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Art Lover's Guide to Speyer Cathedral

While we were climbing to the top of every aviation and boat exhibit we were allowed in the Technik Museum of Speyer, we could see the Cathedral waiting patiently, a jewel box on the horizon. It certainly built the anticipation. The museum and the cathedral are close enough, and Germany is in general pedestrian-friendly enough, that it was an easy, safe walk from one to the other. One weird intersection with crosswalks and a street until you’re in the larger park leading to the cathedral.

From the Technik Museum of Speyer to the Speyer Cathedral, about a 10 minute walk

Largest Romanesque Architecture
You could describe this cathedral as so many firsts, largest, best. Being a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List tends to suggest as much. Speyer Cathedral, or Imperial Cathedral of Speyer, Kaiserdom zu Speyer, is the largest example of Romanesque Architecture in the World, the first building constructed entirely from stone in Europe, the first to have an exterior gallery and system of arcades around the entire building, a pilgrimage site, the resting place of 8 Kings and Emperors, and was the biggest church in the western hemisphere at the time of it's completion in 1106. Phew! To say this is a very important building feels like an understatement.

Speyer Cathedral is the largest example of Romanesque Architecture in the World and the first building constructed entirely from stone in Europe.

But, how does it make you feel? Personally, it was a calming, solemn, space. Not in anyway creepy as some older European churches are. With minimal ornamentation and varying natural colors shining purely from the carefully placed red sandstone from the nearby Palatine Forest Mountains, this cathedral is the most naturally beautiful church I’ve seen. I have to wonder if the architect Antoni Gaudi hadn’t once visited the Speyer Cathedral? The smooth, soaring semi-circular columns offers the same feeling of being in a quiet forest, just as I had felt in Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.

The view of the nave from the western portal in the Speyer Cathedral in Germany

An Image Worthy of a Pilgrimage
A delicate, carefully painted standing Madonna statue quietly demands your attention at the front of the nave with fresh flowers at her feet and candles lit before her. This image, sculpted by German sculptor August Weckbecker, consecrated by Pius XI in Rome, was brought into the Speyer Cathedral in 1930. In doing so, the pilgrimage history for the Speyer Cathedral gained a new chapter to a centuries-long legacy.

Speyer Standing Madonna Statue Sculpted by German sculptor August Weckbecker in 1930

Also in honor of the cathedral's patron saint, the Blessed Mother Mary, along the walls of the nave is a 24-part series depicting Mary’s story painted by Johann von Schraudolph in the mid 1800s. These frescoes were part of an even larger installment and collaboration with Joseph Schwarzmann that was unfortunately removed in the 1960s in an attempt to make the cathedral appear more ‘romanesque.’ Some of the frescoes that were removed have been restored and are now in a new display in the Emperor's Hall of the Cathedral.

Also in honor of the cathedral's patron saint, the Blessed Mother Mary, along the walls of the nave is a 24-part series depicting Mary’s story painted by Johann von Schraudolph in the mid 1800s.

The Mount of Olives
Beside the Cathedral in a leafy clearing, you discover the sculpture ‘The Mount of Olives’, once part of the cloister grounds that were destroyed in the fire of 1689. What survived from Hans Syfer’s original piece was incorporated into the present day replacement by Speyer sculptor Gottfried Renn in 1856. A roof was built above the statue to prevent further wear and tear. Not sure why the roof has a rooster on top. Puzzling, but charming.

The outdoor sculpture ‘The Mount of Olives’, once part of the cloister grounds that were destroyed in the fire of 1689. What survived from Hans Syfer’s original piece was incorporated into the present day replacement by Speyer sculptor Gottfried Renn in 1856.

Speyer Cathedral Bowl
Outside the western entrance of the Speyer Cathedral stands the Cathedral Bowl. Many, many years ago it was often used as a loophole for those hoping to escape prison sentences, as the bowl marks the separate bishop and city territories. Prisoners would make a run for the bowl in order to be out of the city's jurisdictional area, now being protected by the church. And historically, to welcome a new bishop, the bowl was filled with wine for the citizens to freely enjoy.

Outside the western entrance of the Speyer Cathedral stands the Cathedral Bowl. Many, many years ago it was often used as a loophole for those hoping to escape prison sentences, as the bowl marks the separate bishop and city territories.

The view of the Speyer Cathedral from Maximilianstrasse

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The view of the Speyer Cathedral from Maximilianstrasse

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Flowers and Whimsy at Mainau Island

An island of flowers? It's not the first image that pops into my mind when I think of Germany. As we were planning our family trip to Lake Constance and it's towns, the flower-filled island of Mainau popped up. I’m passionate about flowers, and deeply appreciate the labor that goes into making beautiful gardens. Seeing the recommendations that you can easily spend a half day, or full day there, I was really looking forward to exploring Mainau.

To kick off our flower adventure, we needed to cross Lake Constance. We rented a house for the week in Meersburg, and the fastest, cheapest way to get there was by ferry boat. And not just any ferry boat, a ferry boat that carries cars! It would be my first time on a car ferry. We were so lucky, as we pulled up to the ferry boat, we realized we would be the first in the line of cars. Our view from our car would be perfect! While we were waiting, a man walked up and down the cars selling newspapers. It boggled my mind that this was for many an every day commute! Lake Constance was foggy this early in the morning, and there was a nip of chill in the air. Torn between wanting to hear the water and the birds or staying warm inside the car, we compromised and rolled one window down. It made for better photos that way too.


After the ferry ride, it was just a short drive to the parking lot where we left all wheels behind. We paid our admission, and walked along a short path by the lake and spied the feathered residents enjoying breakfast. We saw several ducks and swans diving down and up again.

Birds resting on a foggy Lake Constance | Germany

Birds resting on a foggy Lake Constance | Germany

There are several circuits that you can take around the island and we chose to walk counterclockwise. Right away, we saw a group of duck sculptures built out of flowers, then an extravagant peacock built out of flowers! It was like being in Cypress Gardens again. There was once a fantastic botanical park in Winter Haven, Florida called Cypress Gardens, and they had numerous animal sculptures built entirely of flowers. My grandparents used to take my brother and I every time we came to visit. It's no longer open, and has been transformed into a Legoland Theme Park. It made my heart smile to know in Germany flower animal sculptures still exist.

Duck Flower Sculptures on Mainau Island, Germany

Peacock Flower Sculptures on Mainau Island, Germany

Then we discovered a miniature farm where a rabbit had chickens and roosters for roommates. The rabbit had an extra espresso carrot that morning and sprinted in between the roosters, startling them. It was comical to watch. There was a goat who said good morning, and we visited with a calm, orange tabby cat that was not phased by anything. With the morning sunshine starting to bust up the fog clouds, his orange fur was angelically lit.

Mainau Island Farm & Petting Zoo | Germany

The farm was beside an area with a charming wooden bear stuck in a tree log, and a moss-covered troll couple.

Wooden Bear Stuck in a Log Garden Statue | Mainau Island, Germany

'Together in the Garden' Planted Statue in Mainau Island, Germany

The path we were on wound up and down the shore of Lake Constance. I loved the Dahlia garden which were in season, and they had about 75 to 80 different varieties on display.

Posing by the stunning Dahlia Gardens in full bloom on Mainau Island, Germany

Further along, we saw the Italian cascading fountain, and the map of Lake Constance illustrated through flowers.

Italian Style Flower & Water Cascade | Mainau Island, Germany

Floral Map of Lake Constance

We took a break at a garden cafe where the tables had built-in flower planters. It was just what we needed, walking halfway around Mainau Island already.

Garden Cafe Where Tables Had Built-in Flower Planters | Mainau Island, Germany

On top of the hill, the 13th-century Baroque palace and church stands from the time the Teutonic Knights owned the island. Alongside the church is an Italian rose garden complete with statuary and fountains. Wherever we looked there were colorful blooms surrounded by lots of greenery.

13th-century Baroque palace and church | Italian rose garden | Mainau Island, Germany

We passed giant redwood trees on our way to the butterfly house. The butterfly house was overwhelmingly crowded, both with people and butterflies. A pond with a waterfall entertained a gang of turtles, gorgeous orchids hung from the ceiling, and butterflies were everywhere. Specific feeding trays put out for the butterflies was a sure-fire way to get a good photo. I made myself dizzying trying to photograph a few of them! There was always a fluttering of wings passing overhead.

Mainau Island Butterfly House

By the end of the day it felt like we had seen the entire Nature Encyclopedia. It was refreshing, and a wonderful experience not to be missed, if your ventures take you to Lake Constance.

Flowers of Mainau Island

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A Day in Lindau, Germany

A Day in Lindau, Germany | Lighthouse and Harbor

In the harbor of Lindau we were greeted by sunny weather, the Lake Constance water was a deep blue with light dappling a golden reflection on the water. Beyond the harbor was a panoramic, breathtaking view of the mountains, framed by the Bavarian lion sculpture on one side and a lighthouse on the other. Denise’s camera was clicking away all day long, she was as happy as a cat in a sunbeam. We had parked our car near the train station of Lindau and within 5 minutes had reached the lakeside promenade, lined with cafes and restaurants. Lindau is a small island with 25,000 lucky inhabitants, but it does have a train station, surprising with that population.

Lindau Harbor | Germany

Lindau Harbor with Lighthouse and Tower | Germany

Lindau Harbor Lighthouse | Germany

Many boats are docked in the port basin and we stroll along, still mesmerized by all the charm surrounding us. We pass the thirteenth-century Mangturm Tower, the more ornate predecessor to the present lighthouse, with its colorful tiled roof and square stone walls. The whole harbor is so pretty, I could linger for hours without getting bored.

Mangturm Tower & Lindau Harbor | Germany

Lindau Altes Rathaus | GermanyLindau Altes Rathaus | Germany

Lindau Altes Rathaus | Germany

We know Lindau has more to offer than just the harbor, and follow the small cobblestone streets into the city center. First, we find the fourteenth-century Old Town Hall, Altes Rathaus, and admire the colorful frescoes on the outer walls. The huge wooden staircase ending up in a light-filled room must impress any visitor. A new town hall is in use for the daily transactions and needs of the public. However, the Old Town Hall is still used for town council meetings and receptions. Be sure to check out both sides of building. There’s a beautiful bronze and red marble fountain of the town’s patroness Lindavia, with allegorical figures on four sides of the basin.

Lindavia Fountain by Lindau Altes Rathaus | Germany

Lindavia Fountain by Lindau Altes Rathaus | Germany

On the north side of the Rathaus you will find Maximilianstrasse, which is Lindau’s main street, lined with tall, gabled houses, and Gothic arcades. Here you can get anything you need (or wish to have) starting with clothing boutiques, ice cream stores and more cafes to sit and people-watch.

Maximillianstrasse in Lindau Germany

Maximillianstrasse in Lindau Germany

City Center of Lindau, Germany

City Center, Maximilianstrasse of Lindau, Germany

At the end of Maximilianstrasse, we walk one more block to the north and spot the Church of St Peter. This is the oldest church of Lindau and is over 1000 years old. The massive, windowless church tower once even served as a defense tower for the people of Lindau. The real treasure of the church can be found on the inside, as it contains the Lindauer Passion, which are the only known surviving wall frescoes by Hans Holbein the Elder.

Church of St. Peter with murals attributed to Hans Holbein and Mathis Miller and War Memorial designed by Marie Feulner

In 1928, the Church of St. Peter found its present use as a war memorial. Munich artist Marie Feulner created a marble sculpture of an unknown soldier and memorial plaques of the Lindau dead and missing persons of the Franco-German war as well as the two world wars were added to the walls.

Thieves Tower, by St. Peter's Church in Lindau, Germany

Next to the Church of St Peter is the Thieves Tower, which originally belonged to the city fortification and was also used as a prison. Probably not the most comfortable prison, but at least the had a great view being so high off the ground.

Haus zum Cavazzen, the home of Lindau's Municipal Museum | Germany

After lunch we strolled to a Baroque building called Haus zum Cavazzen, which was built in 1729. Inside you will find Lindau’s Municipal Museum, whose collection of religious paintings includes many Spottbilder, which are satirical caricatures painted during the Reformation era. The museum is open since 1929 with an exhibition extending over the three upper floors. Besides paintings you will also find antique toys, heavy wooden furniture from the Rococo, Biedermeier and Jugendstil periods and historic weapons.

Lindau's Municipal Museum | Germany

Lindau's Municipal Museum | Germany

Our favorite museum part was a room filled with paintings that had real clocks embedded into the pictures. Looking at the painting you will see a church tower, that has real clock hands. On the back of the painting is a clockwork, always showing the correct time on the church tower.

Lindau's Municipal Museum | Germany

If you plan to visit Lindau, allow about 4 to 5 hours in order to take it all in and explore the harbor and city center areas. For more information on cultural happenings or other things to do in or around Lindau, check out their official website here.

Lindau's Municipal Museum | Germany

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The Colorful Main Market Square in Trier

Trier Hauptmarkt (Main Market Square)
The center of Trier is dominated by a large and fascinating market square called Hauptmarkt, meaning Main Market Square. The very first market square of Trier was at the river, but in the 10th century Archbishop Heinrich I moved the main market square to its current location. In the middle ages, the market was used for trade of goods and to this day you will see many vendor booths selling fresh produce, souvenirs and flowers. The right to hold markets was also granted in the 10th century, which means the vendors at the market had to pay a fee or tax to the city in order to do business there.

Photo by @Feanor0 via Flickr | Petrusbrunnen | Fountain of St. Peter
The market centers around the much decorated Petrusbrunnen (Fountain of St. Peter), which was built in 1595. It shows St. Peter, the patron saint of Trier, surrounded by the four virtues Fortitude, Justice, Prudence, and Temperance, all as female figures. In contrast, you will see monkeys and monsters portraying the vices. In between the female figures are animals such as dolphins, eagles, geese, and lions together with a coat of arms. Take your time to circle the fountain to find even more interesting elements.

Photo by @Feanor0 via Flickr | https://flic.kr/p/6s9nrM
From the fountain we also spotted the Löwenapotheke (Lion’s Pharmacy), which is the oldest pharmacy in Germany - first mentioned in 1241. Across from the pharmacy is the tallest building of the market square, which is called Steipe, which means “to lean on” in the Trier dialect. The white, castellated building got its name from its short pillars on top and was originally built in 1430 (see the first picture). During WWII the Steipe was completely destroyed, but reconstructed in 1968, after a lengthy discussion of the citizens, who were trying to decide between a modern building and the reconstruction of the original Steipe building. I am glad the citizens of Trier voted for the reconstruction of the original building, it looks authentic and fits perfectly into the market picture.

On the ground level of houses on the square are restaurants, cafes and shops. It sure takes a while to get a feel for the space and to take it all in. Why not sit in one of the cafes and enjoy some German cake and coffee? This should give you some extra energy to explore the other sights of Trier.

An interesting fact about the main market square: All roads in Trier lead to the Hauptmarkt, which makes it a great place to navigate from. When you stand at the Petrusbrunnen fountain in the center, you will have the Porta Nigra to the north, the Cathedral to the east, the Kaiserthermen to the south, and the Mosel river to the west.

This was actually the first market square I have ever taken Denise to, and it is by far one of the prettiest in Germany with its colorful restored facades and old town feel. Have you been there? What was your most favorite memory of the Trier Hauptmarkt?

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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler