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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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Ready-steady-go

One more week to go and we’re off on our first cycle tour of the season! For seven days you will get to enjoy unparalleled romantic river and valley views while whizzing along sophisticated cycle ways joining them all up. Along the Saar and Moselle we’ve got a great selection of World Heritage sites, lifestyle experiences and a bit of history lined up.

Cycling paradise

9054251_origNew Zealand cycling enthusiasts can look forward to Germany’s extensive and well-maintained cycle road network: usually separated lanes with smooth surfaces linking suburbs and small towns, even in most cities one can travel without a worry and enjoy the sights. Even though it does pay to keep an eye out for the traffic when you do have to join it, remember: it’s the other side! The Right side! Follow your guides and you will be fine.

Rheinradweg, Loreleyblick

Rheinradweg, Loreleyblick

But, on the note of cycle ways: at the end of last year the first 5 km section of a cycle-highway was opened in the Ruhr region. A densely populated industrial area, home to various old and new industries and universities, it is planning to use abandoned railway tracks to create a car-free network for cyclists to use. Ultimately it will cover around 100kms of the region and long-term connect to other networks being created throughout Germany like in Munich and Cologne for example.

moselle-cycling-holidaysAlready along the major tourist routes local councils have improved the cycle ways to facilitate greater use by tourists and locals alike. These will be our major means of discovering the hidden treasures of the Saar and Moselle valleys. Wishing our guests good weather and lots of fun for their trip!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Current activities

Koblenz GartenkulturFor the start of our tour in Saarbrücken we had some interesting suggestions of what else to see and explore there while enjoying a bit of spare time. We thought you might be interested to see what is on offer at the other end of the tour. Whether you’re spending an extra day here in Koblenz before joining us on the Rhine and Romans Tour or just killing some time before heading to other destinations, we found a few interesting things to do on 29th and 31st of May 2016.

Gardens that live

Bonsai KoblenzIn 2011 Koblenz hosted the BuGa and developed the motto that inspires its annual art, cultural and horticultural activities, “Koblenzer Gartenkultur”. For the last weekend in May there’s a couple of interesting things happening around the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress: throughout Sunday the local Tai Chi, Qigong and meditation groups have workshops and presentations throughout the day. To complement the Asian topic, the local bonsai club will have a display at the castle and you can find out all the nitty gritty details about this fascinating horticultural hobby.

Foreign shores

James-Webb_Ansicht-von-Ehrenbreitstein_1880_Öl-auf-Leinwand_M1990_1

James Webb: Ansicht von Ehrenbreitstein, 1880

If you’re more inclined to amble amongst artefacts, check out the city’s museum web site, in English! Lots to see and what got my attention was an exhibition titled “Are any British here?” An exhibition of the creative output by numerous British artists who visited the Rhine and Moselle valleys in the 18th and 19th century. The exhibition is at the Mittelrhein Museum, which unfortunately is not open on Mondays, so you might have to stay a day longer?! If not, there is one covering the history of military engineering in Germany or enjoy a guided tour through the local wine and sparkling wine maker cellar Deinhard. Monday seems to be the day-off for most other museums in Koblenz at the moment, so if you want to explore the culture and history you might need to stay for Tuesday as well. Unless of course you’re back on the road on Monday, discovering all about the Rhine and the Romans with our local tour guides.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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1280px-Reichsburg_CochemCochem celebrates its culture

Once you have emerged from the enchanting castle you will have the opportunity to discover how the locals celebrate their cultural heritage: during the week of the 25th and 29th of May the Mosel Wine Week is being held in Cochem.

The walk around the castle should have built up an appetite and strolling across the market you will be able to sample local food made to perfectly accompany the locally grown and produced wines and sparkling wines. Whether you’ll prefer to sit down at one of the vineyards’ stalls or wander from one to another, you will get a good a sampling of the different wines.

cochem wine weekLocal characters

Every place has their unique set of people that influence the feel and look of a town. In Cochem the local bands – ranging from modern covers to traditional German folk – provide the audio side of it during the festival, while you might be able to spot the Queen of Wine Charlotte I. and her Princess Isabel amongst the stalls and displays. The wine royalty symbolically represent the city and region of Cochem during tourism and other Cochem Majestaeteneconomic presentations, events and fund-raisers nationally and internationally. As ambassadors for a wine growing region, their motto says it best: visit Cochem to sample the care and attention given to the wines that make them so special, because the best place to try something is in its home town!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Early start in Saarbrücken

Congratulations: you’ve decided to join us on our cycle trip along the Saar and Moselle this May and have arrived a day or two early in Saarbrücken. What an excellent opportunity to discover what the locals do on their weekends. As Germany is now well on its way into summer, a lot of outdoor activities are happening around the city. Check out some of the samples we have collated for you for the weekend of the 21st and 22nd  of May 2016.

Markets and other entertainment

Wochenmarkt SaarbrueckenSaturday is THE day to go to a farmers market and within a 3km radius of the city centre you can find three that sell local produce and crafty stuff. But mainly food: fresh fruit and veges, breads and cakes and everything else your palate can imagine. As it would have been in the good old days, usually these market are situated around a local church and you will find one at the Ludwigskirche and Sankt Johann. While you will be going on a guided city tour on Sunday, you might think about going on a boat trip on Saturday: whether just a short trip around the city area or even on a trip to France, have a look at one of the local transport companies’ booklets to get an idea. In the evenings the city has a variety of entertainment on offer as well: the local clubs present an eclectic mix of Oldies to modern pop music, theatres have productions of the Elephant Man, The Little Mermaid and modern dance/ballet from Czechoslovakia.

Museums and open days

640px-BobbycarAn interesting item on this weekend is the open day at one of the local fire brigades and the 4th anniversary of the youth section there. Not only will you be able to have a look at a German fire station, but can watch a Bobby car race there. Kind of like the Jaffa race down Baldwin street in Dunedin but on a kids toy, the Bobby car. If you prefer your entertainment a bit quieter, the local museums can give you plentiful insights into the local history, arts and crafts. A look on the city’s web site could make it easy, except there’s so much to see and so little time. Pick wisely or book a couple of days more and enjoy the sights and events around Saarbrücken at your leisure.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Rinteln

Marktplatz_RintelnHaving left Hamelin and any pied pipers behind us, we gently bike north along the Weser. Along the river we encounter more examples of the famed Weser Renaissance architecture and countless ‘little’ waterways and lakes. These lakes are mostly quarry ponds turned into public swimming lakes and recreational parks. One of the more famous one is the Doktorsee, west of Rinteln. Rinteln itself is another well preserved example of the regional architecture and shows a city that had managed to procure city rights early on – Rinteln_Archivhäuschen_vor_dem_Münchhausenhofwhich meant taxing anyone and anything traveling on the Weser and through town – and maintain that profitable position for a considerable time. For two centuries – from 1619 – 1810 – it was even a moderately famous university town. Its adaptability was crucial for survival, as the politics, alliances and ownership changed frequently in those times.

Porta Westfalica

Porta Westfalica KanzelAs we continue towards Minden we come through Porta Westfalica, a city that was created in a communal land reform in 1973 and unites 15 local villages and communities. Its name comes from the central geographical feature of the region: the gorge between two mountain ranges, where the river Weser cuts through and enters the north German lowlands. This area has been called Porta Westfalica since the early 18th century, when it was fashionable for the elite to use Latin or French terms and means ‘gateway to Westfalia’. One could imagine this region having enjoyed a similar economic success as Rinteln, but because the only towns in this area with city and taxing rights didn’t have bridges across the Weser and were not connected to any major trade routes, they didn’t fare as well. This changed in the 19th century with the first bridge across the Weser in 1864 and the establishment of a railway connection to Cologne.

Minden

Minden RathausThe city of Minden has a colourful history dating back to the 3rd century A.D. Being located along the Weser and substantial economic rights being granted in 977 meant it became a prosperous city and the center of attention in the wars that ravaged the region during the 17th and 18th centuries. The 20th century proved equally difficult and the town sustained heavy damages towards the end of WWII, when bombings aimed at destroying underground war equipment factories destroyed large parts of the historic center. Unfortunately afterwards decisions were made to demolish damaged buildings and replace with modern structures. 800px-Minden_Windloch_1Despite that, a few of the more impressive buildings have survived and are now well looked after. Just a few examples: the reconstructed Minden Cathedral in the Romanesque/Gothic style; Minden old city hall, the oldest monumental Gothic city hall in the whole of Westfalia;  the smallest building in the city – ‘Haus am Windloch’ – was built in the 17th century as residence for the local city musician, who also maintained and played the churches’ organ. It was built so close to the church that the gap channeled very strong winds.  There are plenty of other buildings to admire as well on a quick tour through the city center.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Fairy tales and fairy towns

800px-Münchhausen-AWilleTall tales start in Bodenwerder, well some of the tallest have been started by a fictional character, the infamous Baron Münchhausen, who is the first person narrator of ‘Baron Münchhausen’s Narrative of his Marvellous Travels and Campaigns in Russia’, a satirical work with political aims. Some of us might know, that there was a real Baron Münchhausen, who was born in Bodenwerder and who did love to tell some rather tall tales of his military career. But when these stories were adapted and published anonymously, the real Baron was so outraged that he threatened to sue the publisher and the author decided to remain anonymous. Not until Rudolf Erich Raspe had died could his authorship be confirmed.

Hamelin

Pied_piperOur next stop through this picturesque part of Germany is another famous fairy tale town: Hamelin. The Pied Piper of Hamelin and his abduction of the city’s children have been a topic of tales and fairy tales for the past 800 centuries. As early as 1300 the story was told on glass stained windows in the church of Hamelin. Many researchers have wondered and examined what the root of this tale was and have come to some interesting conclusions. Most notably is one theory, that all a city’s inhabitants were referred to as the city’s children and that they may have been enticed to emigrate to other parts of Germany and Poland to populate these regions. Comparisons of family names suggests and supports that theory.

Whatever the historic truths, it has given many authors and artists opportunities to expand and illustrate it in various ways. During your guided tour through the town you will not only learn about this famous tale, but also about Hamelin’s history and architecture.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Fürstenberg porcelain factory

As we travel along the Weser through lots of small picturesque villages we come through Fürstenberg, where we get to have a look at the third-oldest porcelain manufacturer in Germany. The company was founded in 1747 by the order of Duke Karl I. von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel and soon after was ordered to incorporate a blue “F” ( for Fürstenberg) into their design, which became their trademark. Despite changes in company structure and flood disasters the company is still successfully trading today. Nearby is Fürstenberg Castle – from ~1355 – which houses the museum documenting the history and designs of the porcelain factory. The history overview on the company’s web site gives good examples of past and present designs.

Höxter

hoexter_innenstadt_sigurdehlertIn Höxter we will stop for a guided tour through the town centre with its famous half-timbered houses and medieval history.

Since 775 Höxter had been along the major trading routes to the north and east and was heavily sought after. Unfortunately this also caused a lot of hardships during the wars and the town’s wealth declined after the Thirty Years’ War. In the 19th century its fortunes were on the rise again with the founding of a brewery and getting connected to the railway network. Nowadays it is known for the nearby Imperial Abbey of Corvey (UNESCO World Heritage site) and it’s finely restored examples of medieval and Weser Renaissance architecture.

Holzminden

Tillyhaus_HolzmindenOn our way to Bodenwerder we come through the interesting village Holzminden. Another medieval town with lots of picturesque half-timbered houses that has evolved from a wood- and sandstone processing industry to a manufacturing town of a wide range of products, most famously its scent and flavours industry.

While we continue to today’s destination we get to see quite a few more idyllic small villages along the river beckoning for a leisurely look.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Important trading post to the North

1024px-Hann_muenden_weserursprung_ds_wv_06_2011Officially the city was mentioned the first time in a document from 1183, but it’s location at the confluence of the two rivers Werra and Fulda into the Weser – a main transportation route to the North Sea – would have meant that it had been settled a bit earlier.

Another hint to its earlier foundation is the name of the village Gimundi (802), in the location of today’s Altmünden. A linguist would be able to explain how it could have transformed to become today’s Münden, let it suffice to say, that they think it is a reasonable deduction and carry on discovering this little jewel of Medieval and Weser Renaissance architecture.

Trading wealth

1024px-Hann_Münden_Rathaus_2007Than as now cities, communities and their owners had to be quite creative to come up with ways of financing their building projects and quite often opulent lifetstyles. An obvious one for places on major trading routes was imposing trading tariffs, road tolls and staple rights. The right to impose these ‘council rates’ had to be ‘earned’ and were highly sought after. A city’s wealth would radically improve, which in turn could radically change the townscape. Hann. Münden is a classic example of this: in 1247 Münden was given the staple rights to the rivers and a building and trading boom ensued in the following centuries until 1823 when the system was changed and the staple rights became redundant.

Weser Renaissance

20130810_192834_Wanfried_SchlagdTo facilitate trading numerous jetties, packhouses and markets were built along the rivers, in the now famous and unique Weser Renaissance style. On our cycle tour along the river Weser, we will see plenty examples of this particular architectural style, which seems to be very appealing to many people. In a book from 1964 its author Jürgen Soenke claims that its appeal is due to its roots: the waterway landscape and its inhabitants created the buildings and because they were folk people, it has ‘folksy” features.

During your guided tour through Hann. Münden you will be able to see the beautifully preserved town hall and other buildings showcasing that style. We are very lucky that as the result of the Thirty Years’ War everyone in the region was too poor to build new buildings and just repaired the old ones, thus retaining the original designs and look of this period of time.

Last but not least

800px-Münden_Rinnstein_im_StraßenbelagFor a very long time the name Münden caused lots of mix ups, as it was often mispronounced and mistaken for Minden ( which happens to be on the Weser as well) or Munich! So the local railway added Hannoversch to it, but that did not solve it as it was too long to be printed on the tickets, and depending on how you pronounced it could be mistaken for other towns in Hannovers’ vicinity. Ultimately they abbreviated it to “Hann.”, denoting its locality ( near Hannover) but making it distinctly different. This writing has been officially adopted by all city councils since then, but the locals still call it just Münden!

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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