The first glimpse of Würzburg as the train rolled into town was of the steep German spires of the churches, and the small, compact nature of the town nestled in a valley. It is more or less exactly what a small German city is expected to look like. At quite a cost however. The town was more or less completely leveled on a beautiful warm, sunny, blue skied day in March of 1945 in a 15 minute air raid followed by the dropping of phosphorus bombs to set the city of fire. Miraculously, some portions of buildings survived, including a huge fresco on the ceiling in the local Residenz. The rest of the buildings have been very carefully reconstructed. Beate’s mother was a 16 year old Red Cross volunteer living in a village 8 kilometers away, who came in to help rescue the stunned population and move them to shelter elsewhere. Beate says that every March 16th, the day of the raid, all of the church bells ring in at the hour of the raid for the length of the raid. The town had no strategic purpose, no factories etc, but was part of the attempt to show Germany the allies were prepared to destroy everything in an attempt to get Germany to surrender.
Until quite recently, there was an American Army base near town, and my co-worker Kathy was here at one time.
It was great to see Beate. In honor of my arrival she was wearing a skirt, a la Jeanne! We put my luggage into her apartment and headed off on a lovely tour of the town. On one hill overlooking town is a huge old castle, and on the other the Käppele, dedicated to Mary. A lovely, white & yellow, onion bulbed church. Wolfgang remembers coming here as a child and being told you could put your foot in a footprint and it would make your feet and legs strong. As his leg has been suffering since a jogging incident a couple of weeks ago, he thought a little traditional medicine couldn’t hurt and asked me to check it out on his behalf…..
We decided to head to the Käppele today, so it was the path along the river (marked for the Jakobsweg!) and then steeply up the hills. Perfect day for walking. Not too hot or too cold, sun and clouds. The local hillsides striped with the straight rows of vineyards, which go down the side of the hills rather than across them. At the top of the hill was a German restaurant that Beate has been coming to all her life… Schutzenhof. We stopped for a bowl of pumpkin soup and a plate of duck, a sweet kraut, and dumplings, at an outdoor table with a lovely view. The heart of the old city below, with churches, rathaus, market, Versailles styled Residenz is not surrounded by city walls, but by a Ring park, a half circle of forest/park that stretches from the river around to the river.
As we were walking between the restaurant and the Käppele, all of the churches broke into the pealing of the 5:00 bells, which was quite loud, but sounded very beautiful. The sanctuary of the Käppele was closed and you could hear the rehearsal for a concert, the sign said it would be tomorrow at 5:00, but the chapel of the Black Madonna was open. No footprint for Wolfgang, so we lit a candle instead.
Then it was down, down, down the steps the Käppele. Each landing representing a station of the cross, and once done with those down a street, and then down a lovely, wooded path until we were finally back at river level. We crossed the extremely crowded, pedestrian only bridge. There is a wine bar at the town end of the bridge, and the overflow wine drinkers lean against the bridge wall and the sun back lit the wine glasses, you could see tiny upside down reflections of the town in them. We joined them for a glass of wine before continuing on through the crowded, pedestrian only center to the Residenz. This was a relatively late building, built in the 1700s, and like the much different Käppele designed by Balthasar Neumann. Miraculously the huge frescos on the ceiling, including work by Tiepolo survived, but on the whole, it like all of the other buildings in town has been massively reconstructed. There was an exhibit in the museum showing Würzburg at the end of the war.
Then it was back to Beate’s for fish curry with a couple pieces of the Geisha chocolates that Veera sent Beate for dessert.
(A little pressed for time, I will add more pictures of Würzburg later)