With relatives in town, James and I have gotten to show off some of our favorite places, visit places we’ve been wanting to see, and search for new sites to explore. Here are some highlights of week 1:
• Mainz: Some things old, something new
No trip to Mainz would be complete without a walk around town, an exploration of the Dom (cathedral), and beer and pretzels with Spundekas’ (a local soft cheese dip). We also finally got to see St. Stephan’s, a church famous for its windows, in the daylight. These stained glass windows are a creation of the artist Marc Chagall. Although they consist of simple shapes and are painted entirely in shades of blue, the windows appear very striking and complex. Their appearance changes throughout the day according to the natural light outside.
• Marksburg Castle: Great local riverside castle
For details on this castle, see my original visit: Marksburg. The main difference this time was that we went on a Wednesday afternoon instead of a weekend, which meant there were fewer visitors. We basically got a private tour of the castle after enjoying the sunny weather from the castle café terrace.
• Heidelberg: Fantastic third visit, this time with castle close-up
Perfect spring weather set the backdrop for our most recent visit to Heidelberg. Music to set the mood: “Memories of Heidelberg.” This time we maneuvered by car along a narrow, switchback road up a steep hill to Schloss (Castle) Heidelberg. Previously I had only seen it from the quaint Altstadt (old city area) below. Once we had wandered through the Altstadt as far as the old bridge, we saw many people enjoying the spring afternoon on the River Neckar in rowboats and atop stand-up paddle boats.
• Düsseldorf: Of ships, churches, and market stands
That sums the trip up in a nutshell. About two hours northwest of here, we made a brief stop in Düsseldorf on a rainy day on the way to visit other relatives. In short, we visited a ship museum, St. Lambertus Church, and the town’s open air market.
• Köln: New favorite German city?
The visit to Köln was unreal: Most of the day consisted of intermittent drizzle but ended with a rainbow. This city is in the same direction as Düsseldorf but about twenty minutes closer. We spent most of the trip exploring the Köln Dom, and most of that time in a spiral staircase climbing its 520 stairs for an amazing view of Köln from a height of about 157 meters (515 feet). I should note that the Ulm Münster, also constructed in the middle ages and completed hundreds of years later, is an even taller church.
A more eccentric highlight of our trip was a visit to St. Ursula’s Basilika, home to a chamber walled on all four sides with displays of human bones. The bones are said to be associated with a legend of St. Ursula, whose traveling companions were killed in battle when they arrived in Köln. The bones are artistically arranged into patterns and letters as though they were simply pieces of wood. After this macabre sight, the sun came out in time for us to see the Köln Dom adorned with a rainbow. And before heading home, we stopped into a small carry-out place for currywurst and fries.