This morning we arrived at the “technical stop” area in Würzburg Flusshafen (river port) in order for us to load onto buses, which would take us into the city. The ship itself then sailed on to the city center to pick us up later.
We had an interesting tour guide, who told us his long German name, then said to just call him “Flo.” He mentioned that, if we really wanted to bring home some authentic German souvenirs, something that everybody he knew contained in their homes, buy some schnapps. He said he “never wore leather pants, never owned a cuckoo clock,” but everybody in Germany had a bottle or two of schnapps in their homes. He said they drink it whenever they feel like a cold is coming on, and it’s great for sore throats!
The bus dropped us at our first destination, the breathtakingly beautiful, Baroque and Rococo style Würzburger Residenz. This palace, begun in 1720 and finished in 1744, was designed by Balthasar Neumann for Prince-Bishops Johann Philipp Franz von Schönborn and his brother, Friedrich Carl von Schönborn.
The Cour d’honneur (front courtyard area, Court of Honor) contains the Franconia Fountain, which was created by Ferdinand von Miller the Younger and was unveiled in 1894 as a tribute to the city and all of Franconia.
The gorgeous frescoes throughout the building were painted by the famous Venetian painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Antonio Bossi created the wonderful stucco-work. The ceiling above the grand staircase is the world’s largest ceiling fresco at 677 square meters. Tiepolo painted the continents (only 4 known at that time: Europe, America, Asia and Africa) around the ceiling. The continents are represented by “a typical landscape and animals (or the painter’s vision of these animals) and a female allegorical figure,” (Wikipedia).
Napoleon Bonaparte stayed in the Residenz three times between 1806 and 1813. He described it as the “nicest parsonage in Europe.” The building has almost 400 rooms! Unfortunately, most of them were heavily damaged during WWII. The British conducted an air raid over the city on March 16, 1945, and “about 90% of the city full of civilians (and military hospitals) was destroyed in 17 minutes” by the raid, according to Wikipedia. The Residenz was “almost completely burnt out and only the central building with the Vestibule, Garden Hall, Staircase, White Hall and Imperial Hall survived the inferno, their roofs destroyed.” From 1945 to 1987, painstaking exact reconstruction took place at a cost of about 20 million Euros. The work was mostly done by women (called Trümmerfrauen, or “rubble women”), because so many men had been killed or injured during the War.
Nowadays, the Residenz is used as a museum and is also used by the University of Würzburg. In 1981, the Würzburger Residenz was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. We were not allowed to take photos inside the building, so I will rely upon the postcards I bought in the Residenz gift shop.
After we exited the building, Flo took us around the south side to the Court Garden. This was a beautiful, formal Rococo garden with sculpted trees.
For a wonderful Virtual Tour of the Würzburger Residenz, you can go to this site: http://www.residenz-wuerzburg-vr.com (Be sure to click on the sound icon in order to hear the audio description of each room.)
Flo then walked us to the Market Square area of the city, where he showed us the Romanesque style St. Kilian Cathedral, which was built from the years 1040 to 1225. We did not go inside it.
Flo pointed out several other interesting places we may wish to see. He told us where to catch our ship, informed us as to where the liquor store was located (so we could buy schnapps), and then left us to wander about the town on our own. Bill and I headed straight to the liquor store, where we were allowed to taste several different flavors of schnapps. We finally decided on hazelnut and bought a bottle to take back to the ship and share with the rest of our group.
From there, we headed to a nice-looking Konditorei and ordered some snacks and tasty coffee. I ordered a chocolate and almond paste cookie, while Bill ordered a pretzel. Unfortunately, the pretzel was in need of some butter. The serving girl did not speak English and, of course, we did not speak German, so Bill had a hard time trying to ask for “butter.” She ended up bringing him salt and a knife!
After that we walked over to the Gothic style Marienkapelle (St. Mary Chapel), which was almost as large as the Cathedral. My Avalon Guide Book describes it as “an impressive…church (14th/15th century) marked by splendid decoration both inside and out. Most outstanding of all are the copies of the figures of Adam and Eve” above one of the doors. (The original Adam and Eve figures, carved by Tilman Riemenschneider, are kept in the museum at the Marienberg Fortress, which I’ll talk about later.)
Flo, our tour guide, had told us about an odd depiction above one of the Marienkapelle doors. He said it was someone’s idea of “God trying to impregnate Mary” by attaching a cord from his mouth to her ear! Have a look for yourself:
We went inside to take more photos.
After touring Marienkapelle, we didn’t have a lot of time before we had to be back at the ship, so we started to meander down toward the Main River.
The Alte Mainbrücke (Old Main Bridge) of Würzburg was built from 1473 to 1543. The bridge has statues of saints and other figures lining both sides of it. The bridge is a wonderful place to take photos of the Marienberg Fortress (castle on the hill overlooking Würzburg).
On the hillside across the Main River and overlooking the city of Würzburg sits the Marienberg Fortress. It is a castle that, according to our ship newsletter, “reflects a building history embracing about five centuries from about 1200 onward.” As I stated before, there is a museum inside the castle (the Main-Franconian Museum) that contains many wonderful works by Tilman Riemenschneider, including the famous Adam and Eve figures.
A Bronze Age castle stood at the site of the present Marienberg Fortress. Würzburg “was a Merovingian seat from about 650, Christianized in 686 by Irish missionaires Kilian, Kolonat and Totnan” (from Wikipedia). From 1237, the Würzburg city seal has depicted St. Kilian Cathedral and a portrait of St. Kilian. (A painting of St. Kilian, Kolonat and Totnan adorn the Cathedral.) Our tour guide, Flo, had told us that all three missionaries had been killed (beheaded) by the town’s soldiers, but were then promptly honored as saints. “Their skulls, inlaid with precious stones, have been preserved to this day. On St Kilian’s day, a glass case containing the three skulls is removed from a crypt, paraded through the streets before large crowds, and put on display in the Würzburg Cathedral” of St. Kilian, according to Wikipedia.
The Prince-Bishops lived in the Marienberg Fortress prior to moving across the river into the Würzburger Residenz. Here are some photos of the Marienberg Fortress.
The Käppele, a small Baroque/Rococo church designed by Balthasar Neumann, is situated on a hill facing the Fortress.
Here are some other interesting facts about Würzburg:
*Würzburg is often called the “Pearl of the Romantic Road” because of its lovely hillside vineyards, its Fortress Marienberg and its 15th-century Alte Mainbrücke spanning the river.
*The first church located on the site of the present Würzburg Cathedral of St. Kilian was built in about 788, and was consecrated in the same year by Charlemagne.
*Witch trials were held in the city of Würzburg between 1626 and 1631. An estimated number of between 600 and 900 innocent men, women and children (though mostly women) were burned at the stake here. The burnings are believed to have taken place in the city square, outside of the Marienkapelle.
*Prior to Hitler’s rise to power, approximately 2,000 Jews lived in Würzburg. “In November 1941,” according to Wikipedia, “the first Jews from (here) were sent to the East. The final transport departed in June 1943. Few survived.”
*The University of Würzburg was founded in 1402 and “is one of the oldest and most traditional universities in Germany.” (Wikipedia)
*The man who discovered X-rays, Wilhelm Röntgen, made this very important discovery at his original laboratory at the University of Würzburg in 1895.
After Bill and I boarded our ship, the Avalon Vista, and were on our way once more, the ship hosted a “Tribute to Adolphe Sax” in the lounge. A young man who played several different saxophones, along with his piano accompanist, gave us a wonderful concert.
Then, some of us who had previously signed up took a tour of the Galley with the “Chef in his Kingdom.” It was very interesting (though noisy from the ship’s engines near the kitchen). The Chef, who was from Romania, was also very informative and friendly, and he even gave us a small treat on the way out.
All in all, we had a fantastic and very educational day today!