Saturday, September 8, 2018

Vienna, Austria: Emperor Francis I Statue

When it comes to leaders, Francis I was also Francis II. Very confusing.

Emperor Francis I of Austria also was the second period of that name to be the Holy Roman Emperor. So he was I and II at the same time.

The Roman Empire fell apart because of Napoleon's armies (1806), but he went on to lead Austria until 1835. In a courtyard stands a large statue in tribute to him. It was created by the Italian sculptor Pompeo Marchesi. He is surrounded by four smaller statues representing religious, peace, justice and strength.

The front of the monument reads:
AMOREM MEVM POPVLIS MEIS (testam cap xiii)
"My love to my peoples (from the emperor's last will, 1835)"

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Vienna, Austria: Hofburg Palace

Wow, what a complex - 30+ buildings and 2,600 rooms spread over enough space to fill almost three dozen soccer fields. It's the centerpiece of Vienna.

This is where the seat of power has been since 1275. The Habsburgs ruled from here.

There are apartments, museums and exhibits scattered about. You can tour some of the area, but it's so big that you might want to think about allocating your time unless you have a few days to spend in Vienna.

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Vienna, Austria: Monument to Archduke Charles

The military is hardly under-represented when it comes to statues around the world.

This one in Vienna is a particularly impressive one. It's a salute to Archduke Charles. Then again, when your army defeats the forces of Napoleon in 1809, you probably don't have much trouble convincing the government to come up with the funds.

Just to make the point, the horse is on a French insignia. This was unveiled in an area reserved for heroes in 1860. By the way, note how the weight of sculpture is completely on the back two legs of the horse.

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Vienna, Austria: Memorial for the Victims of Nazi Military Justice

This is another stop that becomes much more interesting when background information is provided.

Many Germans and Austrians opted to desert rather than fight for the Nazis in World War II. When they were captured, their odds of survival were slim. About 15,000 men were executed - about 10 percent of which were Austrian. In contrast, 18 German deserters were killed in World War I.

The idea of a tribute first came up in 1988, but it took some time for it to come to fruition. There is a poem on top of the steps that consists of only two words. The translation is "all alone."

The structure is next to the Chancellor's Office in Vienna.

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Vienna, Austria: Office of the Federal Chancellor

It's not the Austrian equivalent of the White House, but it's close.

For more than 200 years, this has been the office of the top Cabinet Minister in Austria. That gives him the title of Chancellor; you might be more comfortable with Prime Minister. By the way, the President of Austria is in a different building.

This is where Metternich held the Congress of Viennam, which transformed Europe in the post-Napoleon world. It's where the Nazis murdered the Chancellor in 1934. And it where Kurt von Schuschnigg told his fellow Austrians after Nazi Germany annexed his nation, "Gott schütze Österreich" ("God save Austria"). That's a lot of drama in one building.

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Vienna, Austria: Empress Elisabeth Statue

There often is a good story behind a statue in a public place. After all, they are expensive. A monument in the Public Garden in Vienna proves that point.

Empress Elisabeth has a rather elaborate garden surrounding her likeness. She was married to Franz Joseph I in 1854, and also had the title of Queen of Hungary. Elisabeth checked in at 5-foot-8, which was mighty tall for a woman back then. No wonder her statue is about seven feet high. Later in life she showed signs of obsessing over her weight; we might have used the word anorexic.

Elisabeth was hit hard by tragedy when her old son committed suicide in 1889. She spent the next several years traveling to relieve the grief. In 1898, she was in Lake Geneva, Switzerland, when she was stabbed by an Italian anarchist. You might know that many radicals of the time had called for anarchy among world governments; that included the man who assassinated President McKinley. Elisabeth soon died after more than 40 years as a Empress. She was honored and remembered in many ways around the region, including this one. It was completed in 1907.

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Vienna, Austria: Kursalon Hübner

If you happen to find yourself in Vienna, some live classical music is definitely in order. The place is known for its breath-taking musical talent over the years, and this is not the time to play something on iTunes.

The Kursalon Hubner is here to assist you. It's a nice music hall located in downtown Vienna. Something like 200,000 people run through the place in a given year. You can see the patio on top of the columns in the photo, which is where patrons can spend intermission.

And I'd bet most of them were tourists. The cruise ships sell packages to come to see shows there. In our case, it featured Mozart and Strauss. We filed into one of the ballrooms; the facility was nice but it was very crowded on a hot August night. The 12-piece (a guess) orchestra handled its duties quite well, and some soloists were quite good too. The selections were generally popular favorites, including "The Blue Danube." Other songs were often in the public domain, which meant you probably would at least recognize them - perhaps from cartoons.

I suppose a visit to a bigger venue might be a more authentic experience, but for our tastes this was just fine. The video is essentially an ad for the program, but it does give you the chance to see the building:

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Vienna, Austria: Imperial Court Theater

If you like a little tradition with your theater, then the Burgtheater, or the Imperial Court Theater, is your kind of place. The company is one of the most important such groups in the German-language world. The building certainly looks important, even when viewed from the side as it is in this photograph.

What should you know? It was started in 1741, when Empress Maria Theresa wanted a theater next to the palace. She got her way. Three Mozart operas and a Beethoven symphony debuted there.

The place picked up a new home in 1888. That facility was damaged by bombings in March 1945 and then by a fire in April 1945. It took about 10 years, but the building reopened for business after repairs.

I didn't get to go inside, but you can join me in taking this look around:

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Vienna, Austria

There are worse places to be than Vienna on a summer day.

It certainly ranks as one of the great cities of Europe. Lots of architecture, history, public art, etc. are available for visitors. You can almost hear the music in the background when walking around.

About a third of Austria's population lives around Vienna - 2.6 million in the metro area. It's been a popular place ever since it was founded a few years more than 2,000 years ago. Vienna was the setting for the Congress of Vienna in 1814-15, which brought to an end - more or less - about a quarter-century of nearly non-stop fighting in Europe. Peace was more or less in place for about 100 years, so although it wasn't a perfect deal it clearly had some good points.

The list of famous people born in Vienna is a long and diverse one: Marie Antoinette, Niki Lauda, Johann Strauss, Milton Bradley, Joseph Haydn, and Franz Schubert. At one point in 1913, the following lived in Vienna in the same part of town: Adolf Hitler, Leon Trotsky, Joseph Tito, Sigmund Freud and Joseph Stalin.

Let's look around a bit:

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Durnstein, Austria

Durnstein is famous for two things, and they are both in this photograph.

The main attraction is the Durnstein Abbey, and its main attraction is the beautiful blue tower which stands out while cruising down the Danube. You can take a tour of the place.

Up on the hill is Kuenringerburg, a castle. Richard the Lionhearted was captured here around 1192. According to legend, his servant, Blondel, had gone from country to country looking for Richard. Blondel sang a song that would only be known to his master. In this case, Richard recognized the tune, and started on the path toward freedom (a big bribe was involved). It's a nice story, anyway. The two are portrayed in a statue up the river a bit.

By the way, Napoleon suffered a defeat here of sorts, although it wasn't decisive. There's a roadside marker to remind us of that battle with Austrian and Russian forces.

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Willendorf, Austria

Post card shot.

This is Willendorf, located on the Danube in the Wachau Valley. It has never reached 1,000 in population, but it is trending that way and may make it by the next census in 2021.

It might be most famous for a statue that dates back to 30,000 BCE. It is called the "Venus of Willendorf," The object is obviously of a woman with some exaggerated features, perhaps as a sign of fertility of some sort. The original is in a museum in Vienna. Yes, every city really does have a claim to fame.

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Spitz, Austria: Hinterhaus Castle

The Hinterhaus Castle has seen better days. That's only fair, since it has been around since the 1100s.

It was a great place for a castle/fortress back then, since the owners could control the entire Wachau Valley from here. You can go up there and look around; the views remain superb according to all reports.

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Schönbühel-Aggsbach, Austria: Schönbühel Castle

The Wachau Valley is one of the main attractions of a river cruise in Central Europe. It's fun to float down the Danube and see great scenery and big buildings.

Here's one of the big buildings. It's the Schönbühel Castle. The building dates back to the 1100s, and it's about 110 meters up on a rock overlooking the Danube. It's gone through a few owners and had some tough times, but the privately-owned structure still looks good now.

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Melk, Austria: Melk Abbey

It is quite easy to figure out that this is an important place in a small town. Melk only has about 5,000 residents, and this towers about the city in a number of ways.

The Melk Abbey (in German, Stift Melk) goes back almost 1,000 years. It was formed in 1089 when a castle was given to a Benedictine monk. The motto has always been "pray, work and learn." A school was created there in the 1100s, and the facility soon became famous for its library.

This place is a survivor, having gone through all sorts of conflicts. One came in 1938, when the Germans annexed Austria in the Anschluss. But the school was given back to the abbey after World War II, and about 900 students receive an education here.

My favorite part of the place was the library, which is beautiful and is filled with ancient books. You need permission, and probably white gloves, to read the texts here. Scholars still come here for that purpose.

Photos were not allowed inside, and the grounds are beautiful too. In other words, one photo isn't enough. Here's a video:

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Passau, Germany: Emerenz Meier Bust

The Three River Corner of Passau is a great place for a walk. It overlooks all three rivers in the city, and even has a playground for the kiddies.

While you are there, you might as well pick up a little culture. There's a bust of Emerenz Meier along the Danube.

Meier is considered the most important folk poet in Bavaria's history. She lives from 1874 to 1928. Meier wrote about her homeland frequently during her career. She was formed to move with her family to the United States at one point, winding up in Chicago in 1906. During World War I she was a loud critic of social and cultural forces of the nations on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Passau, Germany: Veste Oberhaus

Every bishop, at least in the 13th century, could use a nice "stronghold" for protection. The one in Passau sure picked a good spot.

The Veste Oberhaus was built in 1219 - that's four years after the Magna Carta was signed - and was the home of the Bishop of Passau. As you can see, it has a nice location overlooking Passau; the city is on "this side" of the Danube. Passau was an independent state, so you never knew who might drop by to try to take it.

Between 1250 and 1482, the fortress was attacked five times. In two cases, the people of Passau did the attacking, which at the least is pretty interesting. By 1802, the Bishop had to give up his claim to the place, which was turned into a prison for a while. Now it's the home of a theater, museum and youth hostel.

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Passau, Germany: St. Stephen's Cathedral

Lots of churches have been build in this spot in Passau over the years. The last of them went up in 1693. Let's hope St. Stephen's lasts for many years to come.

There's a good reason why I chose to take a view of the back of the inside of the church. Take a look at the largest cathedral organ in the world, and the biggest organ anywhere outside of the United States. (One at West Point in larger.) This one has 17,774 pipes and 233 registers. (You'll be happy to know I could crop out those were taking selfies.)

The church did offer a half-hour organ recital during our visit, and I would guess this is fairly common to keep the tourists busy. What was striking is that the set list included a group of songs that no one knew - although the first and last one certainly moved the air in some of those pipes. Some people certainly were impressed that the music did not bend to popular culture. Others had the attitude of "play something we know." We report, you decide.

I know. You want to hear what it sounds like.

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Passau, Germany: Wittelsbach Fountain

St. Mary receives a tribute in the middle of Old Town in Passau. It's the centerpiece of a relatively small square.

At least Mary has company here. There are three angels attached to the monument, and they represent the three rivers of the city.

Jacob Bradl, take a bow for this impressive work

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Passau, Germany: Old Town Hall

The Old Town Hall has more than 600 years of history attached to it. It was built in 1393, right along the banks of the Danube. The spot has been used by fishermen.

Other additions took place in the 1660s, and the tower was constructed only in 1892.

One of the most interesting outward parts of the building is the markings of flood levels over the years. The record apparently was set in 1501, but a flood in 2013 came close to breaking the record. Floods happen fairly regularly here, so it was a little surprising that the water levels above this point in the Danube were too low to permit our river boat to do any cruising.

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Passau, Germany

Passau couldn't help but be a relatively important city in historical terms. Blame geography.

The Danube, Inn and Ilz all come together here in this nice little area. In fact, the Inn is a bit bigger than the Danube at this point, which means the combined river probably should have been called the Ilz. That's the way it has worked historically. But would you dance to the Blue Inn? I don't think so.

This is basically a college town, as the University of Passau has about 12,000 students (total population of the city: 50,000). Most of the place burned down in 1662, and was supposedly rebuilt in the popular Baroque style of the time.

Walk these streets, and you walk the same spots that Adolph Hitler did. He and his family lived here from 1892 to 1894, and he came back a few times for speeches in the 1920s.

The border with Austria is right down the street from Passau. That has turned this area into something of an entry point for immigrants. Passau has been busy trying to come with them, who often simply walk from Austria in order to enter Germany.

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Regensburg, Germany: Synagogue Memorial

The story of the Jews in Regensburg can be told in a nutshell through the synagogues in the city.

The first one was built in the ghetto in 1227. It lasted for about 300 years. Emperor Maximilian had protected the Jews during his reign, even if he taxed them heavily. In 1519, though, the Emperor had died, and the Jews were convenient scapegoats for Regensburg's economic problems. So they were kicked out of town.

The Jews returned in 1669 and built a new synagogue in 1841. That structure lasted until 1907, when it was destroyed before it collapsed. A new one was built a few years later - but that one was wiped out by the Nazis on Nove. 9, 1938 - Kristallnacht.

This photo shows the foundation of the synagogue. I couldn't determine which one, but the memorial was opened in 2005.

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Regensburg, Germany: Don Juan of Austria Statue

Say hello to Don Juan of Austria. Or John of Austria. Or Johan of Austria. Whatever.

This features a long story. Short version - the subject was born as an illegitimate child for King Carlos V and his mistress. He was born in Regensburg and raised in Austria and went on to be a noted military leader - particularly in a famous military battle in which the Christians were outnumbered by the Turks.

Thus, a statue. And since the Spanish financed that war, he became Don Juan.

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Regensburg, Germany: Old Town Hall

The Old Town Hall is, appropriately enough, in Town Hall Square in Regensburg. The buildings go back to the 13th century. You can still see gauges on the side of the building that standardized measurements for the town; that's a pretty interesting idea for its time.

This was the seat of the Reichstag, or legislature, for a couple of hundred years. Based on our visit, it's still a good place for a wedding.

You can take tours of the place if you have time. The torture chambers in the basement apparently are still popular.

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Regensburg, Germany: Golden Tower

Why was this tower built? Because it could be.

That is not much of an answer, but it is the truth.

Families in the 13th century used to show off how rich they were. In this case a family an nine-story building just so that it could tower over the rest of the area and display wealth. Remember, no elevators were around in 1260.

You can visit the inner courtyard of the area, but no signs of being able to head up to the top for a look. Too bad.

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Regensburg, Germany: Cathedral of St. Peter

It is tough to know how to photograph the great cathedrals of Europe, at least without any special arrangements.

Do you go for a fairly close shot of the entrance area? Or do you step back and try to get the towers? Both are impressive, but you can't do both easily in the same photo. The former won out in this case.

It literally took about 250 years to build this structure, going from 1273 to 1538. It is considered a great example of Gothic architecture.

St. Peter's is the seat of the Catholic diocese of Regensburg, and a few relatively important bishops in the region's history are buried here.

Let's sneak inside for a look around:

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Regensburg, Germany: David and Goliath Mural

How many people have been inspired by the legend of David and Goliath? How many sports teams have been underdogs and gone on to pull upsets?

Apparently Regensburg buys into the story. It has a large mural near the entrance to the old part of the city.

Melchior Bocksberger gets credit for this piece of public art, which dates back to 1573. The host building dates back to 1260. Interestingly, the building's name - Golias - came first. It is the guardian angel of the theology students that stayed in the building in the day.

Yes, stopping during a visit and taking a photo is just about mandatory here.

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Regensburg, Germany: Stone Bridge

My guess is that most people entered the old part of Regensburg on this pedestrian bridge. That's a very good idea, since it makes for a good entrance.

The Stone Bridge has been around since the 1100s. In fact, it was Regensburg's only bridge until the 1930s. The bridge is big enough to cause current issues on the Danube (something even Napoleon noticed when he was here in 1809), so many larger ships use a canal to go around it. 

The bridge has taken a pounding over the years, because of water and salt issues. Therefore, it hasn't been open to motor vehicles for a relatively short time (bit more than a decade), and renovations and repairs have been taking place frequently. The Stone Bridge is a symbol of the city, so everyone is anxious to see it last well beyond 900 years.

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Regensburg, Germany

Is it really blue?

This was our first look at the Danube, and - thanks to the song - everyone wanted to know if the Blue Danube title still held up.

Actually, thanks to a dry summer, the water is quite still. That means the coloring is closer to green in parts. Still pretty, though, and it's the backdrop for Regensburg - one of the most well-preserved old cities in Germany. And there are a lot of them.

About 150,000 people live in this city, but most of the tourists never get past the old part of town. The city dates back a couple of thousand years or so, minimum. The Romans took control of the place in the year 90, and built a fort there. It has gone through all sorts of ups and downs over the years, which is typical of the region. For our purposes, though, the good news, is that the Allies used their bombs elsewhere. That makes this area well-preserved.

Who are the two most famous former residents of Regensburg? Depends on your standard. Johannes Kepler remains a very famous astronomer. However, Oskar Schindler made up some ground thanks to the movie, "Schindler's List."

Here's the easy way to tour Regensburg:

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Thursday, September 6, 2018

Nuremberg, Germany: Way of Human Rights

The is a slightly curious monument in the middle of the old city of Nuremberg - one that deserves a little attention.

It's a tribute to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Once past the gate, you can see the columns stretching into the distance. There are 30 of them. Each one has an article of the Declaration written in German and in another language.

This monument opened on October 24, 1993 (United Nations Day). Nuremberg continues to try to change its image as a city, as bad memories remain of the way it hosted Nazi rallies in the day.

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Nuremberg, Germany: National Documentation Center

Germany is still trying to come to terms with its past in regard to the rise of the Nazi party, which committed unspeakable horrors in the 1930s and early 1940s. That's particularly true in Nuremberg, the site of the biggest Nazi rallies in history.

Part of that effort can be seen in the National Documentation Center, an oddly named museum that's built into the Congress Hall. The idea is to examine how it all happened.

Visitors grab an audio player, and wind through the building that is filled with kiosks, photos and films. Each area has a number with a description. The museum is arranged more thematically than chronologically, which is handy to know going in. The tour ends with a review of the war trials, held a few miles away. You could spend a long, long time here if you viewed everything; even hitting the highlights will require close to a couple of hours.

Here's a brief look at the facility:

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Nuremberg, Germany: Congress Hall

This unfinished building carries quite a punch.

It is Congress Hall, part of the Rally Grounds of the Nazis in Nuremberg. The idea was to build a large coliseum seating about 50,000 people, perfect for massive rallies. Since Hitler was fond of Rome's Coliseum, this was built on an even bigger scale. It has a U-shape, unlike the Rome model.

This was supposed to have a roof and a skylight, but that part was never started. 

The outside actually is somewhat finished, at least in terms of looks. But the Nazis never got too far in getting the inside close to done. The reason arrived in September 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. That started World War II, and big construction projects were put on hold - forever, as it turned out.

You can see the facility by talking the tour of the Documentation Center, a museum in the complex. We took a bus through the main opening of Congress Hall and drove around the perimeter, but I'm not sure what the rules might be for getting out and walking around.

This gives you a better perspective on the place:


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Nuremberg, Germany: Ship of Fools Sculpture

"Do you think they sold too many tickets for this boat?"

Yes, it is a little crowded in the "Ship of Fools." This is based on a poem written in 1494 by Sebastian Brant. It became one of the most popular books of the 16th century, although I'd like to see the sales numbers for that time period. The author's only point was to display man's abilities to make mistakes.

Juergen Weber turned it into a statue. Be sure to take a good look at it when you see it, and not just take a quick photo while walking by. (Guilty)

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Nuremberg, Germany: Hospital of the Holy Spirit

Ever seen a river go under a hospital before?

Here's the Hospital of the Holy Spirit, looking like it should be a church of something. It was built in the 1330s, and expanded over part of the river in 1500 or so.

Alas, it's not a hospital any more. In fact, part of it is a restaurant. And it's a good place to eat too. The food is said to be excellent traditional fare, and the views are terrific. You might want to make reservations.

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Nuremberg, Germany: Henkersteg Covered Bridge

A covered bridge? Is this Vermont?

No, it's Nuremberg. This is called either the Hangman's Bridge or the Executioner's Bridge. It was built in 1457, and serves as a pedestrian bridge today.

The executioner used to live in a tower near here, and from the 16th century to the 19th century he did his job here. People weren't allowed to associate with him because his work was "dirty." But someone had to do the job, apparently.

It's safe to walk in this pretty area now, by the way.

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Nuremberg, Germany: Main Market Square

Nuremberg, it seems, used to have two separate sections - both surrounded by walls and divided by the river. As the city grew in the 1200s, two walls came down to create one big city. Naturally, it needed a big square as a gathering point. This is it.

It was built by Charles IV, a Holy Roman Emperor. We'll run him into again in Prague, by the way, but he loved Nuremberg too.

As the name implies, the area serves as a market to this day. It becomes a huge Christmas market in the weeks leading up to late December.

The big structure on the left of the photo is the Church of Our Lady, called Frauenkirche by the locals. The land used to be the site of a synagogue, but Charles decided the land was too valuable. So he kicked the Jews out of their living space in that Jewish Quarter, killing 600 in the process. Sigh. At noon every day, figures come out of the clock and dance around a little. The tourists love it.

Here's a slightly shaky look of it on video:


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Nuremberg, Germany: Schöner Brunnen

Schoner Bruner translates to "beautiful fountain." Who am I to argue?

Thje fountain is part of the Main Market area, near the Old Town Hall. It was built in the late 1300s, and is said to represent the Roman Empire's view of the world - with tributes to a variety of different people and qualities. It also was a good source of clean drinking water back in the day; lots of stuff you don't want to know about went into the river.

There is a gold ring on the side that is said to bring good luck if you spin three times. I guess it can't hurt.

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Nuremberg, Germany: Palace of Justice

After visiting the Nazi rally grounds in Nuremberg, it's tough to find closure for such a shattering experience. Luckily, you can go from there directly to the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg to find some.

The four victorious nations in World War II opted to put the surviving Nazi leaders on trial for their crimes. This had never been done before. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson was named the chief prosecutor for the United States in those trials. He offered his thoughts on the proceedings at the beginning of the trial:

The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason.

This is a photo of Room 600, where the trials actually took place. If you think the room is small, and it is, it was smaller in 1945 before the public seating area was expanded. This is where the full story of atrocities was revealed to the world, and where 21 Nazi war criminals faced charges. Nuremberg was selected for this duty basically out of convenience, as the court facility had a prison connected to it.

It is still used as a working courtroom, at least for the time being. It's interesting that there is a cross in the room. That's a relatively new development, as Bavaria decided to add it to courtrooms. Makes you appreciate separation of church and state here in America.

Here's a three-minute course in what happened in that room:

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Nuremberg, Germany: Zeppelin Field

This is where a visit to Nuremberg can be a little chilling.

Welcome to Zeppelin Field. I believe that this large expanse of concrete in front of bleachers was used for servicing the blimps. However, the area became infamous in the 1930s for the huge rallies staged by the Nazi party. It was part of a massive complex designed to drum up support for the rulers.

This platform area was the center of attention at such rallies, no doubt climaxed by a speech by Adolf Hitler. You can stand on that spot, but keep in mind that Nazi gestures in that area are illegal. The police do not think such actions are the least bit funny and will act accordingly.

The area has been converted to other uses. A motor race is held there each year. The Rolling Stones and U2 have played there. It's good to see the facility turned to peaceful uses.

This area is best known, though, for something that happened in 1945. When the Allies took control of the area, they headed to the Zeppelin Field and got their dynamite out. You've probably seen this piece of film many times as a symbol of the end of the Nazi regime, but you probably didn't know it was on this spot. Here it is:

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Nuremberg, Germany: St. Lorenz Church

Yes, it's another big, beautiful church in Europe. But this one is somewhat surprising because of its location. It's right in the midst of the old portion of Nuremburg, as you'd expect. But it's also right in the middle of a commercial district that is filled with fabulous stores.

St. Lorenz translates to St. Lawrence. Work on this church first took place in the 1400s. As you might expect, it was damaged in World War II, but was rebuilt. St. Lorenz is one of the most well-known Lutheran churches in all of Bavaria.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Nuremberg, Germany: Marriage Carousel Fountain

A fountain was planned for this spot in Nuremberg, and a party broke out instead.

Well, maybe not. But this is one silly fountain. It's based on a 1541 poem by Hans Sachs based on the ups and downs of married life. The poem is a little disturbing, but it's an interesting jumping-off point for a fountain.

Professor Jurgen Weber did the work in 1984. There are six different scenes shown. On a hot day, the area is crowded with tourists hoping for a selfie and natives looking to cool off. Very unusual, very cool.

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Nuremberg, Germany: St. Elizabeth's Church

Say, another beautiful church.

St. Elizabeth's is named after a woman in Hungary, who was known in the 13th century for helping the ill and who died at the age of 24. The original chapel on the site was named after her a few years after her death.

This became the last Catholic church in a Protestant region once the Reformation took place, and the group needed a bigger building. Construction started in 1795 and lasted more than a decade, but it was open for business by 1803. One hundred years later, the church was officially finished.

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Nuremberg, Germany: White Tower

The so-called White Tower was first built around 1250; it was part of the second line of defense that went around the city. They were building walls every 200 years or so at that point. White plaster covered the bricks, so the tower become known for it.

Then in 1944, the tower came down in a bombing raid. The city got around to putting a version back up in 1958, although it opted not to use any covering on the bricks. Thus, the White Tower is not white.

It's in a wonderful setting, placed in an open area in Old Town.

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Nuremberg, Germany: Spittlertor Tower

Way back in the 14th century, Nuremburg had a gate in its walled city. It was necessary to let people come and go, of course, but it was also something of a dangerous point if the bad guys knocked at the door. The Spittletor Tower was built just for that defensive purpose.

In World War II, the tower served as a bunker. In the 21st century, it became a military museum to display artifacts from the Bavarian Army.

You can climb it - it is about seven stories and costs a few Euros. That might be worth it for some good photo opportunities.

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Nuremberg, Germany: Central Station

Whoa. This is a real train station, the way they ought to be.

Yes, it's a major location for train travel in this part of Germany, connecting to east-west and north-south lines. About 450 trains are said to visit each day, with 180,000 people. So it's always crowded. No wonder the inside is something of a shopping mall; there's a giant bookstore right inside the front door.

As you'd expect, this was a target for bombers at the end of World War II, and the station took some heavy damage. Authorities have been rebuilding the place ever since, making all sorts of improvements as they've gone along. But the architectural style, which dates back to 1900 or so, remains.

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Nuremberg, Germany: Wagner Plaza

Richard Wagner was one of Germany's greatest composers. - famous for his operas, in which his motto could have been "the bigger, the better." Indeed, he revolutionized the musical form with his approach. Wagner's Ring cycle of four operas are famous. But he did pretty well in other areas too.

Wagner was born in Leipzig in 1813, and he did some early work in Germany until his late 20s. Then he move to Latvia, only to run up some debts and be forced to flee from creditors. During his return to Germany Wagner is said to have taken up arms in 1849 in Dresden, forcing him to be on the move again.  Eventually Wagner landed in Zurich, where he wrote the Ring operas. Eventually he came home in 1864 to finish out his life.

Wagner's music was more or less adopted as the soundtrack for Hitler and the Nazis. That, mixed with some possible anti-Semitic beliefs, has made him a controversial figure to this day. A radio station in Israel apologized in September 2018 for playing his music on the air.

Strauss is saluted in Nuremburg for his work with this statue. It sits in Richard Wagner Plaza.

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Nuremberg, Germany: Opera House

This was our welcome to Nuremberg. We took a little walk shortly after our arrival at a hotel, and went on the other side of the walls and down the street.

This appeared in the distance, and it was obviously worth a cross of the street to see.

Construction of the theater took place between 1903 and 1905. The seats are said to be roomy and the inside is magnificent. The acoustics are good too.

With a little planning, you might be able to see some sort of performance there. I would guess it would be worth the effort.

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Nuremberg, Germany

We went through a lot of nice German cities in our trip, but there was no question what was the biggest surprise of the trip.

It's tough not to fall for Nuremburg.

What we knew about the place could have been written on a postage stamp. It was the site of the famous post-WW2 war trials.

Upon actually visiting it, though, we found it was breathtaking. The parts inside the city walls were wonderful - a mixture of ancient churches, modern public art, great architecture and modern commerce. And the Pegnetz River runs through the middle of it to add to the beauty. I could spend hours walking around Old Town, and I did.

This blog will offer plenty of highlights, but a video might be the best way to get an overview.

If you are the person who likes to see videos of flash mobs, click here to see one come together to play "Ode to Joy" in Old Town. Wonderful stuff.

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Bamberg, Germany: Concert Hall

There are some attractions away from the downtown areas - both old and new - in Bamberg. One is right along the Regnitz, and its look is a striking one.

It's the concert hall, the home of the Bamberg Symphony. The musical group has a very good reputation for a city of its size, and has played all over the world.

The Symphony was created in 1946, with musicians mostly coming over from Czechoslovakia. The Hall was redone in 1993, which means it is celebrating a 25th anniversary this year.

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Bamburg, Germany: Schonlein Statue

This is a rare photo for this blog - it did not need to be cropped. What I saw was what you see. It is a photo of an area in Schönleinsplatz Square in Bamberg. I have no idea about the identity of the guy in the middle of the frame, but it was nice of him to pose.

All right, you may have guessed that this is a bust of Johann Lukas Schönlein, since the square is named after him. Americans probably haven't heard much about Schonein, but they should learn a bit about him.

One of his accomplishments in his medical research was that he discovered that parasites led to ringworm. He also gave tuberculosis its name; you might know that people called it "consumption" before that. Schonlein also came up with the name of haemophilia. He was one of the first medical lecturers in his native country to give lessons in German instead of Latin, no doubt earning the thanks of bunches of medical students.

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Bamberg, Germany: Meeting

It's back.

This is a sculpture by Wang Shugang called "Meeting." It is located Schönleinsplatz Square in the middle of town. The good news is that it is back where it belongs, or so the citizens of Bamberg think.

According to the town's tourism site, this work of public art was around until 2013, when it went back to an exhibition. That didn't go over well, as people got together to bring it back to its place in the park. The campaign raised enough funds to make it happen in 2016.

Apparently people like to sit with the figures and pose for photos with it. It makes the sculpture come alive in a sense.

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