the side of the statue states it was a gift to the Cathedral by Pope Leo XIII.
In the back of the cathedral was a wonderful looking organ. The cathedral offers 30-minute concerts each Saturday at 12:05 (cost is €3,50 per person). As we were leaving the cathedral, they were setting up for the day’s concert. I’m not sure if they clear the cathedral before the concert in order to have only paying customers enjoy the music. To visit the cathedral at other times is free.
Written Mar 21, 2013
My fascination in wanting to go to Annweiler am Trifels was simple: to see the castle where Richard the Lionheart was held prisoner by Emperor Henry VI of Hohenstaufen in 1193. Richard had been captured near Vienna on his return to France and England after the Third Crusade and handed over to the emperor, who held him until a rather large ransom was paid. As a British history fan, I could not pass by seeing this site. In fact, at the time of my visit I was in the midst of reading a novel by one of my favorite authors about Richard (too bad the sequel will have the part about Trifels Castle).
And what a site it is! The setting of the castle on the top of a rock hill (one of three hills, thus the name “Trifels” or “three rocks”) is spectacular. I could easily see how intimidating it would be for anyone to consider a prison escape from this location. While the castle is not the same one as the one Richard I stayed in – it was reconstructed in the past century – the location was what gave me pause. What a view!
Trifels Castle is by the town of Annweiler am Trifels, a small town in the Rhineland-Pfalzwald. It is not a place that one simply drives past on their way to another location – you have to want to go there since it is definitely in the category of “off the beaten path.”
I’ll admit we didn’t stop in Annweiler; we simply drove through the town on our way to the castle. It appeared to be a nice little village with the requisite church, market square, Rathaus, shops, and homes. I’m sure they are used to visitors just driving through, possibly stopping for lunch or something. You can see the castle from the town – you really can’t miss it – but you have to find the winding road that will take you there. The brown tourism signs guided us through the town and to the back road that led us to the castle.
What we were not expecting to find were the rock formations in the immediate area! While the castle is built on top of a massive rock, all around are similar rocks in various sizes with hiking trails going all around. Additionally, there are two other castle ruins along the trails near Trifels Castle: Burg Anebos and Burg Scharfenberg. After our visit the castle, we enjoyed exploring this area. As an added bonus, I was able to get some good photos of Trifels Castle from the other trails.
As I toured Trifels Castle, I learned more about the castle than I had originally thought. It has held a very important role in the history of the Holy Roman Empire and Germany and the keeping of the Imperial Regalia.
There are lots of castles in the Rhineland-Palatinate and many are much grander than Trifels, but Trifels holds special meaning for European history buffs. For history-minded people, a visit is a great day out. If you like hiking and are looking for an educational stop, the Annweiler area makes a great hike with so many rock formations, ruins, and a historic castle all rolled into one. Recommend!
To read more about Trifels Castle, visit my weekend in Annweiler am Trifels page.
Written Mar 21, 2013
“Eltz castle is simply what a castle should be. Its solitude and the beauty of its situation stimulate the imagination." ~ Georg Dehio, German art historian
Burg Eltz (Eltz Castle) is beautifully situated in a valley near the Mosel River with the Eltz, a Mosel tributary, gently winding its way around the castle on three sides. It is probably one of the most picturesque settings for a storybook-like castle in Germany. Thankfully for us, Burg Eltz is one of the few castles in the Rhein/Mosel area that has never been destroyed by enemies.
The castle is designed around three family houses – the Rübenach, Rodendorf, and Kempenich houses – that were owned by three members of the Eltz family. In 1268 the castle and its lands were divided between the three brothers. Over time, each line built their own portion of the castle; today this is still clearly marked by the name of the line carved above the doors in the inner courtyard. Throughout the centuries and including the present (800+ years), the castle has remained in the hands of the Eltz family; the current owner is the 33rd generation of family owners, although he does not live in the castle.
Burg Eltz is well maintained and fully furnished. Taking the guided tour is highly recommended as it is the only way to get inside and see the castle rooms for yourself. In addition, there is a rich treasury off of the inner courtyard full of the family’s art collection and treasures, with all exhibits belonging to members of the Eltz family.
I have been to Burg Eltz twice – ironically, both times were within a month of each other. Initially I went with Hubby and another couple. We parked and walked down to the castle where we took the English tour. After the end of the tour, it was raining heavily, so we didn’t waste any time catching the shuttle back to our car.
My second visit was much better – the sun was shining and it was a really beautiful day. I went with fellow VTer and friend Trekki and we took the German tour. I enjoyed this tour more not because I understood much of what was being said, but because I was able to look around the rooms and notice the things that I’d missed on my first trip. Because the weather was cooperating with us, we had time to explore the exterior of the castle, wandering down the path and steps to the Eltz.
Burg Eltz is well worth a day’s outing, either by car or arrive by hiking from the train station on the Mosel River. No matter how you get there, you will depart satisfied that you made a wise choice to visit Burg Eltz.
For more details on my adventures at Burg Eltz, visit my weekend at Burg Eltz page.
Written Mar 21, 2013
We enjoy southern Bavaria and go there a good bit for long weekends to enjoy its natural beauty. On a recent trip, we were with visiting friends and family and we were looking for something different to see. So we headed up from Garmisch-Partenkirchen towards Ettal and Oberammergau to visit one of the three castles built by Bavarian King Ludwig II – Linderhof Palace.
You are probably most familiar with King Ludwig’s larger castle – Neuschwanstein – located not too far away from here. While he never finished that one, Linderhof was completed and was designed more as a retreat away from the world and its inhabitants – a private oasis in the middle of the beautiful Bavaria hills. It was built as a miniature Versailles Palace, complete with a small version of the Hall of Mirrors. King Ludwig was a fan of Louis XIV and you can see the Sun King’s influence throughout the building. But this palace was meant only for King Ludwig II – he didn’t entertain there and his private grotto for opera performances had only one seat it the private viewing box.
The grounds of Linderhof were very nice to walk through – lush green fields with trees and a pond enjoyed by the swans. The palace overlooks a very formal garden with a fountain that shoots water high above every 30 minutes. Once inside, the palace tour gives you a look into the life of King Ludwig – a glimpse into his personal and private side, rather than the showy Neuschwanstein side that you get in that castle.
We were fortunate to visit Linderhof on a beautiful spring day with clear skies and few crowds. Walking the grounds and visiting the gardens was a beautiful experience because of this. Having visited all three of King Ludwig’s castles, I have to say that Linderhof was my favorite. Come join me on a tour of Linderhof Palace!
To read more about our visit to Schloss Linderhof, visit my weekend at Schloss Linderhof page.
Written Mar 21, 2013
Schloss Hohenschwangau is one of three castles in the nearby area that Bavarian King Ludwig II lived in – the other two are the famous Neuschwanstein Castle and Schloss Linderhof. I have visited all three and, while Schloss Hohenschwangau is very much a grand palace in a beautiful setting, I find that it is my least favorite of the three. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like it, I just like the other two more.
The castle dates back to the 12th century, making it the oldest of the three castles. However, the previous owners, the Schwangau Knights, no longer existed by the 16th century and the castle was abandoned. It was heavily damaged in the 1800s during the Napoleonic wars. King Ludwig II’s father, Maximilian II, purchased the ruin when he was still Crown Prince and rebuilt the castle in the mid-1800s.
Hohenschwangau is well worth a visit when you are in the area visiting Neuschwanstein Castle. Even if you don’t have time to take the guided tour, try to make some time to walk up to the castle and explore the castle grounds. Even if just for the view, it is well worth it. The hike isn’t as strenuous as heading up to Neuschwanstein and there are horse-drawn carriages available if you like.
Schloss Hohenschwangau played an important and influence role in King Ludwig II’s upbringing and development. It was here that he lived while he had Neuschwanstein Castle built (at least up until his death). It was in this castle that Ludwig would entertain his favorite opera composer, Richard Wagner (while Neuschwanstein Castle was built around Wagner’s operas, Wagner actually never visited that castle).
Schloss Hohenschwangau is definitely worth a visit while you are in the area. I have been to the area four times so far; Hubby and I took the guided tour of Hohenschwangau on one of these visits and have brought other guests to explore the grounds. On nice days, it is a beautiful palace with a stunning view!
To read more about visiting Schloss Hohenschwangau, visit my weekends at Schloss Hohenschwangau page.
Written Mar 21, 2013
“It is my intention to rebuild the old castle ruin of Hohenschwangau near the Pöllat Gorge in the authentic style of the old German knights' castles, and I must confess to you that I am looking forward very much to living there one day (in 3 years); there will be several cosy, habitable guest rooms with a splendid view of the noble Säuling, the mountains of Tyrol and far across the plain…” ~ Ludwig II, King of Bavaria, in a letter addressed to Richard Wagner
Neuschwanstein Castle is known to most people who like castles, Europe, or Disney. It is on the top of many people’s must-see lists when they come to Germany. It was designed and built for King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who never lived to see the work completed. To this day, the castle is toured in its unfinished state by millions of tourists a year (as many as 6,000 per day walk through its halls at the height of the vacation season).
There are people that loathe this castle as the epitome of tourism run amok. And, yes, there is some truth to that. It can be crowded and there are many tour groups and buses and souvenir stalls. On busy days tempers can be short as people tire of the crowds.
But I am going to say that despite all that, Neuschwanstein Castle is a place to visit when in Germany. I despise crowds and overtly touristy places, but I honestly do like Neuschwanstein Castle. Living in Germany for several years, I have the opportunity to take guests to the castle on a regular basis. And each time I enjoy looking at the castle set high in the mountains. I’ve taken the guided tour twice so far (if my guest is traveling solo I go with them on the tour; if there are more than one, I let them make the climb up to the castle and do the tour while I find new things to explore in the area).
As a little girl I remember seeing the castle in the movie “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” Although at the time, I didn’t know it was a real castle, I was mesmerized by the fantastical look of the structure, seen from the air as Chitty flew across the Tyrolean Alps. Disney would use Neuschwanstein Castle as its model for the castles seen in its amusement parks and on this logo of the company – seen at the start of most Disney movies as Tinkerbell flies around it.
As I have grown older, I appreciate the history, craftsmanship, creativity, and inspiration for the castle. King Ludwig II was an eccentric man who enjoyed the operas of Richard Wagner. He built this castle and dedicated its interior design to Wagner’s operas with each room representing different stories from the operas. The wood carvings, the furnishings, the details, and the whimsy in the castle are some things I find enjoyable to look at.
And you cannot beat the location! Ludwig knew how to select the best locations for his palaces! On sunny days, the area around Neuschwanstein is absolutely stunning. On dreary rainy days, it is not as nice, but it still is inspiring.
Take a tour of Neuschwanstein with me and see if you don’t agree with me that this castle is worth the time it takes to visit!
To tour Schloss Neuschwanstein with me, visit my weekend at Neuschwanstein Castle page..
Written Mar 21, 2013
Nürnberg is one of my favorite German cities; it has so much of all the things I like – history, art, architecture, good food, and Christmas markets. It is one of those cities that I could keep coming back to over and over again and I doubt I would ever get tired of visiting.
Nürnberg is the home of Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer who took the negative tradesman concept away from artists and replaced it with the artisan celebrity that the Italian artists were experiencing. Dürer was one of the first to understand the concept of marketing art to the middle class – the idea that even those without a lot of money could have a piece of art in their home through his work with engravings. He even developed one of the first logos and placed it on his work to prevent theft of his ‘copyright.’
Historically, Nürnberg has a dark period as well, known for its vivid presence during the Third Reich with the 1934 Leni Riefenstahl movie “Triumph of the Will” being filmed in the city and the location of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds nearby. Sadly, because of Nürnberg’s participation, they were severely bombed in 1945 causing massive destruction to the city and its wonderful architecture and huge loss of life of its civilians.
However, Nürnberg is a resilient city and they have recovered and rebuilt the city into the now thriving city for locals and tourists alike. There is always something to do and something to see. The annual Christmas market is a draw for people worldwide.
Did I mention I like Nürnberg? I’ve been twice and I foresee at least one or two trips in my future over the next couple years.
To read more about Nürnberg, visit my weekends in Nürnberg page.
Written Mar 21, 2013
Mainz is the first place we stayed when arriving in Germany – it was our home for the first month while we waited for our house. So full of history and things to do that we were never bored and we still return to the city often since some of our favorite restaurants and sights are there!
Mainz dates back to the Roman times and there are plenty of Roman ruins around town if you are interested in that part of history.
Mainz was the home of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the movable type printing press. There is a museum dedicated to Gutenberg and his work as well as a statue in the middle of town honoring their favorite son.
Mainz is dominating by the Dom - St. Martin's Cathedral, one of three Romanesque imperial cathedrals in the area. But this is not the only church in Mainz as there are 12 churches in the city.
Situated on the 50th parallel, Mainz has the line drawn to mark it near the statue of Gutenberg.
Mainz has a beautiful Altstadt (Old Town) with half-timbered buildings full of shops, eateries, and ice cream.
Mainz is famous for its spring Carnival – known as “Fastnacht.” Each year, beginning in November, the parties begin and continue until the climax of the massive parade in March. The city is known for its love of carnival and has a unique statue in the Schillerplatz honoring this annual festivity.
Be sure to visit my two travelogues - Carnival Part 1 and Part 2 - for photos of the many unique floats and people that come to Mainz for Fastnacht!
Another festival - celebration in Mainz is the annual Christmas Market which is located next to the Dom in the Marktplatz from late November until just before Christmas. This wonderful event has food, wine, shopping, lights, and lots of Christmas spirit. I have added a Travelogue for the Christmas market that has additional photos from this festive annual event.
In the summer, there are four opportunities to view fireworks along the Rhein River during an event called Rhein in Flammen. While many people view this from the middle of the river on cruise ships, many others head up to the towns along the Rhein and watch from the shores. Closest to Mainz is the Bingen display which is in the early summer.
Anything you could want to eat can be found in Mainz – German, Mexican, Thai, Italian, American, fast food, beer, wine, you name it!
There are lots of places to walk in Mainz – one of my favorites in the “Three Bridges Walk” which takes you across the Theodor Heuss Bridge, the railroad bridge and the bridge between Gustavsburg and Mainz-Kostheim. It takes about 2 hours and you get some wonderful views of the river along the way as you go down one side and up the other, crossing the Rhine twice on bridges.
Have a look around Mainz - come back often - there is so much to see!
To read about the city of Mainz, visit my weekends in Mainz page.
Written Mar 21, 2013
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