Quedlinburg

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The initial impression of Quedlinburg at the train station is not overwhelming. But the image above is not at all representative of the town.

Quedlinburg is in the latter stages of a massive restoration begun in the 1980s. There are 1000 year old churches and the most original timber frame houses of any city or town in Europe. The centerpiece of town is the Schlossberg, the site of a women’s abbey founded in the 900s. It is dominated by the 900 year old church of St. Servatii.

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The church is open for tours and includes a crypt and a church treasure that was lost for decades after WWII and discovered in Texas in the possession of the family of an American soldier. The building itself is a treasure. It has detailed carvings on the capitals and on a frieze that runs underneath the upper windows. The arcade is an unusual configuration with a pair of columns between rectangular piers.

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There is a tower on the western edge of town, the Steinkierker Turm, that provides a nice overlook. When we first went up to it, we thought it was locked as there is a massive steel turnstyle like you sometimes find at sporting venues. However, it is unlocked by dropping a 1 euro coin in a slot.

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The church on the left is the Marktkirche St. Benedickt. As with many churches it was built in stages. The photo below show that the center of the nave and the center of the chancel are misaligned by a couple feet. This happens too often for me to believe it is merely the result of mis-measurement as some maintain. It took some clever stonework to make the two sections meet in any event.

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This statue of King David was once one of the columns supporting the organ loft.

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The Rathaus is the main feature of the market square. Much of the building dates to the 14th century. The tower on the left was added in the 15th. Further renovation took place in the 17th and 19th centuries.

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There are about 1400 timber frame houses in Quedlinburg, some of which date to the 1300s. Most have been beautifully restored. The ones below are in one of several plazas that dot the town.

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Many houses have inscription on the beam just above the ground floor. The two below say:

  • In 1631 Gert Muller and his wife, Dorothea, had this house built.
  • 1577, Merten Hevener, In God’s might, I have built.

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We met a man whose friend bought one of these houses in the 1980s for 40 East German Marks, just a couple Euro in today’s funds. It’s worth over a million now. There are still some houses available for restoration like the one below. You might not get quite the same deal though.

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Oppenheim and Katherinenkirche

Oppenheim is a village about halfway between Mainz and Worms. It’s well known for its underground tunnels and the Katherinenkirche (St. Katherine’s church, which was my main objective).

Finding parking was a minor challenge as the streets are very narrow. We drove completely through town (which took all of 5 minutes), before circling back. We found a carpark on the other side of this medieval gateway just before a convoy of Fiats drove up.

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We took a quick look around, grabbed a cup of coffee at a cafe, and ate lunch before heading up the hill to the main attraction.

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Katherinenkirche was built as a convent church and is now an evangelical (Lutheran) church. It was built in stages that can be clearly identified from the south elevation. The pink towers from the Romanesque era are the oldest visible elements. The darker, elaborate stone on the right shows the pointed arches, flying buttresses and tracery windows of the high Gothic era. The left, though plainer, is of later Gothic construction.

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From the inside the windows are spectacular. Though much of the original glass has been damaged through the centuries, periodic restoration and replacement of portions has kept them looking great.

 

Even though the above window was dark colored, there are so many windows that the interior is brilliantly lit. This is the nave of the high gothic section of the church.

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The graceful piers, with each shaft supporting a separate arch in the ceiling, create a rhythm and texture that keeps the eye in content motion.

This next image shows the rear of the nave with the organ.

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The west section has a raised area in the apse that shows it was once used as a second choir for the convent which was located on the north side. The entire church was severely damaged by fire in 1689. The nave and east choir were restored in the 18th century. The gift shops sells a set of postcards from 1876 that show the west choir as a roofless shell with large trees growing inside. This end was restored only in the 1880s after being a ruin for 200 years. Today it is empty of any furniture as there is some renovation taking place in the apse just below the level of the large windows.

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A few more images from the church and around town.

 

Mainz

Ancient history and modern life go hand in hand in Mainz. Close to the Frankfurt airport, it is a low-key and more personal alternative to the big city. The depredations of war have left only a few reminders of the past, but those are magnificent.

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Statue of St. Martin looks over the old city.

Some features date to Roman times. This wall from the 4th century was excavated near our hotel. You can clearly see that the exterior surfaces are well fitted, rectangular ashlars while the nearly 6 foot space between is filled with irregular rubble and mortar.

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Roman wall from circa the 4th century.

The Cathedral of St. Martin, much of which is 1000 years old, dominates the skyline. The marketplatz around the Cathedral is filled with fruit, vegetable and flower vendors. There are plenty of tourists, but residents are fully represented.

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Ancient cathedral looms over the marketplace.

To the immediate north of the cathedral is a modern shopping area. To the south is a surviving quarter of older buildings filled with boutique shops. Any way you turn, there are cafes and restaurants where you can take a break and watch the rest of the world go by. Much of the old city is pedestrianized and bicycle travel is popular. Keep an eye out for buses and street cleaners though. They can go where automobiles are prohibited.

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Augustinerstraße with shops and cafes.

There is a walking/bike path along the river enjoyed by runners, bike riders and sedate strollers.

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Rhine River with city skyline and riverwalk.

On holidays you are likely to see revelers out as well. The riders of this “bier bike” provide motive power while the bartender keeps them from getting thirsty.

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If you fall off the wagon, you can ride this one.

There is plenty of interesting architecture. These fancy slate roofs remind me of dragon scales. _D6A5672 Martin of Tours is the patron saint of the cathedral. This statue on a terrace overlooking the city was made for the cathedral. Another statue that from the ground looks identical stands on the roof ridge of the west choir. This modern statue of Martin depicts the soldier dividing his robe to give to a beggar. Click on the thumbnails to see bigger images.

Boniface, the Anglo-Saxon missionary to the german lands in the 8th century was the first Archbishop of Mainz. His statue stands outside a 1000 year old chapel next to the cathedral. Gutenberg was born here and there is a museum dedicated to him. His printing press however was developed in Strassburg after his family was forced to emigrate, probably for political reasons.

There are lots of other curiosities around town.

There’s lots more. We spent hours at the cathedral and at St. Stephen’s Church but this is enough for now.

Edenton, North Carolina

Edenton, North Carolina

Edenton is a small town on the inner shore of Albemarle Sound that was the first capitol of the North Carolina colony. There are a several colonial era homes as well as numerous victorian homes. The main street remains unspoiled by modern chain stores and restaurants, though some of these can be found on the outskirts of town.

 

Walking around on our own, we found lovely old homes. Many have signs indicating construction dates on hundred to 250 years ago.

Once a bustling port, when the main channel to Albemarle Sound through the sandy islands was closed by a storm, the shipping business dried up and the shoreline has been converted to parkland.

We took a two hour walking tour hosted by a local guide who took us inside a number of the oldest sites and provided great stories about some of the early citizens.

As the photos show, we had a some clouds and rain during our visit, but one evening the clouds broke up enough for a nice sunset.

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