I think it’s amazing that a person can spend the better part of a year planning a trip and when it actually happens, the days just fly by so quickly. It’s almost like watching a movie that you are starring in. That’s how I felt through most of this trip, surreal, but nice (to rephrase Hugh Grant in Notting Hill). In fact, the planning, and writing the blog, both, have taken much longer than the trip itself. But on this day, 26th April 2018, I was not to know that. I was simply thrilled to be starting my much awaited German holiday.
After landing at Frankfurt airport, we had to reach Würzburg, the town where we would rent our car from and start the exciting road trip. Würzburg is known mainly for being the first stop on the romantic road and is not a very commonly visited place. We took the Flixbus (bad move because it wasted money and time) and walked the short distance to our hotel. We freshened up quickly, grabbed a bite and rushed off to tour Würzburg without wasting any time over (much needed) sleep.
Würzburg turned out to be the quintessential charming European town. Most of the places to see are centred around the old town. With my Rick Steve’s Germany guide-book, we set off on his recommended route, to start at the Würzburg Residenz, a UNESCO world heritage site.
Built in the 18th century for the Prince-Bishops of Würzburg, this grand palace was inspired by the Versailles palace of France and the Schönbrunn palace of Vienna. Having learnt this, the hubby was quick to tell me that we were never going to see either of these two palaces now. It was sad news, as my desire to see both was increased after seeing the Residenz. While the palace exteriors aren’t that great, the interiors of the palace and the gardens are very impressive.
As soon as we entered the palace, I promptly bought the Bavarian castle pass (allegedly to save money, mainly to ensure we saw multiple castles), put away our bags and walked in to see a sight that made my jaw drop.
We had come upon a grand sweeping staircase with statues along its banisters, leading to a huge hall with the one of the world’s largest ceiling frescoes, painted by the great Italian Rococo painter Tiepolo, depicting the 4 continents known at that time, Europe, America, Africa, Asia. The kid and I had a lot of fun guessing which was which continent, till we opened the guide-book and simply read. It is an architectural marvel that such a large ceiling doesn’t need any pillars except at the 4 corners.
From there we moved quickly through the rooms. Grandly decorated with elegant chandeliers and paintings, it was tough to imagine that this palace had been badly damaged at the end of World War II and then re-built in the same grand style. Large halls with painted ceilings and cherubs lining the walls abounded. Some of the paintings were 3 dimensional, a masterpiece in that era. Some had the paintings contiguous with statues sticking out of the wall. Even though these rooms were stunning, we rushed back to rest our eyes once more on the glamorous red-carpeted Titanic-like staircase and the gorgeous painted ceiling. It was easy to imagine oneself as Rose gliding down the staircase, to meet Jack. However, we didn’t linger for long, as the beautiful gardens that we caught a glimpse of from inside the palace beckoned.
The hofgarten (court gardens) located behind the palace were the best gardens we saw on the trip. They were compact enough to walk through and spread well not to appear crowded, studded with trees, flowers, statues and fountains.
For the hubby who hates palaces and castles, this was a treat for sore eyes. It was cool, yet sunny, and we spent a very enjoyable 2 hours strolling about here.
On closer inspection, the barks of the cone-shaped trees had statues on them. Were they wood nymphs or dryads, or men pining for them?
We turned back to get a stunning view of the gardens with the palace behind. What a lovely place to live in! I wouldn’t mind being a Prince-Bishop and spend every evening reading books on these lawns.
Soon we moved off to see the gardens at the back, that we could see from the rooms of the palace. Arches of green vines interspersed with maze hedges and perfect lawns were spread across the length of the palace.
Steps rose to a tall platform with benches and statues and more flowers, with views of the back of the palace and the impeccably designed lawns. It was simply too grand. Rose was happy indeed.
At these gardens, I desperately wished for a huge Gujarati picnic basket that my sensible mum would always have carried (memories of Safa park came rushing back), but for now, the kid finally took out some food from the depressing Punju food stock and ate with the hubby, while I wandered about on the platform. Walking about, I came upon this statue that perfectly described the perennial state that my daughter and niece are in.
Finally, satiated by the gardens, we left them and exited through a pretty arch to see a prettier church, whose grandness matched that of the palace.
After a long time spent at the Residenz, we set out to roam the old town. Though I had a perfect walking itinerary in my hand, we just wanted to wander about. This meant that we missed a few sights (and churches, sadly for me), but getting slightly lost is often part of the fun!
The atmosphere of the old town more than made up. Cobble stoned streets, pastel coloured buildings and cafes with umbrellas on the road were the norm of any European town, but the colourful flags along the shops lent it a carnival like atmosphere.
Old styled buildings with souvenir shops, vintage stores and all the well-known brands lined the roads. I never realised that Würzburg was such a big place. A great blend of the old and the new.
Who wouldn’t love a town where the bakery announces itself in style?
And where shop windows have a British hangover.
And random statues line the streets!
Some were ooh-la-lah!
Roaming the streets of this totally picturesque town, it shocked us to discover that it had once been a big stronghold of Nazi Germany. At the end of WW II, the city had been destroyed almost completely during air raids. Heavy bombing led to fires, that spread easily amongst the wooden buildings. Scores of innocent women and children were killed and only a shell of the city remained. A small room has been built with vivid pictures of the historic events of the war and the destruction of the city, to remind all of the futility of Nazi ideology, war and also the heavy price of the Allied victory.
The sensitive kid hurried me out of this sombre place. The lively happy atmosphere in the streets of the old town couldn’t let us feel sad too long. We moved on towards our next stop, the famed fortress on the hill, the Marienberg fortress. I was keen on visiting it for its magnificent views over the town. So we made our way towards the bridge that crosses the river Main that flows through Würzburg, the Alte Mainbrucke. Even before we reached it, we smelled it. Drinking the famous Frankonian wine on the bridge is THE thing to do in Würzburg , and that explained the empty streets of the old town. All the tourists and all the locals were out on the bridge, glasses of wine in hand.
The Alte Mainbrucke is filled with statues of saints. All along the bridge are little cubby holes with a statue in each, with loads of people standing in the cubby holes with their drinks. It was so crowded that we had to cross more than halfway across the bridge before I could even get a picture.
Once there, I went bonkers clicking away. A fortress, a river, pretty houses, and lots of statues were like a dream come true.
Beautiful houses lined both sides of the river bank. People were sitting along the river edge, walking their dogs or just cycling along. It was quiet and peaceful by the riverside and looked like a fabulous place to live in.
We crossed over the bridge to the other side, where the fortress towered above the town, on a huge slope of vineyards. This part of Germany, Frankonia, is well known for its wine. Vineyards are spread around the town of Würzburg , but there are a few at the base of the fortress as well, adding to its beauty.
The hubby and the kid gasped at the sight of the fortress, high up on the hill. Predictably, he said, “No way are we going up there.” Equally predictably, I said, “Of course we are. That’s why we came all the way here.” And so the banter continued till the kid piped up, “I will go anywhere but I need pizza first.” Some things are easy to solve. As Murphy would have it, we couldn’t find a pizzeria anywhere in the vicinity and so, we walked all the way back to the hotel where I’d seen a pizzeria and hogged. I planned to head out again after a short rest, which turned into a long night’s sleep, starting at 6 pm local time. That’s how I saw neither the fortress nor the sweeping views from it.
We had chosen the lesser known Würzburg for being a good place to rest after an overnight flight and not to have to drive in a tired state. We found it a lovely charming town, well worth at least a full day and a more awake state. It will remain a wonderful memory of a place from which I expected so little and got so much.