Monday, March 21, 2011

Salzburg, Austria - May 31st, 2010

The camp site entrance, not particularly welcoming
 but then it was early in the seas
Our well appointed mud patch
There is a lot of juice (we believe) in Salzburg and it was our intention to do a walkabout there on our way south. We overnighted in an ill-prepared campsite and set off to see the city first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, what with extensive roadworks and unbelievable traffic density, after an hour of stop-go motion with never a parking space to be seen we cried Uncle andleft.
 Salzburg - Salt Castle - is the fourth-largest city in Austria and has a population of about 145,000. The Altstadt - old town - is regarded as one of the best preserved examples north of the Alps and made the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1997. The capital city of the State of Salzburg, it is host to three universities resulting in a large student population adding an upbeat energy to the area.
We declined the opportunity to take on fresh water
since the potable water hose was artistically
draped around the black waste bowl
The name "Salt Castle" derives from barges carrying salt on the Salzach River which, in the 8th century, were subject to a toll customary for many communities and cities on European rivers.
Salzburg was the birthplace of 18th-century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and, in the mid-20th century, was the setting for parts of the film The Sound of Music. Traces of human settlements in the area dating to the Neolithic Age have been discovered while the first settlements at Salzburg were probably Celtic in the 5th century BCE.

Nuremberg, Bavaria, Germany - May 30, 2010

Nuremberg was a favorite stomping ground - literally - for Adolph Hitler during his "excite the masses" period of 1927 to 1938 or so. A week long rally held here each September would rouse a rabble of as many as 500,000 to attend a magnificantly choreographed display of histrionics, goose-stepping march-bys, banner waving and even mock battles. After the war ended, of course, Nuremberg became the venue for the eponymous trials. A dark chapter indeed.
Today, this historic Bavarian city on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal has a population right at 500,000. Nuremberg is believed to have been founded around the turn of the 11th century and is sometimes acknowledged to have been the 'unofficial capital' of the Holy Roman Empire.
In the nineteenth century Nuremberg became the "industrial heart" of Bavaria with companies such as Siemens and MAN establishing strong bases there. The Nuremberg International Toy Fair is the largest of its kind in the world. Perhaps most famously, the main part of Nicolaus Copernicus's work was published in Nuremberg in 1543.
During WWII, Nuremberg was the headquarters of Military District) XIII and an important site for the production of airplanes, submarines, and tank engines. 
The city was severely damaged by Allied bombing from 1943 to 45 and on January 2, 1945, the medieval city center was bombed by the Royal Air Force and the U.S. Army Air Forces. About ninety percent of it was destroyed in less than an hour, Happily, the city was rebuilt after the war and was partly restored to its pre-war appearance. Lots more images here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Würzburg, Germany - May 28th 2010

On March 16, 1945, Würzburg was severely damaged in a seventeen minute attack by 225 British Lancaster bombers. Most of the city's churches, cathedrals, and other monuments were casualties and the city center was totally destroyed in a firestorm that claimed 5,000 lives. 
Over the next 20 years, the buildings of historical importance were painstakingly and accurately replicated. Würzburg was destroyed more completely than was Dresden in a firebombing the previous month. 
From the end of the war until 2008, the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division along with other U.S. military units were stationed near the town and was hugely beneficial to the local economy. Würzburg is about 70 miles from both Frankfurt am Main and Nuremberg and has a current population in the region of 130,000.
The Celts had a fort on the hill where Fortress Marienberg stands today as early as 1000 BCE and the setlement was Christianized in 686 CE. The first church on the site of the present Würzburg Cathedral was built in 788, and was consecrated by Charlemagne.
Würzburg's Old Main Bridge - Alte Mainbrücke - built 1473–1543 to replace the destroyed Romanesque bridge from 1133, was later decorated with well-known statues of saints and famous persons. 
The University of Würzburg contains Wilhelm Röntgen's original laboratory, where he discovered X-rays in 1895 and also awarded Alexander Graham Bell an honorary Ph.D for his pioneering scientific work. Our day in Wurzburg was comfortably relaxed and we were pleasantly surpised by the homogenous nature of the old town. Lots more pictures here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Trapped in Numansdorp, NL - May 16 to May 26 2010

When we are not using our little Pilote RV in Europe, it is stored in the tiny town of Numansdorp in the South Holland region of the Netherlands. The storage company looks after the annual medical for the vehicle and generally does a good job. 
This year they recommended replacing the main drive belt in the engine since it was beyond its "best by" date and a failure of this item is very, very bad. So the belt was changed in time for our arrival - an expensive task, but, we thought, good insurance.
Well, as you may have heard, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Thus it was that, on a 30 degree Saturday morning on an Autobahn near Erfurt, in Germany, we experienced the aforementioned very, very bad. A single lurch, one expensive graunch from under the hood and we were immobilized on a rain soaked freeway.
To cut a long story short, 30 hours and $2,200 later we had been hauled 400 miles on a wrecker and delivered back to Numansdorp! Hooray for a 10 day static hiatus in rain swept Holland.
Numansdorp has a population of 9910 residents and is a typical Fisher-Price like Dutch toy-town with stunningly neat, but infuriatingly small everything - roads, roundabouts, stores, houses - everything. So the storage yard became our base while insurance adjusters, parts suppliers, a National Holiday, the mechanic and fate all worked their tedious magic. 
Our major concern was getting out in time to reach Venice, Italy, by June 4th when our visitors from America were scheduled to arrive. One way and another, we busied ourselves with bike rides, shopping, reading and general catching up while a new cylinder head  and other vital organs were procured and installed. Check here for fun ways to pass time in Holland.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Mühlhausen, Germany - May 14, 2010

Reven's Tower and City Gate
Mühlhausen - officially Mühlhausen/Thüringen - lies along the river Unstrut and is home to about 37,000 souls. Its first known recorded mention was in 967 and, although King Henry the Fowler bestowed some priviliges upon the area, the 13th through the 15th centuries were the town's real heyday. Later, for less than a year in from 1707-1708, Johann Sebastian Bach tinkled the ivories on the organ in the Church of Saint Blaise.
One of these built the Brooklyn Bridge -
read on to find out more
The town was pretty much wrecked between 1618 and 1648 during the Thirty Years' War and was further trashed during the Seven Years' War from 1756 to 1763. These disasters, along with endles political infighting reduced the place to insignificance. Like much of the area, it fell to Prussian authority in 1802, was conquered by the Kingdom of Westphalia in 1807 before being snatched back by Prussia again in 1815. From 1944 to March 1945, a slave labor camp for women was operated outside of town until the inmates were deported to Bergen Belsen in April 1945.
A relatively small old town with few "big rides" (or any rides at all) we nevertheless had a pleasamt trudge around in cool, sunless weather. See here for some views.

Göttingen, Germany - May 13, 2010

The Georg-August-Universität was founded in Göttingen in 1737 and currently has 24,000 students on campus - almost one in five of the total city population. Many students live in and around the old city and imbue it with a youthful energy. The city itself came into being in the second half of the 12th century.
Following the upheaval of the Reformation there was a dearth of Catholic churches in the entire region and it wasn't until 1787 that the first new one, Saint Michael's, was built. Saint Paul's was the second post-Reformation Catholic church and that didn't appear until 1929.
There has been an ongoing secular trend throughout Germany since WWII, more so in Eastern Germany, and a growing number of people choose not to be baptised or otherwise leave the church. This trend has slowed somewhat in the new millenium and the larger churches are more or less stable.
About two weeks after we visited Göttingen, an 1,100 lb WWII bomb exploded on the construction site of a new stadium. This was the second bomb found on the site - the first was disposed of safely - and three people were killed in the incident. 
More pictures from our walkabout are here.