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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

GERMANY - Post #3

GERMANY - DAY TWO continued...

After our guided city tour we ended up at St. Mary's Cathedral. Unfortunately the view was somewhat blocked by the Open Air Opera that wa
s setup on the steps to the Cathedral. This is a very popular venue for outdoor plays, festivals and operas. However, I think you can see by the picture, that it is still a very impressive site.

St. Mary's Cathedral is also the home of one of the oldest and largest free swinging bells in the world. We were given a private guided tour of the areas above the cathedral including the Bell Tower. For those of you who are architects, engineers or ever work(ed) on construction'll find some of these pics pretty interesting. Forgive me for forgetting the name of our tour guide, but he is in charge of the Cathedral's current restoration.

Below you can see the inter-workings of the roof that sits above the cathedral itself. The majority is still the original wooden beams. Just below on either side you could see the mass concrete forms that make up the actual ceiling of the cathedral. It was common practice for a construction worker to hang flowers, leave a bottle of whiskey (usually empty) or tack a package of cigarettes somewhere within the structure upon completion.

This was a little port hole, possibly part of an old ventilation system in the ceiling of the cathedral. You can see the pews below.

After quite a hike, we finally reached the Bell Tower. There are several more bells within the large tower, however this is the oldest and most famous. It is still used today, only on a few days out of the year. To show you just how big it the short video clip. There are 8 of us standing inside the bell.

And finally we took the stairs to the top for an incredible 360 view of Erfurt!

After our tour ended Gabriel took us to lunch at a wonderful Italian restaurant. Yes that's right, we ate Italian while we were in Germany...(it actually made me miss Italy) and drank more beer, wine and ended it with a shot of Aromatique...a Thuringian Bitters specialty.

That evening we met up with the Erfurt Fire Chief Tobias Bauer who hosted a special traditional german dinner for us consisting of Meat, Thuringia's famous Potato Dumplings, and Red Cabbage at a local restaurant...oh yes, and more beer!

Afterwards, we all ended up at Town Hall where we hoisted a new Shawnee Flag in honor of our Sister City program...and toured the inside of Town Hall...running in to the Mayor in the process. He is the youngest mayor they have had at the age of only 36.

And ended the day with a night cap of champagne in Gabby's office!

GERMANY - Post #2


We started off day two with a guided City Tour of the Erfurt City Center. In the ground at the entrance to City Hall, you find this landmark, which shows all of the Sister Cities of Erfurt. Each one sits in the direction that it resides from Erfurt. In the top left hand corner you will see Shawnee.

Our guide who I want to call Alice? - I can't remember her name at the moment - started the tour by showing us the city map of Erfurt. Even though there have been many changes to this City in its 800 year existence, she showed that the Historical City Center that resides today is marked with RED Street Signs, and that the area outside this historical center is marked with BLUE Street Signs. Easy enough.

The tour started in the area that is called the Fischmarkt. Here are a few pictures...

A popular Children's Cartoon Character in Germany - Bernd the Bread or Berndt Toast as it was explained to me...which is ironic given how I used to explain my maiden name growing up.

This is the entrance to the Merchant Bridge...which is lined on both sides with small shops like Ponte Vecchio in Italy. Although it is on a much smaller scale, the set up it similiar. In medieval times, there was actually church at the entrance to both sides. In order to pass through and purchase items from the merchants you had to pay a toll.

This is Merchants Bridge from behind the shops. It flows over a very shallow river now.

Just a few of the beautiful buildings that line the street in Erfurt. The holes just above the doorway on the Orange building were used in the old days to inform citizens that the household or business had just brewed a fresh batch of beer. They would stick wheat in the holes and of course remove it when they ran out.

This was the entrance to the beirgarten/restaurant we The Golden Swan where we ate dinner our first night in Erfurt. This was also an entrance to where an old Wool Factory stands. You can see the building at the back. Read on for more info...

This was the plant that was used way back when to dye wool a blue/indigo color. The wool was put into vats containing this dye and the urine to ferment. As they mastered this art, they realized that the best urine was from drunk men. So they would entice the men to drink their beer, and then when it was time to use the bathroom, they had them urinate at the factory which they turned around and used to ferment the wool. This is actually where the saying "Stinking Rich" came from! Because it was quite a profitable business, if you could get past the smell of it all!

Below is one of the oldest preserved medieval Synagogues in European History which managed to survive through WWII. Even though we could not go inside at this time, the story it holds is fascinating. Thanks to the extensive preservation of the original structure, it has a special place in the history of art and architecture in Erfurt and Thuringia. The synagogue was constructed during the Middle Ages of the "via regia", one of the major European trade routes, at the heart of the historical old quarter very close to the Merchant's Bridge and town hall. Many parts of the structure still remain today, including all four thick outer walls, the Romanesque gemel window, the Gothic Rose window and the entrance to the synagogue room. The building changed from a synagogue several different times, and other buildings had been built around it, therefor they did not realize it was there during WWII. After the extensive restoration it reopens this fall...just within a week or two of our departure!

This building is still used today as the venue where new couples looking to wed, come to get their marriage license.

This once was the smallest residence in Erfurt. Today it houses the stairway to the buildings on either side.

A few pictures of area across from the Domplatz where St. Mary's Cathedral and Severus Church stand...more about that in the next post...