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A Winter's Day in Linz, Austria


My visit to Linz was just a day trip from Passau, and it took place in December, so all I had were a few short daylight hours. It was a really glorious winter's day with quite a bit of snow on the ground, and after a foggy morning the sun broke through. I decided against indoor sights in favour of being outside, walking and taking photos.

I like Christmas markets a lot, so this was another point on my list. Hauptplatz, the central square and 'living room' of the city, was prettily decorated and illuminated.

What I enjoyed most, though, was the excursion by tram to the top of Pöstlingberg, a mountain on the Northern edge of the city. The top overlooks the city and the Danube valley. There is a pilgrimage church on top, and some other attractions which were unfortunately closed for winter. Anyway, the walk in the snow and the view were very pleasant.


Tram Ride up Pöstlingberg

View from Pöstlingberg


Pöstlingberg is the house mountain of Linz, north of the city centre. From the banks of the Danube it is impossible to overlook. Its summit reaches an altitude of 539 metres above sea level (the city centre is at about 150 metres). It has been a pilgrimage centre since the 18th century. The baroque pilgrimage church with its two spires is overlooking the city and the Danube valley. The slopes face south and offer a fine view and sunshine - they have become the most upscale residential quarters of the city.

The mountain top is a popular destination among locals and visitors. In addition to the view and the church, it has a restaurant and beer garden and an attraction for small kids and big kids;-), the Grottenbahn, a little train inside one of the bulwarks that takes its passengers through fairytale scenes and the kingdom of gnomes - unfortunately it wasn’t running on weekdays in winter so I could not go...

Getting there is easy: Take the Pöstlingberg tram from Hauptplatz which takes you to the top in some 20 minutes.


For a long time the slopes and top of Pöstlingberg were reachable by a narrow-gauge cogwheel train that ended on the northern river bank. In the context of Linz becoming cultural capital of Europe in 2009, the track was substituted by a modern tram line which runs on the same gauge as the other trams in the city. This tram is said to be the steepest non-cogwheel tram line in the world (10.5%).

The tram now crosses the Danube at Nibelungenbrücke and begins/ends in Hauptplatz. It has a separate stop next to the stop of the regular trams. Trams run every 30 minutes (minute .00 and .30) from 6 a.m. (weekends 7.30 a.m.) to 10 p.m.

The ride is pleasant, as the view slowly widens, the higher you get. The tram stops all have those little shelters and old-fashioned signs. Underneath each stop the altitude above sea level is stated.


The large terrace below the church offers the widest view of the city, the Danube valley and the surrounding hilly landscape.

There is a board with explanations of the cityscape and sights, and some coin-operated telescopes if you want a closer look at the things down there.


The church on the summit of Pöstlingberg is a sanctuary of the Virgin Mary and a pilgrimage centre. It was founded in the early 18th century. Pilgrimages take place only on certain dates. The church, though, is always open for visitors during daytime hours.

The baroque church suffered damage from fire twice in the last century but was repaired and restored to its former shape.


There are two stairways leading up to the church from the viewing platform. In winter, only one of them is cleared from snow and ice - take this one, don’t try the other one because in wintery conditions it’s dangerous. There is a chain that closes its top but not the bottom.

To get an idea of the place and the surrounding landscape, there is a walking trail that leads all around the summit. The walk is more or less flat and takes about 15 minutes. It is best in the winter half of the year when the trees are bare, otherwise the leaves will obscure most of the view. The trail is marked as „Rundgang“ - simply follow the signs. It leads past everything which is of interest on the hilltop.


On the ‘back’ side of the hilltop the trail leads along the ramparts of 19th century fortifications, with views into the moat and towards the bulwarks. This mountain, despite its prominent topographical situation, had not had any military significance until the Napoleonic wars around 1800 when some fights took place on its slopes. Only afterwards the summit was turned into a fortress.

It was the most gorgeous winter's day, so the camera was very busy...
The steeples of the baroque church made for many interesting perspectives.
The terrace is a beer garden in more favourable seasons. Sitting here with a dring and the view over the whole city must be pleasant in summer.
A simple fence meets winter magic.
The cross by the stairway up to the church.
Snowy tree and baroque facade




Trinity Column

Hauptplatz, the central square close to the river, is the heart of the town. The rectangular square (huh?!) is the location of events like the Christmas market. It is the best starting point to walk the lanes of the old town, easy to reach by tram from about anywhere in the city. It is also the starting point of the Pöstlingberg tram.

The baroque Holy Trinity Column in the middle of the square was put up around 1720. Many Austrian cities have these columns; they are religious monuments that were meant as thanksgiving for the end of the plague or other severe threats but also as symbol of the Habsburg monastery and the victory of Catholicism against the reformation.

The square is surrounded by palace-like buildings. The facades are mostly 18th/19th century due to the various fires that devastated the city in its history. The buildings behind them have older origins, though, like the 16th century town hall (the pink building with the small tower on the street corner).

Alter Dom - Old Cathedral



The „old“ cathedral, located in a corner of Hauptplatz, is actually the former convent church of the Jesuit order. The huge main altar which fills the entire back wall is typical for Jesuit churches.


It is named the old cathedral because there is a „new“ one: the much larger „Neuer Dom“, or Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. This enormous neogothic church (1862-1935) is located outside the old town but impossible to overlook in the cityscape.

Alter Dom, though, is probably the more interesting one. The baroque church dates from the late 17th century. After the Jesuit order was closed down in 1773, the church stood empty until it was selected as cathedral for the newly founded Diocese of Linz in 1785.

The most famous employee of this church was Anton Bruckner, who worked here as organist and choir conductor from 1856 to 1868. A small stone plaque on the facade recalls the composer’s workplace.

Hauptplatz and Dom seen from Pöstlingberg

Christmas Market in Hauptplatz


Linz’s main Christmas market occupies about one quarter of the large central square (Hauptplatz). It is not very big but nicely decorated and illuminated. Merchandise isn’t really special, anyway nice to look at.

If you are in for a mulled wine, the stalls offer a wide variety of Punsch and Glühwein types. It is worth checking and comparing the ingredients. For example, I had a hot orange juice with rum at one of the stalls.

There is a second Christmas market in Volksgarten, a park close to the main train station. That second one is more directed at children and families and has more activities.


Old Town



The old town of Linz is the area around Hauptplatz, especially towards the castle. The origins are medieval, though the city has been rebuilt, refurbished, repaired again and again after fires and such - the architecture is quite a mix. Most facades show 18th and 19th century styles, although much older structures can be behind them. The general appearance reminded me a lot of Vienna’s centre. Many historical buildings have plaques with some basic information - in German, obviously.

Explore the side streets, the arcades, passages and alleyways. If you like photography, look for details of the facades. The photos in here are just a random selection.





The castle, or better palace, of Linz dates back to the early middle ages. What you see now, however, derives mostly from the times around 1600 when Emperor Rudolf II had it enlarged and refurbished.

The Schloss is located on a rock close to the river bank in the northwestern corner of the old town. The way up on foot involves, no matter from which direction, a short but steep stairway.

The four wings enclose a wide courtyard. A fire in 1800 destroyed the southern wing, the one towards the city. The gap stayed open for 200 years. Only in 2006 planning started to build a new wing. The winners of the architects’ competition, the studio HoG architektur from Graz, designed it as a modern steel and glass construction that looks a bit alien side by side with the old building.


The building complex is the seat of the Schlossmuseum, a museum of history, folk art and culture - which I unfortunately could not visit because I ran out of time.

The new steel and glass wing is partly a bridge, with an open terrace underneath. This terrace offers a fine view of the old town and its towers. The steeples and spires are higher than the terrace and they are rather close, in other words, have the camera ready.

The architecture also provides options for some photo tricks.


There is a cafe on the terrace with open seating in the warmer seasons, which should be a pleasant place to rest and enjoy the view and a coffee. And there is a 3D model of the old town before 1800, which gives an idea what it looked like before the big fire that destroyed the southern wing of the palace as well as a large part of the city.

Posted by Kathrin_E 14:05 Archived in Austria Tagged austria christmas_market Comments (0)

Amberg: The Bespectacled Town


Have you ever visited a town that wore glasses? Well, go and see Amberg. This part of the town wall across the river is officially known as „Stadtbrille“, the town spectacles. Doesn't it look like a pair of eyeglasses?


The „Town Spectacles“ are Amberg's most famous sight. Where the town wall crosses the river, arches make openings for the water. As these arches are exact semicircles, together with the reflection in the water they form two perfect circles that look like a pair of glasses. The foundation of the pillar in the middle looks like the bridge over the nose.

Most photos I see were taken from within the town, i.e. from the northern side. However, you can catch even better pictures, especially on sunny day, if you walk through to the outward, southern side. There is a small, very low pedestrian bridge across the river outside the wall. From there you can catch the perfect view in full sunlight instead of against the light. Compare the photos and you see what I mean.

Amberg has a lot more to offer than this, though. The town wall with several gate towers is more or less completely preserved, the same applies to the old town inside the wall. Amberg is hardly known and entirely untouristy. I talked to two locals at a cafe and they asked me, „How come a tourist visits this town when it isn't even displayed on maps?“ (It is on maps, rest assured.)



I went over from Regensburg for the day in December. The Christmas market was on in the market square. There was snow on the ground and bright sunshine, it was a beautiful winter's day. In the afternoon clouds came up and it started snowing again, though, hence not all my photos have this fantastic light.

This colourful modern sculpture was the first attraction I came across on the way from the train station into town. These two funny fellows greet everyone who is leaving Bahnhofstraße towards the station. The left one must be a cat, the one on the right is hard to identify. The train station is the flat building behind them. In the background, on top of the hill, you can spot the steeple of Maria Hilf pilgrimage church.

Town Hall



Amberg's gothic town hall dominates the Eastern front of the market square. Its oldest parts date from (probably) the 14th century, then it was extended in several steps over the centuries.

The facade, medieval as it looks, has been thoroughly changed in the late 19th century.

Apart from a general refurbishment, the two statues and the spiral staircase to the balcony are 19th century additions. The large number 1920 on the gable which is also marked on the weathervane indicates another later renovation.

The gable carries an astronomical clock. The lower clockface shows the hours, the upper one the zodiac and the moon phases. The inscription below quotes the verse: „No human's mind stops the run of sun, moon and stars.“

Christmas Market



Amberg's Christmas market takes place in market square between the town hall and the church of St Martin. It covers one half of the square, the other half has to stay free for the farmers market. The market is not very big and just like many others, but the setting is nice, and it is a pleasant addition to a December visit. And they have pretty Glühwein mugs!
The market begins on Friday before the 1st Advent Sunday and ends on December 23.

Church of St Martin


The main catholic parish church of Amberg has a prominent location between market square and Vils river. It is dedicated to the holy bishop St Martin. The nave is a late gothic hall. Its construction began in the 15th and was completed in the early 16th century. Its architectonical speciality is the gallery that runs around nave and choir: Such galleries are typical for gothic architecture in Saxony but entirely uncommon in Bavaria.



The interior has been refurbished later on. Around 1870 the then baroque altars and furnituring were removed and substituted by neogothic ones to regain a „medieval“ appearance. So careful, most pieces inside the church may appear medieval at first sight but they aren't - they date from the 19th century. The stained glass windows, for example. The style of the pictures is very Nazarene, typical for the 19th century. They are all private donations from individual people or groups in the parish. The donators are stated in the inscriptions at the bottom of each window.

St Cecilia playing the organ, donated by the local choir


There are exceptions, though, like several statues. The most precious medieval art treasures include the 15th century paintings and sculpture on the altarpiece in the left side nave.

The gothic tomb of a young prince can be seen if you walk round the choir behind the altar. Ruppert (Ruprecht) Pipan was the son of Ruprecht III, Elector of Palatine who was elected King of the Holy Roman Empire in 1400. Ruppert Pipan was born in Amberg in 1375. He was to be his father's heir as Elector but he died very young, at the age of 21, in 1397.

The tumba carries a sculpted image of the defunct. He is crownded with a prince's hat and holding the shield with the Palatinate coat of arms. The dog at his feet is a symbol of fidelity. The front side shows a relief with the burial of Christ.

Town Wall and Gate Towers



Amberg's old town is surrounded by a complete ring of town walls with four (formerly five) gates and several towers. Entry and exit of Vils river are also heavily protected, with the wall at the exit forming the famous Stadtbrille.

Even the moat on the outside is preserved in large parts.

Exactly what tourists want to see...

I did not walk the whole round (it started snowing heavily in the afternoon and I was tired) so I unfortunately missed the prettiest town gate, Nabburger Tor with the two towers. Reason to return.


If the weather and your legs cooperate, walk the round. In the north around Ziegeltor there is a street inside the old town that follows the wall. The more inpressive views can be enjoyed from the outward side where small parks accompany the walll and moat.

Alte Veste



The „Old Fortress“ is the oldest government building in town. Calling it a „fortress“ is a tad exaggerated - actually it is hardly more than a large townhouse or small palazzo. It existed already when the Bavarian dukes acquired the town in the 13th century, then went into possession of the Electors of Platine. It was used as occasional accommodation for the princes during their visits and as seat of the local civil servant. Later on it was rented to noble families and refurbished as noble townhouse. Nowadays it is occupied by the offices and studios of the town's construction authority.

Schloss and Arsenal



The Electors of Palatine built their palace on the river bank where the Vils leaves the town, left and right of the Stadtbrille. The palace was refurbished again and again, and new wings added that matched the taste of the respective era, so it is a bit hard to tell apart which of the several buildings on both sides of the river is really „the Schloss“. The ensemble is quite picturesque from the outside - the interior probably isn't because it is occupied by offices of the district administration. A wing on the Eastern riverbank served as Zeughaus (arsenal). In summer there must be a beautiful rose garden around it, which was covered under snow now.

Neustift Quarter



An off the beaten path area in an off the beaten path town... The quarter around Neustift is, roughly, the area in the Southwest of the old town between Vils river and Schloss and the Maltese abbey. The main street was named Neustift after a convent that had its premises there. The street leads slightly uphill and has many views towards the steeples and towers. Not spectacular, but many detail views for the photo enthusiast.


In between there is a large barn or storage, dating from the 16th century according to the old inscriptions on the wall. It might have been a barn to collect taxes, or the storage of the convent - I could not find out. (Did I mention that this town is entirely untouristy?) Anyway - an impressive building.


Maltese Church and Abbey



The Maltese Church of St Georg is actually the former Jesuit abbey. The convent building, which now hosts a school and offices, is gigantic. It was built right after the 30 Years War for the convent and their high school. After the Jesuit order was closed down, the buildings were given to the Maltese order in 1782. The Maltese stayed only until their secularization in 1808. Nevertheless their name remained with the buildings, not that of the builders and original owners. The abbey was built at the Western end of the old town close to the wall.


The church of St Georg shows the typical shapes and elaborate decoration of Jesuit churches, like the huge main altar up to the ceiling, showing the IHS (Jesus) monogram in prominent position and size. The nave is a wide, light basilica. The many frescoes depict scenes from the lives of Jesuit saints and the history of the order as well as biblical scenes. Those on the upper walls of the middle nave show the various dangers and threats the faith in Jesus saves from.

The church is open in the daytime. Access is through the side door from the small passage between the church and the public library. The main courtyard behind the convent building is school ground and closed off.


Houses in the Old Town


Among the many remarkable townhouses of Amberg, two deserve a special mentioning.


The rococo Fenzl-Haus was built in the 1770s for a civil servant of the Palatinate Electors, a lawyer named Johann Kaspar Wolf who was in charge of the town's finances. He bought an older house in the corner of Rossmarkt and Georgenstraße and had it rebuilt in the then modern style. Its name refers to a later owner, the book trader Josef Fenzl.

Facades are ornated with stucco ornaments. The front gable ponts to Georgenstraße. The street corner is emphasized by the pretty little oriel. If the house was mine I'd have my favourite seat in there to people-watch and observe life in the street below...

Jonah and the Whale


Walfischhaus, a large 17th century house with the large roof in Löffelgasse was also known as the „Jonah House“. Two consoles under the roof show Jonah and the whale.


On the left he is swallowed by the giant fish (ok whales are no fish but in those times they didn't know), only his feet and sandals stick out of the mouth. On the right, the whale spits Jonah out again.

A sculpted figure of a mermaid on the left corner of the facade and a knight in armour on the right each hold a sign that explains the biblical story of Jonah.



A building that once belonged to some small monastery has been turned into a museum that is quite unique, and quite weird: the Air Museum.
A museum about air? Sounds strange, and I am not exactly sure what I had expected. The museum, which is in the hands of a private association and run by volunteers, turned out to be a modern art project. It assembles art works that use the topic of air. Some of these are quite funny, some are interesting, some are outright weird, and a notable number were IMHO outright lame, sorry. Decide for yourself which belongs to which category...

A couple of them have buttons visitors can press to make them move, like air bubbles rising in a kettle of mud, pneumatic things starting to operate, and such.

A row of silver balloons dances a choreography, up and down.
Category: quite cute to watch for a while.

The artist assembled a collection of the ugliest vases she could find, blew up balloons inside them and hung the balloons from the ceiling. The balloons slowly slowly lose air and every now and then a vase drops and smashes on the floor. The spectator (me) stood in a mix of anticipation (Will I see one drop?) and anxiety (Hope there is no crash now).
The dark brown jar looks like a promising candidate for the next crash.
Category: weird idea but fascinating!

The air organ can be „played“ with the keys, it will not make music but blow up the plastic bags. Visitors aren't allowed to play it, though, so I did not see it in operation.
Category: strange, and hmmm.

A cloud made from plastic foil hangs in the former house chapel.
Category: Didn't understand the meaning.

I am not even showing you the really lame ones, like black rubber hoses and cushions without function and distinct shape...

Conclusion: A pleasant way to spend an hour indoors, but don't take the thing too seriously.

Website: http://www.luftmuseum.de
Consult the website for updates, also for all background information and temporary exhibitions. The website has text in German, English, and French on each page (scroll down).

Posted by Kathrin_E 15:36 Archived in Germany Tagged museum bavaria bayern christmas_market Comments (0)

Straubing: A Tower, and the Ancient Romans



Straubing is certainly an „off the beaten path“ destination, but if you have time to see more than the usual destinations in Lower Bavaria, worth a closer look.

It is an easy day trip for example from Regensburg (half an hour by train).


I visited in December during Advent season. The streets were decorated with illuminations and the Christmas market was on.

Straubing is located along the main railway line between Regensburg and Passau. From the train you may spot the old town's skyline with the mighty Stadtturm and the steeples of half a dozen churches.

The old town has preserved its medieval ground plan with the wide market street in the middle.

Especially those of you who are interested in ancient Roman history ought to consider Straubing. The town has an excellent museum with amazing finds from the three military forts in Roman Sorviodurum.




The tower is the centre and the heart and the landmark of Straubing. It was built in the middle of the town and its market street. It is a freestanding tower with no apparent ties to any other building, be it a church, castle, town hall or whatever. Its construction was begun in the 13th century, its present shape with the five spires was created in the 16th century.

Its only purpose was being a watchtower, especially to spot fires quickly, and to show the city's wealth and ambition. A tower guard was living on the top floor.

The tower is also useful to find your way, as it is visible from all four directions.

The Market Street

Theresienplatz, the estern half

Like many cities and towns in Bavaria, Straubing has no central market square but a market street. This one cuts through the entire old town in East-Western direction. The middle part is pedestrianized, the outer parts are parking lots.

The middle of the market is occupied by the city tower which divides it in halves. The western half is named Theresienplatz, the eastern half Ludwigsplatz.

Ludwigsplatz, the eastern half


Along the square, the houses of Straubing's well-to-do citizens line up. Their facades show a wide variety of styles and era. Don't be fooled: Not all of them are as old as they may seem at first sight.

The facade of the town hall, the reddish „renaissance“ building close to the tower, is a 19th century refurbishment. The building behind, however, is of medieval origins.

Or should I say, it was. A couple of years ago, after my visit, a devastating fire has destroyed Straubing’s medieval town hall. I do not know how far the rebuilding has in the meantime proceeded. And I am sorry to admit that I did not even take a good photo of it!

The double square is the „living room“ of Straubing. The weekly farmers markets and also events like the Christmas market take place here. It is surrounded by shops, restaurants and pubs.



The Trinity Column in Theresienplatz is a baroque addition to the market street. It was erected in 1709 after a vow the citizens of the town made during the Spanish Heritage War. Most Austrian cities have such columns but in Bavaria they are not frequent.

The top of the column carries statues of the Holy Trinity: Godfather and Christ under the cross and the dove as image of the Holy Spirit above. They are freshly gilded and shiny. The pedestal is surrounded by angels.

Christmas Market



Straubing's Christkindlmarkt takes place in Theresienplatz in the shadow of the tower. It begins on Wednesday before the first Advent Sunday and stays open until Dec 23. It is not very big, admittedly, but the atmosphere is pleasant. The stalls offer the usual crafts, decoration and knickknack, and of course food and drink in abundance. And they have pretty Glühwein mugs...


The facade of the pharmacy next to the town hall is turned into an Advent calendar in December. Each day in the evening the mayor opens one of the windows. The calendar is connected with a lottery, each of the window hides a prize donated by a local shop or company whose name appears in the open window. There are worse ways of advertising!

Krippenweg - Nativity Trail

Signs pointed into a backyard...

... with a large nativity in Oberammergau style

Nativity scenes are popular in catholic Bavaria. Like other towns, Straubing has a Krippenweg, too.

During the Advent and Christmas season, various Nativity scenes are set up in churches, but also in private backyards, shop windows, or simply in the street.

A flyer (available, for example, in Gäubodenmuseum or at the tourist information) marks the locations in a map of the town. I did not consequently follow the route but spotted a few among my way.

In the Carmelite church: Joseph and Mary are asking for a place to stay
Nativity scene outside the castle

Herzogsschloss - Ducal Castle



The castle on the bank of the Danube was built in the 14th century as residence of a side line of the House of Bavaria which reigned an independent territory for a short while. Later on it became the seat of various government offices, and stayed such to this very day.

The large festival hall inside, named Rittersaal („knights' hall“), is said to be one of the largest of its kind. It is usued for special events but otherwise not accessible. To be honest, there isn't much to see unless you are interested in visiting the tax administration, but the building complex is quite impressive.

I had a quick look into the courtyard, which is unfortunately used as parking lot for the employees, hence full of parked cars. The courtyard is accessible through the arched gate from the old town side.

From the riverside the palace looks rather uninviting. The best view can be caught from the Danube bridge.


Straubing's old town is located very close to the river but a bit uphill to be protected from floods. Dykes add more protection. The low banks of the river have foot and bike trails that invite for a relaxing walk.

Basilica of St Jakob



The main church of the town was closed for a thorough renovation when I visited. It's a pity because according to photos the church must be full of amazing art treasures.


Anyway, St Jakob is a striking landmark due to its tall steeple and impossible to overlook. The late gothic basilica is entirely built from bricks. In this part of Bavaria we have brick gothic, which I so far knew only in the North of Germany. There are no rocks in the wide river plains, the stones present are not suitable for construction, so people had to use bricks instead. Here they have a masterpiece of brickwork and engineering in the late middle ages.

Jesuit Church



When the Jesuit order settled in Straubing in 1631, they were given a gothic chapel by the Western town gate at the end of the market street. Over several decades this old church was refurbished and altered. The result is a little baroque jewel. The division in three naves was removed to create a wide hall. Walls and vaults are painted white. Large windows let a lot of light in. Altarpieces and other furniture are made from dark wood with lots of gilded ornaments.

Nativity scene set in old Straubing

Annunciation of Mary

During festive seasons of the church year, the nativity is on display in a narrow side room off the chapel on the right.

The call it „Krippe“, nativity, but it is a lot more than the usual Christmas scene. A series of showcases displays several scenes from the Life of Christ and also from the Old Testament, for example the finding of Moses.

The Christmas scene in the big showcase at the end has the Holy Family and the arrival of the Holy Three Kings together with lots and lots of other figures in front of the panorama of old Straubing.

It is hard to tell how old the figures and settings really are - they are surely not new. Could be 19th, or even 18th century. People are all dressed in precious fabrics. Only the best was good enough, despite the fact that they lived in poverty. There are lots and lots of details to look at.

Finding Baby Moses
The Last Supper

Church of the Carmelites


The left side altar with the sacred image

The mendicant order of the Carmelites settled in Straubing in the 14th century and soon started building their church. The adjacent convent buildings are still inhabited by a congregation of Carmelite monks who use the church as their abbey church.

A small street leads straight towards the facade with its single, rather short steeple. This view makes the church more impressive.

Otherwise it is a bit overshadowed by the other larger churches in town.

The gothic church has been refurbished with baroque ornaments, altarpieces etc. around 1700. The strong round pillars still tell of the medieval building.

The left side altar contains a small gilded sculpture of the Madonna which is considered a miraculous image: „Mary of the Nettles“ is a pilgrimage destination.




Straubing has a very good museum of regional history and culture that I herewith highly recommend. It is named „Gäubodenmuseum“ after the surrounding region in the Danube plain, the Gäuboden.
Website with all further details: http://www.gaeubodenmuseum.de


The most treasured permanent exhibition, also the best presentation, is the part about the ancient Romans. Straubing's documented history begins almost 2000 years ago. Sorviodurum, as the ancient Romans named the place, was an important fort on the border of the empire. Within the boundaries of Straubing three army forts and camps and some villae rusticae have been excavated. The unique Roman treasure, the museum's pride, was a large find of Roman armour - helmets, horse armaments, masks and such. These were not used in battle but for festive parades and tournaments. These amazing pieces alone would already justify a trip to Straubing. The further exhibition shows all aspects of daily life of soldiers and settlers in ancient Roman times.

Masks that were used during military ceremonies and show fights
Model of a Roman Villa rustica which has been excavated near Straubing
Statues of house gods which once were put up in a family's lararium.
Finds from a wealthy person's grave, set in scene as an ancient Roman funeral
Roman pottery, a mirror and oil lamp
A treasure of ancient Roman coins, hidden in the ground by a Roman officer in an emergency


The other departments of the museum show the different eras of prehistory, also with rich archeological finds, the times of the early Bavarians, the development of the town, church art of the baroque era.

Further pieces that I enjoyed a lot included a model of the town in the 17th century, and a model of the first big Volksfest in 1912 which unfortunately drowned in a flood and lead to (this is for the German speakers) an abundance of funny persiflages during the following carnival season.

Poles with figures of saints. These were in use for religious processions in the baroque era.
Glass beakers and other finds from the celtic/germanic era
Prehistoric pottery

Posted by Kathrin_E 13:44 Archived in Germany Tagged museum bavaria bayern christmas_market Comments (0)

Advent in Regensburg


Christmas decorations in Bischofshof

Regensburg was my second base, after Passau, during my 2012 Advent trip. I had spent a couple of days in the city already previously, during a conference – hence some photos show spring weather instead of winter snow as I encountered it in December.

During pre-Christmas season, there are four Christmas markets in the city, all of them of very different character. There is the central one in Neupfarrplatz, rather a standard Christmas market like it can be found in many cities, although certain food specialties are local and unique. There is the “romantic” market in the grounds of Thurn und Taxis palace. Then the smaller market at Katharinenspital by the river bank. Last but not least, there is my personal favourite, Lucreziamarkt, an artisans’ market which occupies the two squares by the old town hall.

Delivery of Christmas trees for St Oswald

Anyway, Regensburg is worth a visit any time of the year, since this is one of the very rare cities in Germany that have preserved a notable amount of authentic medieval architecture beyond the occasional church, wall and gate tower. It survived not only World War II mostly unharmed but also the wars prior and the various trends of modernization. Apart from the 12th century stone bridge and the cathedral, there is the ensemble of the old town and the river with the opposite suburb of Stadtamhof which earned Regensburg the status of UNESCO world heritage.

Dozens of medieval tower houses are preserved, which is unique North of the Alps. These are the homes of the well-to-do, of course, because they could afford building in stone. Not much is left of the poorer groups in society.


However, if you have the usual „timberframe and cobblestones“ picture in your mind, you will be disappointed. This fairytale image is mostly based not on the real middle ages but on 19th century historism and the illustrations from the era of romanticism. These don’t have much in common with the real thing.

Despite the increasing number of visitors, luckily the city has not yet been overrun by mass tourism. It is a living city where locals have their daily lives and run their errands. The old town has some 14,000 inhabitants who have their permanent homes there. Souvenir shops are the minority. Only on and around the old bridge you feel the impacts of the recent river cruise boom. The rest of the city does not (yet?) have that theme park feel that has ruined other tourist hotspots and that can already be sensed in Passau. So far Regensburg digests the tour groups well, for which we can be glad.


Medieval Tower Houses



Apart from the bridge and the cathedral, the most striking feature of Regensburg’s old town is the large number of medieval tower houses that once belonged to rich and powerful patrician families. This is what many European cities looked like in those times. The towers appear in the panorama from the bridge and river bank, and you will discover one after every second street corner in the old town.


Regensburg’s wealth in the middle ages was based on trade along the Danube and on the land route that crossed the river in North-South direction. The city was the first capital of the Duchy of Bavaria, then a free imperial city with strong ties to the emperors. The wealthy merchant dynasties built tower houses like in the rich cities of Italy. These were a symbol of their status as well as fortifications for self-defence. Residential rooms were located on the lower floors, the upper storeys served mostly as storage.


All of a sudden, the golden era of Regensburg’s history ended in the 15th century. Financial problems, competition of other cities like Nürnberg and Augsburg and pressure from the mighty neighbour, the Duke of Bavaria, caused the city’s fall. In the early modern era the city was too poor to modernize in renaissance and baroque style as others did, and the 19th century and the loss of independence put it to sleep altogether. Poverty is, however, a good conservator.

Hardly any city north of the Alps has preserved such an amount of authentic medieval architecture.

Regensburg Cathedral - Dom St. Peter



Regensburg’ cathedral is the landmark of the city. Its two spires are impossible to overlook in the cityscape. The material is mostly limestone, which gives the church a whiteish colour, mixed with sandstone in an olive-greenish colour. Construction works lasted all in all about 250 years from the 13th to the 16th century, with some further additions in the 19th, like the top and spires of the two steeples.

The cathedral is dedicated to St Peter the Apostle. The patron saint, standing in a boat, is depicted in the centre of the facade underneath the crucifix.


A quite special element is the triangular porch in front of the main portal. Watching and interpreting the many sculptures and reliefs on the facades, spires and roofs would take weeks.

Just like the facades, the interior is full of many art works inside, hard to decide where to begin. Note the many stained glass windows from the different eras. The 19th century has removed anything baroque, so the general appearance is „medieval“, although some pieces are not as old as they may seem to the average visitor.

Some pieces that caught my eye included the gilded main altar, the tomb of a bishop in the central aisle of the main nave, ornated with a statue of the defunct kneeling underneath a large cross, and the sculpted image of St Peter standing in the southern nave.


Steinerne Brücke



The stone bridge is probably Regensburg's most famous sight. First there was a passage through shallow water which allowed crossing the Danube at this spot. The route was in us already in prehistoric times. Two major trade routes cross here: the perfect place for the development of a city. In the early middle ages wooden bridges were built but these were prone to damage by ice and floods.

The majestic stone bridge was completed within 11 years, from 1135 to 1146. The boat-like „feet“ around the pillars protect these from being hit by ice and current.

Nowadays the bridge is closed for motor vehicles, only pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to use it. (Watch out for bikes in order not to be run over.) Walking the bridge is a „must“ during a visit to Regensburg. The bridge crosses the two islands in the stream and leads to Stadtamhof, the old suburb on the opposite river bank.

In 2012 the part of the bridge towards Stadtamhof was undergoing major repairs and covered with scaffolding. The passage lead along substitute bridges by its side. However, these offered views from interesting angles that usually don't exist.


The bridge used to be protected by all in all three gates, only the one towards the old town, known as Brückenturm, is preserved. From the streets of the old town, this looks like just another small street among the houses; only when you approach the gate tower the view suddenly opens up and you see that you are on the way onto the bridge.

This area is a bit of a tourist hotspot, especially when cruise ships are there and all those big groups lead by a guide with a coloured sign are around. This is also the place to look for tacky souvenir shops if you want them...

Promenade on the Islands

In winter...

In spring...


The best way to enjoy the panorama of the old town is a walk on the opposite bank of the Danube. The panorama is finest along the islands of Oberer and Unterer Wöhrd, but also the promenade walk along Stadtamhof has its beauties. The walk is worthwhile any time of the year.

The islands can be reached either from Steinerne Brücke via the ramp that leads down from the middle, or from Eiserner Steg. From the trail along the river bank you have the full panorama of the old town on the other side and its reflections in the river, although the latter are not very clear because of the current.

Christmas Markets 1: Lucreziamarkt



My favourite among Regensburg’s four Christmas markets! Lucreziamarkt is an artisans’ market, and the products on offer have a high level of quality. Prices are what these items are worth, so mentally prepare to pay more, respective be selective and pick just one piece. The stalls are really pretty to look at. Merchants take turns, the assortment changes weekly, so this market is worth visiting more than once.

The food on offer is also beyond the usual. Try, for example, Sengzelten (flat bread with cheese or sour cream topping baked under the flames of a wood fire) or Baumstriezel ( = the Czech trdelnik, sweet dough wrapped around a wooden stick and baked, then turned in sugar or almonds or...).

The market has two parts on both sides of the old city hall. The bigger part is in Haidplatz, the smaller one with half a dozen stalls in Kohlenmarkt. Each of them has a small stage where musicians perform in the later afternoon and evening.


Old Town Hall - Altes Rathaus



The proud magistrate of the free imperial city of Regensburg built themselves a city hall to befit the city's status already in the middle ages. The Old City Hall is an imposing gothic building with stepped gables. The small gothic oriel on the side contains the altar of the little chapel in the main hall.

Regensburg's city hall made history for the entire Holy Roman Empire after it had become the permanent seat of the Immerwährender Reichstag (Everlasting Diet). Until then the Diets, the regular meetings of the princes, counts, clerics and cities of the Empire, had been taking place in changing locations. From then on it became a permanent institution, sort of the first parliament for Germany.


The city gave the old city hall to the empire for this purpose, and built the New City Hall next door, a baroque building with a large tower.

The Old City hall contains several historical halls, including the large Reichssaal where the meetings took place. The interior can be visited with guided tours. Check the signs or enquire at the tourist information office which is located right here on the ground floor of the old city hall.

Christmas Markets 2: Katharinenspital



The market in Stadtamhof has probably the most spectacular setting, right on the northern bank of the Danube in front of the panorama of the old town. Access is from the end of Steinerne Brücke, or through the courtyard of the Spital complex. Katharinenspital was established in the middle ages as a hospital and is now an old people’s home.

I was a bit disappointed about the market, though. It is not too big and half of it are food and drink stalls. The alleys are narrow, so it feels very crowded. Products on offer include some artisans' works but weren’t too special, with few exceptions.

The most interesting stall was one of a sheep farmer who sold products made from wool, sheep milk, sheepskin etcetera. On their farm they breed Waldschafe, a very old local race of domestic sheep which is on the brink of extinction, and they have a small paddock with some live sheep by their stall so you can watch the woolly cuties.

This market is open from Wednesday to Sunday, closed on Monday and Tuesday (unlike the others which are open 7 days a week).

Sheep paddock with the cathedral in the background


Stadtamhof, the suburb on the opposite bank of the Danube at the far end of Steinerne Brücke, was not part of the imperial city of Rgensburg - it was part of Bavaria. Crossing the river on the bridge meant crossing a state border. Stadtamhof was a town in itself, with parish church and market street and everything. Only in 1924 it became part of the city.

The main street leads towards the Main-Donau-Kanal, now the main waterway for river barges, and a ridge with the yellow Trinity Church on top.
Only the grounds of Katharinenspital, the medieval hospital, belonged to the imperial city. Founded in the early 13th century, it was a home for the sick, the poor, orphaned children and old people. Later it became an old people’s home for poor citizens of the city. In Advent its premises on the river bank are the site of the Christmas market, in summer there is a popular beer garden. The hospital has its own small brewery.


Due to its location by the bridge, Stadtamhof was destroyed in about every war of the past. Hence most of its buildings date from the 19th century. The side streets around the parish church of St Mang are nevertheless atmospheric and worth exploring a bit. Most visitors don’t venture further than the end of the bridge, so these side streets are pleasantly quiet. If you want to go for a romantic walk, try the footpath by the river on the Stadtamhof side.

Christmas Markets 3: Thurn und Taxis Palace








The „romantic“ Christmas market takes place in the park and courtyard of Thurn und Taxis Palace, grounds that usually are not accessible because the palace is private property. In Advent, though,

Princess Gloria opens her gardens to visitors. Not for free, of course - the entrance fee is rather steep, 5.50 € for adults. Since this is a market where you are expected to buy things and spend even more money, I consider that a rip-off. After 8 p.m. (this is the only one of the markets that stays open until 10 p.m.) there is an evening ticket for 2 €.

The setting is pretty, though. Small wooden huts are lined up along the gravel walks in the park and round the courtyards. This is a really nice market and worth visiting. It is never as crowded as the other ones (because of the entrance fee, obviously).

Church of St Emmeram

The palace is actually a monastery: Until its secularization in the early 19th century it was the seat of the Benedictine Abbey of St Emmeram. The noble family of Thurn und Taxis acquired it in 1812 and turned the former convent buildings into their residential palace, extended and refurbished them. The complex is said to have more rooms than Buckingham Palace in London. The family of Thurn und Taxis obtained their wealth, by the way, by establishing the first post network in and around Germany.

The main courtyard and the abbey church can be entered, also the former stables with a presentation of historical carriages. Guided tours take you through the representative rooms of the palace. All the rest, including the park, is off bounds to visitors for most of the year because the palace is inhabited and private ground. Only in Advent the park is opened for the Christmas market.

The present owner and inhabitant of the palace is Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis. In her youth she gained herself quite some fame as „enfant terrible“ of the European nobility. She married Prince Johannes von Thurn und Taxis, who was some 30 years older than herself, and always showed up in the freakiest robes and outfits. In later years, especially after the death of her husband, she has calmed down and adopted a more serious approach to life and the administration of her (quite large) property. All female visitors beyond a certain age seem to visit the palace hoping to catch a glimpse of her... she is said to make an appearance every now and then, but better not count on that.

Christmas Markets 4: Neupfarrplatz



Neupfarrplatz is the „standard“ market. Items on offer are the same style as everywhere else. Food stalls have some local specialities, though. Here is where to go for the famous Knackwurstsemmel mit allem. Historische Wurstküche is also having a stall in a corner where they sell their Bratwurstkipferl. For the sweet tooth, try Quarkbällchen.

This market is popular and crowded during peak hours, like the evenings. It isn’t as „squeezy“ as many other markets, though, because there is enough space. Even with large crowds assembling round the Glühwein stalls there is still room to move.

Neupfarrplatz with the church in the middle is the largest square in the old town and the centre of nowadays' city life. The shopping streets are nearby, events like the largest Christmas market take place here. Little recalls this square's history, the abstract monument in white concrete is easily overlooked.


In the middle ages this was the location of the Jewish ghetto. In 1519 all Jews were expelled and their quarter was demolished - the economical downfall and poverty of the city around 1500 was blamed on the Jews. (It's always good to have a scapegoat, eh.)

When the synagogue was torn down, a worker fell off the scaffolding, lay on the ground like dead, but rose unharmed after a short while. This „miracle“ lead to a booming pilgrimage. Construction of a large church was begun, but after a few years a plague epidemy set an end to the project. The church remained a torso, only the choir had been finished.

The church was then completed for use with a short nave and western choir - that's why it has this disproportioned shape. When the city introduced the Reformation in 1542 it became the first protestant parish church, hence the name „Neupfarrkirche“ (New Parish Church).

The church has a plain protestant interior, still with the old folding benches. It is the central protestant parish church. Their services might be of interest to visitors; for example, during the Christmas market season they have a short service every evening at 7 p.m.

Knackwurstsemmel mit allem


Regensburg’s speciality „with everything“ seems to be a must on the Christmas market and similar festivals. It is a white roll (Semmel) filled with a grilled short sausage of the Wiener type but thicker (Knackwurst), cut in halves, plus slices of pickled cucumber, mustard and horseradish. This sounds weird and tastes weird. Fans of horseradish will like it. In my humble opinion, trying it once was enough. In the future I’ll rather stick with Bratwurstkipferl.

The Regensburgers are very fond and very proud of this, though. I read press reports during my stay that, for the first time ever, some stall on the Christmas market in Munich sold Regensburger Knackwurstsemmeln and made good business. This caused an uproar in Regensburg, „They are stealing our Knackwurstsemmeln...“


My favourite snack... A Bratwurstkipferl, as offered by Historische Wurstküche, consists of a roll made from rye dough, filled with two of their famous little grilled sausages, their special sweet mustard, and a bit of sauerkraut. The combination may sound weird but it is really really tasty. I more or less lived on them during my visit...

Posted by Kathrin_E 14:30 Archived in Germany Tagged bavaria bayern regensburg christmas_market Comments (0)

Winter Wonderland in the Bavarian Alps: Krün to Mittenwald


In 2012 I spent a long winter weekend in Garmisch-Partenkirchen as a birthday gift to myself. There I met with a friend, an American who lives in Garmisch now, and she suggested doing a hike through the Isar valley from Krün to Mittenwald. Thank you „S“ for showing me your favourite winter hike!


St Peter granted me a gift, too: the most fabulous winter weather you could imagine. This was surely one of my best birthdays!

We took a bus from Garmisch to Krün, then walked over to Mittenwald and took the train back. This hike has deeply impressed me. We walked towards the gorgeous mountain panorama of Karwendel and Wetterstein mountains all the way, with the sun in our faces and the wide snowy landscape all around. It was a perfect day.


This is an easy hike, more a walk, with just very short ascents and descents in the wavy topography of the valley ground. Perfect for an untrained person like me. The estimated time is officially 2 h 15 - we needed 3 hours because we took so many photos.

The walk is on a paved country road which is cleared from snow in winter. In theory it is closed to traffic but people from the adjacent farms can use it, so there will be the occasional car or tractor passing. 95% of it is exposed to the sun, no shade, which is pleasant in winter, spring and autumn but could be boiling hot in summer.



Krün is a picture-book Bavarian village with pretty old and new houses and the little church in the centre, gardens and meadows around. Not spectacular but charming.

The bus drops you off in the centre of the village. The quick detour to the Kurhaus is recommended in case you need a) maps or b) a public toilet. To find the Isar valley trail, though, you have to walk in the opposite direction past the village church and then keep West along either Feldstraße or Wettersteinstraße over to „Am Bärnbichl“, the suburb or hamlet in the West of the village. The first street left, named Hochstraße, is the beginning of the trail and there it is signposted.



A short walk along the trail you'll spot a cute little chapel under a large tree in the fields: the pilgrimage chapel of Maria Rast („Mary's rest“). The chapel has a distinctly baroque appearance but in fact it has only been inaugurated in 1998! It is located on a stretch of the Camino di Santiago which passes here.


I like the imagination of Mary sitting down to rest in this pleasant spot and enjoying the landscape views...

Karwendel range
Wettersteingebirge and Zugspitze

The whole way you walk towards the fabulous mountain panorama of Karwendel range on the left, Wetterstein range and Zugspitze massif on the far right. The valley is wide and the mountains form a theatrical setting around it.

The view to the north

This photo shows why you should do the hike from Krün to Mittenwald and not in the opposite direction. This is the view north as you'd see it when walking towards Krün. Nice but... compare to the other pictures. For the „wow“ factor you'd have to turn round and look back. Better walk towards it and enjoy it all the time while you walk.



Buckelwiesen are a geological peculiarity of the landscape in Werdenfelser Land around Mittenwald. The ground is not smooth but consists of countless hummocks. The soil was shaped by the glaciers of the last ice age, then erosion deepened the structures. In winter the snow-covered surface looks like a sculpture. Originally they were covered in forests but the areas have been cleared for use as pastures. Many farmers have „flattened“ the surfaces for easier work, but those which are preserved are now protected nature reserves, so please stay on the path.



The little wooden huts in the meadows, either built from logs or wooden structures covered with planks, are a typical feature of the valleys in Werdenfelser Land. They serve as storages for hay, and probably also farm tools during the hay-making season - and they are a nice addition to landscape photos.

The invisible lake


Halfway along the trail there is a little lake, Schmalensee or Schmalsee, at the bottom of the valley. The lake is private property and used for fish breeding and fishing by the local fishing club.

In mid winter the lake was frozen over and invisible under the snow. Only the reeds and the unusually smooth surface indicated its presence.

Karwendel mountains shortly before reaching Mittenwald




Shortly before Mittenwald the trail leads through a bit of forest, then reaches the road from Garmisch - this is the only bit which runs along a larger road - and the northern end of Mittenwald. Walking through the back streets takes you along a small creek which runs through this quarter. In snow and sunshine everything is pretty, so there is material for more photos. Soon the baroque steeple of the main church appears in the distance so you know the direction to the town centre.

We arrived in Mittenwald late in the afternoon, so the visit was short and just enough for an overview. Someday I'll return to see the place more thoroughly, I promise.




The art of painting the facades of the houses, known as Lüftlmalerei, is popular all over Upper Bavaria but Mittenwald is maybe the capital of it. A walk through the town is like browsing through a picture book. The majority of houses in the centre are decorated with frescoes. This folk art has its origins in the baroque trompe-l'oeil, painting fake elements of architecture onto plain walls to imitate the more expensive three-dimensional stonemason or stucco elements. However, the Bavarian artists preferred figural scenes to pure architecture. The facades are populated with historical people and events, with scenes depicting the profession of the house owner, or country life in the mountains, or rural festivals, or angels and saints. Such paintings have been done for 250 years, hence styles vary. Some are of high artistic value, others are on the brink of kitsch. But all are fun to look at.



Mittenwald is also famous as centre of violin making. If you want to learn more about Mittenwald's violin makers, visit the Geigenbaumuseum - unfortunately we did not have time to see it. But traces of this craft can be found all over town: the artisans' workshops, pictures in Lüftlmalerei on some houses. Even the steeple is ornated with a large treble clef on one side.

The catholic parish church of St Peter and Paul is originally a gothic building but facades and interior have been redesigned in the baroque era. The master builder was Joseph Schmuzer, who had learned his craft in the school of Wessobrunn. The date 1746 is inscribed on the steeple; the entire works took one and a half decades from 1734 to 1749.

The beautiful baroque steeple with the bell-shaped roof is Mittenwald's landmark. The upper storeys have architectural elements in stucco while on the lower parts it's all trompe-l'oeil, Lüftlmalerei - columns and rustications on the corners are just painted on the flat wall.



Karwendel Mountains



The Karwendel massif is Mittenwald's „house mountain“. The town sits at the foot of the steep rocky massif which appears in many street views. The mountain range consists of four chains with 125 peaks over 2000 m altitude. It is popular among hikers and mountain climbers, in winter also among freeskiers. The limestone has been eroded into ragged rocks.

The highest peak of the northernmost chain which is towering over Mittenwald is Westliche Karwendelspitze, 2385 m above sea level. Closely below is the top station of the cable car. The ridge marks the border. The major part of Karwendel is in Austria.

A cable car takes visitors from Mittenwald high up into the Karwendel mountains. The top station is perched on the edge of the rock and looks like a stranded UFO, especially at night when the lights are on (photo 3). A recent addition is the giant telescope, which contains Germany's highest nature information centre with an exhibition about the Alps, and of course the view.


Sorry to admit that I did not even think about going up. I am scared of heights and this is not for me. For all further details what to do and see at the top, timetables, fares etc. please consult the Karwendelbahn website.

Waiting for the train back to Garmisch on a very frosty evening

Posted by Kathrin_E 01:30 Archived in Germany Tagged snow alps bavaria bayern Comments (2)

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