Day 6: Würzburg and The Residence
Waking early this morning knowing I had to post pictures to yesterday’s blog, I quietly slid open the veranda door of our stateroom and stepped into the cool river air. In the water just below, silently swam a snow white swan, a single beautiful creature enjoying the early morning with me on the Main River. What a great way to start the day.
Posting pictures to blog site when most of the ship’s passengers are still abed is much less frustrating than competing for bandwidth in the evening when everyone is online emailing, sending pictures home, surfing the web and doing whatever else sucks the life out of the ship’s internet connection. I think I’ve found my solution to posting frustration. However, as I write this now, the connection seems to be reasonably fast and I may get everything done early tonight for a change.
This morning we docked briefly in Karlstadt where buses waited to take us on a 20 minute ride to Würzburg while the ship made the same trip in about three hours. Our first tour stop for the day was “The Residence,” the former home of eight Prince-Bishops from the early 18th century (ca. 1720) until early in the 19th century (ca 1808). The Residence (aka Residenz) should more accurately be called a baroque palace and is one of the most extravagant and stately buildings in all Germany. A Prince-Bishop was both a political figure and the head of the Catholic Church in this region and thus controlled power and money that made possible the building of this huge and opulent structure.
Pictures of the exterior and gardens are permitted, but no photography is allowed in the interior, much to my chagrin. You can see pictures of the interior and learn more about the residence and it’s amazing structural art at several web sites, including this link to Wikipedia.
The one-hour walk through the palace was awe inspiring for the art and craftsmanship on display, but also thought provoking as I considered the vast economic and social distances between the privileged few who lived in and ruled from the residence and the many whose taxes, labor and support made possible the life lived by the most exalted of the upper class. As an artistic statement, I approve of the palace and its appointments; as a political statement I of course disapprove of the vast gulf that separated the classes.
One other note: Near the end of World War II, Würzburg suffered the same fate as several other German cities, Dresden being the most well-known, which were fire bombed and almost completely destroyed. In the case of Wurzburg, about 90% of the city was destroyed in the incendiary induced firestorm, including much of the Residence. What remained was saved, in large part by Americans recently made famous by the movie “Monuments Men.” By 2000, the residence had been largely restored at a cost of €20 million proudly paid by German and Würzburg taxpayers, and subsidized in a way by the U.S. Marshall Plan.
Following our time in the Residence, we headed out for a one hour tour of the center of Würzburg and several hours of free time walking through the city and it’s busy market place. Our guide correctly pointed out on several occasions that churches dominate the skyline of the city and still play an important role in the lives of the people who live there. I focused my camera on a few of the more prominent and striking examples.
A large festival honoring the patron saint of Würzburg (St. Killian, also the patron saint of Ireland) was underway in the city and we competed with pilgrims for sidewalk space. Large churches also competed with one another for space and every block seemed to contain several churches or cathedrals, any one of which would have made most cities proud.
The market square has been part of city life here for a thousand years and today was no different. Vegetable stalls, clothing tents, jewelry vendors and a endless variety of other merchants hawked their domestic and imported wares to tourists and residents alike. It was a great place to people watch and to get a feel for the flow of life in Würzburg.
We could have gone back to the ship early but decided to spend a large part of the afternoon in the city exploring and experiencing the local cuisine. Every town in Germany probably has a Ratskeller restaurant/bar, which roughly translated means the place where government officials meet outside of city hall to drink. We chose the Ratskeller because it was nearby and because it promised bratwurst, sauerkraut, rye bread and beer. Find a table outside and a waitress who speaks English and you’re in for a Franconian treat. As usual, I ate more than I should have, but it was delicious and the beer was cold.
Our only purchase today was another bottle of white wine for which this region is well known. I anticipate emptying it tomorrow or the next day sitting on my veranda enjoying the river views.
It’s nice to finish the blog early for a change. More to come tomorrow.
More Views from Würzburg