Month: April 2014

Dresden: Zwinger


Our hotel Aparthotel am Zwinger was a few blocks away from the Zwinger at the edge of the “inner old town” of Dresden.  Nearby is the Semper Opera House, which on the day we visited had opened the windows of it’s practice hall.  The park around the Zwinger smelled of fresh lilacs and echoed with the sound of opera. 


The 18thC Zwinger —— Party Palace

It was 1723 and the Zwinger was the hottest place in Saxony.  Walking around, you can see plenty of indications that this was once the site of some wild parties. Augustus the Strong (August der Starke) of Saxony decided to ‘modernize’ the once fortified outer-wall ‘Zwinger’ (13thC) for his court after seeing Château de Versailles in France. This was his place across town– an exhibition hall for games and luxurious gatherings. He is also the reason Dresden is known for porcelain and why there is an impressive collection of old art in the city.


The Zwinger Today

Like most of Dresden’s old city, the Zwinger was devastated after the bombing of WWII (an image here) and the restoration of this premises alone took nearly 20 years.

The Zwinger is now home to three museums, The Old Masters Picture Gallery– Dresden Porcelain Collection — and the Mathematics and Physics Salon.  An entry fee of 10€ will get you into all three.  The Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister has several notable works, one of them being Raphael’s Sistine Madonna.  Believe me, you’ve seen it ; )

I didn’t want to lean into the hype, but it was very beautiful.  If only you could block out those bored little cherubs… right?  Derek enjoyed the Alte Meister Gallery too! I learned that going to look at serious works of art with Derek means a really -fun time-! If art bores you, go with him! He has captions for all the paintings!

—–> More about our trip to Dresden soon… what a city!

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A little behind on this one!  We visited Bamberg the day before Easter!   From the train station, we strolled through the chilly open-air Easter market on our way to the Dom, and much like springtime in the midwest, people were out enjoying a festively bright morning. Nearly everything was closed the day before, so in Bavaria this was the day to be out.


The Dom

Bamberg was built in the 11thC, and one of the main sights is the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Georg.  The cathedral is noteworthy for a few reasons: 1) It is the burial place of Pope Clement IIthe only pope buried north of the Alps  2)  The cathedral statue of the Bamberger Reiter, an unknown knight who was used in the 1940’s for Nazi propaganda as a symbol of German ideals  3) Architecture. The Dom was built Gothic, but burned down (twice) and was altered to Romanesque. All traces of it’s gothic roots were intentionally removed, and is now light Franconian sandstone.



Bionade: A Fermented Soft-Drink (and a Dark Smoky Bamberg Ale)

The highlight of the day! I ordered Bionade with lunch and the discovery of this beverage has made me a fangirl.  If you have tried it, you will agree! It is more refreshing than soda — sort of like ginger ale– but less sugary.  The drink was developed in the 1960’s-70’s in the apartment bathroom of a Bavarian brewmaster who wanted to create an organic non-alcoholic drink (for kids) using fermentation.  It is still produced in northern Bavaria. (I haven’t seen Bionade in the US, but it should be available)

Bamberg is also known for Rauschbier, smoked beers. Derek ordered one with lunch and found out that he doesn’t dig the taste of campfire in his beer. But he did like Bionade!!



Remarkably, the old city of Bamberg was not damaged during WWII and many of the historic buildings are original examples of Romanesque architecture. You could walk the old city of Bamberg in half-a-day, but really– I’d say keep the walking minimal.  The city has much to offer, but my reflections are: Go on a warm day. Walk around in the morning. Spend the entire afternoon sitting outside at a cafe near the Regnitz river and just enjoy the vibe of a great old city.




Residenzlauf 10K

Residenzlauf 10k on Sunday April 13 — 4x around the Würzburg Residenz!  

The Würzburg Residenz run coincided with the city spring festival.  It was a full day of events (including a highly intense rollerblade race!!) I think there were close to 1700 runners in the 10k, which was a big draw for spectators. Late in the day is the Lauf der Asse which roughly translates as ‘Running of Aces’ which is a professional race that attracts elite runners to Würzburg. 

… And you can pick up your non-alc. Distelhäuser Pils (or just plain water) at the finish!


L1 – Bambini Run

L2 – Student Run

L3 – Hobby Running

L4- Fit-and-Fun-Run (5k)

L5 – Main Run (10k)

L6 – Inline Skating

L7 – Running Aces


Leonhard Frank and The Book that Everyone is Reading

The answer to my post a few days ago has surfaced: The book that everyone was reading is Die Jünger Jesu by Leonhard Frank (1949).

We learned that Würzburg liest ein Buch (Würzburg reading a Book)  was a huge city-wide event with 100 supporting events  (public readings, lectures, creative interpretations by 9th/10th graders, music and theater). The reading of this book seems to coincide with Frühjahrsvolksfest, a three-week folk festival that takes place in Würzburg each year beginning the fourth Saturday before Easter. It is the first large festival in Bavaria and marks the beginning of the festival season.


About the book: The Disciples of Jesus
The book sounds really intriguing, it would be great to find an english translation.  Leonhard Frank wrote Die Jünger Jesu “The Disciples of Jesus” while living in exile in the United States. The second edition was just printed in 2013. Though we haven’t read it, I can share an overview from the website:

via Google Translate

“In the immediate postwar period, the disciples of Jesus, “a gang of robber youths”, who in destroyed Würzburg have their secret meeting place in the basement of a monastery church. They take from the rich a pound of coffee, a pair of shoes and leave the stolen goods secretly to the most needy in the city.

In parallel storylines, Leonhard Frank tells of the latently smoldering neo-Nazism in postwar Germany, and the tragic love between a German girl and an American soldier and the fate of the Jewish Heimkehrerin Ruth.”


Who is Leonhard Frank?
Leonhard Frank is a German expressionist writer and the most famous author of Würzburg–his hometown. During WWII, his works were regarded as treasonous and his books were banned and burned.  He lived most of his adult life in exile, though returned to Germany in 1950 and was granted entry into the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, awarded a silver medal from the City of Würzburg, and in 1957, four years before his death was awarded the Great Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

The (organized) reading of this book ended yesterday. Once we knew what we were looking for, we couldn’t miss it.  This event was well-publicized.

The first post is here.  A few more pics:

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The train from Heidelberg to Würzburg stops along the Neckar River.  We stepped off at Hirschhorn, 19km from Heidelberg. The geographic location is sehr schön! Hirschhorn is a tiny historic (restored) medieval half-timber town situated at a bend in the Neckar river, surrounded by the hills of the Odenwald.


Sunday was the ideal day to be in Hirschhorn, the weather was nice, visitors were drinking wine at cobblestone cafés, and the river bend sparkled in the sunshine.  It was totally dreamy.

From the town center there is a footpath that leads to a once fortified castle/monastery that overlooks the valley: Burg Hirschhorn.  I guess comparatively, Burg Hirschhorn is what you might call a ‘smaller’ castle (ha!), built by the Knights of Hirschhorn in 1250.  A Carmelite monastery was added in 1406.



Modern: In the 1950’s, the castle grounds were converted to a hotel and restaurant, which is where we stopped for lunch and both ordered Currywurst and hiked around the surrounding forested paths.




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Hirschhorn has expanded from it’s tiny medieval town-center and is now a modern city where people live and work.




I am starting to think we only travel when it rains!  Our weekend began with a rainy walk to the banhof before we settled in for a 2-hr train to Heidelberg. More about our travel and accommodations here.

We arrived in Heidelberg around 11am (still raining!) The city features a 1-mile cobblestone pedestrian promenade with shopping, cafés and restaurants in a pristine maintained Altstadt “Old city”. Overhead, are the towering partial ruins of Schloss Heidelberg “castle”. Outside of the tourist area is a bustling modern city of 150,000.

Heidelberg is a tourist hot spot.  The rain may have slowed things down, but Heidelberg still had plenty of charm.   Getting around in the tourist areas of Heidelberg was no-problem. It was actually the first time in weeks that I have heard english (British and American) spoken in a crowd. There were a lot of Americans in Heidelberg last weekend!  Because it is a tourist city, we felt free to speak english at the hotel, and when ordering meals.


Here are the highlights:

Schloss Heidelberg
A break in the rain gave us the opportunity to walk the steep pathways to Schloss Heidelberg.  The renaissance castle ruins were intriguing, and the vista was amazing.   We spent a good portion of the afternoon walking around the castle and Schlossgarten that surrounds. video


Heidelberg University Library (1905)
Leaving the castle, we stepped into the university library.  Reprecht-Karls Universität is Germany’s oldest university (founded 1386) and the third university founded in the Holy Roman Empire.  Not much else to report here, just a cool old building and some trivia.


Halbmarathon Heidelberg
On Sunday morning we woke to a cloudless blue sky and to our surprise literally thousands of people outside of our hotel for the Halbmarathon Heidelberg, which was a super start to the day. We found a drumline (!) on the bridge and watched the group climb the steep Neckar river valley – hills!  When we left a few hours later we were even more glad we took the train! If you have ever tried to drive in/out of a marathon … best of luck! video



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