After our visit to Rothenburg, we catch up with the boat in Wurzburg. This evening we have lighted views of the Fortress of Marienberg, the original Prince Bishops Residence, and the Chapel up on the hill.
For our morning tour with a twenty-one year old college student as our guide, the weather is even colder and the rain a greater threat. We are visiting the Residence, the home of the Prince Bishops. In the entry hall, we have to deposit our personal items, including cameras, in a locker. With my coat being so heavy, I decided to leave it locked up; I was cold the whole time.
The vestibule is now closed but was originally open and designed so a coach could turn without difficulty. The vaulting is a low elevation to provide an architectural contrast to the lofty staircase. The frescoed ceiling above the staircase is the largest in Europe. It depicts the continents that were known to exist at the the time, highlighting the artist’s limited knowledge of foreign lands. For example, after being told that an ostrich was a bird that could run as fast as a man, the ostrich was painted with human legs. At the corners of the ceiling, there is statuary that appears to be lifting from the painting.
My favorite room was White Hall (Weisser Saal) designed as the guard room with some military motifs. It is grey and white, with touches of darker grey and gold in the corners which looked like fabric. The stucco decoration is said to be the masterpiece of Antonio Bossi. White Hall stands in contrast to the adjoining rooms-the painted ceilings of the Imperial Staircase and Imperial Hall. In White Hall, check out the stucco dragons on opposite sides of the room. Showing humor, the artist designed male and female dragons, the female with breasts.
The adjoining Imperial Hall featured faux marble on the columns, elaborate painting that was actually more expensive that using real marble. There is lots of color and gilding in this room. The four large and impressive chandeliers were saved from the WWII destruction of the palace by being stored in butter. The Hall also features famous paintings. One features Fredrich I Babrarossa and his 12-year-old bride Beatrix of Burgundy. Barbarossa was still married at the time, but needed heirs. The bigamist Emperor had to find a priest that would marry them. He elevated Wurzburg Bishop Herold to Duchy of Franconia in exchange for performing the rites. The painting on the opposite side of the hall features this event. The artist made subtle references to the unholiness of the act in the painting, showing Beatrix as a pregnant bride and covering the crucified Jesus to show his dissatisfaction with the marriage.
We then visited the southern Imperial Bedrooms including the anteroom, audience chamber, venetian room, and mirror cabinet. The Mirror Cabinet was completely destroyed by bombing in 1945. Based on a single preserved mirror fragment, photographs, and a watercolor, the room was recreated between 1979 and 1987, using the old techniques. The detailed mirrors with paintings were inspired by Versailles and are a UNESCO site.
Due to time and weather, we did not visit the northern apartments or the garden. Instead we walked into the downtown with its many spires-each Prince Bishop needed his masterpiece. We saw the Chapel, the burial place that could be seen from the palace. We passed gold-colored medal stones acknowledging victims of the Holocaust. Finally, we came to the town hall, very near the Christmas market.
The Christmas Market had charming decorations. We saw “St. Nicholas” with a group enjoying a wine tasting. I found some unique glass ornaments in this market. Boris continues to collect his lighted houses. On the edge of the market we came upon a lovely yellow-painting building with wreaths and lighted candles in the window. Boris found a lighted house modeled after this building. We had to go into my emergency cash, but it was the purchase of the day.
The three-tiered spinner with movement originally powered by candles is the classic German Christmas decoration. In Wurzburg, we saw a building-sized version. Leaving the Christmas market, we walked back to the river going down the stairs at the bridge covered with statuary which is reminiscent of Prague. From this vantage point, I got the daylight view of the Fortress of Marienburg. It was a cold, rainy day, but I love it. It feels like Christmas. Boris was tired and never got his afternoon nap (as I did on the beer tour day). He is staying in for the afternoon while I go on the optional afternoon tour to Aschfeld.
So in spite of the rain and cold, 49 of the passagers-almost half of the 110 on board-set out to visit a Franconian Village. This is where a little German would have come in handy.
We had about a 40-minute drive to Aschfeld. The local hosts spoke only German so our guide translated, meaning all the jokes were delayed. We met in the church and were told about the history and the museum layout. Achfeld is at the intersection of two medieval trade routes. The church-castle was a medieval fort used by the citizens when under siege by “rambling warriors”. When a confrontation was anticipated, the villagers moved themselves and all their belongings (including animals) into the compound. The wall provided a four-story stronghold with a watchtower last used for shelter during the 30-years war. The fortress has never been breached, mostly likely owing more to the poverty of the inhabitants rather than the inability to breach the 4-story walls.
The long-time 80+ year old mayor spoke about this experience during WWII. Aschfeld had no production facilities or military installations and simply surrendered when the Americans arrived. The soldiers gave the young boys gum, chocolates, and cigarettes and struck up friendships. The girls were kept inside. He seemed eager to share a camaraderie with the mostly American guests visiting today.
The museum head also spoke to our group, again through a translator. She told us that in 1981 when the community was celebrating its 1200th anniversary and the 300th anniversary of the church’s confirmation, the citizens converted one of the storage cellars into a display of how the property was previously used. The community began buying up the castle cellars which at that time were in private hands and also secured vintage items to use in the displays. By 1992, they had secured all the property and converted the rest back to the medieval style. The interior items are vintage, but mostly of the last century.
Sample rooms include a craftsman’s workshop, barn, cider cellar, village exhibits, loan office, laundry and slaughterhouse-yes, in the same room using the same equipment-post office, pub, distillery, huntsman ship vestry, quarry, village school, fire brigade, shopkeeper’s store, and kitchen. My favorite room was the post office/pub combination room, put together much as they would have in the past.
After our tour, the community offered us homemade cakes and cookies. The mayor returned dressed as St. Nicholas and gave each of us a treat from his sack. This was a not to be missed venue and opportunity.
Returning to the ship, we enjoyed dinner and later a glassblowing demonstration in the lounge in anticipation of Wertheim and its concentration of glass artists. You would think the guests did not have enough shopping opportunities at the markets given the lines to purchase the glass items. One of the guests also happened to work with glass and she was invited up to participate in the demonstration.
It was a great day in spite of the cold and rain. Still no snow.