…A Few of My Favorite Things – Part 1

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:

Chagall window in St. Stephan's, Mainz
Chagall window in St. Stephan’s, Mainz

• 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 overlooking the Rhein
Marksburg overlooking the Rhein

• 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.

Schloss Heidelberg close-up
Schloss Heidelberg close-up
River Neckar in Heidelberg
River Neckar in Heidelberg

• 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 ship museum
Düsseldorf ship museum
Rainy view of the Rhein from the top of the museum tower
Rainy view of the Rhein from the top of the museum tower

• 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.

First glimpse up at Köln Dom
First glimpse up at Köln Dom
Main aisle of the Köln Dom
Main aisle of the Köln Dom

• 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.

One of the walls of bones in St. Ursula's
One of the walls of bones in St. Ursula’s

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.

Silver lining to a rainy day at Köln Dom
Silver lining to a rainy day at Köln Dom
Advertisements

Christmas Season Countdown

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith the Christmas season drawing to a close, James and I made the most of the last few pre-Christmas days and visited two new markets.  Yesterday we drove about an hour southeast from our new apartment to the university town of Heidelberg.  The Altstadt (old town) of Heidelberg is paved with cobblestones and nestles between the Neckar River and the mountaintop castle Schloss Heidelberg.  The market itself is actually made up of small market areas located in several close but disconnected town squares.  Unique to this market is an ice skating rink that lies in the shadow of Schloss Heidelberg.  And yes, we happened to park behind Santa Claus.IMG_1642IMG_1645IMG_1648

Today we stopped in Hildesheim, about three hours north of us, a halfway point on our way to visit relatives near Hamburg for Christmas.  Hildesheim’s market is small and pleasantly not as crowded as the other markets we’ve visited.  We tried a local food for dinner called Hildesheimer Rahmfladen.  This is a dark flour-dusted bread topped with a soft cheese and thick crumbles of bacon, baked in an oven, and sprinkled with sliced green onions just before serving.  It was delicious, especially paired with hot chocolate and Amaretto.  I’ve been thinking about what the rest of winter in Germany will be like after the Christmas season… Cold and dark (the sun sets a little after 4 p.m. now) without Christmas markets?!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA