Saturday, October 10, 2009

Travels Continued - Erfurt; and the Today's News

St. Mary's Cathedral in Erfurt, with the morning market on the Dom Square in the foreground.

Day two of our whirlwind tour of Thuringia. Spent the night at a friend's house in Grafenhainchen (yes, I used notes for that one!), then on our way to Eufurt.

If you go to Eufurt, you'll soon learn that the Domberg (cathedral hill) dominates and somewhat defines the small city. There are two churches on the promontory, St. Mary's Cathedral (picture above, medieval) and The Church of St. Severus (to its right and gothic).

Eufurt is a medieval city; Boniface was one of the Legion of Irish monks who reintroduced Western thought and culture to Europe after the barbarians destroyed the Roman empire. He arrived in the 740s and established the bishopric here.

There are 70-some steps up the Domberg. From the steps, one has a great view of square. It's unusually empty in this photo. The 2 ha (about 5 ac) space is often busy with markets or cultural events. The buildings on the far side are mostly half-timbered, very old and very precious.

St. Mary's choir and altar. 16m high and 13 wide. Big intake of breath.

Stained glass windows - stunning no matter how many you see. These and the choir/altar are from the mid-1300s.

Not a great photo of the Wedding House, a renaissance building where both Claudia's parents and her sister Kathrin were married. It's presently getting a maintenance treatment on the facade.

The Wedding House is properly called the Sonneborn House, established (as you can read, I hope) in 1546. That would make it renaissance, right?

Right beside the wedding house is a wine shop (appropriate?). We were there the week that First Wine was released. It smells awful (as raw wine does) but tastes heavenly and fruity, and we soon learned is high-octane stuff. Ursel asked for a taste, and the kind lady shown here poured us each a full glass! When we gave our approval and Ursel said we'd take two bottles to Kathrin's for supper, she filled the bottles. Meanwhile, the host refilled our glasses!

Enroute to yet another mystery destination, we came upon this colourful fellow.

He's sort of a goodwill ambassador. The basket on his back holds bread. The one on his arm holds schnapps and other goodies. The loops on this basket (better seen in the first photo) hold schnapps glasses. The pouch on his belt is for coins. And the bells on his ankles are just for fun!

After the schnapps break, I noticed a man in a high window leaned out with a camera. I went inside the building, up the stairs, to discover he was a professional photographer waiting for "just the right light" and allowed me to take a photo only if I was very quick! And I was, and then learned that he's spent much time in BC and so we had a wee chat.

What I didn't realize then and will tell you now is that the street in the photo is actually the top of a bridge.

And these are some of the 32 half-timbered houses that sit atop that bridge! There were originally 64, but time and renovations have reduced the number. I don't know that there are exactly 16 on each side, but I do know that the Merchants' Bridge is the longest one with housing north of the Alps. The bridge goes back to 1325. The occupants then and now are the merchants whose businesses on on the ground floor of buildings.

To Kathrin's for supper, and per usual, Bryan commandeers the barbeque. We had a very lovely meal of lamb and chops, plus tomatoes, fresh mozarella with basil, and of course young wine.

The next day we headed back to Berlin with stops at Weirmar and Worlitz.

Weirmar - home of Goethe, Schiller, a concentration camp and the Weirmar Republic. Not going to get into the last two - didn't go to the camp, partly because there was no time, partly because it's still a very tender topic.

We saw Old Weimar, and did so in the best way possible - by carriage! Great especially for Bryan, whose hip and back were beginning to give him a lot of pain from all the walk the day before.

There are always funny moments in the most unusual situations. Above, the driver got a call on his cell phone. The horses' shod feet make so much noise on the cobblestones that he had to bring the rig to a stop to hear the conversation.
The driver was a very nice man but spoke no English, so Ursel was our interpretor. Now, that would seem logical unless you know a little personal history between Ursel and us.

When the Otto's came to Canada in 1998 for a visit, Claudia was the interpretor because her dad speaks no English and her mother, who could, refused to try. I don't know if she was overwhelmed by the trip to that point (on the drive up from Calgary to Valleyview, she kept asking Claudia if they were on the right road - through the heavy bush and all - and Claudia kept replying "It's the only road, mom.") or didn't want to embarrass herself. At any rate, we were left with the impression that she didn't like us.

This trip was a complete 180 degree spin. Not only was she eager to take us south, but on her own and very willing to communicate as best we all could. And it was great! It really was. And her English galloped along in proficiency as the days went by. So this particular anecdote really made her daughters laugh.

Next stop was tea at Worlitz. Saw mistletoe in the trees for the first time, great large balls growing in trees alongside the road. No photo - sometimes I just get too caught up in the moment, and that's a good thing. Worlitz is a entire duchey turned into an enormous 277 ac park. Yet another UNESCO site. This is definitely a place to return to.

And like many others, suffering slow decline because the young people are all leaving for greener economic pastures, leaving the ancient towns and buildings to the elderly and those financially unable to maintain them. Tourism, both domestic and international, keep it afloat, but just barely.

Lake Worlitz features gondolas that can be rented for pleasure outtings. It was a cool windy day when we were there, plus we were pressed for time.

Then it was back to the Autobahn. Did I mention it before? Did I tell you that all or most of the stories you've probably heard about the Autobahn are true?!!

Yes, that is the speedometer hovering in the 220 kmh range, and the shake of the photo isn't from nerves on my part but from the car's movement and my attempts to be stealthy taking the photo because Ursel simply wouldn't understand why I wanted that photo. Proof was the motivating factor in my subterfuge - sorry but true confession.


Next installment will be Denmark, or at least part of the trip there, because mixed messages between my techie (Bryan) and I meant that the camera batteries died on day 2 there and the replacements were still in the bag in Berlin.

Speaking of Bryan, he's having a great time up north. Called me this morning. Work has been going well, probably keep him there until the end of November. He's found a potential buyer for our place there, at least a very probable renter who could become our buyer, and both options are good news. The weather has become winter, of course (4 inches of snow; Marlon said he had to chain up his service truck to cross one river on Thursday) so he wasn't surprised when I said I wasn't making the trip up today. He's off to Marlon and Krista's tomorrow for turkey supper with Miss Abby. Auntie Rebecca will be there as well, and her other grandpa.

'Grandma' will be going to Revelstoke for Thanksgiving at GG's house (great grandma, aka Bryan's mom). And getting her accounting work done (stop laughing) and planting the many, many lavender plants she bought yesterday at the nursery she should rightly have shares in.

Don't ask how many lavender plants. Suffice to say it will be the theme of this yard. Also bought a few Butterfly Gaura, because they also do well, and three Cushion Spurge - not something I would have considered at first blush but my partner in crime at the nursery persuaded me. This spurge, as its wild cousins, is poisonous and will cause skin irritation but besides beautiful show, it's primary attraction is that DEER WON'T EAT IT! Take that, ungulates!! Maybe I try roses next year, planted between bunches of spurge. Hmm.

Also four more spreading juniper to fill a difficult dry, steep, ugly spot beside the driveway, where there's an incline to allow access to the lower portion of the yard.

This is my afternoon work. We had a hard frost last night, -7C. Guess who didn't think to unplug her small water fountain? or take the hoses off the taps. The fountain will be drained and stored (when the ice thaws - yikes) but the hoses left out a while longer. It may be freezing at night, but gardeners know to keep watering well into the season, especially when the subsoil is as dry as ours presently is.

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