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The Romantic Road - Wurzburg, Germany
After viewing the Mespelbrunn Castle at the quaint town of Mespelbrunn, Germany, just get on the A3 autobahn and drive south about an hour and you arrive at Wurzburg, Germany, the first city going south on the Romantic Road.If you are like me and haven't had enough of fairytales, castles, and damsels in distress, then you want to explore the Romantic Road in Germany. It is full of castles, majestic cathedrals, old bridges, walled towns, and beer and wine gardens. It is the quintestinal Germany that we have all read about in the fairytales of our youth.
I was fortunate enough to live and work in Wurzburg, which lies along the Mainz River in the region of Franconia in northern Bavaria, between Frankfurt and Nuremburg. It is a city of approximately 200,000 people, and 30,000 of those are students at the University of Wurzburg, so today Wurzburg is a thriving university city.
The fortress castle pictured above sits on the hill overlooking the city and you can reach the castle by passing over the Alte Mainebruke or the Old Bridge, built 1473-1543. Lining the bridge on either side are stone statues of saints and famous people of Wurzburg. The citizens of Wurzburg would gather in the fortress for protection and safety during the times of war or attack, in medieval times. So the castle is an important symbol for the city of Wurzburg. But, what is found inside the castle is the real treasure. And, that is the wood carvings and sculptures of Wurzburg's finest artist from medieval times, Tilman Riemenschneider. He lived during the 1400's in Wurzburg, and most of the wood carvings, statues, carved altars etc. that are found in the city are by him. His attention to detail is exquisite and each statue looks ready to come to life and shake your hand, they are so well carved. He carved in dark cherry and mahogany woods from the forests of Germany. The inside of the fortress is a museum to the art from the different eras of Wurzburg's past and glory, but I find the Riemenschneider carvings to be the best. Don't miss this!
Outside and the next hill over from the fortress you will see the Kappele, the baroque-roccoco chapel built by Balthasar Newmann. It has a beautiful 24 karat gold altar, and art and paintings from the baroque-rococco era. It is gorgeous to sit in to think and /or meditate and listen to the beautful bells that ring at noon, early evening, and nighttime
The Residenz - The Palace Residence
The Residenz was the magnificent palace residence, in the baroque-roccoco style, for the Prince-Bishop of Wurzburg. The Catholic bishops created a duchy with its center in Wurzburg. That is the reason why Wurzburg was ruled by a prince-bishop. It was built between the years of 1720 and 1744, and had Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn lived a little later, he would have resided in this grand palace during his rule in Wurzburg. The Hofkirche, the church interior, has altars painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. The Treppenhaus has the largest fresco in the world which adorns the staircase and is also by Tiepolo. There are several paintings by Titan and other Italian artists from the baroque-roccoco period in the palace. Don't miss this either - it takes about a day to tour this and the gardens, but it is another beautiful way to spend a day in Germany. It you are here in early June, the Residenz presents a special treat. For one week, every evening, the Mozartfest is presented in the gardens. The music of Mozart, Hayden, Beethovan and other German composers is presented by the Wurzburg Orchestra. You can buy one of two tickets, either to sit on chairs set up in the garden or bring a blanket and lay on the garden grounds to listen. (This was always my choice) If it is raining, which it does do a lot in Germany, they move the fest inside the Residenz, so either way, the atmosphere is wonderful.
One fact to note here is that most of the people living in Bavaria are of the Catholic religion, which was a surprise to me. I had always associated Germany with Protestantism with the history of Martin Luther nailing his thesis to the door of the cathedral in Weims. My great-grandfather+ was a Lutheran minister who immigrated to America from Germany, obviously greatly influenced by Martin Luther, so I always considered Germany a Protestant country. When I lived in Wurzburg I was surprised by the Catholic history and background of the city and all of Bavaria.
- Tilman Riemenschneider - German master woodcarver and sculptor
Tilman Riemenschneider, master woodcarver and sculptor from Wurzburg, Germany gives us a glimpse into the Middle Ages through his artistic woodcarvings.
The Dom or the cathedral of Wurzburg was built as early as 788 AD and consecrated by Charlemagne. The present building, built over the orginial cathedral, was constructed from 1040-1225 in the Romanesque style. Tilman Riemenschneider built and carved the famous tombstones of Rudolf II von Scherenberg (1466-1495) and Lorenz von Bibra (1495-1519) that lie in the cathedral. On some Sundays, I would attend mass at the cathedral and have to pinch myself that I was sitting in this majestic cathedral while I valiently tried to learn and practice the German language during mass.
The Dom is situated in downtown Wurzburg, so once downtown you don't want to miss the Marktplatz, the main square and hub (no pun intended) of the city. Here is where the produce, fruit, meat and fish market opens every morning by 8 a.m. The German ladies come with their baskets to purchase the day's food for their meals. Even today, the German households have smaller refrigerators that we do here in the U.S., and mostly shop daily for food. The Marktplatz is surrounded by stores, cafes, pastry and bread shops, and is the central meeting place for the citizens of Wurzburg. Off the Marktplaz is the shopping district where there are the department stores. jewelry stores, shoe stores etc.
And just when you have had your fill of medieval history, art, and culture there is the thoroughly modern Kulturspeichernachs, the cultural center of Wurzburg. Here is a modern museum of art and several theaters that host the Wurzburg Opera and city orchestra. The opera and orchestra are not to be missed. They are marvelous.
And did I mention the beer and wine gardens? I think I did. These are found all over Wurzburg and along the Romantic Road. Wurzburg has its own beer company, Wurzburgerhof, and sells it all over Franconia. I'm not much of a beer drinker, but the beer is very good. It is a ligher, golden beer rather than a dark beer. German beers are much heavier than American beers and therefore I rarely drink them. What I enjoyed when I lived in Wurzburg was Frankenwein, which is the wine produced in and around Wurzburg in Franconia. In fact, if you look closely at the hill on which the Festung Marienburg sits, the slopes coming down from the castle are indeed a vineyard, full of grape vines. That Germany was only a land of beer, is another assumption I had to leave behind. Franconia is a wonderful wine making region of Germany and competes with the Mosel and Rhine valleys of Germany.
So, you can imagine on Friday nights, we American teachers visited the wine and beer gardens of Wurzburg after a long, hard week of teaching, and learned a lot about the German culture, too. And, yes, I did attend the Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany the year I lived there, but that is another story and another hub.
Wurzburg is just a beautiful city beginning the Romantic Road south to the town of Fussen in southern Bavaria. I will be sharing with you my favorite cities and towns on the Romantic Road and the activities, art, history and culture in the "land of fairytales," Germany.
Travel in Germany
- Germany Travel
Travel Germany, Explore modern German Cities- Berlin, Frankfurt. Indulge- Germanys culture rich Bavaria, Oktoberfest in Munich, Relaxing Spa towns, mystical Black forest, Beautiful Bavarian Alps. Come see for yourself what else Germany has to give.
- European Traveler
- Mespelbrunn Castle
The romantic Mespelbrunn Castle, is a treat to behold, nestled in the Spessart forest of Germany.