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Archive for the ‘Cycle: Main River Bike Trail’ Category

Architecture, arts and activities galore

Cycling along the Main river you will discover idyllic landscapes, impressive feudal towns and mouth-watering local restaurants and vineyards. In addition to the already planned highlights and activities, we’d like to point out a few more current events in some of the towns along the way.

Bayreuth

EremitageFor our early-bird guests, the weekend of the 18th and 19th of June has some interesting sights at hand: first and foremost the Landesgartenschau (state garden show) is in full swing with a huge range of activities covering everything from small balcony gardening to open-air ballet! Their comprehensive activity calender is unfortunately only in German, so if you have any particular interests, let us know and we’ll check and translate. Their topics are organized into 7 categories: exhibitions, garden & nature, religion & encounters, family, children & youth, culture & entertainment, sport & health and talks, info & education.

Two other interesting items focus on Wagner and the Bayreuth Festival: one is the Wagner Museum which offers a comprehensive look at Wagner, his life and work. The other is another permanent exhibition, Verstummte Stimmen (silenced voices) detailing the abuse of art and culture for political means in general and in particular the ostracism of Jewish artists during the Third Reich.

Bamberg

bamberg stadtstrandAnd what better way to relax after a day’s cycling than sitting by the beach enjoying good food and relaxing drinks? As part of the world cultural heritage of the city, you can sit on a beach by the Regnitz river and enjoy a summer’s evening with sand between your toes and a drink or two in your hands. Let your local guide, who showed you around the historic city centre, advise you on the best time to try the beach in the middle of Germany.

Würzburg

Arriving in the city on Monday, when most museums are shut, will give you a good excuse to sit back in one of the cafes or restaurants and hardwire the great experiences into your brain to take home and treasure for a long time after. Once you’ve had a good look around the Residence head back toward the Main across the Altstadt and have a taste of the local and imported food culture in one of the many street side cafes and restaurants. Once again, your local guide will be able to guide you to your choice of dining experience.

NachtwaechterOne thing you might enjoy afterwards is taking a guided tour at night with a local historic character, The Würzburg Night Guard, or one of his friends the Schorsch, Marktbärbel or the Häcker Karl. Dressed up in period costumes, they will let you in on the local gossip and family scandals of their times. Created in 1995 by Wolgang Mainka, a lawyer and art historian, him and his friends aim to bring history to the people in an entertaining, sometimes light-hearted way, encouraging and fostering interests in history and sociology.

We hope you enjoyed your tour and look forward to hearing your thoughts and maybe even see some photographs.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

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Once upon a time….

Slavenburg_radduschWhen Würzburg was officially mentioned in a donation from one duke to another in 704 AD it already could look back on a long history of successful settlement in the area. Archeological findings support the existence of a refuge castle on the site of the Marienberg Fortress as far back as 1000 years BC. These refuge castles were built to protect the general populace from marauding soldiers or bandits and usually occupied higher, easy-to-defend ground. During the following centuries the area was populated by a range of Germanic tribes and finally settled by the Franks in the 6th century.

Christianity takes hold

MarienburgIn the 7th century the missionary Saint Kilian settled in Würzburg and began his work preaching and converting the local Duke Gosbert. Unfortunately Gosbert was already married to his widowed sister-in-law Gailana and was told, that this marriage was against the Christian principles that Saint Boniface vehemently fought for. When Galiana heard this – according to the martyr mythology of St. Kilian – she used her husband’s absence and had Kilian and his two companions assassinated. But that did not stop Christianity and under Hedan II’s rule a chapel was built on the hillside dedicated to the Virgin Mary. A site which was believed to be the original site of pagan worship to a mother goddess. Even though the original chapel was replaced due to destruction or changes in architectural tastes, by the Middle Ages the mount and the fortress became known as Marienberg (Mary’s Mount). As the centuries passed – bishops came and went, tastes changed and war damages needed repairing – the look of the mountain top fortress evolved considerably. When WWII wrecked its havoc over Würzburg large parts of the Marienburg Fortress and others were destroyed by bombs and fire. Restoration of the Fortress started in the 1950’s and was finished in 1990.

As with a lot of other historic buildings in Würzburg, restoration was done in the style of the original design of the time, which makes it harder for the lay-person to denote what is truly original and what is restored. Which should be kept in mind when reading the historical and architectural comments to any of them.

A living record

altstadtWürzburg had been a centre for the Catholic Church since its earliest days and as such always had a huge political, intellectual and financial influence on the lives of its citizens. Quite often those decisions had a very bad impact on the rest of the populace and revolts would break out. Whether they were aimed against the ruling clerics (Würzburg guild document), unpleasant neighbours (who got accused of witchcraft), occupying soldiers (Sweden 1631- 34) or members of particular classes (German Peasant’s War), they always ended up changing the city’s structure and appearance, over time creating an incredibly rich tapestry depicting its evolving society.

After your arrival stroll through the old city centre and get up close with history!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

 

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Pfarrkirche St.KillianBaroque architecture

Before heading off to Volkach we make a little trip to Theres, a small community that has an interesting selection of buildings from the Baroque period. As this period covered 200 years of building history, the range of designs and decorations are quite remarkable. This can be seen mainly in the numerous churches and wayside shrines in the region. Because a lot of church properties were privatised in the early 19th century, many of them are now privately or commercially owned and operated. Interesting examples to view are on the main road (Bundesstrasse 17)) the Catholic vicarage from 1750, St. Killian church (1728/30)  and along the cycle path the Crucification group attributed to Johann Peter Wagner.

Untertheres_KreuzigungsgruppeTraditional wine growing region

We are now moving into the driest and hottest wine growing region in Germany and will discover what kind of wines this climate can produce. Our trip will take us through the village of Fahr, home of the ‘world famous’ Bocksbeutel. This intriguing bottle shape is protected in Europe and used for only a few specific wines.

The name is of particular interest, as its origin can be referenced to two different words: one denominates a bag to protect prayer or song books (Booksbüdel) while the other implies that it looks like a ram’s scrotum (Bokesbudel). As both explanations can be reasonably proven, it seems that both contributed to its modern day usage.frankenwein

Our destination for today, Volkach, has been the historic wine growing centre of the region since the 17th century and has renewed its fame for making excellent white wines, especially, but not exclusively, Silvaner, whose reputation suffered a bit from the Liebfrauenmilch debacle in the 70’s. Modern wine makers now are using its subtle flavours to produce elegant wines that are easily matched with foods and becoming more and more appreciated. Other varieties that grow well here are Müller-Thurgau, Riesling and Traminer, all very specific and interesting tasting grapes. And for those of you who want to know more specific details about the huge range of wines and grapes here’s a very interesting and informative web site.

Maria_im_WeingartenEven in the Middle Ages Volklach has been a very popular tourist spot due to its numerous food markets, parish fairs and pilgrimages to the local church Maria in the vineyard. This has continued through to the 20th and 21st century with a lot of local wine and food festivals catching the visitors’ eyes and palates. Let your travel guide advise you what’s on special and enjoy the delicacies.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Limbach_WeinbergPilgrimage church Maria Limbach

On our way to our next stop Haßfurt we come to the pilgrimage church Maria Limbach. The church was built in fulfilment of vows made by the Archbishop of Würzburg after the miraculous curing of his hip complaint. He had bequeathed a substantial amount of money and even though he died before construction had started, it was completed and consecrated nine years after his death. The church was designed by Johann Balthasar Neumann – one of the most important architects in southern Germany during the Baroque and Rococo period – whose most famous work you will get to see at the end of the tour: The Würzburg Residence.

1280px-Limbach9The pilgrimage church was designed in a late- Baroque or Rococo style which is mainly characterized by asymmetric designs and lighter, more playful decorations. The simple room structure of the church is contrasted by the rich and ornate interior design of the rococo stucco designs by Andreas Lunz. This juxtapositioning of architectural design elements was intended to draw more people back to the church and not alienate them through a display of feudal opulence.

Haßfurt

Haßfurt_Ritterkapelle_1

Haßfurt,_Marktplatz_1,_Rathaus,_003The town has been on records since the 13th century when it was given city rights. Having been part of the Churches’ estates, you will find a lot of churches in and around town and other buildings ranging in style from Romanesque city fortifications to Gothic churches and Renaissance private residences.

The road toward today’s destination is lined with vineyards and after discovering some of the sights in Haßfurt you will be able to sample some of the regions produce.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Coming into Bamberg means being on the brink of leaving the beer making region of your cycle tour. The city is not only famous for its historic city center, but also for its huge range of beers. During your guided tour you will be able to discover the historic city centre and taste some of the local specialties.

History

Bamberg_town_hall_from_opposite_bridgeConflicts in the early Middle Ages meant that the city and its estates changed ownership a lot of times, which in turn meant political unrest and marauding soldiers throughout the rest of the Middle Ages. The one constant power throughout these times was the Catholic Church, which accounts for the higher than average number of churches in the city; around twice compared to the national average. Like Rome it was built on seven hills and sometimes referred to as Frankish Rome.

Bamberg-KleinVenedig1-AsioNot until the late 17th century did the city enjoy relative peace and quiet and was able to culturally blossom during the Baroque period. Right up to the early 1930’s Bamberg and its intellectuals were seen as radical democrats, which reached its peak in the declaration of the Bamberger Verfassung – the first democratic constitution for Bavaria – in 1919. The third Reich and WWII left their marks on the city, even though not physically: only a small percentage of the city fell during attacks, making the historic city center the largest undamaged one in Germany. In 1993 this was made official by its entry into the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Sights

Bamberg-Turm-EWThe guided tour will take you to the Imperial Cathedral, which is an excellent example of how architectural styles develop over the time it takes to construct a huge building and how the changes are incorporated into it. The cathedral was started in the Romanesque style which later developed into the Gothic style. The photo of the two towers demonstrates the differences perfectly.

Apart from the churches throughout the city, there are numerous private dwellings and educational institutions to admire. Discover on your tour how the city preserved its historic buildings and encouraged modern architecture to become part of an intriguing cityscape.Konzerthalle_Bamberg_Dämmerung_Peter_Eberts

All this sightseeing can make one very hungry and thirsty: what better way to find out about the local beer brewing traditions and local specialties by stopping for a bite at one of the remaining breweries: there used to be 68 breweries listed with 8 still up and running. A local specialty is ‘smoked beer’ which goes pretty well with a Schäufele, a hearty pork shoulder roast!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Monastery to conference centre

banzThe original Benedictine abbey was founded in 1070 – the “High Middle Age” period in Europe – and thus reflected the change of structure in society: even though a large percentage of the population still lived in the country, they were governed/ ruled by nobility from central locations. The homes and administrative buildings for them were magnificient to reinforce their social and political standing.

Kloster_Banz_-_innenAs abbeys were places of higher education and even enlightenment, they had strict entry criteria: Until the 16th century it was restricted to the sons of the nobility to enter the convent. But huge discussions ensued, as the life in the monastery was less that of a frugal Benedictine monk than of a feudal lord at court. After fights and battles the abbot Georg von Henneberg and his whole convent converted to the Lutheran belief and abandoned the abbey in 1568. After seven years the convent was renewed, but this time excluding nobility, to ensure staying true to their religious principles. Until the 19th century it maintained a reputation for highest educational standards, but had to bow to the secularization and dissolution process in 1803.

After it’s dissolution it was bought by the Duke Wilhelm of Bavaria and has been in private ownership or part of a trust. Nowadays it houses a museum and offers conference facilities. Fortunately the interior and the maintenance of the building have not suffered throughout the centuries and you will be able to enjoy a remarkable view of ‘monastic living’ during your guided tour!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Folklore and politics

Leaving behind impressive Bayreuth at the foot of the Fichtelgebirge (Fichtel Mountains) we cycle north through the peaceful landscape of Oberfranken (Upper Franconia) toward Lichtenfels, our first stop on a tour that will take you from a beer making region to a wine growing and making region. All within a couple of 100 kilometres! This region is not only rich in brewing traditions, but also in legends and folklore. On this part of the tour you will come through three villages that have interesting stories associated with them, each telling about the strifes each village had to conquer in their times. These stories tell about the importance of succession, greed and plain misunderstandings.

Kulmbach

1280px-Plassenburg_in_Kulmbach_-_InnenhofThis city is not only known for being the place of confluence for the red and white Main, but also for one of Germany’s more impressive castles – Plassenburg castle – and Bratwurst! During your visit you will have an opportunity to discover both, while pondering one of the legends told about one of their ‘leading ladies’: The White Woman.

In the year 1340 after the death of her husband Otto, the countess of Orlamünde – a mother of two – decided she needed to remarry and had someone special in mind: Albert from the Hohenzollern house. Her husband-to-be supposedly had said, that four eyes were in the way of him marrying her. She interpreted it meaning her two children and killed them! He had meant his parents! When he found out, he was shocked, understandably, and left her. She, wracked with remorse, went on a pilgrimage and founded a monastery where she lived until her death. After her death she continued to appear to and warn Albert’s descendants of impending doom.

Burgkunstadt

Burgkunstadt,_Marktpaltz,_Westteil-003This city has a coloured past starting in the 8th and 10th century when it was designed to be a fortified rural castle village. The following centuries brought war and pestilence, but by the beginning of the 19th century the city and the region began to prosper again, as they adopted the concepts of industrialisation and changed from a rural town to a place of manufacturing of shoes. This was the main industry until the end of the 20th century. The closure of the shoe factories meant having to find new means of supporting the region and they focused on becoming a centre of higher education for the region. You will be able to enjoy the change of lifestyle brought here by the students during your break in the town.

This town’s legend involves a count, his wife, their newborn son and a golden cradle! The short of it: an angry mob of farmers attack the castle to rob the cradle. After suffering heavy losses the count gets captured but refuses to say where the cradle is despite being threatened to be killed in boiling hot oil. The search after his death reveals nothing: neither mother nor child nor cradle to be found. Supposedly they had been hiding in a tunnel, which collapsed during the fighting and buried the lot!

Lichtenfels

WickerYour final destination will show you a working example of middle class enterprises supporting each other; meaning it has an above average employment rate. Mainly traditional crafts for household items, but also modern businesses in laser technology and tool fabrication create a healthy economic environment.Koerbe “World” famous for its woven baskets, the markets offering those goods for sale are particularly charming. And its fame is such, that they have created a festival and web page celebrating the wonderful art of wicker weaving. Unfortunately the page itself is only in German, you might want to ask your guide to translate for you.

Querkele

Most regions with a strong craft economy also have legends about their unearthly little helpers. So does Lichtenfels, or rather near-by Bad Staffelstein. Querkele were little friendly and helpful people/dwarves that LOVED to eat the local potato dumplings. Everyone knew about their love, which made them steal the dumplings out of the cooking pot and tolerated it because they were such useful friends. Then one day, a greedy miserly farmer’s wife decided she had had enough and put a stop to it, by counting out loud how many dumplings she put in the pot. Thereby implying she wasn’t going to put up with any going missing. The Querkele noted that and moved on. Sadly they not only left her to her own devices, but they left the whole region never to be seen again. If you hear anyone complaining they wished they hadn’t left, you’ll know why.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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