Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Europe 2005

Part 3: Germany and Austria

In the summer of 2005 my parents and I spent two weeks traveling in Europe. I continue today with the special series of posts that documents our European adventure! (To start at the beginning of this series, click here.)

Above: Cologne Cathedral - August 23, 2005.

Above: Heidelberg, Germany - August 23, 2005.

Above: Mum and Dad at Heidelberg Castle - August 23, 2005.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Today we traveled from Brussels to Karlsruhe via Cologne, Bonn, and Heidelberg. Along the way we enjoyed an hour-long Rhine River cruise from Boppard to Goar. The various sights of the Rhine river valley were all very beautiful – the vineyards on the steep hillsides and the little river towns, often with an imposing castle perched high above them. The great castle above Heidelberg and the city itself were very picturesque and interesting, yet I found myself strangely unmoved by the cathedral at Cologne. The giant billboards of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI certainly didn’t impress me. They, like the lingering crowds of young Catholics from all parts of the world, were remnants of World Youth Day – celebrated just this past weekend in the city.

At Cologne Cathedral I thought of Eduard. He would have ensured that I would have left impressed by all sorts of details about its architecture and history. Together we would have smiled at the fervor of the singing and dancing youths in the shadow of Benedict's image, and wondered how long before the gay ones among them would recognize and reject the oppressive lies articulated by the Church about their reality.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Today our tour took us south to Austria. Tonight we lodge in Innsbruck. Earlier we enjoyed the sights of old Munich. Mum can’t get over the grandeur of the mountains.

Above: The Marienplatz of Munich, Germany. Part of the New City Hall, built between 1867 and 1909, can be seen to the right. At the center of the picture is the Mariensäule, a Marian column erected in 1638 to celebrate the end of Swedish occupation during the Thirty Years' War. It's topped by a golden statue of the Virgin Mary standing on a crescent moon as the Queen of Heaven, created in 1590.

Above: Munich's New City Hall. The twin towers in the background belong to the Frauenkirche, the Cathedral Church of Our Dear Lady (below) – famous for the footprint just inside its entrance which legend says is that of the Devil's!

Above and below: Innsbruck, Austria - August 25, 2005.

Above and left: The famous Golden Roof in Innsbruck.

Built by Archduke Friedrich IV in the early 15th century, the Golden Roof is actually a three-story balcony capped with 2,738 gold-plated copper tiles. Accordingly to a tourist brochure, it was “constructed for Emperor Maximilian I to serve as a royal box where he could sit in luxury and enjoy tournaments in the square below. Completed at the dawn of the 16th century, the Golden Roof was built in honor of Maximilian's second marriage to Bianca Maria Sforza of Milan (Maximilian was a ruler who expanded his territory through marriage, not conquest). Not wishing to alienate the allies gained by his first marriage to Mary of Burgundy, he had an image of himself between the two women painted on his balcony. The balustrade on the first floor is adorned with carved coats of arms, representing Austria, Hungary, the double-headed eagle of the Empire, Burgundy and Milan, as well as Tirol and Styria. The mural paintings show two standard-bearers with the flags of the Empire and the Province of Tirol.”

Above: Wilten Basilica, Innsbruck.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

First thing this morning we visited the highly decorative Wilten Basilica in Innsbruck. I took a photo of its interior and of an ornate grave in the churchyard. The building, built in 1751, typifies the baroque style of the Counter-Reformation. The region of Bavaria apparently remained very much a Catholic area throughout the tumultuous period of the Reformation.

Driving now to Salzburg. The mountains around us are spectacularly beautiful.

Above: Hohensalzburg Castle in Salzburg, Austria.

Above: This fountain, along with other Salzburg landmarks, was featured in the film The Sound of Music.

Above: While we were visiting Salzburg, the city was hosting the “Maria Callas and Swarovski – Jewels on Stage” exhibition.

Notes the exhibition’s booklet: “This special traveling exhibition celebrates the famous opera singer Maria Callas and her love for Swarovski crystal. . . . For her performances, the famous singer was known to favor the exclusive creations of the Marangoni Studios. She wore these Swarovski crystal jewels from 1940 until 1957. . . . She made her stunning 1954 United States debut wearing Swarovski jewelry exclusively created for her.”

Thursday, August 25, 2005

This afternoon we visited Kehlsteinhaus, the “Eagle’s Nest” – Hitler’s “conference room in the clouds” built for him by the Nazi Party in celebration of his 50th birthday. It certainly was interesting and the views of the Bavarian Alps were quite spectacular. Yet it was somewhat unsettling to be at a place where Hitler and his top Nazi officers may well have discussed, perhaps even planned, some of the most horrendous actions of their brutal and terrifying regime.*

It was also unsettling to see the restaurant there . . . and souvenir booths with snacks and postcards for sale. I feel that such a place deserves a more somber atmosphere; a museum-like hush. Or better still, a mausoleum-like silence. Why not make the place into a memorial for all the victims of the Nazi terror? Flags from all the countries decimated by the Nazis could be flown - a powerful symbol of defiance and victory in the face of what was endured by the populations of these countries.

* Since writing these words in my journal I've read the following at Wikipedia: "Hitler rarely visited the property. It has been suggested he only visited the Kehlsteinhaus around 10 times, and most times for no more than 30 minutes. However he did receive André François-Poncet (the departing French ambassador to Germany) there on October 18, 1938. Perhaps because of the lack of close association with Hitler, the property was saved from demolition at the end of the war."

NEXT: Ah, Venezia!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Europe 2005 - Part 1: London
Europe 2005 - Part 2: Bruges and Brussels

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