Saturday, August 10, 2013

Crossing the street

Germany has some quaint signal lights to let you know when to cross the street.



And don't forget your hat.


My friend lives in Lüdenscheid.  She doesn't usually walk around and appreciate it's old buildings.  They are normal, every day sights to her.
But while I was there, we went out to see what we could see.
This one says not to tear down the things the fathers have built.
So I think that going out to look at them and appreciate them falls right in line with that.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Alphorns in Cologne

In the shadow of the humongous Cologne Cathedral, there were several performers and musicians attracting crowds. 
The sound of these two alphorn players seemed to fit very well.

You can have a short listen, too...

The Cologne cathedral

There are over eighty stonemasons, roofers and other specialists constantly at work on the maintenance and restoration of the Cologne cathedral.  So in a way, though it took 632 years to build, it's really still being built. 

I look at it and imagine working on it my whole life and never seeing it completed.  People lived their whole lives--for generations--never seeing what it would look like finished.  For three hundred years it had only one tower.

In all that time, builders kept true to the original design.  The flying buttresses, vaults--everything about the cathedral--points up, intending to show strength and to point to God.  Its design and construction pushed the limits religiously, architecturally, technologically, and financially.
When it was finished, it stood as the world's tallest building at 157 meters.

If they hadn't stuck with it, it would stand like the unfinished Amiens cathedral in France.

At the top of the 157 meters, are nine meter filials.  One stands in the square below to demonstrate how tall they are.
From the ground below, they look rather small and insignificant.
Inside the towers are huge bells weighing over 4 and 5 tons.
The 24-ton 'Bell of St Peter' is the largest free-swinging bell in the world.
I climbed the 532 stairs to the top of one of the bell towers to see the view of Cologne.

The cathedral houses a reliquary said to contain the remains of the three Magi, from the Christmas story.  These relics have made Cologne Cathedral a major pilgrimage destination for centuries.
Other famous artwork and treasures from centuries gone by live in every corner of the cathedral.

I read somewhere that during WWII, the cathedral was not as destroyed as it could have been because airplanes used it as a landmark easily seen and identified from the skies.  Still, inside much restoration had to be done and frescoes like those on these ceiling vaults were redone in a modern style.
Eight hundred years from its first bricks being laid, the Cologne Cathedral still reaches for the skies.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The tower stairs

These are the stairs to go up to the top of the castle tower. 

Cool, huh?

The first youth hostel

Richard Schirrmann, the guy with the idea for youth hostels, acquired a castle in 1912 and turned it into the very first one.

The idea was that city dwelling young people would have the opportunity to get out into the fresh air of nature.  They would get exercise and build character.
The youngsters would be part of the youth movement and carry a club book saying when and where they had stayed.  Accommodations would be inexpensive as most of the chores would be done by the youth themselves. 
There were rules to follow such as the distance that must be covered in a day (more than 15km) before one was allowed to stay at a hostel--and the stamps in your book would be the proof.
Ideally, young people would get out and explore their surroundings, make friends and become responsible citizens.  And it all started in a castle.

Burg Altena

Burg Altena's history goes back to the 1100s, but it hasn't been lived in as a castle since the early 1600s.

The rooms and towers here have also been used as a military garrison, a county jail, a hospital, and a youth hostel.
Pieces of all of these histories are left lying around for the visitors who climb up the mountain to see them.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Metal museum

The metal museum housed at the Hohenlimburg castle displays the technology of cold press.  The gregarious guide is very willing to explain as much as you will let him.  He'll tell you all about metal making and machines.  But once he finally let us go to the upstairs with the instructions to "touch everything, that's what it's there for", that's when the fun began.
Upstairs were displays of things that cold pressed metal has been used to make in the last century.
Kitchen gadgets.

So many things that you never think about.  Yes, a bicycle is made of metal, but where did they get the sheet of metal that went into it's manufacture?
Probably Hohenlimburg, as they make 80% of what the world needs. 

There's even a VW bug upstairs.  Curious, I asked how the car got up the narrow stairs into the castle's small room.
"That's a good story," said the guide.  He told us that he had been talking with friends at a pub one night and one of them said they could put his car in the museum as it was made of cold press metal.  The guide, who admitted he'd put back a few too many that night, agreed to the deal.  By the next morning, he wondered what he had done. 
The car had to be cut into four pieces and it then took mechanics two weeks to put back together.
It is probably a permanent part of the castle now. 

Hohenlimburg castle

There is a very enthusiastic guide at the Hohenlimburg castle.  He is full of information and eager to be of help.  Whether that's taking a photo for you, opening a gate to make a better picture frame, telling a story, giving a few facts, or unlocking the well.  Generally, he's there to talk to you.

He can tell you that the beginnings of the castle were in the 1200s, but that what is seen today is mostly from the 1700s and after.  But what he really likes to talk about is the metal industry museum housed in one of the buildings. 
Visitors can walk around the castle grounds, look out over the walls and tour the living quarters.

Nothing of it is super exciting, just a look at how people used to live.
The oddest thing at the castle is the black hand.  The story is that in order to prosecute someone, the complainant had to be present in court.  A murder victim could not do so easily, so a hand from the victim was used instead.  The tower of the castle, it seems, used to have many of these witnesses inside.  But it was struck by lightening and much of it was destroyed in a fire.  This one hand remained.  Today it is a main draw for all of those who have a curiosity for the paranormal, and many stories go around about the owner of the hand and other sad castle dwellers.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Residenz

Building was begun on the Residenz in 1720.  The owner wanted a palace big enough to show that he was an absolute monarch.
It is full of Baroque and Rococo architecture and painting.  One of the things I like about Rococo is how art interacts with it's surroundings.  Swords in paintings come out of the wall.  A man painted on a ledge, actually sits on a ledge.  A curious cherub statue touches a nearby light fixture.  There are no frames composing boundary lines.

Today, most of the original Residenz splendor has been reconstructed, as the building was destroyed by fire in 1945.  "From the attic the fire ate down through wooden ceilings and floors, and all the furnishings and wall panelling which had not been stored elsewhere were devoured by the flames. Much of the furnishing and large sections of the wall panelling of the period rooms had been removed in time and thus escaped destruction."
One of the few things not destroyed at that time was the beautiful staircase and it's ceiling painting--supposedly the largest fresco in the world.
My pictures are all from outside the building and in the garden.  Inside you're not allowed to take pictures.

Which is too bad, as it is beautiful.
The famous staircase, the green room, and the room of mirrors being my favorites.
I suppose you'll just have to go see them for yourself.

Mummy on the stairs

When I came upon this strange statue sitting on the stairs of the Kilianplatz, I was intrigued.
What did it mean?
What was it doing there?

As there were no signs to mark it in any way, it took me a while to locate the information that it was a work of Maria Lehnen, called Großer Sitzende (Big Seated).
Still, what was it doing there all by itself?

Then I came across a website with a story.
I'm not sure how true this version of the origin of the statue is, but it claims the Big Seated was put there by the museum next door. They had redesigned the square outside their entrance next to Dom St. Killian and added stairs.  The city decided the stairs were dangerous to pedestrians as they were not well marked and told them to put in a railing.
But a railing would ruin the aesthetic appeal. Instead, they added this statue.

The bound up man seems to be a way of following the letter of the law, but not the spirit.

Dom St. Killian

Dom St. Killian has a Romanesque outside with a baroque interior.  The building of the cathedral started in the 11th century and took about 200 years for the outside structure to be completed.
It has gone through numerous changes throughout different building periods.

Little of the damaged rococo interior was preserved after WWII, but some of it is housed in a small museum.

It was replaced by a lot of modernity when it was burned in 1945.

It makes me understand reconstruction, restoration and building in a different way.
Maybe these projects are not undertaken to restore the original, but to remodel an reinterpret beauty--just like one would do to a "living" house where a few changes were needed.

Neumünster Church

This church is a Romanesque one with a Baroque facade.  It takes so long to build these old churches that architectural styles go through decades of change.
Neumünster church was built in the 11th century to commemorate the martyr of Irish missionaries.  Among them was St. Killian, whose death--if wikipedia can be believed--was reminiscent of John the Baptist's.
Because it was less damaged than others, it served as the main cathedral after World War Two until 1967.

The skulls of the three saints are carried in a procession each year by theological students from the crypt to Würzburg Dom.

Inside, there are several works of art from different eras.  Most of which I can't identify or don't recognize.
But that's okay.  I just look at it and think about how pretty it all is, and how much work it has taken to put it all together.