Episode 357 – The Romantic Road & Würzburg

The 12th to 15th century buildings still boast their identification signs.

When we travelled in the U.S., we often saw signs on inns boasting “Washington slept here”. In Rothenburg, Kaiser Friedrich III slept here in 1474, King Ferdinand slept here in 1540, and King Charles V in 1546. The sign on the bottom right identifies the home of the Mayor, who in 1631 saved the town from destruction during the 30 years war by drinking 3 litres of wine in a single sitting, meeting the challenge of the town’s conqueror.

The Mayor’s “mighty thirst” is celebrated by a mechanized display on the town’s clock: on the hours, the Mayor downs a huge tankard of wine while the Count of Tilly watches. The best telling of the story I’ve found is at We Are The Mighty

Note the clock tower. The city walls boast 42 towers, several of which have clocks.

We were amused by the Rothenburg “weather station” in one of the alleys, with its piece of rock suspended from a bell.
Rock throws shade = Sunny
Rock is wet = Rain
Rock is still = Calm
Rock is moving = Windy
Rock is dry = Cloudy
Rock is invisible = Fog
Rock is white = Snow
Rock on the ground = Earthquake
Rock is gone = Thieves

The extension from the top of the house in the bottom left would have had a pulley attached to it in the Middle Ages to allow grain and food to be stored at the top of the house, away from rodents and thieves. Rothenburg residents were at one time required by law to have a full year of provisions stored, in case invaders breached the city wall.

Views showing the still intact Mediaeval wall, as well as a newer (early 17th century) building featuring the pulley at the top, 2 upper floors for storage, 3 central floors of living spaces, and a tall ground floor for animals.

Top and left: two more tower styles, these without clocks. Right: Rothenburg is famous for its “Schneeballen” (snowball) pastries, strips of unsweetened dough firmed into a ball, and deep-fried. The ball is then coated with sugar or chocolate, and can even be filled with marzipan, nougat, or mousse. I bought the traditional Schneeball heavily coated with powdered sugar and soon looked as if I’d been snowed on!

St. Jakob (St. James) Church. Centre right shows part of an exterior stone grotto with a depiction of Christ on the Mount of Olives. Bottom right: a statue of an early Christian pilgrim on the Camino/Road the Santiago.

Rothenburg had the first VERTICAL sundial we’ve ever seen. It’s very easy to see that it’s 10:30

We strolled through the arched entrance (with its evidence of having had a portcullis) into the castle garden for the fabulous views over hillside vineyards.

St. Blasius Chapel is the only thing – other than the wall – that has survived of the original castle. The plaque and memorial at the castle attest to the mistreatment of Jews in the 13th century, abetted by early Christian prejudices. A stolperstein on the main street details the unknown fate (“schicksal unbekannt”) of a 20th century Jewish man, Siegfried Steinberger, taken from his home and transported to Riga.

After touring Rothenburg, and a lovely lunch of typical Bavarian foods (potato soup, bratwurst, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and apple strudel, all accompanied by the local Franconian Silvaner wine) we returned to the centre of Würzburg: a city built on the site of a Bronze Age castle, a Celtic settlement, and a Roman fort; Christianized in the 7th century, and now the capital of Germany’s Franconia province. There are multiple layers of history right out in the open here, including a Roman bridge.

To say that Würzburg was heavily damaged during WWII is an understatement. On 16 March 1945, about 90% of the city was destroyed in 17 MINUTES by firebombing from 225 British Lancaster bombers during an Allied air raid. The historic elements of the city, including the palace, were rebuilt and restored over the 20 post-war years. It is the restored Bishops’ Residenz Palace that Ted and I revisited this afternoon.

The front facade of the Bishops Residenz. Although heavily bombed, the stone walls and central hallway remained. The entire city looked like stone skeletons after the incendiary devices burned roofs and interiors, and exploded glass windows.

One thing has not changed: absolutely no photography, liquids, or large purses are allowed inside the palace. The latter two relate to damage done to fragile artwork in the past; purses, etc are placed in lockers before entry is granted. Ted had to be contented with exteriors shots.

Details from the entrance fountain.

“No photography” means that our memories will have to suffice (or you can look up the palace on Wikipedia to see some of the magnificent interiors). In 2013, this palace was our very first experience of Baroque/Rococo architecture, and I still remember how awed I was by the ceiling frescoes with their 3-dimensional embellishments that extended onto the walls, the gorgeous chandeliers produced in Würzburg in the mid 1700’s, and the “mirror room” with its back-painted mirrors covering the walls and ceilings, embellished with 2.5 kg (5.5 pounds) of gold.

The “back yard” of the Residenz.

The absolutely stunningly gorgeous ceiling fresco in the staircase of the Würzburg Residence, painted by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, is the largest fresco in the world, and that in a nutshell tells the story of the wealth of the Prince-Bishops, who were both the political and religious leaders of their time (no separation of church and state was even considered).

The colours of the rooms (tourists are only able to enter a tiny fraction of the almost 400 rooms spread over the 3 wings of the palace) are as spectacular as I remembered: sunny yellow, crimson red, green and blue – often with glass components in the crystal chandeliers that matched wall colours or tapestry elements.

In the Residenz gardens, each tree is sculpted into a cone under which a statue rests.

It was dusk by the time we returned to the Magni, docked very near the old bridge, and the cool air hitting the warmer river water was quickly creating fog cover like that to which we’d woken.

One of Würzburg’s cobbled streets leading to the river.

Marienberg Fortress, home of the Prince Bishops until they needed something bigger and more modern (the Residenz Palace)

The Alte Mainbrücke (Old bridge on the Main), erected from 1473 to 1543 replacing an old Romanesque bridge that dated to 1133 AD. The 12 statues of saints and rulers along the bridge are 18th century additions.

Fog beginning to obscure Marienberg Fortress.

It really was another lovely day.

Just before dinner, we were given the news that the Main river between Bamburg and Nuremberg is too shallow to traverse, so the day after tomorrow we’ll be transferred to one of Viking’s sister ships (and their passengers to ours) to continue our journey beyond the shallow areas. It’s been a historically dry year in Europe! So this does not come as a complete surprise, although we’d hoped for higher water levels by November. We know Viking will make the transition as smooth as possible; they’ve dealt with both high (boats can’t pass under bridges) and low (boats can’t float!) river levels before. While it’s no fun re-packing our suitcases midway through our cruise, as Ted would say: “Look at where we are!”


  1. Aw, that’s too bad. On our trip from Budapest to Amsterdam in October, we thought we were making the ultimate sacrifice to help all future GE cruisers by switching ships for no other reason than to help Viking get its ships back where they were supposed to be and paired up correctly. We had three days on the Mir before being transferred during our stay in Vienna where we were rafted with our “real” ship, the Gefjon. Our cruise director, Tessa, stayed with us. I’m sorry it didn’t end up being the ultimate. We never had to really leave the water, though a 17 hour delay when a lock got stuck, requiring scuba divers to repair, meant quite a bit of schedule shuffling and one long bus ride (which I really enjoyed because the color in the vineyards was spectacular.) Viking handled it well, but we aren’t sure we will ever try another river cruise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Scuba divers?! Now THAT would have been worth seeing!
      We’ve definitely not given up on Viking river cruises, but they no longer hold the cachet they once did now that their fleet is so large.


  2. On our river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest, because the water was low, we changed ships not once but twice.  The ships were identical, we even had the same rooms.  Viking commissioned a local vessel to transport us to areas not accessible. Viking is used to these transfers but do them well. Happy travels.Pat

    Sent from the all new AOL app for iOS

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, indeed, “look at where you are”! A small inconvenience for such pleasure. I admit to a bit of a chuckle, though, at your mention of one of the clock towers. (“The city walls boast 42 towers, several of which have clocks.”) Having just done the daylight savings thing, I have to wonder if they all got changed, and if all 45 read the same time. Me? I’d always be looking for the one that was always 5 minutes behind! LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

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