Showing posts with label Germany. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Germany. Show all posts

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Herrenberg - whose church leans heavily over its half-timbered houses

Looking up from the Market Square over Herrenberg's Town Hall to the massive Stiftskirche

Before 1749, there were two tall spires where the single onion dome and
its white foundation sit today. 

Up in the tower of this late-13th-century Protestant church of Herrenberg 
is the Glockenmuseum, or Bell Museum.


The imposing façade of the ancient church - known as the Stiftskirche, Collegiate Church, or Protestant Church - dominates the skyline of the entire town. Its tower can be sighted from quite afar as one approaches via car or train, or even by foot across the fields. Steps are everywhere in Herrenberg. I would imagine no skinny legs here. People are probably in pretty good shape. Access to the homes and shops is directly from the steps themselves which could be awkward for guests who aren't thinking as they step outside from a successful cocktail party.                                                           
I have been down here several times from Stuttgart. It really is a nice day trip. Hiking is certainly possible all over this area. Of course, Germany as a country is well suited to hiking, biking, etc. what with all the designated paths throughout the country. Herrenberg is a stone's throw from the famous Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, as it is called around here.

The Market Place of Herrenberg, beneath the shadow of its massive church above.

Half-timbered houses, or "Fachwerkhäuse" are to be found all throughout this lovely
Swabian town south of Stuttgart. 

From the terrace in front of the church itself one looks down over the rooftops of Herrenberg. I would like to see the town from this angle after a heavy snowfall.

Look at those doors! They are pretty solid. The stone around them is also to be admired. I cannot
make out the rest of it, but the word or name above the door on the right, "STEINHAVER"
means "stone carver", so either he lived here, worked here, or both. Or, he just left this advert
over the door for all to know who did it. Good for him. 

More about the Stiftskirche

Have a look at the doors above. The Stiftskirche of Herrenberg is known for more than its 13th-century founding and bell museum high in its wide tower. It is also known for the fact that it is very slowly sliding down the side of the hill on which it sits. "What" you say? That's right, have a look again at those doors above. It's more than just a shot of two old doors. Look at the stone "framing" around the actual wooden doors. See how the center divider between the door arches is leaning to the left? You can see less of the top-right hinge on the left door than the bottom-right hinge on the same door. This is a side door to the huge church tower. Look below and you can see how high and heavy the tower must be. Mind you, there are certainly higher churches in the world, but not such large and wide ones constructed on the side of a hill like this. The clues are subtle, but when pointed out, one begins to wonder if, when, and how that tower might come down on the half-timbered town below.

Well, not to worry. Certainly the authorities have long known of this threat, and precautions have been taken which will certainly be observed for years to come. Much restoration was done to this effect throughout the 1970s. During this time the foundations were shored up and galleries which were added in the 19th-century were removed. The church had been sliding 1mm per year down toward the town due to the unstable hillside on which it is perched. One millimeter may not sound like much, but keep in mind that Herrenberg's church has been sitting here for more than 500 years! That's roughly 500 millimeters, and one of those millimeters would have been the final straw. 

The onion dome atop the tower that is seen today was built in 1749 when the former double spires were taken down and the single top was put on instead.

I couldn't resist throwing this in.
She graced a storefront window in
the town below. 

The choir stalls were carved in the 17th century. I particularly like the figures carved into them. I have seen these in many such stalls dating back a variety of centuries. Some I have seen boast quite humorous depictions - even yawning monks, but not here. 

Fachwerkhäuse, or Half-timbered houses

Herrenberg boasts many of these beautiful structures. Most of the half-timbered houses here were created in the Frankish style of Fachwerk. The oldest house in the town is of the Allemanisch style. Like so much of Württemberg and Baden, Herrenberg was burned to the ground during the devastating 30-Year's War in the first half of the 17th century. When the city was rebuilt, the merchants and inhabitants did not want all their homes to look the same. Therefore, the styles of Fachwerk on the buildings were intentionally made to be different. As you walk around the city, there are placards on the sides of many of the buildings explaining the names and styles of the beam work. 

Here are some shots of half-timbered houses I saw in Herrenberg. The house in the above left is the kind I like to come across in my travels - especially when my iPhone is charged since 90% of my photos are done with it. The amount of windows all over the house and their different sizes intrigue me. When seeing buildings like this one, I like to stand outside and try to figure out the purposes of such little windows such as the one directly above the front door. I mean, how short are the people who can even walk on that floor when compared to the windows and floor above it? 

I have often heard said that in some places, some of the taxes on home owners were determined by how many windows one had on one's house. I don't know if that was a universal rule, but it sounds interesting. Perhaps even window sizes were considered in the tax assessments of the day, hence, the different sizes. On the other hand, though, windows must surely have been added at later dates and in a half-timbered house, the space between the external timbers would have needed to have been taken into consideration as well. Who knows - the point is, they are fun to look at and let the mind wander back to what life was like long ago.

The house, above right, is behind the church. The ground floor contains the workshop of the church. It is quite large and takes care of all sorts of repairs, restorations, etc. Duke Carl Eugen of Württemberg instructed that all the houses be "cleaned", or covered up. Perhaps the Fachwerk looked too primitive and the plastered fronts appeared more solid and stately; I don't know. I do know that in most cases I would differ with the duke. Now, why the rest of the houses down below in the town are not plastered over today, I do not know. Perhaps they were restored to their original beauty in more modern times. Simply based on the size of the structure, imagine what wooden designs are behind that plaster. In any event, it is indeed a substantial structure. The sheer amount of windows across the two main floors are something to ponder. Would like to have seen their tax bill.

As we hiked back down to the city from the Schloßberg (more information below), we came out into a clearing with fields and what appeared to be a farmhouse. The style of the house impressed me; I couldn't resist a shot of it (above left).

When walking around behind the huge church, one comes across a path that climbs further on up the hill above. At one time a castle was here - the Schloßberg. Some of the gates and parts remain as you make your way up by foot. There is a fine overlook from which you can see quite far over the city below and toward the Black Forest which is in the western horizon. The Schloßberg offers a café terrace, but the fortress itself is not really much to see in itself. The view, however, is worth the climb.


Getting there:

To Herrenberg from Stuttgart main station: three to four local trains run per hour to Herrenberg, ranging from 30 - 40 minutes. No ICE's stop there, although they do pass it on the way to Zürich. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Weinheim: Beautiful Border Town on the Bergstrasse along the Odenwald on the border between Hessen and Baden-Württemberg

After my short visit to Weinheim the day after Easter, I was looking through all the photos I had taken whilst there and realized that it was going to be hard for me to write something about this ancient town. There were a number of questions that came to mind as my friend and I walked through the cobblestoned streets from top to bottom; questions that presented themselves when walking through the leather-tanners' quarter, the Jewish quarter and the very narrow canals running down the streets up against the houses. Questions such as, who built the former castle residence above the Marktplatz and Old Town; was there an older castle there before? How did Weinheim get its name? The name the Romans had given it had little to do with Wein (wine). The Teutonic Knights had a headquarters here at one time. The cloister next to the St. Laurentius Catholic church above Weinheim's Marktplatz: when was it founded, and who granted the land for it? And not least, the large castle ruins on the hill opposite the town which can be seen by all down below: when was it built, by whom, and for what reasons? Questions, questions, questions. But questions are why I like to travel and learn. I'm filled with them.

Weinheim Rathaus, or city hall, up on the hill.
The city hall occupies the former castle of the ruling family.

Another view of the Rathaus

In front of the Rathaus. Claimed to be the largest Lebanon cedar in Germany.
During the short period we were there, walking all about, we were not able to learn but so many answers to the questions that arose, so I had to come home and visit the Internet to satisfy my curiosity, and I found that Weinheim is most definitely a town worth reading about if you really do appreciate history; it is full of it! And not just because it is old. Just google it yourself and do more than just depend on Wikipedia to do your learning. Then, make your trip; take your camera and walking/hiking shoes and explore it. It will be worth your efforts.

In the Market Square of Weinheim

Another angle of the Marktplatz of Weinheim, leading down from the
St. Laurentius church. The Markplatz contains a number of cafés and shops.

St. Laurentius Catholic Church of Weinheim

Lower Marktplatz: The Altes Rathaus (right) of Weinheim

Another view of the Brunnen (well) in front of the old Weinheim Rathaus

I found this house particularly interesting not only because of the 
blue shutters, but also because the structure is not attached to any 
of the buildings that surround it, whereas the neighboring 
structures share common walls.

High above, the castle ruins of Windeck overlook the tanners quarter 
in the lower town, which constitutes much of the oldest part of 
Weinheim. This quarter also had a very old Jewish settlement as well.

I was especially impressed not only by the extreme cleanliness of this 
oldest part of Weinheim, but also that there was no graffiti to be found 
anywhere - something sadly problematic in Germany, 
even on historical buildings.

Easter decorations during my visit on Easter Monday.

I think this sign makes it quite clear that this is a bakery.

Close quarters 
I am a total sucker for these narrow structures some of these medieval 
towns boast. I don't think my sofa would be able to fit at the end 
of the room in this skinny little house.

Main house of the Hermannshof Weinheim Botanical Garden

The Hermannshof Weinheim is a botanical garden that was first begun 200 years ago as a private garden. Over the years, this fine garden of 2.2 hectares has been developed and modified into the marvelous exhibition of such a variety of plant specimens from various climates. Definitely worth a stroll! (Leave your dog outside though.)

I was quite pleased to find this Sequoia tree in the Hermannshof Weinheim park. 
It was planted there in the 1880s. I do not know how old or big it 
was when it was planted.

Looking at the ruins above the town of Weinheim, I have to ask myself if the 
inhabitants post 1674, when it was dismantled by the French army, looked up there 
and viewed those ruins as somehow romantic. Or, was it an eyesore for them, rather like 
looking at rusting tanks, bunkers or neglected military bases for us today? Or, were they 
just too busy trying to survive daily tribulations and praying that foreign troops would 
just stop fighting over them?

The castle ruins of the larger and older Burg Windeck date back to the 1100's. It was occupied and made unusable by Louis XIV's troops in 1674 during the French-Dutch War, and the stones were used to build houses down in Weinheim. Only these ruins remain. To the left can be seen the red roof of Wachenburg, which was built 800 years later and still used today.

Der Rote Turm (the Red Tower) got its name from the 
pinnacle atop the 14th C. tower which was originally red. 
It served as a prison until the middle of the 19th C.

Another view of the Red Tower in Weinheim

The amount of Fachwerk (half-timbered) construction found here indeed tickled my fancy, being the Fachwerk lover that I am. You're lucky I didn't put more of my shots in this post. If you like Fachwerk, then Weinheim is the place to go. 

The arms above another former royal residence in the middle of the older part of town, built in 1710.

Weinheim's city arms hang on this house beneath the
German flag.

I will definitely return when all the trees are in bloom. A blue winter's day is also perfectly fine, but I am sure a hike through a green forest would be nice when heading up to the ancient castle-fortress ruins of Windeck above the city. The Wachenburg, the much younger castle neighbor of Burg Windeck, is not owned by the city or state, but rather to its original builders: the Studenten-Corps Weinheimer Senioren Convent (WSC), and to the Weinheimer Verband Alter Corpsstudenten. It was built between 1907 and 1913.

How to get to Weinheim via train:

From Frankfurt main station an Inter-City train leaves every hour for Weinheim. The trip takes between 35-40 minutes.

From Stuttgart main station there are two trains per hour ranging from 55 minutes to 1hr-20 minutes depending on the type of train.

Weinheim is about 15 kilometers north of Heidelberg and 10 kilometers northeast of Mannheim.