Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wanderlust Wednesday: Würzburg

Happy Wanderlust Wednesday! As many of you know, S and I love to travel. I've decided to share a new destination here on the blog every Wednesday - Wanderlust Wednesday. I'll start with our trip to Germany in December 2014. I hope you enjoy following along!

Würzburg is only about an hour from Frankfurt. We flew direct from LAX to Frankfurt on Lufthansa arriving on a Thursday afternoon and took a train from the airport train station. We walked from the train station to our hotel by the river. The old town of Würzburg is very compact and walk-able. 

We stayed at Hotel Alater Kranen which is right on the river and just a few short blocks from the main square. (Trip Advisor listing here)

We loved this hotel. The rate was reasonable (85 euro a night) and the room was very nice. We visited in December 2014 and waiting in our room when we arrived were two tickets for a mug of glühwein and a package filled with lebkuchen (chocolate covered and glazed gingerbread). Breakfast was included here and the variety was pretty good. The coffee was wonderful, served on request, as was the tea. Best part, the breakfast room has a great view of the river - perfect way to start your day.

We dropped our luggage and went to explore. First stop, the main square and Würzburg's christkindlmarkt (Christmas market). 

We loved this market. Small enough to not be overwhelming, but large enough to have lots of variety. 

This was our favorite glühwein stand. Okay, we didn't actually drink any glühwein from here, but this was the most creatively decorated stand. It even turned!

Glühwein is a must while enjoying the christkindlmarkt! In Würzburg we found both white and red glühwein. The white goes down a little easier if you're not a huge fan of the red glühwein. 

The jetlag quickly caught up to us and we were in bed by 7pm. Not a long or very adventurous first day, but we had arrived in Germany and were loving Würzburg!

We started day two bright and early at the Residenz. We'd read that lines can be long and crowds really large so we got here early and were some of the first people in line waiting for the doors to open.

We beat the crowds. There were about 6 people in line in front of us when we arrived at about 10 minutes to 10. (Opening hours in December are 10am - 4:30pm) We knew the guided tour (included in your entrance ticket) was at 11am and we wanted time to explore on our own before joining the tour. I'd definitely recommend walking around on your own as not all rooms are included in the tour.

Würzburg amassed wealth as a trading city. Located on the Main river it was situated at a major crossroads of Europe. The Bishop of Wurzburg ruled the city as a prince-bishop. At first from the Marienburg Fortess on the west side of the Main river. In the 18th century it was decided that the fortress was just not grand enough and the Residenz was constructed.

Admission to the Residenz is 7.50 euro each for adults. The Bavarian Palace Department also sells a 14 day ticket for 24 euros for an individual or 44 euros for a family/partner ticket which is good at many sites throughout Bavaria including the Residenz in Würzburg, the Residenz in Munich, the Nymphenburg Palace, the Cuvilliés Theatre, the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg, and many, many more. 

If you're planning to visit more than 2 or 3 of these sites and you're a couple/family the 14 day ticket is definitely worth it and will save you money and time. Instead of waiting in ticket lines you can flash your pass and keep walking.

This is the largest ceiling fresco in the world. When it was constructed, everyone told the architect, Balthasar Neumann, he was crazy, that the ceiling would never say up. It was too large they said. Only it did stay up. 

In fact, when Würzburg was heavily bombed during WWII and the roof of the Residenz suffered serious damage this fresco remained unharmed. Take that, haters.

Its amazing not only for its size and resilience, but also its artistic techniques. To enhance the 3D effects of the fresco the artist, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo,  incorporated 3 dimensional stucco work that makes it hard to tell where the sculpture stops and the painting begins. Look at the bottom corners of the fresco in the photo above - the legs of the men in the corners are stucco. Pretty cool.

Photos are not allowed inside the Residenz so this is my only one. I guess you'll just have to go and see it for yourself. (Or do a Google image search and benefit from those who don't follow the rules.)

After spending the morning in the Residenz we were ready for a walking tour of Würzburg. We stopped first back in the main square for a lunch of sausages and beer (of course) from one of the stands in the Christmas market before heading down to the river. 

There is a nice walking path along the water front which I'm sure is even more lovely when it isn't December. 

We took a photo of the Marienburg Fortress from across the river. We didn't venture up the hill to visit because although it is supposed to be wonderful, only the grounds, not any of the buildings, are open during the winter months. 

Next we passed the Alte Kranen or old crane that our hotel is named after. (It is just across the street to the right.)

From there we walked across the Alte Mainbruecke or old main bridge. It is often compared to the Charles Bridge in Prague because both connect two sides of the city via a beautiful bridge lined with statues of famous (or infamous) city residents and patron saints.  

If we had continued up the hill this would have taken us to the fortress, but instead we turned around and headed back into the hear of old town Würzburg. 

The road that continues off the Alte Mainbruecke lead us directly to St. Kilian Cathedral. We ducked in here to look around before heading next door to the Neumuenster Church which is a little more colorful and decorated than the interior of the cathedral. 

Just behind both of these churches is the Museum am Dom which houses religious art from various periods. This is not your typical cathedral or church museum. Yes, there are some original sculptures and paintings on display, but the vast majority of the collection is modern religious art. Which, if you are a modern art or religious art fan might be fascinating, but we found it to be a little underwhelming. 

We headed back to the main square and visited Marienkapelle which was built by funds collected by Würzburg's merchants and residents to remain independent of the bishop. Unlike most other churches in Europe this one has little shops built into the sides of the church, a mixed-use attempt to show who held power and influence in Würzburg.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering stalls at the christkindlmarkt before heading back to our hotel to warm up a little before dinner. 

The region around Würzburg is known as Middle Franconia and is known for the excellent wine it produces. We decided to do a little wine tasting before dinner and headed to Weinhaus Burgerspital. Originally founded as a hospital, the Burgerspital now focuses on nursing home type care and uses the proceeds from the sale of the wine it makes to help fund its operations.

Wine is available for tasting by the glass or in flights. We picked a flight and sat at a large, communal table. Eventually, we were joined at our table by locals meeting up for a glass of wine after work on a Friday night. We enjoyed a lively conversation with them before heading off to dinner. 

Before leaving we bought a few bottles of wine to bring home as souvenirs and gifts. They will help you arrange shipping, or you can carry your purchases in your suitcase like we did. 

Day three: time to say good-bye to Würzburg. 

We had an early morning train to catch and the streets were empty as we walked to the station.

The glühwein mugs are different in each city - at each stand really - and we had decided we wanted to bring a mug home from each city we visited on our trip. 

Normally you don't keep the mugs. You pay a pfand, a 2-3 euro deposit to use the cup and you get your money back when you return the mug when you're done drinking your glühwein. We had forgotten to keep a mug here in Würzburg, returning them for the pfand each time we visited the christkindlmarkt.

On our early morning walk to the train S made the suggestion that we detour through the main square to see if any of the stands were open and willing to sell us a mug at this early hour. We found only one that was open. As I waited with our luggage, S ran across the street to purchase a mug for us.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our time in Würzburg. Check back next week for Rothenburg ob der Tauber!


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