Days Out in Worms and Mondorf
Part of: Winter in Germany
We have had a busy last few days and boy am I tuckered out. But we have had some glorious sunny weather lately and we have really been enjoying it.
On Thursday we went to Worms - great name for a city, although in German it's pronounced "vorms." It's a two-hour drive south along the Rhine River, not far from Mainz. We had a great time. It's a smallish and pleasant city, with all the main sights within fairly easy walking distance. Thanks to the off-season, we seemed to be the only non-German tourists there, and the city had a very relaxed feel.
All told, we visited a cathedral, three churches, a museum, two Luther-related sites, a synagogue, and a Jewish cemetery. Quite a nice variety. We brought home over a thousand pictures and we've only begun to go through them all, but here are some highlights.
In a garden next to the cathedral is this plaque commemorating Martin Luther's appearance before the Imperial council here in April 1521. After refusing to retract his views (with the legendary words, "Here I stand, I can do no other"), Holy Roman Emperor Charles V declared him an outlaw. That may have been the end of the story had he not been rescued by Frederick of Saxony during the night and sheltered in Wartburg Castle.
Finding the plaque was a bit of a treasure hunt because I didn't know where it was in the fairly sizable garden! It was also fun to find because it was the first Luther site of many we'll visit before we leave Germany. And just a block or two down the road was another one, the Luther Monument:
This monument to Martin Luther and his friends was made in 1868, funded by Lutherans around the the world. There are Luther Monuments all over Germany, but this is the largest of them. Click on a photo for more details on the statues.
We ate our pizza in this plaza overlooking the 12th-century Martinskirche. It wasn't very interesting inside, but it was entered through a door around the back, which overlooked a cluttered little courtyard that reminded us of Italy.
Next up was the very interesting Jewish Quarter, where a large Jewish population once lived. Sadly this all came to an end with the Nazis, and very few remain today. The synagogue is actually used primarily by Jewish members of the American army!
The most interesting part of the synagogue was out back, where stairs led underground to this medieval mikvah, a Jewish ritual bath. Further stairs, seen here on the right, led down to the bath itself:
The Jewish Quarter was a very pretty part of the Old Town, passing through winding cobblestone streets and along part of the old city wall. It reminded us a bit of Toledo, Spain.
Back at the Martinskirche, an older German couple had spotted David taking photos and came up to him to insist that he visit the Dominikanerkirche. They spoke in German and then broken English, and the only phrase David got from their enthusiastic recommendations was neue portal. We were skeptical at this, since we like our portals old, not new. But the church is on my website and on my if-we-have-time list, so we thought we'd better head over there and check it out.
It was worth the detour, and indeed the main attraction was the New Portal. It is a bronze double door with sculptures of biblical scenes, and must have been completed quite recently. Inside the church they had stacks of hardcover books (â‚¬20) all about the history and creation of the New Portal. Clearly David's new friends aren't the only locals excited about this new addition.
Next up was this little gem, back by the cathedral. It was built around 800, but later extended. Aside from its venerable age, its claim to fame is that it was the first church to convert to Lutheranism in this region.
It's very simple inside. David wasn't thrilled, but I loved it. It's so wonderfully old and the round arches, blank walls and little windows makes it Romanesque at its simple best. It also gave me a strong feeling of being at the beach - I don't know why! Must be all the white.
Next stop was the Judenfriedhof, just outside the city walls in the shadow of the cathedral. This is the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe and it's very large, too. The oldest tombstone is from 1024, but the oldest inscriptions are all in Hebrew so we couldn't read any dates. The cemetery went out of use in 1911 simply because they ran out of room. The cemetery was somehow overlooked by the Nazis, so the old tombstones fell victim only to time, not hammers.
One unexpected sight on a few tombs was this symbolic hand gesture:
Just as the sun was setting and our feet were beginning to complain, we squeezed in one last sight before departing Worms. This is the Andreaskirche, which was once part of a large monastery nestled against the city wall. It now houses the city museum.
Since we arrived with only 30 minutes until closing, we were given a hefty discount on admission. Hooray! David hung out in the church and took pictures while I hustled around the three floors of the former monastery in search of interesting exhibits.
Most of the museum collection consisted of prehistoric artifacts, including shelf after shelf of clay pots. But there were some interesting re-created burials, some Roman items, a few Early Christian gravestones (all copies, sadly), and a Luther Room with some original letters signed by Luther.
Friday: Ferry to Mondorf
Friday's activities were much closer to home. We walked along the river to a little ferry port to feed the swans and take their portraits. They are very photogenic creatures and provide a good opportunity for practicing shutter speeds and such.
Then on a whim we decided to hop on the ferry and cross the Rhine to the village of Mondorf. We rode in the little upper deck and it was so much fun.
There wasn't a whole lot to see in Mondorf, but we had a good time exploring and taking pictures of whatever caught our eye.
Yesterday and Today: Cologne
Yesterday the sun shone again so we rode the tram into Cologne to visit an old church and a rather unique museum, and then we had a delicious dinner. And this morning, David drove up to Cologne again to take pictures of the cathedral from across the river. More on these trips in another post.