Wurzburg: My first trip to Bavaria.

Wurzburg: My first trip to Bavaria.

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” -Buddha

The anticipation: Saturday 12 November 2016.

It’s nearly ten a.m. and I’ve slept in, showered, scrolled through the endless “Trump? What now?!…” Facebook posts and news articles online. I wandered out of my hostel, already have taken far too many photos to count (it’s becoming a real problem for me 🙂 ) and found a lovely cafe to stop in for my morning coffee and a breakfast sandwich, while enjoying a lovely view of the Main River just outside the window. I arrived in Wurzburg after nine last night, much later than I had originally hoped, but here nonetheless. After missed trains and late trains, and many minutes of waiting, I can officially say I have experienced my first Deutsche train-travel-troubles. Despite getting a tad bit discouraged about it all last night, as I was hoping to arrive around seven-thirty in time for some late evening exploring, I did what I always do. I trudged on, but eventually arrived much too tired on a Friday night after a long week at work to do anything. This included reading, or even finishing the movie I started watching earlier on the train ride here. So, after changing clothes, brushing my teeth, and putting my bed together (the hostel I am staying at provides linens, however you have to put them on yourself), I fell fast asleep almost immediately after laying my head on my pillow.

Waking up today I am flooded with all the emotions I had originally anticipated when I thought about what this weekend would be like. I am easily reminded why I did so much travel in Thailand; and I am beginning to feel that I’ll quickly sort out my finances in order to get as many weekend trips as possible, fit into my schedule while living in Deutschland. Already today I’ve seen a magnificent chateau, a beautiful river, and the most amazing fall colors lining the streets as I stroll through town. I am so grateful for this amazing adventure that I get to call life!

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The adventure: Sunday 13 November 2016.

Again, it’s early in the morning, I’m sipping coffee and eating breakfast at my hostel, waiting a bit longer before I pack my things to check out. Yesterday was absolutely lovely! I had a wonderful time exploring someplace new; and it was very nice getting out of Neustadt for the weekend.

After my breakfast yesterday I walked across a historic, and beautifully crafted foot bridge that crosses the Main (pronounced “Mine”) River, called the Alte Mainbrucke. This bridge, built between 1473 and 1543, has replaced an once old Romanesque bridge, linking both sides of Wurzburg together. It offers a beautiful view of Marienberg Fortress to the west, and the cityscape to the east. There are a bunch of characteristic statues of saints, all across the bridge that were added after initial construction around 1730. They give this bridge a unique historical look and feel.

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My first stop after the bridge was a quaint gift shop where I picked up a few wintery-themed Bavarian postcards to send to a few lucky loved ones back home. Afterwards, my walking tour of the city recommenced and I wound up outside the “Grafeneckart” and town hall. The Grafeneckart was originally the seat of an episcopal official in town. The building features a Romanesque tower, and has been the town hall of Wurzburg since 1316. The basement of the town hall was where I had the most fun; reading different documents about the destruction of the city during the Second World War, on 16 March 1945.

Although lacking major military posts, and hosting nearly forty civilian and soldier hospitals at the time, the bombing of Wurzburg was part of the strategic bombing campaign by the Allies against Nazi power in Franconia (a region in Germany). Wurzburg was targeted as a traffic hub and as part of the attempt by the Allied Bomber Command to break the spirit of the German people. The major raid of the city occurred on 16 March, when Royal Air Force bombers dropped incendiary bombs that set fire to much of the city, killing an estimated 5,000 people and almost completely obliterating the historic town center. Almost 90% of the buildings were destroyed in the raid that lasted less than twenty minutes.

Next, I made my way over to the Cathedral of St. Kilian. According to the plaque outside, this building is an excellent example of German architecture from the eleventh and twelfth centuries. I veered north from Domstrasse (Dome St.), and found myself at the Markplatz (Market Square). Not only did I stumble upon my first Deutsche Christmas Market, where I bought a headscarf and some wonderful fleece-lined fingerless gloves; the uniqueness of this town square for me had to be its backdrop.

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Located right next to Marienkapelle, this Gothic church is quite magnificent. From its unusual color scheme (the crimson really pops!), to the elaborate ornamentation, especially in the arches and doorways. Although original construction lasted from about 1377-1480, this church, like so many historic and grandiose buildings was no match for the intense bombing raids of WWII. The church suffered significant fire damage following the war, and the interior was replaced after 1945.

From the Markplatz, it was time for me to head east and make my way to the one true tourist site that brought me to Wurzburg in the first place. Located just outside the city center is the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, Residenz Palace. Considered to be one of the most important castles in Europe, it was built in 1720 and completed in 1744. What’s even more impressive than its exterior upon arrival, is to see first-hand what was not destroyed in 1945: the magnificent staircase and vaulted ceiling that is brilliantly painted; also the “White Hall”, “Imperial Hall” and “Garden Hall”. It’s impressive to think just how strong a structure must be, to withstand the devastation that the Allied bombing raids caused throughout town.

Outside to the back is equally as impressive, when one takes a stroll through the residence gardens. And despite visiting in mid-November, when the flowers are past their prime, and many leaves have fallen from the trees, leaving their branches barren, the wonderful fall colors managed to make up for the lack of foliage in bloom. Reds, oranges, deep yellow and brown, being here made me truly appreciate the harvest season, and transported me back home, even if it was just briefly.

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Fall is my absolute favorite time of year, culminating in my absolute favorite holiday with Thanksgiving. It became apparent to me yesterday that the holiday season has certainly arrived, especially when I stumbled upon the Christmas Market in the town square. However, the holiday season, in Europe, obviously does not include Thanksgiving. Being that this is my favorite holiday, the harsh truth that I won’t be surrounded by family, sharing in my joy of love, laughter and gratitude, is extremely difficult. There’s no easy way to say it, other than it makes me sad. I miss my family and friends, there’s no denying this fact. I miss them regularly, almost every day; and being amidst the fall colors and feelings of home is a visual reminder, as well as an emotional one, of all that I’m missing out on this holiday season.

Even still, I can be sad for a moment, but I cannot let myself dwell on what I don’t have this time of year, or any other time of year for that matter. That is not what this experience is about. Rather it’s about the exact opposite and that’s what I must focus my energy on instead. I must remind myself that I’m having the adventure of a lifetime right now; and like everything else in this world, that doesn’t come free. There’s a price to pay, and currently that price is being far away from home and family during the holiday season. If nothing else, the one thing I’ll learn from this new experience is how much to appreciate it whenever I do make it back home for the next holiday. If it was a special season to me before, I can only begin to imagine how much it’ll mean to me in the future.

After my beautiful, albeit nostalgic time spent in the gardens, I made my way back down to the river-front. I wanted to check out one of Wurzburg’s most unique landmarks. In my opinion and experience, you don’t often read about a crane listed as one of the must-see sights in a city. The Alter Krannen was certainly unique, and it must have been fate mixed in with curiosity that brought me there because I wound up finding the perfect place to stop for dinner. Right next door to the infamous crane is a German beer-house, called Wurzburger Hofbrau. I enjoyed schnitzel with a few different locally brewed beers, delicious!

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My Saturday walking tour was drawing to a close. After a leisurely dinner I made my way back to the bridge, was afforded some wonderfully lit-up views of the city at night, before returning to my hostel. I stayed at a place called Jugenherberge Wurzburg, which turned out to be great. Not only was it walking distance to the city (less than 2km), but the building is full of history itself, as it occupies a building that was once a women’s prison. A busy day full of walking and site-seeing left me quite tired and I quickly fell asleep when I got back to my room.

The afterword: Monday 14 November 2016.

A new day, a new week. After an absolutely lovely weekend, I came home yesterday around four and had a mellow Sunday evening before the work week started back up. But first–my Sunday adventure:

After a thorough exploration of the city-center on Saturday, I had planned to check out the other remaining destination on any tourist visit to Wurzburg on Sunday. Before heading home on a mid-day train, I woke up, ate breakfast at my hostel, and packed up my bags for check-out at ten. As I only had my backpack and purse, I didn’t see the need to store my bags at the hostel; instead I just decided to keep them with me on my walk to Marienberg Fortress.

Literally located right “above” my hostel, up the hill twenty minutes, it was very easy finding my way towards my destination. All along, I knew the views would be spectacular, having seen it from afar at every stopping point as I made my way around town on Saturday; it didn’t matter to me that the inside and guided tours were closed for the season. I’m typically not that enthralled with the interior of old buildings, castles, etc; I go for the exterior architecture, and above all else, the views!

About twenty minutes after leaving my hostel, although I admit I was a tad bit winded as the walk was essentially vertical in terrain, I had reached my destination. To my lovely surprise, the mid-morning views were even better than I had anticipated. As it was just after ten a.m. the sun was still rising to the east, adding a glistening sparkle to the river down below. The castle itself appeared to be rising out of the darkness, as the sunrise illuminated it, little by little. It was a truly magnificent weekend trip; and what a special way to start off a new week. I will let those views carry me through the rest of the week at work; when I think about where I was on Sunday morning, I can pause, smile, and appreciate all that is right in my life these days. I am so grateful that amidst all the craziness in life at any given moment in time, I am truly living out a lifelong dream!

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