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Posts Tagged ‘museum’

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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Fairytale beauty awaits you in Beilstein

BeilsteinMoselPanorama1 (2)Cycling along the Moselle you will have seen plenty of picturesque towns and villages by now, but none has the nickname of Sleeping Beauty of the Moselle.800px-Klosterkirche_Beilstein1 Stopping for a rest and refreshments in Beilstein you will quickly understand why. Even though it is really a small village, it was built to present the appearance of a town with all the trimmings: city centre, church and castle (ruins) on top of the nearby hill. Modern day Bielstein looks very much like its 17th and 18th century version and you can take it all in without having to spend days on your feet exploring all the neighbourhoods. 800px-Beilstein_BW_12Looking at the directory of Cultural Monuments for Rhineland Palatinate one can get the impression that the whole village is on the list!

As a summer attraction the village hosts a marionette theatre from Cochem, which performs various fairy tales. Part of the tradition is performing Sleeping Beauty to open and close the festival in recognition of the villages’ nickname.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Not just wine

Traben-Trarbach-PanoramaThe idyllic township of Traben-Trarbach can look back on a long recorded history with it first being mentioned in 830AD being gifted to the Münster in Aachen. With all its constituents and surrounding villages! It is also well-known for its thermal spring which has been officially recognized by the state as a therapeutic bath. At 33° Celsius the water comes out of the schistous rock and is used for various health treatments.

1280px-Brückentor_in_Traben-Trarbach_(Ortsteil_Trarbach) (2)In 1898 they built the first bridge over the Moselle south of Koblenz and north of Bernkastel, connecting the two towns of Traben and Trarbach. Unfortunately this was destroyed in the last days of WWII. It was rebuilt in 47/48. Fortunately the original bridge gate was not destroyed and has been kept in excellent condition. The bridge has design elements from the Historism and Art Nouveau periods.

Another first was street lighting: at the end of the 19th century the city – along with a couple of others (Berlin for example) – had installed electric street lamps instead of the customary gas-powered ones.

Row, row, row your boat

1280px-Trarbach_AnlegestelleNonetheless, wine is the major player in this town too and during your boat trip you will be able to admire the richly decorated houses showing off the wealth of the region. As a fire destroyed nearly the whole of Trarbach on 21.7.1857 the town was rebuilt with lots of references to current and past architectural styles, mainly Historicism and Eclecticism.

Local folklore

There’s a famous story about a rich wine grower from Traben. He had a beautiful daughter and wanted her to marry the old captain of a Dutch garrison stationed there. She on the other hand was in love with a young local farmer. They used to meet either at the house of a friend in Kröv or in the old ruins of the Franciscan monastery near Wolf. As the captain found out and told the father about this, they decided to surprise them in the act. But, they didn’t. They waited for hours at the monastery. When they finally decided to leave a storm broke out and they had to stay at the ruins for shelter. The father eventually fell asleep, but the captain didn’t and saw a ghostly procession of monks singing a horrible chant which drove him to run away. In his confusion he ran over a cliff and died. When the father found him the next morning he decided that his daughter could marry the farmer after all. Let’s not stand in the way of true love! By the way, there’s no record of how the marriage went.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

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Wine tasting along the Moselle

Panorama_neumagen_dhronI wonder if the Romans had known two millennia ago the hype their occupation of Europe would create and places vying for the titles of the oldest place on record for winemaking, sausage selling or lead casting, if they would have been a bit more meticulous about their record keeping?! 1280px-Neumagener_WeinschiffToday’s place of interest is one these: Neumagen-Dhron laying claim to being the oldest winemaking village in Germany. The Roman settlement Noviomagus Treverorum ( Latin for “new market of the Treviri”) was destroyed by Germanic tribes around 200AD. Several archaeological finds from the region can be viewed at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier, in particular the famous Neumagen Wine Ship, replicas of which can be seen in several places around the region.

Neumagen Wine Ship

1280px-Nachbau_Neumagener-WeinschiffThis elaborate tomb was for a roman wine dealer from the period of the first settlement around 200 AD. Specialists have been able to ascertain that the particular design of the boat and the wine barrels meant it was transporting a locally produced wine to be sold at distant markets. This find – supported by others – form the base of the claim of being the oldest wine making village in Germany. The relevance to the region was recognized and honoured in 2007 by the local Chamber of Crafts having a real-life replica crafted by its apprentices. The working ship is well and truly seaworthy and can be hired. It is powered either by two 55 HP diesel engines or rowed by actual man and woman power!

Hub of wine growing region

moselle-valleyAlong the Moselle River approximately 9000 hectares are planted with grapes, which makes the Neumagen-Dhron region with its 247 hectares the fifth largest community along the river. The Moselle river wine growing region is subdivided into 6 regions. The area along the Saar river is part of the Upper Moselle region, the produce of which you were able to savour while travelling from Saarbrücken. As you approach Neumagen-Dhron you’re in the Bernkastel-Kues region, the Middle Moselle. While we stop for a break in Neumagen-Dhron you will have ample opportunity to taste the local wines and discover the subtle differences between individual vineyards and cooperatives. In another article we will talk about some of these individual ones and try to prepare your taste buds.

Author: Petra-Alsbach-Stevens

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Country Living – Roman Style

Today’s trip will take you to one of the larger country estates in the area around Trier built from the 2nd to the 4th century AD: the Villa Rustica. This is a general term for a countryside villa and usually was the residence of the landowner as well as the farm management centre. While the individual design depended on the vision of the owner and the architect, it usually contained certain components: the main living area for the landowner, living quarters for the workers, slaves and animals and the storage areas for the farms’ produce. Usually they had plumbed bathing facilities and under-floor heating! The wealth of the owner was apparent in the use of mosaics throughout the villa and the number of rooms it ultimately comprised.

‘Humble’ beginnings

1280px-Villa_Rustica_in_MehringInitially this villa was planned to cover a floor area of 28 by 23 meters with two corner Risalites joined by a columned hall. By the time it was finished – a couple of centuries later – it covered an area of 48 by 29 meters and had 34 rooms. A multi-coloured floor mosaic and a black marble wall panelling indicate the owner was of very high social standing and of considerable wealth. Careful restoration in the 19th and 20th century made it possible now to get a glimpse of what it was like living a well-to-do life then.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Soaking it up Roman Style

asterixgladiator432As some of you might know from history lessons or Asterix and Obelix comics, the Romans LOVED to have a good soak. They not only spent their time in the baths getting cleaned up or plotting a revolt against the current head of state, but also conducted business meetings, participated in sports activities or got the full spa treatment ( manicure, pedicure, massage, hair removal: they’ve done it all). As a result they built baths wherever they went/invaded. And some places proved to become such thriving cities, that one bath was not enough to cater for the whole of the population. 1024px-Augusta_Treverorum_StadtplanAs in Trier, where over the course of a century three baths were built. The Imperial Baths – which are on the guided tour – were the last to be started at the end of the 3rd century AD and were intended to be the grandest of the time and for the general public to use. But, some scientist believe they were never finished (or only on such a small scale that they were only of limited use) due to changes in the political arena.

Imperial Baths

Trier_Kaiserthermen_BW_4All the baths show a sophisticated use of underfloor heating, water heating systems and the use of solar heating. A classic roman bath had a range of baths and steam rooms, that served very distinct purposes. The size of a bath complex determined how many rooms it had and this site has a good description of the basic set-up – tepidarium, caldarium and frigidarium – and other interesting details about Roman baths in general.

Around 375 AD the baths were re-purposed by Caesar Gratian into barracks. Some major buildings were demolished at the time and the rubble used to fill in other parts that hadn’t been finished or were of no use to them. Thus the restructuring began which meant that centuries later excavations for an underground parking lot uncovered the unknown ruins of the oldest and forgotten Forum Baths.

312px-Trier_Kaiserthermen_BW_2After the Romans left the region the baths suffered the same fate as many other structures from the time: they were dismantled and recycled in new buildings in the city. The guided tour will explain in detail not only how the structure and waterworks were designed, but also how the different parts were re-purposed by churches, schools and nobility. The family names of some of the nobility at the time reflect the parts of the old structure they had acquired: de Castello (obviously the Castle), de Palatio (the palace area) and de Horreo (lat. Horrea for granary/storehouse) for example.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

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Trier – Roman treasure chest

The next part of our trip will give you the opportunity to familiarize yourself with Roman history and architecture as we make our way towards Trier, one of the four cities claiming to be the oldest in Germany. Presumably it was founded in the late 4th century BC by Celts (Treuorum) and conquered by the Romans by 16 BC and ‘renamed’ Augusta Treverorum. Modern Trier might not necessarily come across as a thriving metropolis, but during Roman times it managed to maintain a high profile and during the 4th century was even one of the five biggest cities of the known world with a population ranging from 75,000 to 100,000.1200px-Trier_Porta_Nigra_BW_4

Our guided tour through town will give you a good idea about the rich history this town has been steeped in and you will see why you can call the whole city a UNESCO World Heritage site. One of the main sights will be the Porta Nigra, the black gate, guarding one entrance to the city.

Porta Nigra

Trier_Porta_Nigra_ModelOriginally designed to be part of a four tower system guarding the entrances to the city, this is the last remaining one and the largest remaining one in Europe north of the Alps. As the Roman influence waned, the gates were not needed as such and slowly dismantled to be used for other buildings. This ended when in 1030 the Greek monk Simeon had himself walled into one of the rooms to spend the rest of his life in prayer and meditation. Soon after his death and canonization in 1035 the monastery Simeonstift was built next to it and the ruin itself received a new lease of life by being converted into a church. Trier_model800It served this purpose until 1804 when Napoleon revoked the conversion and had it converted back to its original form. During peak season some of the guided tours involve a centurion, explaining in detail the construction and history of the gate!

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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Völklinger Hütte

Our next stop on our tour along the Saar river is the UNESCO World Heritage Site Völklinger Hütte, an anchor point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage denoting its historical importance and attractiveness to visitors. The guided tour will explain in detail the workings of the ironworks and the relevance to local and national economics.

But for those of you who cannot wait for the tour, I can highly recommend the web site which gives detailed information about the history of the ironworks, the founding family and its conversion into a modern learning and entertainment space.1200px-VH_außen_pano

Völklingen

One aspect that might not be obvious to the uninitiated is the fact that the area around Völklingen has been an important trading and industry site as early as the 6th century.

The fertile meadows between the rivers Rossel and Köllerbach flowing into the Saar have meant that the area had been populated since Celtic times. As the villages grew and trade along the Saar flourished, its relevance for local and regional administrations increased as well.

In the 16th century iron and coal finds in the area led to the construction of the oldest and largest ironworks of the Saarland in Geislautern in 1572. Geislautern is now part of Völklingen and right opposite the famous ironworks on the other side of the Saar.

Even though the works in Geislautern were closed in 1884, new technology developments and innovative thinking were influential in the establishment and success of the Völklinger Hütte, the “Röchling’schen Eisen- und Stahlwerke” by Carl Röchling in the late 1880’s. The works were active until the 1970’s when the world wide steel crisis required major restructuring of the industry which ultimately led to its closure in 1986.

A walk through time1280px-Völklingen_Ironworks_by_night

To understand the importance of the industry and this particular steel works, one has to remember that the guided tour and public area covers ‘only’ 7.46 hectare of the original area of the Saarstahl AG (260 hectares), which officially originated after the steel crisis in 1986, but through its individual components goes back to the beginnings of the steel industry in the region. Be amazed by the sheer size of the site and enjoy the various cultural exhibitions during your visit here.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

 

 

 

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Creatures of the night

Berlin does have a reputation for providing habitats for all sorts of creatures of the night and today I would like to introduce two species: the nocturnal seeker of foxes, bats and owls and the nocturnal connoisseur of architecture, music and wine!

Sounds of the forest

fullsize_waldmuseum_gudrun_rademacher_1The first one can be found on selected nights in the Grunewald surrounding the Forestry School. During a “Voices of the Night” hike the ‘seekers’ will be guided to recognize the sounds of the various nocturnal animals that can be found in a suburban forest. The museum itself offers hands-on experiences regarding forest life, conservation and forestry.

The sound of music at full moon

640px-Belvedere_auf_dem_PfingstbergFor connoisseurs of European architecture and music there’s a once in a blue moon opportunity to see the Belvedere Castle near Potsdam in a different light: the moon light! From May through to September on every Friday closest to the full moon The Friends of the Pfingstberg organize an evening of music and canapees around the gardens of the Belvedere Castle. After a tour of close-by Sanssouci with us you could come here and watch the moon reflections in the pool, listen to the muted flight of the bats while ambling amongst the colonnades of the castle enjoying a nice glass of wine, canapees and music.

Excited?!

Does this sound like the kind of experience you would like to have while going on your special holiday in Europe and Germany? Then let us know and we will make it happen for you.

Author: Petra Alsbach-Stevens

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