Entries in Germany (19)
Trier is the oldest city in Germany, founded before 16 BCE. This small city has remarkable preservation of its ancient buildings. I am used to the claim of "Roman buildings" being used to describe the few remaining bricks excavated found the foundations of a bath or ampitheatre, but in Trier the buildings are still in perfect condition, nearly 2000 years after being built. The Porta Nigra was our first site of old Trier, and it had us scratching our heads. Sure, it was built in a Roman style, but surely such a building could not have survived essentially intact for so long? But apart from minor conversion to a Church in 1035 and reversion back to a Roman gate by Napoleon, the gate has stood unchanged for 1800 years.
And it is not just the black stone of Porta Nigra that still stands, Trier has intact Roman walls, baths, bridges and an amphitheatre. And the post-Roman construction is just as glorious, such as the charmingly pink Elector's Palace. This beautiful little city was framed by perfect weather for strolling around, giving us a day to be remembered.
"... anyway, his girlfriend is very intelligent-"
Interruption: "- I thought they were married?"
Quick side conversation in German reaches the conclusion: "They have cats together".
This makes sense to me, I would accept a certificate of cat co-ownership as proof of a long-term relationship. Anyone can get married, but to invest* in cats? That takes committment.
*This is Lydia's influence. She never talks about buying cats, no, you invest in kittens. 'Cause, you know, Pepper and Mint have greatly appreciated in value since our initial purchase.
I recently had the pleasure of spending a day in Würzburg, a small university town in Franconia.
The old city centre of Würzburg was completely destroyed in the dying days of WWII by British bombers, with almost the entire city destroyed in just 17 minutes on the 16th of March, 1945. Just seven buildings in the entire city survived the firestorm. The American general in charge of the city after the war actually considered leaving the ruins as a testament to the sheer power of destruction that bombing can cause, and rebuilding a New Würzburg nearby, but in the end the Germans chose to not only rebuild the city, but to recreate all the palaces and churches try to their ancient forms. In this way, Würzburg is like Dresden, although the bombing of Würzburg was even more pointless and more complete.
The detail with which Würzburg was rebuilt is astounding, especially in the Würzburg Residenz, the palace of the Prince-Bishops of Würzburg. The main staircase of the Residenz, with full Baroque splendor, is beyond my ability to describe, but is well worth a visit.
I also walked around the city centre, to see the view over Fortress Marienberg from Alte Mainbrücke (the Old Bridge), and the hills of vineyards that surround the city. The main marketplace was holding its Autumn Markets. It amused me to see the mobile stalls selling cleaning instruments, when their design as small Bavarian chalets seems so much more suited to selling Glühwein at the winter markets than their more mundane Autumn function.
On Wednesday I had to nip over to Heidelberg for work. I could have flown from Brussels to Frankfurt airport, then transferred to Heidelberg but I much prefer to travel by train. And besides, even though it is around 400km away, the train is much faster.
I left home 9 minutes before the express train between Brussels and Frankfurt departed. The rail journey itself took exactly 2 hours and 48 minutes, so from leaving my door to reaching the Frankfurt train station took 2 hours and 57 minutes. The conductor did have to apologise in four languages for the train departing backwards - very embarrasing to German pride.
If instead I had gone by plane the flight would have taken one hour. But, to get to the aiport is at least 20 minutes and the airport itself recommends arriving two hours in advance for a European flight. Travelling with check-in luggage and obeying the recommendations will cost you around four hours. Even if you have perfect connections, keep to carry-on luggage and ignore the recommendations and arrive only 45 minutes early you are still pretty much looking at 3 hours - the same as a rail trip.
When you add it to the more comfortable seats, ability to walk around, better scenary and the absence of meaningless security checks, I would rather catch a train any day.
Merkel's Christian Democratic Union has poor poll ratings, so what does she chose to do? Blame the immigrants of course! Hopefully, in Germany of all places, the extra votes she picks up on the anti-immigrant front will be countered by the votes she loses on the democratic front.
And just to make sure that everyone knows this is a Christian superiority issue, rather than an immigration issue, Merkel issued this outrageous statement:
"We feel bound to the Christian image of humanity – that is what defines us. Those who do not accept this are in the wrong place here."
A big "you are not real Germans" to the 30-50% of Germans who are atheists, the 4% who are Muslim, the 0.2% who are Jewish (it was 0.8% in 1930) and the 0.2% who are Buddhist. Who are the Germans who Merkel thinks are in the right place? Let me guess - just the 30% who vote for the CDU?
In Australia, so far away from Europe, girls swoon with delight about the sophistication, romance and beauty of cities like Paris and Venice.
The gap-year dream is to fly over to London, work hard and earn money, then spend a dreamy six months wandering across the small towns of France and Italy, encountering an idyllic rural life and achieving an epiphany of self. More often than not, the year is spent learning that bar-work in London is not a good way to save money, and ends with a ten-day Contekki bus tour across Paris and Italy, snapping photos of the major monuments and drinking too much with the other Australians on the tour. The oddity to me is why the fixation is always on France and Italy. Every time I arrive in a German city I am struck by the beauty and history.
The walled old town of Nuremberg is beautiful, the centre of German culture for centuries and home to stunning cathedrals and fortifications. Destroyed during WWII, the residents took enormous efforts to restore the previous glory. Inside St Sebaldus Church is a photographic display of Nuremberg during the Nazi rallies and then after the bombing, the church reduced to a broken shell. It is ironic that a church built with such labour, under faith or duress, would be destroyed only to be rebuilt just when people were losing interest in the dogma it represents. To rebuild a house of worship, once the scene of violent passion, to now stand as a silent mausoleum, to restore the reliquary just as the relic is found to be a hoax. Perhaps, to take a quote out of context from St Sebaldus, the dead do not return to life, even if the corpse is cleaned and washed.
What a lovely time to be a photographer, arriving in a small picturesque town in Bavaria on the first day of the year with a perfect blue sky. Having learned not to get frustrated by washed out skies and dark shadows, it is a pure delight to have warm light bathing magnificent old buildings, in front of a deep blue sky. I only had half an hour to enjoy Erlangen in the sunshine before heading off to the University, but it makes such a difference to an otherwise dry day.
After a full day of science I got to finish up with a very Germanic meal, potato and turnip strudel served with large pints and larger and followed up by a plum schnapps.
We had a wonderful day exploring the Aachen Christmas Markets. To Lydia's joy, Aachen is Gingerbread City, with "Printen" (a biscuit like gingerbread originally imported from Dinant, but made sweeter and softer with recipes kept secret by every Aachen bakery) being sold everywhere and giant Gingerbread Men welcoming guests at the market gates. We sampled many different types of printen all day, bringing back a selection of our favourites, including the very last Reindeer Printen which Lydia declared to be the best example of gingerbread art she has ever seen.
Apart from the markets, we also explored the Aachen Town Hall. The town hall was built on the ruins of Charlemagne's palace in 1350. At the time it was called one of the "greatest and boldest achievements in secular architecture" and became a model for Flemish town halls in Antwerp, Bruges and Ghent. The art inside was quite interesting, my favourite was a painting of John Montagu (1718-1792), third Earl of Sandwich, who was in Aachen as an envoy to the end of the Austrian War of Succession in 1748 but is better known for inventing the sandwich.
Facing the Town Hall is the Aachen Cathedral, the oldest in northern Europe having been started by Charlemagne in 792. The history of the Cathedral is so important that it was one of the original 12 places to be listed by UNESCO as world heritage sites, and one of only three in Europe (the other two were Krakow and the Wieliczka salt mines).
Finally, we visited the Couven Museum, a display of furniture and decor from the 18th and 19th century, including several rooms of very badly drawn Dutch tiles. To top everything off, the trains between Aachen and Brussels have just been upgraded from express to super-express, so it was only one hour from door to door.