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Archive for December, 2015

Wagner and more

Sommernachtsfest The city of Bayreuth is a conglomeration of villages that attained city status in the early 13th century. The following centuries proved to be hard times, as the city was struck by disasters repeatedly, be it fires destroying parts of the town or the plague decimating the populace. This all turned for better at the beginning of the 17th century when Margrave Christian moved to Bayreuth in 1603. He initiated a building boom which continued until the end of the 18th century, when due to lack of successors and money, the last margrave abdicated and the territories became part of the Prussian empire on 2.12.1791. During its heyday under the rule of Margrave Frederick and Margravine Wilhelmina of Bayreuth (1735 – 1763) richly furnished private and public buildings were constructed in the baroque style.

800px-Markgräfliches_Opernhaus_-_Bayreuth_-_2013After its French occupation from 1806 – 1810 (result of a loss during the Napoleonic Wars), the principality was returned and became part of the Kingdom of Bavaria. As Bavaria was being opened up by connecting more and more towns to the railways, Bayreuth was on the main line between Nuremberg to Hof. More connections meant an increase in visitors and exposure. In due course Wagner heard about the Margrave Opera House – a UNESCO World Heritage List building – and came to inspect its suitability for his operas. He was disappointed and decided to build his own. The town supported him and he went on to create a world renowned festival. He would have been very pleased with himself if he knew that nowadays one has to get in line about 10 years in advance to secure a ticket to the highly coveted festival!

Modern Bayreuth

Even though Bayreuth is infamous for the Wagner festival, it has lots of other attractions for a visitor. Architecture for starters: despite having lost a third of its buildings in WWII the rest is kept in pristine shape to be admired during your guided tour. Baroque architecture was a manifestation of political absolutism and colonialism, putting the monarchs/popes/regents at the centre of attention. It created magnificent structures to glorify the rulers and demonstrate new found wealth and power.

roter mainThe success of the Wagner festival has created a market for other cultural festivals celebrating modern, folk, other classical music, theatre and museum activities throughout the year. Not to mention that due to its level topography and generous cycle lanes, it is particularly easy to explore the city and the surrounding landscapes along the Red Main river. The river gets its name from the fact that it runs through clayey soil and turns a reddish-brownish colour after heavy rains.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Christmas-wreath-vectorAir NZ does it again

We would like to send you our best wishes for a Merry Christmas. May you be able to spend quality time with loved ones and have an enjoyable holiday break. We’ll see you again next weekend with more articles on our cycle tours and hope you enjoy the latest clip by Air New Zealand!

From all of us at Sidetracks.

 

 

 

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How to keep ones family happy

Burg Eltz (10561166416) by Dirk VorderstraßeFor one of our other tours we had already written a little piece about this stunning piece of feudal architecture in the Moselle region. What we didn’t tell you then was the fact that this is a current residence for one of the three family branches that own it. While two parts of the complex are generally open to the public – the third owned by the Kempenich side of the family – can only be viewed at particular times of the year.

Burg Eltz 14b by Evolutione003 - Own workThis makes it one of the oldest castles and for the longest period in the possession of one family. Anyone familiar with the problems of feudal ownership in England will understand the financial burden and commitment this family undertakes to maintain the structural integrity for its own history and for the public.

Allemagne07 08 0406 Burg Eltz by Daniel71953 [1] - Own workHistory can be taught in lots of ways, but there’s nothing like being there in person and getting a personal impression of the living conditions of the rich and the poor in those times. After your stroll around the premises tell us which part of the castle is your favourite: the detailed kitchen, opulent Armoury and Treasury or the courtyard surrounded by 500 years of architectural activity?!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Historical meeting place

1280px-Koblenz_im_Buga-Jahr_2011_-_Deutsches_Eck_03Arriving in Koblenz you will see the artificial headland at the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine rivers called the German Corner – ‘Deutsches Eck’. Even though the term “Deutsches Eck” had been in use since 1216 when Archbishop Theoderich von Wied summoned the knights of the Teutonic Order to gift them a church, the associated hospital and some grounds to safeguard local health care, the area referenced by that term now transferred from these grounds to the headland in the 19th century.

Shortly after the death of Wilhelm I. in 1888 many people wanted to have a monument to honour and thank him for the hard-fought unification (three wars in 1864, 1866 and 1871) of Germany. His son chose Koblenz as site in 1891 due to its significance to his father’s and Germany’s history. After expanding the needed area and collecting 1 million Marks (!) through donations, the equestrian sculpture was dedicated in 1897 with his son in attendance.1280px-Deutsches_Eck_LOC

At the end of WWII the monument was destroyed by an artillery shell and the remains were removed and smelted to prevent scavenging. Parts of the figures turned up later and even the head of Wilhelm I, which now is exhibited at the Mittelrhein Museum in Koblenz. The French allies had intended to construct a monument promoting Peace and International Understanding, but the costs were too high and the plans got shelved.

In 1953 it was re-purposed to be a memorial to the German Union. The coat of arms of all the western German Federal States and the missing eastern ones were installed on the pedestal and a flag pole for the German Federal flag installed instead of a central figure.

With the re-unification in 1990 the five new federal states were added to the line-up.

Bring back the old

But, but, there’s a statue, horse, marshal and muse there! Yes indeed! All due to the dedication and financial support of private people again. In 1987 Werner Theisen and his wife Anneliese drew up a legal document pledging their support to the reconstruction of the destroyed monument.

Why? Not sure. It was for his 60th birthday and to commemorate their 30th wedding anniversary, but that still doesn’t quite explain why this couple dedicated such a huge sum of money (3 million Marks) to this particular venture.

As at that time Germany was still divided the offer was rejected as it could send the message that Germany had accepted its divided status. But after the fall of the wall and the official re-unification the politicians changed their tunes and after some tricky ‘gifting’ – meaning changing of financial responsibilities – the statue was finally allowed to be installed.

Rhein in FlammenRemarkably, the couple, believing in their mission, had ordered it already in 1989 and brought to Koblenz in 1992! Due to a different production technique than the original, the pedestal needed to be reinforced more and in September 1993 the statue was finally lifted into its place and inaugurated on the 25th of September that year.

The unification of Germany and its victims are being remembered with three concrete parts of the Berlin Wall which were erected near the monument in 1990.

Today the space is used not only to commemorate important times in Germany’s history, but to celebrate occasions every day. It is used to hold concerts, marathons, exhibitions and is an excellent viewing point for the annual Rhein in Flammen’ fireworks.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Tumultuous times for Cochem

Cochem,_MarktThe first recorded name for Cochem is ‘Cuchema’ in a gifting document from 866 AD. Then- and in the following centuries – the city and its surrounding districts changed ownership and allegiances quite frequently. Religion and politics were tightly interwoven during those times and territories given as fiefdoms, which was a revenue option for the owners, rulers or occupants. Trying to come to grips with the historic time line of the city and the castle towering over it and presenting a short overview is proving to be nearly impossible. The castle’s web site has managed to put together a short and succinct summary of the most important facts and figures for those of you who are keen on historical details.

Castle of modern times

cochemThe most important fact to know is that the castle you get to see today is not the one from the 11th and 12th century. That one was destroyed in 1689 by King Louis XIV during the Nine Year’s war. It took nearly 200 years, well really only 180, for the ruins to catch someone’s eye and the ‘new’ castle to be built. In 1868 the new owner Louis Fréderic Jacques Ravené was not interested in a reconstruction in the original Romanesque style, but wanted the ‘modern’ neo-Gothic style for his family’s summer residence! reichsburg_9_by_januaryguest-d3qt99qIn architectural context that was the same time when Schloss Neuschwanstein was conceived and built.

Walking around the beautifully maintained castle you can indulge your fantasy, pretend you’re in a fairy tale again and imagine what it would have been like for the rich and famous to spend time in their ‘holiday bach’!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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