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Posts Tagged ‘Napoleon’

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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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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