A Travellerspoint blog

June 2018

Partnach Gorge, Dressed in Icicles

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The tiny river Partnach, namesake of Partenkirchen, broke through the rocks of a mountain ridge in order to reach the valley. In thousands of years, water and ice, wind and frost have formed a deep cut through the rocks. The Partnach gorge is one of tha main attractions of Garmisch-Partenkirchen – more about the town later on.

A visit to the gorge begins at the Olympic stadium and the ski jump, where the town buses have their terminus. There are signs pointing the way to „Partnachklamm“. There is also a signboard at the beginning of the road by the stadium which tells whether the gorge is open or closed, which depends on weather conditions – checking the board before setting off makes sense. In particular in spring, when the snow is melting and the amount of water running through is much higher than in other seasons, it is likely to be closed.

From this point it is a walk of about 20 minutes along a small country road to the entrance of the gorge. This small road is in theory closed to traffic but I encountered a remarkable number of cars on the way.

The road leads through a smallish side valley with meadows and hay huts that becomes narrower and narrower. Then it reaches a few buildings including a country inn (last facilities before the gorge!)

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The Eckbauer cable car also has its base station there. This cable car looked like metal buckets hanging on a rope to me. Not exactly trustworthy. But then, I am scared of heights and cable cars are out of bounds for me anyway…

I visited in mid-winter. The gorge would have little water but the more ice. It is probably most impressive in wintertime when the rocks are covered with snow and ice and long icicles are hanging from them.

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The idea of a winter hike in the icy gorge sounds scary at first. However, the trail is well taken care of and it is really tourist-proof, cleared and sprinkled with gravel. Most of the trail within the gorge runs under rocks and through tunnels so it is dry. At spots where water is dripping there can be some ice on the ground, so watching your steps is a good idea. The trail is not suitable for neither wheelchairs, prams and strollers, nor bikes.

Shoes with good soles are necessary, more on the trails outside the gorge than inside, snow chains or spikes under the shoes are nice to have. Dress warm, inside the gorge it is notably colder than outside.

There is another advantage about visiting in winter: When there is ice, most of the water is frozen, so there is not much dripping. While you need rain gear in summer to avoid being soaked, in winter you won't be hit by more than a few occasional drops.

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The Madonna

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The narrowest part hardly receives much daylight. At the darkest, scariest spot, an image of the Madonna has been attached to the rock on the opposite side. She is there to watch over passers-by. In former times, wood from the forests further up was transported down to the main valley on this river. Workers had to stand in the gorge and prevent the wood from getting stuck, using long poles to move the tree trunks. That was before the comfortable tourist path came into existence. A dangerous job. Heavenly protection was surely needed.

The path slowly rises towards the upper exit. The gorge constantly changes its face. Every year rocks are falling, others are washed away. The forces of nature leave their marks.

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Some years ago a landslide almost blocked the gorge. The water had to find a way through. At this spot the path leads through a short tunnel. A couple of “windows” allow the view into the gorge.

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And then the miracle happened.

By coincidence I was there at the right time, in the late morning just before noon. Around 11:30-12:00 there is a rather short interval when sunlight falls into the upper end of the gorge and makes the ice shine and glitter.

Do I have to comment on these pictures?

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Then the gorge opens, and the visitor finds herself in a lovely valley. The Partnach is a shallow creek jumping over washed-round rocks, flowing through snow-covered meadows, surrounded by forests on the slopes.

It is hard to imagine that this harmless-looking creek develops the forces that created the gorge further downstream.

The cleared path shows how high the snow actually is.

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Various hiking trails lead up into the mountains from there. They are cleared from snow so winter hiking is possible. However, I decided not to continue further as I feared not so much the climb, but the descent back down on the icy, slippery trails. So I returned on the same way, back through the gorge and to the ski stadium.

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Where the creek enters the gorge

Posted by Kathrin_E 15:54 Archived in Germany Tagged snow alps bavaria bayern Comments (2)

A Winter Visit to Garmisch-Partenkirchen

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This was my birthday gift to myself: four days in the Bavarian Alps. I chose Garmisch-Partenkirchen because it is a winter resort in the snowy mountain landscape but there is a lot to do for non-skiers like me, like hikes on cleared trails and of course the attractions of the two old town centres in Garmisch and Partenkirchen.

The winter in my home region has so far been no winter, far too mild and not a single snowflake on the ground. I wanted at least a bit of real winter. The obvious choice was going into the mountains. I found an affordable and nice place to stay and booked my train ticket and the room. Then I remembered that, through another travel forum, I knew someone who lives there. I contacted her - and it turned out that her birthday is one day before mine. Which lead to a notable amount of celebrations during that weekend...

Even nature, or St Peter, or what/whoever is in charge of the weather, celebrated with us. I was granted the most glorious sunny winter weather for the entire four days, as you'll see in my photos. (Much appreciated, many thanks!)

Even without skiing and without the use of cable cars I took the chance to enjoy the winter landscapes. Garmisch-Partenkirchen and surroundings offer lots of options for winter walks.

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Ski Jump and Olympic Stadium

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The new ski jump on the slope of Gudiberg, which substituted the old one in 2007, is a landmark of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The daring architecture is amazing at daytime but even more impressive at night when it is illuminated from inside.

To me, looking up at the thing from the ground was enough. If you want to experience how the ski jumpers feel up there, there are guided tours to the top on Saturday afternoon. Enquire and sign up for a tour in advance at the tourist information office - details on their website.

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The ski stadium at the foot of the ski jump is worth a closer look. The cubic entrance portals, the oversized reliefs and statues have that certain *flair* that betrays them as Nazi architecture. Indeed, the stadium was built for the 1936 winter Olympics. The side entrance was open when I walked by so I was able to enter the stadium. I don't know if this is always the case but it is worth checking.

Being a centre of winter sports, Garmisch-Partenkirchen is the location of many competitions in almost all winter disciplines. Of course there are the big World Cup events, like the downhill races on the famous Kandahar track and the ski jumping on New Year’s Day. These are announced well in advance and require buying expensive tickets.

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However, top athletes don't drop from heaven. It takes a lot of work in training children and teenagers to lead the best of them to world-class level. Many competitions are held for children and teenagers, boys and girls in the different age groups.

When I passed the ski stadium on the way to Partnach gorge, I heard a loudspeaker and had a look what was going on. There were slalom races for kids going on on the slope of Gudiberg. Those kids were really good. Here is one of the participants, a girl of maybe 11 or 12 years, already in the same race suit as the professionals.

Old Garmisch

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Garmisch's history dates back to the early middle ages. Of course the present houses are not that old, but there are a couple of streets where you'll find an ensemble of historical houses in the typical style of the Bavarian Alps, with big roofs and wooden balconies over the gables.

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The prettiest of these old streets is probably Frühlingstraße. The name translates to „spring street“ and might refer to (my guess) its location on the „spring“ or „summer“ side of the valley on the Northern bank of Loisach river, the side that receives more sunshine than the Southern bank which remains in the shade of the mountains much longer. It is the second street parallel to the river, hence arleady a bit uphill. The houses line up on one side only, all facing Southeast - photos are best taken between morning and early afternoon. Towards the valley there are the declining gardens of the houses in Loisachstraße below. This topography makes Frühlingstraße appear like a sunny terrace.

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Sonnenstraße is the second one worth mentioning in addition to Frühlingstraße. It is one of the streets in the old village respective town centre South of Loisach river. Just a few steps from Garmisch's most touristy area, Marienplatz and the pedestrian zone, it is nevertheless quiet. Some houses are part of a rather upscale looking apartment(?) hotel, others are residential homes.

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The Old Church of St Martin is the oldest church of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. In the middle ages it used to be the one and only parish church for the whole valley. Its history dates back to the 12th century, probably even to around 800 A.D. The present church was erected in the late 13th century and extended in the 15th and 16th. There were no more changes in early modern times because the church lost its role when the new, bigger parish church was built on the opposite side of Loisach river in the 1730s.

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Old St Martin is located North of the river, a bit away from what is now the centre of Garmisch. You will spot the pointed steeple. This quarter is quiet and has some beautiful painted houses, for example „Haus zum Husaren“.

The church's main attractions are the medieval frescoes on the walls inside. Most remarkable: the picture of St Christophorus, 7 metres high. The Northern side wall shows the Passion of Christ in two rows of scenes. Then there is the Last Judgment and the row of the apostles above the arch towards the choir, the church's patron saint, St Martin, sharing his coat with the beggar on the right, and pictures of several other saints.

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This picture is in every book about Garmisch and on many postcards: the painted window, two soldiers in uniforms from around 1800 leaning out and watching the world go by. One is a hussar, the other an infantryman. After the hussar, this house has been named „Haus zum Husaren“. It hosts a restaurant - I did not eat there so I cannot tell how good it is, but it looked nice.

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The facade was painted in 1801. The ornaments around the windows show the neoclassical elements that were popular then. The house is almost 200 years older, though. The background story involves the wars between Napoleon and the Emperor, France and Austria. In 1800 a group of French hussars and Bavarian infantrymen had to be billeted in the house. The landlord was not happy with them, though, and to get rid of them he showed them a secret path over the Wetterstein mountains to the next valley where the troops of the Emperor were camping.

To find the house and the picture, you have to cross Loisach river and explore the quarter around the Old Church of St Martin. Haus zum Husaren is located in Fürstenstraße in the curve and on the corner of Lazarettstraße.

Wolpertinger

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Wolpertinger is a species of animals that is endemic to Bavaria. They are weird creatures with the furry body of a rodent, like a marmot or hare, with horns or antlers, fangs and feathered wings.

Wolpertinger are extremely shy and leave their hiding spots only in the middle of the night. Locals have their special methods of spotting and catching them. For example, they promise that young women can see them when they are accompanied by a strong male who knows the secret spots on the edge of the forest (ha, ha). Other methods involve sprinkling salt on the Wolpertinger's tail, or the use of a sack, a light and a spade.
In other words, this species is closely related to, for example, the Elwetritschen in Palatine or the Australian drop-bears.

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Some souvenir shops sell stuffed Wolpertinger to tourists at high prices. Of course these are the works of imaginative taxidermists...

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If you want to see some, there is a large souvenir shop in Garmisch in the pedestrian zone that has a couple of them in the shop windows and more inside. The exact location is corner Am Kurpark/Fürstenstraße, in the little square about halfway between Marienplatz and the casino. This is where I took my photos. Best at night when the shop windows are illuminated and there are hardly any reflections from the outside (and when the shop is closed, so no one can object against you taking photos).

Old Partenkirchen

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The main street of Partenkirchen is Ludwigstraße. A long street with painted houses, everything that is needed for a postcard view.

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Partenkirchen probably has an even more “Bavarian” feel than Garmisch - Bavarian as tourists imagine it. Its present appearance is not as old as it pretends. After two large fires in the 19th century, the houses along the street were rebuilt, at first in a rather simple style. Very few buildings are older than that.

With the upcoming tourism and the romantic ideas of “Heimat” in the early 20th century, the facades were refurbished with oriels, balconies and other details, and painted with frescoes. The result certainly meets the expectations of visitors. The frescoes may appear baroque due to the rococo ornaments... but they are not.

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Fresco on the facade of Gasthof Fraundorfer

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One of the oldest houses in Partenkirchen

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Inn sign

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This little chapel marks the northern end of Partenkirchen’s old town. The baroque church is dedicated to St Sebastian. The interior can be seen from the entrance through a wrought-iron gate. Cute as the architecture is, it bears some rather drastic images. The gable front has been painted with a large fresco showing the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The story of St Sebastian on the altarpiece is not for the faint-hearted either.

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This beautiful villa in the park once belonged to the famous composer Richard Strauss.

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The summit of Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain, dominates the panorama. I did not go up this time, I have been to the top once before... and cable cars are not for me any more, sorry.

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Morning view from my room

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Evening on Loisach river

Posted by Kathrin_E 01:41 Archived in Germany Tagged snow alps bavaria bayern Comments (0)

Ingolstadt for Historians, Doctors, Car Freaks, Beer Lovers

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Ingolstadt is hardly ever on a tourist's schedule (unless they are beer pilgrims, car freaks, or medical people, or specialized historians) but the city has far more to offer than you'll think, and than I had thought prior to coming here.

The chartering of a new Soroptimist club brought me to Ingolstadt. The foundations of new clubs are always festive events, and a reason to visit places one would not have on her radar otherwise. I granted myself an extra overnight in order to have more time for sightseeing, and it was worth it.

Ingolstadt is 1200 years old, it was the residence of the Dukes of Bavaria in the late middle ages, then the seat of a renowned university, the birthplace of the Reinheitsgebot for beer... The city got through World War II remarkably well, the baroque old town is surprisingly well preserved.
For specialists in military architecture, Ingolstadt is a textbook about fortresses, beginning with the New Castle and the medieval town wall, the renaissance ramparts and bulwarks, and finally the 19th century fortress.

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The city can easily keep you busy for a long weekend. Museums include the museum mobile at the Audi plant, the German Museum of Medical History, the Bavarian Army Museum in the castle an in the 19th century fortification on the other river bank, the City Museum.

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Houses in the old town

Beer: The Birthplace of Reinheitsgebot

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Postage stamp

Beer lovers should make a pilgrimage to Ingolstadt: Here is where the famous German Reinheitsgebot originates. The law about the purity of beer states that no other ingredients may be used in the production but hop, barley, and water. This law was first published in 1516 in Ingolstadt for the Duchy of Bavaria. It spread out and was adopted all over the country.

EU regulations forced Germany to abide this law in 1988 and allow foreign beers on the market that contain other ingredients, for example preservatives. However, in Germany the rule is still valid. Most German breweries (except those that produce for export) stick with the Reinheitsgebot for quality and marketing reasons, and advertise loudly that they do. The average German beer consumer is conscious about quality and does not want those crappy 'artificial' beers with ingredients that just don't belong into a beer.

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There are beers which are made not from barley but from other types of grain, like wheat (Weizen, Weißbier) and, rarely, rye. These must be classified as such on the label. To these, however, the same rules apply concerning the other two only ingredients, water and hop.

Ingolstadt has four large breweries and a number of microbrewery-pubs in the old town. I did not stay long enough to try them all. Herrnbräu is quite good - cannot tell how it compares to the others.

City Hall

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Ingolstadt's city hall was first mentioned in 1321 but is probably even older.

In the run of the centuries it has seen several changes. Its present appearance was shaped in 1883 when the old town hall, the chancellery and the adjacent parsonage of St Moritz were combined and refurbished with neorenaissance facades.

The church of St Moritz with its big steeple, unfortunately behind scaffolding at the moment, is right behind the city hall. City hall and Moritzkirche together form a photogenic view on the northern side of Rathausplatz, they seem to be one single complex of buildings but they aren't.

The slender tower of the city hall used to be a watchtower. The tower is named Pfeifturm („whistle tower“) after the whistle of the watchman who lived up there.

Better ignore the New City Hall on the Western side of the square, an ugly 1960s block.

Maria de Victoria, the „Asam Church“

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This baroque jewel was built for the Jesuit college and for a Marian congregation of Ingolstadt citizens attached to the Jesuits in 1732 - 1736. The interior was created by the Brothers Asam. The fresco on the flat ceiling is known as the masterpiece of Cosmas Damian, the painter among the two.

The fresco reflects Jesuit theology and ideas. It represents the worldwide mission. In the four corners we see the four (then known) continents: Asia and Europe above the altar, Africa and America at the opposite end. The central scene shows the Assumption of Mary.

The painting is full of tricky perspectives that cause astonishing effects in the eye of the lookers-on.

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Africa

In Africa there is a hunter aiming at a lion; when you walk the opposite nave the hunter's arrow keeps pointing at you.

The temple above the choir grows larger when you approach the altar until it covers half the ceiling. When you walk/run towards the exit, watch Michael confronting Lucifer and his angels above the organ - looks as if the bad angels are indeed falling.

And so on, there are several more. A guided tour that shows you these effects is worth joining. A small entrance fee applies and the person at the cash desk will happily guide you. Watching the tricks of the fresco requires quite a lot of walking and running around, as you have to see them from certain angles and then walk a certain way to see the changes - wind blowing into the fire, a tree falling and hitting a stag, etcetera.

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The monstrance

However... Well, I had a really funny experience in there, I think this was the funniest guided tour I ever had in a church. The really sweet elderly man from the cash desk struggled hard to point out the peculiarities of the fresco to a group of visitors. That group was from Thailand (all of them medical professionals on the way to a congress in Prague, they stopped in Ingolstadt for the Museum of Medical History and a bit of sightseeing). All the Thais spoke good English but our guide's English was, well, limited. He herded them around and showed them where to look in English but the explanations what to look at came in Bavarian dialect.

Some desperate people in the group asked me if I could translate, and soon I was translating for the whole group, much appreciated by the guide. It was a big laugh for everyone involved. We were running all over the church, to and fro. He started telling us something and after three words I said, wait, I have to explain what that is - the 30 Year War, or whatever. It was hilarious.

A visit to the church also includes the treasure chamber. The church's most treasured object is the large monstrance, considered the most precious of its kind in the world. Created by a goldsmith in Augsburg in 1708, it depicts the Battle of Lepanto (a battle between the fleets of the Christian Holy League and the Ottoman Empire in 1571, which the Christians allegedly won thanks to the help of the Virgin Mary).

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This house opposite the Asam Church Maria de Victoria made history in the middle of the 30 Year War.

In 1632 Johann t’Serclaes Count of Tilly, the general of the Emperor's army, died here of tetanus on April 30, 15 days after being wounded in the battle of Rain am Lech. In those times the house belonged to the university professor Arnold Roth.

An inscription on the facade recalls this house's „one moment in time“.

Old Anatomy, Museum of Medical History, and Garden

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The medical faculty of the university had a new building for teaching, research, and dissections erected in the 1720s and 1730s. The pretty baroque building looks more like a manor or town palace than a place where corpses were cut into pieces. Nowadays it hosts the German Museum of Medical History (Deutsches Medizinhistorisches Museum).

This is what the Thai doctors had come for.

I have to, embarrassingly, admit that even a visit to a modern physician's or dentist's studio scares everything out of me, and imagining how and with what tools the doctors and dentists of former times treated their patients gives me the creeps. So I decided not to visit the museum and I do not regret my decision. In case your nerves are as weak as mine, you'd rather follow my example.

Anyway, the harmless part is suitable for people with the weakest of nerves: the beautiful apothecary garden behind the anatomy building. Here they grow all kinds of medical herbs and plants that were or still are used in treatments.

Walk past the museum entrance and round the corner of the building.

The garden is free to visit but donations are appreciated. And here is how these donations are collected:

Pecunia Europhaga, the Rarest Medical Plant

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The rarest and most unusual plant that flourishes in the apothecary garden behind the Museum of Medical History deserves a special mentioning. I have never seen this species anywhere else, it is really unique. The plant is 'growing' at the entrance to the garden, impossible to overlook.

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What does it cure? Hmmm, maybe the doctor's bank account...

Pecunia Europhaga translates to „the Euro-eating money plant“. It is in fact a box to collect donations from visitors to the garden. A funny and clever one, though... When you put a coin into the slot and press the lever to make it fall, the metal flower of the thing opens.

Münster Church

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The best spot to catch the enormous building without 'falling lines' is from the courtyard of Canisiuskonvikt.

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The mighty gothic church, impossible to overlook in the cityscape, is a relic of those times in the 15th century when Bayern-Ingolstadt was an independent Duchy and Ingolstadt its residential city. Like Neues Schloss, the church was built to express the status and the ambitions of the ruling Duke. The city had just been extended and surrounded with a new wall. A second parish was founded for the new quarters. The Münster was partly built as their parish church, but even more as the church of the ruling dynasty and their burial place. Duke Ludwig der Gebartete (Louis the Bearded) must have been incredibly worried about his worldly sins and his eternal welfare - he donated a foundation for 1000 poor but religious people who had to perform an everlasting prayer service according to a complicated schedule.

The church was begun in 1425. Construction works lasted for almost 100 years. Then the works were stopped, although the steeples remained unfinished. It was named „Kirche zur Schönen Unserer Lieben Frau“, Church of the Beautiful Our Dear Lady - the grammar is a bit strange in here.
The position of the two western steeples is a particularity. They are not parallel to the nave but attached diagonally to the corners, just like the main tower of the New Palace. This seems to be an Ingolstadt particularity. The steeples are too small and too short for the huge nave.

The church is open in the daytime through the doors of the side naves. The enormous gothic hall looks even more impressive inside. Details that should not be missed: the fantastic vaults of the small side chapels along both naves.

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The church treasures of the Münster parish are on display in the treasure chamber, which is located inside the southern steeple. Access is from inside the church. Entry is free. There is no one there standing guard, you just open the door and walk in.

This treasure is incomplete, though. The most precious possessions of the church have disappeared in the secularization 200 years ago, when state authorities took the most valuable pieces because of the monetary value of the materials, and silver, gold and jewels went into the treasury of the Electorate, later Kingdom of Bavaria. Paintings show what these pieces looked like.

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Kreuztor, Ingolstadt's Landmark

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Kreuztor on the western side of the old town is the most beautiful of its medieval gate towers. An inscription dates the gate to the year 1385. It is built from bricks with a few ornaments in white limestone.

The old town gate is completely preserved. It still has the outer gatewhich is connected with the tower by walls on both sides to form a small bailey.
Photographers: The gate tower and the steeples of Münster church behind make an impressive panorama from the outward side. Take care, though, when looking for the best spot to take a photo because this is a very busy intersection of three major streets. The best spot would be in the middle of a road. Beware.

Taschentorturm - Another Gate Tower

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South of Kreuztor in direction towards the river a significant part of the town wall with towers is preserved. This wall protected a weak spot in the town's fortification, the point where a small stream entered the town. In later times when the wall had no longer a military value, houses were built against it. The ground outside the wall has since then been used as gardens by the inhabitants of those houses.

Following the wall you'll soon reach another gate tower, painted white and crowned by stepped gables. It might be a bit younger than Kreuztor but not very much. The Taschentor and the adjacent part of the town wall is dated to the end of the 14th century. Taschentor is closed to car traffic, the gateway is for pedestrians and bikes only.

Hohe Schule, the First University Building

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In 1472 the Duke of Bavaria founded the first university in his state in Ingolstadt. The so-called Hohe Schule (High School) soon became one of the most renowned universities in the German-speaking area, beside Prague and Vienna. Ingolstadt's Hohe Schule was a centre of humanism, catholic theology and counterreformation. In the 19th century the Bavarian state university moved first to Landshut, then to Munich and became the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität. Nowadays Ingolstadt is again a university town with some faculties of the Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt.

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The building that is still called „Hohe Schule“ is, however, older and was originally meant for a different purpose. It was built in the 1430 as a hospital for 15 prebendaries who were to pray for the founder, Duke Ludwig the Bearded. However, his successors decided differently. The building was given to the newly founded university. Later on separate buildings were erected for the different faculties because the Hohe Schule became too small for them all.

After the university left Ingolstadt the building served as school. Now it hosts again university institutions. Rooms on the ground floor are used by a restaurant. In there, a fresco is preserved with a scene from Greek mythology that referred to the subject of medicine: The famous doctor Asklepios reanimates a young man who had died in an accident with horses and is punished by Zeus for this abuse of his abilities.

Neues Schloss - New Castle and the Military Museum

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The castle is named the „new“ because it was new in the 15th century. In 1392 the Duchy of Bavaria was divided among three heirs and Ingolstadt became a ducal residence. The present castle, Herzogskasten, was suitable for occasional stays but too small to accommodate a permanent court. Duke Ludwig der Gebartete („the Bearded“) decided to build a new castle on the southeastern corner of the town close to the river. His sister Isabeau was the Queen of France and Ludwig was well used to court life in more powerful and fashionable countries. So he started an ambitious project for his new home. The castle was only finished two generations later, though.

The front of the main palace with the three towers is an eyecatcher from the other side of the river. The front is not regular. The main tower is attached diagonally to the corner of the building. This seems to be a local fashion - compare the steeples of Münster church.

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The main palace and a number of economy buildings surround a wide rectangular court. Access is either from Ludwigstraße, the main pedestrian street of the old town, over the bridge and through the baroque gate tower, or from the river bank up some stairs. The courtyard is free to access during the day but closed at nighttime. The main palace hosts the Bavarian Army Museum.

Bayerisches Armeemuseum (Bavarian Army Museum) consists of two parts. The topics and exhibits from the middle ages to the 19th century are presented in Neues Schloss. An exhibition on World War I can be visited in Reduit Tilly on the opposite river bank, only a short walk away across the pedestrian bridge. The ticket is valid for both. Due to lack of time I only saw the exhibitions in Neues Schloss.

I am not a war buff at all, but from a historian's point of view there is a lot on display which is of interest. So, what were the things I found interesting?

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First of all, seeing the interior of the palace - there is no furniture left but there are gothic vaults on the lower, wooden ceilings on the upper floors, frescoes, stonemason door frames and such.

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The exhibit about the 30 Years War in the 17th century includes a collection of tiny models of weapons, cannons, carts and acrriages - these were the catalogue of a Nürnberg salesman.

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The large collection of embroidered banners.

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The Turkish hall with items that were conquered or otherwise acquired during the wars against the Turks in the late 17th century.

A temporary exhibition of photographs, recently taken, of what is left of the World War II fortifications along the coast of Dordogne.

Herzogskasten - The „Duke Box“?!?

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„Herzogskasten“ can be translated, tongue-in-cheek, as „Duke Box“. This building is the residential house of the 13th century castle in Ingolstadt. Here the Dukes of Bavaria stayed during their occasional visits to Ingolstadt before the construction of the new castle.

Later on it served as grain storage and as the city's cash office (which explains the name: „Kasten“ is the box the money was put into, and further on a word for the whole administration of said money box and its content). Nowadays it hosts the public library.

The building is a plain rectangular block. Its only ornaments are the stepped gables on both sides. The small oriel on the western side is the choir of the palace chapel.

Fortifications

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Houses built along the medieval town wall, with the semi-circular towers behind

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19th century fortress on the opposite river bank

Stadtmuseum - History of the City

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The historical museum is located in Kavalier Hepp, a gate building of the 19th century fortress. The permanent exhibition presents the history of the city and region from prehistoric times to the present. The 50 small rooms present the historical eras and topics like stone age, ancient Romans, the foundation of the city in the early middle ages, the medieval town walls, the Duchy of Bayern-Ingolstadt, the university, the counter-reformation and the Jesuits, the magistrate and ist representation, coins, baroque art and lifestyle, the age of enlightenment, crafts, trade and traffic, religious life, the development of the city in the 19th and 20th century, industrialization, Nazi time and World War II, post-war development. The toy museum has been integrated into Stadtmuseum and fills two rooms with its exhibition of historical toys. Another department is dedicated to the river Danube and its significance for Europe. Then there are temporary exhibitions about changing topics.

The museum is worth seeing to get a better idea of the city and its history, although the amount of details might be confusing. Probably the most spectacular exhibit is the stuffed white horse that the Swedish King Gustav Adolph rode during the 30 Year War. The poor horse was killed in battle in 1632 not far from here. A bit creepy...

Photography is strictly forbidden, so no pictures of the interior here. I have to note that I found museum staff a bit grumpy.

Audi museum mobile

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Old cars have faces!

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August Horch and his first model

I admit that I am no car freak. Not at all. Nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the museum mobile, especially the part with the pre-war cars. Those big old carriages like the green one look simply gorgeous!

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The cars are presented with some background about the times they were built and used in. So they can be viewed with some historical interest. We had a guided tour which was excellent.

The permanent exhibition begins on the top floor with the oldest cars. The second floor shows the development since World War II. The ground floor is used for temporary exhibitions - they had a presentation of car colours at that time, quite fascinating.

The story of Audi begins in Zwickau when the engineer August Horch founded his company in 1904. „Horch“ soon became a renowned brand of luxury cars.

After some troubles Horch was kicked out of his own company and founded another. Since the brand name was already taken, he simply translated his name into Latin: Horch („Listen“) became Audi.

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The new museum is part of the Audi Forum in the factory grounds. Seeing the factory requires a different tour, though, which we did not take.

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Posted by Kathrin_E 14:20 Archived in Germany Tagged beer bavaria bayern ingolstadt Comments (2)

They Love Colours in Donauwörth

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Donauwörth is on the Romantic Road, the probably most visited tourist route in Germany. However, it is one of the many places along the route that most visitors don't take into consideration for a stop because they have never heard of it. It is not as spectacular as Rothenburg or Nördlingen, admittedly, but if you have time it is worth a few hours.

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I was not touring the Romantic Road, though. I was on the way back home from Ingolstadt and decided to hop off the train and see another new place on the way. Donauwörth is about halfway along the regional train route between Ingolstadt and Ulm.

The town can well be visited in a couple of hours and walks are short, hence a perfect stopover destination, except for one practical problem: There are no lockers at the train station. Many thanks to the nice lady at the tourist information for storing my suitcase!

Unfortunately Donauwörth shared the fate of most cities and many towns in this country: heavy damage in World War II. However, if you don't know you won't notice. The old town has been rebuilt well and the result is indeed pretty.

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What impressed me most? The colours. The houses are each painted in a different colour. All shades of pastels are there but also stronger colours. The general appearance is lively and colourful even on a grey autumn day like this. I can only imagine how spectacular it may look on a sunny day.

Colours are a striking feature in the appearance of Donauwörth. The town's inhabitants seem to like bright colours. The houses of the old town and also on the island are all painted in different shades of any pastel colour you can think of, plus bright yellow and ochre, terracotta and blue.

The blue building is the catholic parish community centre, by the way.
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In a side street on Ried Island I found the lilac garage.

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Colours in Reichsstraße, freshly painted...

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... while this side street looks a bit faded out.

Rieder Tor - The Town Gate

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If you arrive at the train station of Donauwörth and walk into town this gatehouse will be your first impression of the old town, and the first „wow“ effect. From the station you walk over a bridge across Wörnitz river and over Ried island, then you reach a second bridge across the smaller branch of the Wörnitz and the impressive gate.

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Imperial coat of arms

The gate bears the imperial coat of arms with the double-headed eagle and the imperial crown, informing every visitor about the town's status as a free imperial city, which it led until 1803.

This used to be one of four large gates, but it is the only one which is preserved. It has a long history but received its present shape only in 1811.

It hosts the house of town history (Haus der Stadtgeschichte) a museum with very limited opening hours, only on weekends from 2-5 p.m., otherwise upon appointment.

Town Hall

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Donauwörth's town hall originates in the 13th century. The building burnt down a couple of times and was rebuilt, refurbished and extended a couple of times. Its present appearance with the neogothic facades is the result of the renovation in 1853.

The main portal is positioned right in the axis of Reichsstraße, the market street. The stairs in front of the portal provide the best photo option.

Important for visitors: The tourist information is located in the side wing in Rathausgasse. Their leaflet with a self-guided walk proved very helpful.

Reichsstraße: The Main Street

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Streetview from the stairs of the town hall

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Fuggerhaus
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Tanzhaus
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Baudrexlhaus

The main street of the town, rather a wide street market that substitutes a central square, extends between the town hall at the lower end and the parish church and Fugger House at the top end. It is lined by the gables of the (rebuilt) houses of the wealthy citizens of past centuries. Reichsstraße is Donauwörth's main shopping street.

The name „Reichsstraße“ refers to the old trade route between the imperial cities of Nürnberg and Augsburg, the two richest and most influential cities in the Holy Roman Empire. It also refers to Donauwörth's own status as a free imperial city who was subject to no one but the King or Emperor.

One big minus disturbs the pleasure: heavy traffic. Donauwörth does not seem to have a bypass road so all traffic runs through the town centre. That means noise, and the need to care when crossing the street.

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A tiny but noteworthy detail in Reichsstraße is the figure of a little knight on the former customs house (Stadtzoll). The knight is down on one knee, he seems to carry the tower-like oriel on the corner of the building. He is holding a shield with the crest of the city, the black eagle, and a flag with the city's colours. An inscription dates the figure to 1524. Legends tell that the little man will be heard sighing at night if the city is in danger.

Several buildings in Reichsstraße deserve an extra look and an extra mentioning.

Fuggerhaus belonged to the mighty Fugger clan, bankers and merchants in Augsburg and the richest family in the whole Holy Roman Empire, if not Europe. They acquired the position as representants of the Empire in the imperial city of Donauwörth in 1536 and built their seat at the top end of the market street. Nowadays the building hosts the administration of the district (Landkreis).

The fountain opposite the parish church is a more recent addition. It was created for the millennium of the town in 1977. The eagle has been the town's crest since the 12th century and refers to its status as free imperial city.

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Opposite the church's choir we find the big inn named „Goldener Hirsch“ , the Golden Stag, one of several inns in the main street and probably the one with the most beautiful sign.

Tanzhaus served as trade and festival hall. It was built around 1400. Every Sunday there was dancing for the citizens of the town, organized by the magistrate. The original building was destroyed to the foundations in the air raid of April 1945 that did so much damage to the town. It was rebuilt in the 1970s. The facades were reconstructed according to the original but the interior is a modern, functional building. It contains the theatre, a restaurant, some shops, and the archaeological museum.

The yellow building on the right next to Tanzhaus is the Stadtkommandantur , the seat of the military commander of the town. The baroque facade covers a much older building. This is about the only building in the whole Reichststraße that does not turn its gable towards the street but its long side.

Timberframe architecture is rare in Donauwörth but there is a fine example opposite the town hall, the Baudrexlhaus. The weathervane shows the date 1592. The ground floor hosts a little crafts shop with pretty old fronts and shop windows, probably from the late 19th or early 20th century.

The Alte Kanzlei, the old chancellery, i.e. administration of the town, is not located in Reichsstraße but just round the corner in Rathausgasse.
More details to notice in Reichsstraße and also elsewhere in the town: the shop signs. Many shops and inns, cafes and restaurants have those old-fashioned wrought-iron signs.

My favourite is the one of a hairdresser's salon. The hairdresser's big scary scissors are threatening the lady's beautiful locks... (Yes I'm a devoted longhair.)

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Catholic Parish Church of Our Lady

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The gothic parish church with its one steeple dominates the upper part of Reichsstraße. It is a 15th century building that substituted an older church.

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The church is open in the daytime as befits a catholic church. The frescoes in the vaults originate from the time the church was built. They were hidden under plaster and paint until 1938 when they were rediscovered.

The church was built on the gentle slope and the builders of the late middle ages did not bother with levelling the ground: The floor has a visible decline towards the choir. The difference in altitude from back to front is 1,20 metres.

Kloster Heilig Kreuz - Abbey of the Holy Cross

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The former Benedictine Abbey on the edge of the old town, on a hill a few metres above the river bank, is the most impressive building in Donauwörth's townscape.

Its history dates back to the 11th century when a precious relic of the Holy Cross - certified to be authentic since the times of Saint Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine - was brought here. This relic is still the most valuable treasure of the church.

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The tomb of Duchess Mary

The present appearance of the complex is entirely baroque. The convent buildings were renewed in the 1690s, the church was finished in 1720. For baroque experts: the church is a model example of the „School of Wessobrunn“.

Like most abbeys in Bavaria the one in Donauwörth was closed down in the secularization of 1803. The convent buildings now host a boarding school and cannot be visited. The church, however, is open to visitors in the daytime and worth a look.

The tomb in the western part of the nave is the one of Duchess Mary of Brabant, wife of the Bavarian Duke Ludwig II. She was killed in Donauwörth in 1256; her husband had her beheaded although she was innocent.

Uncle Ludwig And His School

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„Uncle Ludwig“, actually Ludwig Auer (1839 - 1914), founded the Cassianeum, the catholic school in the former convent buildings, in 1875. His aim was education in Christian, i.e. catholic piety, way of life and values.

He also founded a publishing house for religious and pedagogic literature. He himself wrote many educational stories for children and published them under the pseudonym of „Onkel (Uncle) Ludwig“.

Onkel Ludwig is still present in white marble. A monument that shows him with a boy and a girl has been put up in the square between the abbey and the modern school buildings.

After his death in 1914 Ludwig Auer was buried in the little chapel by the entrance to the churchyard, originally the grave chapel of an abbot of the monastery. His son and successor and his wife, victims of the air raid of April 1945, were also buried here.

Ried Island and the Rivers

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The town is located where the small river Wörnitz meets the Danube. The big river provided work for the citizens - fishing and trade. The river by the town is not the Danube but the Wörnitz, though.

The island of Ried is surrounded by two branches of the river Wörnitz. (Again, this river is not the Danube.) A narrow canal named Kleine Wörnitz separates the island from the old town. The first settlement that later became the town of Donauwörth was located here on the island.

Fishermen were the first inhabitants. A small modern statue with a man and a boy carrying a full net recalls their hard life.

The buildings on the island are a mix of old and new. The biggest historical building is the Haus zum Hohen Meer (House of the High Sea - no idea how it got this name, as the sea is far) with its seven storeys.

What else is remarkable... the red house with the museum of local history and culture (Heimatmuseum), and the number of Italian restaurants.

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Färbertor

For a romantic walk with some photo options, don't miss the trail along Kleine Wörnitz. The so-called „Small Wörnitz“ is the narrow branch of the river between Ried island and the old town. The trail leads along the river bank and the outward side of the town wall.

It must be especially beautiful in spring when the old apple trees by the river are in bloom. But autumn colours aren't bad either!

Along the way you'll find a smaller gate tower with a half-timbered top, the Färbertor (Dyer's Gate).

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Further along the trail leads around the sports fields of the boarding school; from there you have the best view of the buildings of the former Benedictine Abbey.

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The smaller Wörnitz meets the big Danube at the eastern end of the old town. Cross the bridge over the Wörnitz (nice view of Ried island and the skyline of the old town) and you reach the point between the rivers. It bears a little park with some benches, a nice spot to rest, relax and, weather permitting, have a picnic.

The stone monument in the park is a memorial for the German-French war of 1870/71 which lead to the foundation of the German Empire.

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The Calvary on Schellenberg

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In 1704, during the Spanish Heritage War, the hill above Donauwörth saw the Battle on Schellenberg between Bavarians and French on one side, the Emperor and his allies and the English on the other. Bloody as it was - 16,000 soldiers were killed in this battle -, the adjacent town of Donauwörth was not harmed. Grateful to have been spared, mayor and citizens donated the Calvary as a pilgrimage site.

The site consists of the Way of the Cross with its 14 stations along a steep stairway that leads up to the crucification group, the little yellow baroque chapel, and a 15th station with the resurrection of Christ. The little chapel looks cute and the landscape setting is beautiful, but remember that this is a war memorial.

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Enter through the baroque wrought-iron gate under the verse Gal. 6,14. Before you start climbing the stairway, note the stone on the right with the metal insprition: Here post-war times have declared their opinion about this war memorial, which should be understood as a warning and for solemn contemplation.

The little station chapels show the 14 stations on the Way of the Cross. Each has a painting inside showing the resp. scene.

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The Way of the Cross leads uphill on a short but steep stairway. At the top you reach a plateau with the Crucification: the three crosses with Mary and John standing underneath.

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From the crosses, continue to the little chapel. It was closed when I visited - no idea if it is ever open outside official pilgrimages.

The chapel looks cute and all in all this is a pleasant site... as long as you don't think about its significance as a war memorial and the 16,000 soldiers whose blood was shed on this hill.

The Way of the Cross does not end with the crucification, though. After the chapel you will find a 15th station which depicts the Resurrection of Christ. There is hope!

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From the hillside you have a view of the old town and its steeples. It should be even better further up Schellenberg.

Posted by Kathrin_E 22:36 Archived in Germany Tagged bavaria bayern Comments (1)

Gotha in October Rain

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Gotha and its surroundings were „burnt soil” to me. Pathetic as this sounds: I had no intention to ever return.

What else could be the reason than a certain male inhabitant of this region. A long and ugly story that I do not want to bore you with.

But then I received an invitation to speak at a conference. One of those invitations that should not be refused. Unfortunately it took place in Gotha. After several years it was time to overcome the bad memories…

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Augustine convent

I feared most that “he” might show up there, but luckily the conference coincided with the Frankfurt book fair so “he” would be busy there.
Phew. Relax.

The conference took place inside the palace, Gotha’s main sight. Us speakers were all accommodated in the former Augustine monastery, now a house for conventions and seminars and guesthouse. Simple rooms, but perfectly fine. My room faced the inner cloister, which meant a nice view and relative quietness. Hence no complaints from my side.

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View from my window

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It was late October and the weather was as “octobery” as can be: a light but constant drizzle from low grey clouds that soaked everyone and everything. Even the memories drowned in it, and the last bits were drowned in local beer with the colleagues. About time.

The conference was to begin in the morning and I live several hours away, so I had to arrive one day earlier. I and used the afternoon and evening for a walk of the town and round the palace.

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The heart of the town is the market square, rather an outstretched trapezoid than a square.

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The upper end points towards the palace. The cascade in the middle of the street is part of a water conduit which is in fact about 500 years old.

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The lower part has the town hall standing in its middle. The building has received a fancy red coat of paint in the latest renovation.
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A walk through Gotha's streets on a rainy evening:

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Ernst der Fromme

Gotha’s palace - I refuse to call it a castle because it is not - made its appearance in each and every seminar and lecture on early modern palaces. Built in the 17th century, it was one of the first that abandoned the previously standard pattern of four wings enclosing an inner courtyard, which about all renaissance palaces have (like the one in Schmalkalden, which I'll present in the following blog entry). In Gotha, the fourth wing has been reduced to a low arcade, almost non-existent. This is one of the earliest baroque palaces. Three wings embracing an open courtyard, that’s the characteristic pattern of palaces built in the baroque era. Later on the courtyard will open towards the city outside. Here, however, it opens towards the garden side and the landscape view towards the Thuringian Forest.

The palace’s name is Friedenstein (“peace rock”), a reference to its predecessor. Gotha used to have a heavily fortified castle called Grimmenstein (“grim rock”) which had been destroyed in the wars of the 16th century. Wars which had caused a lot of distress to the ducal house and the country, the loss of the electorate to another Saxon line, years of imprisonment for the then ruling duke. Now, three generations later, Duke Ernst der Fromme („the Pious”) wanted to start a better future and set a different signal. The duchy had been divided among Ernst and his brother, which Sachsen-Gotha as a separate duchy and line. (Oh yes, Saxon history is complicated.) Thus, Gotha became a ducal residence.

Ernst had his new palace built on the hilltop above the town, using the topography to express his power. The terrain rises steeper and steeper. Climbing up market square and then the ramps, the front of the palace appears like a huge, uniform block. Only in the middle there is one gate.

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Walking through the passage, you reach the wide courtyard which reveals the true size of the building complex.

The long side wings end each in a stumpy square tower. Their roofs have different shapes. They form Gotha’s characteristic skyline.

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Left

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Right

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The portal to the arsenal

All facades are very simple, with uniform small windows. From outside it is impossible to tell what is behind them. You cannot tell from outside where the palace chapel, the festival hall, the theatre, the arsenal, the library is located. Only the portals underneath the arcades might give an idea, but the facades do not show.

It wasn’t my first visit. I had visited before on two excursions, where we had extensively seen and discussed the historical rooms and halls inside the palace.

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Underneath the arcades

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The tower at the end of the western wing contains the theatre.

On one occasion, during a special tour for conference participants, I even had the chance to see the theatre, including access to the stage machinery behind and underneath the stage. This theatre is Gotha’s most valuable treasure. It is one of the very few completely preserved baroque theatres in Europe, complete with the original machinery and a dozen or so stage settings. It is still in use. An annual theatre festival with baroque plays and operas takes place here. The plays are selected according to whether they match the existent stage settings. Everything is operated by hand. A crowd of volunteers is operating the machinery and changing the settings. Sorry, I did not take any photos then.

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The palace chapel is an important example in the history of protestant church architecture... but I am sparing you another lecture.

Posted by Kathrin_E 15:08 Archived in Germany Tagged castles thuringia thüringen Comments (0)

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