Würzburg from a top Festung Marienberg

Würzburg. I bet you’ve never heard of it. Although not ranking as high in popularity as Frankfurt, Berlin or Dresden, the city has an undeniable charm and beauty that surrounds it. Daniel and Katja had to work that day, and I, the curious traveling American, was hungry for adventure. I wanted to go out and explore! I looked out my hotel room, it was a beautiful day. The air was crisp and a blue sky hung overhead. I went downstairs to the receptionist, who was very helpful in offering suggestions on places I could check out for the day. I wanted to go somewhere at the furthest, about an hour from Ansbach. She suggested Würzburg. Of course, I had never heard of it. But nevertheless, she noted it was one of her personal favorites, a picturesque city dotted with red roofs, Gothic and Baroque churches and chapels, a stately Residenz and an impressive Fortress dating back to the 12th century that overlooked the whole city. I was there.

I walked to the Ansbach train station, got my ticket and hopped on an S-bahn. I had to say, for me only being in Germany for about 7 days, I was becoming rather comfortable with their public transportation system. It came so easy- key in the type of ticket, where your destination is, and you’re off…

Train tickets

Now this train was taking a different track, for the last few days the only one I’d become accustomed to was the Ansbach to Nuremberg route. But this one would take me 1 hour outside of Ansbach to the northwest, winding through Bavarian countryside. The train had many stops, picking up a lot of school children. I sat there in my seat, observing. Some sat there with their iPods, some chatting with friends, some alone. I thought about children in the USA, many of them dependent on mom or dad to pick them up from school. And these kids, as young as they were, strikingly independent riding on a train to their final destination, without mom or dad holding their young hand. I admired that.

When we finally reached the city, I was greeted by Würzburg’s busy hauptbahnhof (main train station). It was a sea of people, like the Nürnberg one, bustling and full of life. I loved it. I  loved how normal it was to depend on public transport here. Back home, if you didn’t own a car, people gave you a blank stare like, How do you possibly get around? Public transport isn’t highly prized stateside unless you reside in a metropolitan area such as New York City. And on that scale, it’s faster to get around on the subway than sit for hours in bumper to bumper traffic. Americans like their cars and the freedom that comes with them. Here, public transport was a way of life, and not at all looked down upon.

I grabbed a stadtplan (city map) and began walking. My first destination was the Residenz. I had googled it on the train ride, learning some key points about the place.

  • It took 24 years to complete, construction beginning in 1720 and ending in 1744.
  • The Prince-Bishop of Würzburg, (a fellow with a lengthy name) Johann Phillip von Schönborn, built the sprawling palace in an effort to mark his important political standing. It also housed later Prince-Bishops.
  • The architecture follows a Baroque, steering clear of the ever popular Gothic style seen over much of Germany.
  • Heavily destroyed in World War II air raids, renovations from 1945-1987  helped to bring back the Residenz to its near-original state.

Walking along the busy city streets, the entrance to the Residenz is marked by high iron gates, intricate in detail. Because I was visiting in late March, the courtyard gardens (Hofgarten) were not particularly in bloom yet, but, still pleasant to gaze upon.

Beautiful palace...

My eyes were wide open, scanning all the beauty...

Topiary in the court garden...

Angels in the court garden...

Court garden staircase & some curious statues...

I spent a considerable amount of time out in the court garden, pacing back and forth, trying to cover every inch of the grandiose estate, I didn’t want to miss a thing. I took a liking to the fountain strategically placed in the center of the gardens, the water trickling, was the only audible sound. The busy city of Würzburg, left behind in the mind, an element of tranquility wrapping around me, providing a sense of comfort…

Next up, I wanted to check out the interior of the place. The outside of it was impressive, I could only imagine what was waiting inside. They gave tours, but sadly, photographs were prohibited. According to the receptionist, camera flashes damage the delicate murals on the walls (whatever). But they were quick to remind that you could always purchase a postcard for memories. Pffff! So, I passed on the tour. It was early afternoon and I hadn’t eaten yet, so I began walking in town and found this homey little bakery.

Inside, chatting with the owner, I made an effort to speak in German, but then found out that she used to live in Georgia, so the conversation quickly switched to English. She told me how much she loved Georgia, really all of the USA, and longed to go there again. Funny how, one man’s trash is another’s treasure or so they say. Because I couldn’t begin to understand why she would want to live in Georgia over this place! I mean, the buildings, the culture, the food, landscape…everything, beat Georgia ten times over in my opinion. What did Georgia have? Red sand and paper mills. Ah, to each their own.

Might I add that Germany has some of the best pastries I’ve ever tasted? Below, my afternoon treat…

Lecker...

While in the bakery I pulled put my stadtplan and began scanning it, checking out all points of interest. The owner told me to definitely go check out an old fortress perched atop a hill, overlooking all of Würzburg. She noted that I should call a taxi since it was quite a walk, but I thought, how better to experience a city than to walk through it? So I did.

I didn’t take main roads, I took side roads and winding alleys because those were more interesting to me, with small trinkets of beauty and a bit more obscure. I soon met the one cathedral synonymous with Würzburg’s skyline, St. Killian. It was constructed back in the 10th century, and rebuilt due to World War II air raids.

St. Killian cathedral

Behind it was this small, Gothic chapel that I instantly fell in love with. The Baroque character of it drew me in, the exterior decorated with sculptures of skulls, flirting with a bit of Gothic. The chapel is otherwise known as the Schönbornkapelle,  and was built in 1721. This was indeed one of my favorite buildings in all the city.

Schönbornkapelle

Detail of skull sculpture...

From there, I continued my trek toward Fortress Marienberg, taking me onto the alten Mainbrücke (old main bridge). This bridge has a substantial timeline in the city and is often compared to the Charles bridge in Prague, having a somewhat similar appearance.

  • Construction for the bridge began in the 11th century.
  • Due to destruction from flooding, the new bridge was constructed in the 14th century.
  • The bridge is adorned with statues of saints.

alten Mainbrücke

While the busy hustle of pedestrians passed me by, I was studying the saints, the detail on them was absolutely beautiful.

Saints watch over...

St. Killian

View of the river Main…

The river Main from old main bridge...

The river was lined with restaurants and bars, packed full of Germans hungry for some sunshine…

Chowing down over the river...

Once across the bridge, I had a steeper trail to climb to get to this Fortress. Indeed it looked punishing, but hey, I was young, I could handle it right?

To Fortress Marienberg

I would be lying if I said I didn’t break a sweat while hiking up to this place. I was sweaty and breathless by the time I got to the entrance. Whew! I told myself, this better be worth it. And was it, ever…the place was intriguing.

Impressive beauty...

Fortress Marienberg (German: Festung Marienberg),  housed the Würzburg Prince-Bishops before notable Prince-Bishop Johann Philipp von Schönborn constructed the Residenz. The first building atop the great hill was the Marienkirche (Marien church), constructed back in the 7th century. Later, the groundwork began for the surrounding fortress in the 14th century. Today what consists of the Fortress is a chapel, well house, and a museum full of artifacts. I walked inside the courtyard…

Light billowing into the medieval darkness...

The courtyard was quiet, a few visitors piddling around. I walked around, eyes huge and taking it all in, the beauty of this place, feelings of time swept by. I pondered the inhabitants of this place, what hardships were faced here, the experiences here, a lot of feelings…

Beautiful Baroque structure...

Walking around the fortress walls...

Most impressive from the fortress was the view. Being a resident of Florida now for five years, I’ve grown accustomed to the ever-abundant flat nature of the state. Not to say I’ll ever tire of the beaches and palms but, it’s always refreshing to see a little bit of landscape.

Loitering around the walls for a bit, really doing nothing in particular, just, taking it in. The city of Würzburg reduced to a microscopic bustle of hurried people and traffic below, but up here, the attitude was at a slower pace, more reserved, and serene. The fortress grounds served as a sort of relaxation place for many, a place where they could disconnect from life for awhile. People sitting under a tree reading a book, people chatting with a friend, people wandering alone, or appreciating the sunset. Whatever they were doing, everyone I passed by, looked content.

Overlooking Würzburg...

I made my way back to the courtyard and checked out the Marienkirche (7th c.), the church that the fortress was constructed around.

The interior was striking and also very delicate, these photos were taken through an iron gate that prohibited visitors from walking further in.

Interior

Next, I checked out the well house, once serving as the main water supply for the fortress. Looking down, deep down!

Well, hello...

I looked at my watch, it was 5:00. I had to get going back to the train station, which seemed so far away. I didn’t know exactly how many miles I had walked, but I knew it was at least seven. Looking down at the city, I could see how far the Residenz was from where I was standing now, atop this steep hill inside the Fortress Marienberg. But, as stated before, what better way to experience a city than to walk through it right? Here’s a few random shots of the fortress before I left.

I treaded carefully down the same punishing steep hill I had climbed to reach that magnificent piece of history, following the same way that I came, through winding alleyways and mossy staircases…

I crosssed the alten Mainbruecke and took a few side streets…

I looked at the fortress one last time before hurriedly setting afoot to the train station, forever pressing into memory…

Wow, I walked all the way up that hill! Sad thing is, that's a normal walk for most Europeans!

Bumping shoulders with busy pedestrians like myself, all waiting to get on a train home, I finally hopped on one headed to Ansbach, back to my friends Daniel and Katja. I came aboard, and slumped into my seat. I was a bit tired. iPod in ears and eyes shut, the quiet rumble of the train lulled me into a slumber.

An hour and half later, I was back in Ansbach. Daniel and Katja picked me up from the train station and we got a bite to eat together. I told them about my day in Würzburg. Having never been to the city before, they enjoyed my plethora of tourist photos. Over dinner, Katja commented on my traveling alone, saying how she wished she could’ve taken more time off work to show me around. Asking if I was afraid or nervous, I told her no, because traveling alone, it makes you get in touch with yourself on a deeper level. You learn about your strengths, your weaknesses, your sense of self, it’s a whole lot of self-actualization…it’s great. Of course, traveling with friends is always fun too, but, I think everyone should at least travel alone once in their lives. Just a trip for you and your conscience. I really enjoyed Würzburg, as it was the last city I visited in Bavaria. I only had one day left, and that was a travel day. My time in Deutschland had now coming to a close.


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