Germany - World Heritage Tour


John and Lynn Salmon -- June 2008

ARRIVAL (Jun 17)

John was invited to give a talk at a conference in Dresden, which inspired us to take a few days and drive around Germany visiting half of the 31 World Heritage Sites in the country. Of course, the World Heritage Committee is holding its annual meeting the week after we return home, so we are on the edge of our seats waiting to learn if the Dresden Elbe valley becomes de-listed from the WH list or if any new spots are added that we narrowly missed.

Our trip started out very well with two on time flights with a very short connection in Frankfurt. I thought I had done a terrific job of light packing getting almost everything into one small roller-bag within the allowed dimensions, but neglected to consider the check-in weight limit of 8kg and our 10kg bag had to be checked. After an overnight flight, we arrived Tuesday afternoon and took a cab to our hotel. We loved our fabulous pie shaped room at the Art'otel in Dresden. The room is filled with glass windows and the bathroom is both a work of art and surprisingly functional with a wonderful large bathtub.

Dresden's old town is at our fingertips, but jet lag kept us from doing much on day one. We walked to the Agustusbrucke (Augustus Bridge) and took in Canaletto's view and continued to the odd wave art form in the middle of the bridge. We saw many cafes in the square, but had already had a very good meal at our hotel. The hotel's restaurant is called "the factory" referring to Andy Warhol. I'm glad we included a soup starter for that meal :-). Perhaps it was the jet lag, but I found the official looking sign posted in the elevator about a problem with a car very amusing. "Dear Guests, Would the owner of the Renault Laguna please contact the reception."

DRESDEN (Jun 18)

We woke up very early, partly from jet lag, and partly from the sheet metal cutting project that commenced outside at 3am. We thought it might be an art project, but they were just fixing the street car tracks.

After an excellent breakfast buffet, hearty German breakfasts were a staple on this trip, we made a quick trip to Deutche Bank for cash which took twice as long as expected. We circled Prager Str. for too long looking for number 8 after finding 3 & 7.

We visited the Zwinger, which reminded me tremendously of places I saw in Poland. Not surprising, since the Saxon King Augustus the Strong was also King Augustus II of Poland. We found the Math and Physics collection closed for renovation so walked around the courtyard and up top looking at the very many soiled sculptures with strikingly contrasting brand new clean ones by their sides. We didn't visit the porcelain collection which billed itself as the second largest in the world. So, who has largest? Trenton, Tennessee claims to have the largest porcelain teapot collection and I find many other places claiming the largest (insert special subset) porcelain collection on their web pages, but I'm not sure who rivals the Zwinger's 20,000 pieces.

We continued our morning museum hopping with a visit to the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen which includes several collections with separate ticketing. There was a shocked expression on the ticket seller's face when it became clear that we wanted tickets to the Azerbaijani collection and not the green vault. We had been sucked in by the robot on the big billboard advertising the Steps of Time exhibit which looked like "our kind of thing." The robot part of the exhibit turned out to be just a photograph of the sculpture and not the sculpture itself. There were a few cool items, including a video tour (think safety first) of a rusty ship, part of a collection of abandoned rusting hulks on Nargin Island. The map of non-nuclear countries had us confused for a while.

We returned to the cashier and purchased Neues Grunes Gewolbe (New Green Vault) tickets. This is a collection of 1000+ items like the cherry pit with 185 faces carved on it. The collection also contains a very large green diamond, but who needs jewels when you can have carved cherry pits. Other high points included the carved coconut shells, some huge nut from Surinam, leather traveling cases, and the woman continuously wiping non-existent smudges off with window-cleaner.

For lunch John had a "swiss salad" which didn't have any vegetables in it (pickles don't count). Lynn had the first of many bratwurst and sparkling water (Abenstaler Quelle). By the time our trip ended, I was feeling like "The Player" with all the different water brands we had.

After lunch John went to his conference and I attempted some nearby geocaches. The German geocaches turned out to be a difficult breed. Some problems stemmed from translation issues plus a trend toward multi-step calculations before one could obtain the final coordinates. Count the number of lead levels and add that to the second digit ... wait what's a lead level? I did find one geocache at the oldest fountain in Dresden and thus learned the German word Brunnen means fountain.


While John had another conference day, I headed to the boat terminal for a steam paddle boat trip up the Elbe River. [Check out the short movies of the paddle wheel and the steam engine in operation.] Not knowing when they departed, I got very lucky to find myself there only 15 minutes before the next one (they were running every 2 hours). The usual tourist complement was joined by about 100 school children who expanded into all corners once on the boat. Their wranglers occasionally corralled a few of them, but they were left alone to be children for most of the trip.

The ride up the picturesque World Heritage Elbe Valley took 1.5 hours and passed by vineyards, grazing fields, castles and other architecture thingies and the UNESCO seal. As the boat neared the palace, I thought it was just the boat dock and the real palace was probably up the hill. But no, it really was the palace, and while the grounds are enormous, the buildings are not that extensive.

Pillnitz Palace is the former summer residence of the Saxon royal court. The main palace wings were built in 1720-22 for Augustus the Strong, and it has an extensive English and Chinese garden. Not knowing how much there'd be to do there, I erred on the side of caution and chose a 4 hour later departure though 2 would have been sufficient time to take a walk around the garden and explore one of the palace galleries.

Here, as had been common at other places we visited there were separate admission charges for different galleries which made it hard to choose what to do. I certainly would have chosen an all-inclusive package that would allow popping into some of the lesser interesting things, especially since it's hard to determine just what the lesser interesting items are before getting inside. On the other hand, the more interesting looking gallery was closed while they installed a new exhibit (reopens next week). They were moving in some large pieces of modern sculpture, and one of them was sitting on a forklift waiting to be moved indoors. The place had put some ropes around the forklift with the large silver thing on it. I guess you need to make it clear to the tourists not to hop on the fork loader and move the art around Through the windows were some large blue things and some things wrapped in attractive purple bubble wrap laid out on the floor. Looked great.

I did visit the interior of the waterside palace. All signage was in German. My reading comprehension is good enough that I can get the gist of King so and so in such and such place on some date imported thingo from Holland or whatnot, but miss out on some of the finer details A favorite bit here was the collection of woodworking tools from the 17th century that were in pristine condition. There were also a lot of neat iron works, fancy doorknobs, gates and things including one with 1740 on it; our old address but probably referring to a date and not Casa Grande. Initially, I was surprised that the existing walls were extremely plain beige. However, there were fabric scraps on exhibit, wool and silk, that were probably much of the original wall covering but none is left on the walls. There was also one room with what looked like gaudy wallpaper, but it was just gaudy paint directly applied on the wall. Here the restoration had left a patch exposed and painted the rest of the wall beige. In the music room I was also fascinated by one big string instrument called a Chitarrone or Romische Theorbe, a type of lute.

The English garden had multiple sections including something that looked like a maze from a distance. It wasn't a proper maze but a very tall hedge with narrow passages between rows. Some children were playing a bit of hide-n-seek as I wandered through. I continued on to a portion of the grounds surrounding a small lake and harassed a couple of sleeping ducks with the camera. There was a large glass building that had something to do with a Camelia brought from Japan a long time ago. A case of not getting the finer details in translation. The glass building was currently empty, but clearly looked like a fancy green house for caring for plants through the winter.

Much of the rest of the grounds were closed for replanting so my explorations were finished with 1.5 hours to go till the next boat. There was fortunately a comfortable patio cafe, so I had a long slow lunch that was quite nice. I had a potato soup with very thinly sliced Vienna sausages (yummy) accompanied by a nice brown bread.

The return boat trip was down river; quicker at 1 hour. I walked through Neumarkt and checked out the Frauenkirche and then walked down to Kreuzkirche, did more banking and found a market to pick up water. They didn't seem to be selling plastic bottles of water anywhere in the tourist areas!!! There were, of course, ample cafes where you could stop, but I like to always carry some water with me.


On our last day in Dresden, I spent about 3 hours out hunting geocaches while John gave his talk on the last morning of the conference. The one nice multi-cache I did led me through the Altstadt and ended up on the Bruhl Terrace for the final plaque. Another altstadt multi was great up until the final stage located 1km south of the center in a parking lot next to some apartments.

In the afternoon, John and I returned to Bruhl's Terrace. On the way, I had an interesting encounter with a mime. I was completely oblivious as he mimicked my actions as I took my time composing a photo-op, but finally noticed John making an amused face at me. We stepped back some distance, and enjoyed watching him get others in similar fashion. Near the museum was an outdoor exhibit of Chinese vs German interpretations of various things (artist Yang Liu Designs).


We picked up our rental car, an Opel Meriva, and hit the road heading for the world heritage Garden Kingdom of Dessau-Worlitz. It was mostly smooth sailing on the German Autobahns traversing relatively flat terrain sprinkled with windmills. We stopped to take a windmill movie and found them to be quiet giants. [windmill movie]

The Garden Kingdom of Prince Leopold III includes several landscaped parks from the Age of the Enlightenment in the 18th century. We selected the gardens of Worlitz park as the most peachy one of the kingdom sites for a visit. But, on the way, we couldn't resist a detour to see the world heritage beavers at the preserve near Oranienbaum.

We weren't quite sure what we'd find at the beaver preserve, but seeing a sign pointing the way, we followed and parked the car near the entrance for the Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve. It has a cute little park with displays including a "beaver cinema" and is generally geared toward children. The only other visitors besides us were a biker gang who were taking it all in. The highlight is the viewing station where for 1 Euro you can see two sleeping beavers through a Plexiglas window. It took us a while to figure out how to get to the beaver viewing station, since the road looked more like a side-walk than a road to us.

Worlitz park was only 10 km away from the Beaver Reserve, but we drove almost twice that after finding our sidewalk road dead end and making our way back to the autobahn and up to the next exit. Fortunately, Worlitz had a huge parking lot, and we managed to figure out how the automated parking ticket machine worked.

Worlitz was a gem of park, laced with streams and lakes with bridges and hand-cranked ferries. Quite large at 112 hectare, it was possible to wind our way through the paths and spend a couple of hours exploring just a portion of the grounds. We made our way toward the Venus temple and away from the crowds that congregated near the large gondola boats, but we didn't feel like a gondola ride with a group of 12. We heard peacocks, but saw only one. There was also a man who worked there with a surprisingly large owl on his arm. The hand cranked ferry rides were a delight. They had a small fee for humans and 1/2 price for dogs.


After a quick tour of the grounds at Worlitz, we drove on to Quedlinburg and arrived in late afternoon. Fortunately, we found little traffic in the town center and were able to navigate through the narrow cobblestone streets to our hotel, the Quedlinburger Stadtschloss. We checked in and learned that checkout the following morning would be at elf clock.

World Heritage Quedlinburg with its 1400 half-timbered houses didn't sound like much when I first read its description, but it was one of the highlights of the trip. The town has a beautiful town square with multi-colored houses and open air cafes lining the sides. A statue of Roland stands guard next to the Rathaus on one end. The twisting cobblestone streets and medieval flavor make for enjoyable strolling, and during our visit on a Saturday and Sunday in late June we found the place practically deserted. Understandable on Sunday when all the shops are closed, and we think the Euro2008 soccer game may have kept some of the crowds inside watching the game on Saturday evening.

Before dinner on Saturday, we followed the GPS arrow to a geocache that took us up a hill next to the 12th century Quedlinburg cathedral, Stiftskirche St Servatius. It was closed, so we weren't able to take a look at its fine treasury of the Middle Ages, but the location afforded great views. I spent some time trying to figure out what a bepflantzten stein was before locating the cache I was seeking under a planter box next to the church.

Dinner included a cream of butter and mussel soup and Bad Liebenwerder. There were also some costumed guys leading waling tours through town.

Sunday morning we arrived at the museum of half-timbering (Fachwerkmuseum Standebau) exactly at 10am when it opened. We love the German timeliness and knowing that things will really be open when they say they will. This was a great little museum with models, diagrams, and samples explaining all one would need to know about the half-timber building process. The earlier construction relied heavily on pegging, and included some Z joins that we didn't fathom.

(more photos) The collection is housed in one of the older half timbered houses, and the floors have taken on a pronounced slant over the years.

We returned to the hotel and checked out a few minutes before elf clock.


The drive to 1000 year old World Heritage Rammelsburg Mine took just under an hour. We arrived at noon and learned that we could take the 12:15 mine tour. Admission to the underground shafts is only available by taking the tour. The extremely helpful woman at the ticket desk gave us the student price since todays tours were only offered in German, and our German isn't really up to snuff. Too bad, since the guy giving the tour seemed like a real mining character that they dragged out from the shafts. He seemed to be providing the native speakers with non-stop knee-slapping commentary as we made our way through the cold, dark tunnels. Hard hats were really needed in spots, and there were several cool looking historical wooden water wheels that we were shown in operation. [water wheel movie]

From signage on the model later seen in the museum we learn: In the "Roeder-System" the water flows from the water reservoir - the Herzberger Teich - into underground vaults and consecutively over four water wheels installed at different elevations. The water drains through the old "Rathstiefsten Stollen" and thus exits the mine. Two of the water wheels power the ore hoisting system, while the other two drive the pumps. The power rating of such water wheels is 2 to 6.5 PS.

After the tour of the mine shafts, we spent another couple of hours exploring the extensive museums housed in the old mine buildings. Most other visitors only took the underground tour, so we had the museums mostly to ourselves. There was an extensive mineral collection, a whole room dedicated to the Christo "Package on a Hunt" installation from 1988, and more rooms of stuff than we could take in before we became famished. Luckily there was a cafe on the premises and we had an excellent plate of bratwurst and kartofelsalat.

One of the science exhibits inspired us to try reacting copper at home to create the beautiful blue coloration. Details noted from the display: As early as 2500 BC, a blue pigment - the so-called Egyptian blue - was artificially manufactured in Egypt and used in wall paintings. If acidic foodstuffs are stored in a copper vessel, an intense blue-green color coating forms on the surface. This is the copper pigment verdigris - also known as Spanish green. It is a mixture of basic acetates of divalent copper. An experiment in six stages shows the synthesis, which is achieved through the effect of acetic acid vapor on copper in the presence of air and calcium carbonate. As a result fine colored layers grow on the surface of the copper sheet. After some time perfectly formed crystals which are visible with the naked eye develop from these layers.


No World Heritage tour would be complete without a visit to the 1000 year old Bernward bronze door in St. Mary's cathedral in Hildesheim. We arrived late in the afternoon and circled the church a couple of times before realizing that the famous door was inside. As doors go, it's a fine large door with bas reliefs, but there were many other fine doors on subsequent churches we visited so I'm not sure what sets this one aside as extra, extra special other than its age. We passed on the chance to visit the 1000 year old rose bush and headed a short distance outside the center to find lodging at the Hotel Schweizer. We ate at a Chinese restaurant nearby to avoid venturing far in a sudden downpour that started after we got to our room for the evening.

BREMEN (Jun 23)

Bremen was established by Charlemagne in 787 and then grew in leaps and bounds until it was ready to join the Hanseatic League in 1358. Its small, compact Markt center is dominated by a tall statue of Roland and an ornately carved Rathaus (town hall). Its world heritage status stems from these representations of civic autonomy and sovereignty. On one edge of the Markt center stands the 1200 year old St. Peters Cathedral with doors I think rival the WH doors in Hildesheim. And the modern steel and glass State Assembly building stands out like a sore thumb directly across from the Rathaus.

The Bremen Roland dates from 1404 and stands at 5.5m high, Germany's tallest representation of this knight. Roland was a popular legendary figure in medieval Europe and became a "pop icon" in medieval minstrel culture. The eleventh century poem, "The Song of Roland", tells his epic tale of the noble Christian killed by Islamic forces despite being equipped with an unbreakable sword named Durendal and having heavily armored knees.

Our initial arrival in Bremen was well timed to catch the noon tour of the interior of the Gothic Rathaus. Our guide did an excellent job of switching between German and English during the hour long tour. We learned numerous interesting facts, like the direction of the key seen in numerous paintings and carvings symbolized independence from the pope when it points toward the left. We were also told that one origin of the term "Big Apple" for NYC derives from the emigrants from Bremerhaven receiving apples upon arriving at Ellis Island.

Another famous Bremen statue, The Town Musicians of Bremen, comes from the story of a donkey, a dog, a cat, and a rooster, all mistreated by their masters. The foursome decide to go to Bremen, known for its freedom, to live without owners.

The only thing wrong with our visit to Bremen, is that we were there on a Monday when all of the main museums were closed. But, we saw WH Roland and the Rathaus and had a look inside St. Peters, but skipped the mummies in the cellar. Sign-age seemed to indicate that dogs needed to be on leash to visit church. We both ate pasta for dinner accompanied by VILSA gourmet water. On the way to our hotel we passed a shop advertising the perfect sort.


A key site along the route industriekultur, Zollverein colliery complex contains the complete infrastructure of a historical coal-mining site. It's a fantastic blend of cutting edge development of traditional heavy industry in Europe coupled with design concepts from the modern Bauhaus movement making the complex a functional work of art. Mining operation ceased in 1986, and now the complex is used solely as a cultural venue.

A highlight is the Red Dot Design Museum located in the former boiler house. The museum utilizes the spaces in the four story maze-like building to showcase contemporary design items like whirlpool tubs nestled against the original heating ducts. A baby carrier is perched atop an industrial sized oven. Did anyone actually try out these items, or did they make the cut based on their looks rather than function or comfort? It was possible for visitors to try out the larger items on display. See our movie of the surprise couch turning into a bed. Could that pipe chair really be comfortable? (more info)

Some small stuff that caught our attention included some really cute chair casters with farm animal motif. Plus the "spaghetti book" which is a set of plastic templates for measuring out pasta. The large measure was shaped like a house. Flip the page, and serving for two was in the shape of a heart. Flip again, and find a single portion circle all alone.

We spent a long time enjoying the Red Dot Museum since we found the setting so awesome. And there was a lot of stuff to look at as we made our way across cat walks and around to each of the floors. A large private function was taking place on the lower level, but we could look down on them from above.

We also spent extensive time wandering around the huge grounds of the mine complex. Near the end of the day we were becoming exhausted and resorted to driving around the place since there was little traffic and seemed to be no restrictions on parking/driving. Tours were available only in German, so we opted just to do a self guided walk with some aid from an English pamphlet, but most of the machines are still a mystery to us. The main thing we took away with us is that the place was very very big.

more photos


One pamphlet we picked up while touring Zollverein listed all of the other sites along the route industriekultur (Industrial Heritage Trail). The path follows a 400 km circular route linking 25 anchor points including such venerable sites as the Deutsches Bergbau-Museum (the largest mining museum in the world), the Recklinghausem Transformer Plant, the Hansa Coking Plant, Maximilian Park with the largest glass elephant in the world, breweries, chemical plants, railway museums, water management areas, and the 60 meter high Tetrahedron in Bottrop. What more could a tourist want. We debated abandoning the World Heritage Trail for the Industrial Heritage Trail, but compromised by taking a day out to visit a couple of the stand out attractions.

First up the Tetraeder in Bottrop. Like a giant pyramid that you can climb on, the Tetrahedron is made of steel pipes with floating staircases suspended from steel cables leading to viewing platforms. We drove to the site expecting to make a quick visit, but found first had to climb to the top of the hill on which the tetrahedron was perched. The hill is actually a slag heap, but it has been reclaimed and landscaped into a park. It was worth the effort, and we enjoyed our visit. Visible from the tetrahedron is the building housing the world's longest indoor alpine ski run.

This led to an overnight at an Ibis hotel in nearby Bochum a town similar to Hoboken, NJ. We picked a random restaurant close to the hotel and chose the locally bottled water (Herzog Life) from the restaurant's extensive water menu. For dinner Lynn had chicken in orange sauce and John chose the gnocchi. All restaurants we eaten at use real glassware, even the quick cafeterias at tourist venues and even the one Starbucks we stopped at served cappuccino in a ceramic mug.


A morning rain shower made this a perfect day to spend underground in the largest mining museum in the world, Deutsches Bergbau in Bochum. We began the visit with a tour of the underground mock mining tunnels and galleries, some 2.5 km in all seemed too extensive to have been built just for display purposes. There was no shortage of realism down below, as the tunnels dripped water, were muddy in places, and certainly felt like a "real" mine. The rest of the museum was done with Germanic thoroughness with rooms of minerals, rooms with fossils, rooms of tools, rooms of Saint Barbara icons, more rooms with working models [see movie]. Our only remaining question is why are the large V shaped pithead gears so tall. The place was definitely worthy of a multi-hour visit and we finished up with lunch at the museum cafe (Bonaqua water).


Leaving the Industrial Heritage Trail we got back on the road and drove an hour south to the world heritage Cologne Cathedral. You can tell it's Gothic by the number of gee gaws covering every surface. There is no shortage of detail to take in and it's hard to capture with photos alone. We arrived around 4pm and found the interior closed, but the good news was that it was closed for rehearsal of a concert scheduled for 8pm tonight, so we were able to return.

Meanwhile we found a room a stone's throw from the Dom at the Konigshof Hotel and eventually made our way to dinner at a cafe next to the Dom. I had a pasta in cream sauce and John tried a Mexican entree (Pellegrino water) while we sat and looked up at the flying buttresses. There were many soccer fans milling about, which has been a common thread during our Germany visit since the Euro2008 tournament ran June 7-29 and Germany has been doing well winning tonight's semi-final against Turkey 3-2.

We arrived early for the War Concert which gave us some time to explore the interior of the cathedral. Seats were going fast even though the interior was huge, and we grabbed a spot near a rear aisle in case we wanted to leave in the middle.

BRUHL (Jun 26)

Bruhl is an approximately 20 minute drive south from Cologne. During the mid eighteenth century Casanova's pal, Clemens August put Bruhl on the map by building two Rococo party palaces, Schloss Augustusburg and the Falkenlust hunting lodge. Somewhat simple and plain on the outside, the interiors are made to impress with stucco, faux marble and other bric-a-brac. We were able to take a tour on our own with a printed guide in English. It unfortunately left out some of the important details, like why did the toilet plug in? We were also really taken with the life size cardboard cutouts of waiters, guards, the queen, etc. that peopled the place.

After getting an ice cream espresso in the town square, we headed over to the Max Ernst Museum. The lower floor was filled with his days of the week elements theme work (get details from brochure) while a better mix of sculpture and other works was located throughout the upper floors. There was a round floor piece filled with pebbles and stones that gave us an idea to make something similar as a coffee table. If we put something like this on the floor we wouldn't be able to keep the dog out of it. Another room showed some of the yearly works he made for Dorthea. I also remember the Lop Lop bird theme. Generally great stuff.


Aachen Cathedral was Germany's first inscription onto the World Heritage List in 1978. The octagonal dome was completed in 800, the year of emperor Charlemagne's coronation. The interior has a lot of mosaic tile in the ceiling and upper galleries with Latin writing in gold mosaic used as trim. The treasury is said to have some prize relics, but these are only available for viewing once every 7 years so we'll need to come back in 2014 when there might be fights to get in. The interior of Aachen contained chairs in contrast to the rows of wooden pews we found in Cologne.

During our afternoon stroll through Aachen, we noticed it was just chock full of whimsical statues and fountains. We photographed a few, and saw quite a few more. Also saw a lot of signage for a dance group wearing gas masks, but we missed them by a few days.

We left Aachen around 5pm for a long 2 hour drive to our next destination of Trier. This took us through Belgium, blink and you miss the border crossings, in the low countries. The low country here is more hilly than anything we were seeing in Germany, however. We chose the Hotel Deutscher Hof, located on the edge of town so that we could avoid driving in the city center.

TRIER (6/27)

Trier owes its world heritage inscription to an assortment of Roman monuments plus the Cathedral of St Peter and Church of Our Lady. We started our visit with an evening walk to the Barbarathermen and Romerbrucke before dinner. Traveling at this latitude is perfect in late June with it staying light till late. The Barbara Baths are currently closed for renovations, meanwhile, you can stand on a viewing platform and look over the foundations plus find a geocache that someone has attached to the fence. All that seems to remain of Roman times at the bridge, however, are a couple of old pylons. Granted, they are very old (2nd century) but the bridge looks mostly like a modern bridge.

We saved the top sights for the next morning and headed out to the Porta Nigra (Black Gate). The Porta Nigra was built at the end of the 2nd century and is the largest and best preserved city gate of the ancient world. It's also become blackened over time.

We opted for the combo ticket with admission to both the Porta Nigra and the neighboring Stadtisches Museum. There's not very much to see outside the black gate so it's worth paying the small admission fee to have a look inside. Main points of interest include the exposed bricks and notches in the stone work that suggest building processes at work. There was also some interesting graffiti that has built up over time.

The Stadtisches Museum is a great collection that showcases the history of Trier over eight centuries. Everything on display was either about Trier or produced by a Trier artist. For example, Karl Marx was born in Trier. Our visit was made even better by the accompanying audio guides that explained many of the items in the collection. Plus we seemed to be the only visitors to the place today. We were also fooled by the bird sounds coming from a collection of hanging speakers in the atrium. [see movie]

Before leaving town we visited the Romanesque Cathedral and peaked through the doors of the Church of Our Lady which was closed and undergoing renovation.


Seeing signage that read Luxembourg 33km inspired us to make an unplanned side trip. Who can resist the chance to visit a Grand Duchy, after all. The main problem with this plan is that we had no information at all about what to do or visit in Luxembourg. A second problem came when we couldn't find any place to park near the city center. All the parking lots had signs listing them as either full or having only a handful of spaces, with cars lined up waiting to get in. Ultimately, we stopped on a residential street less than 1km outside the center and attempted to feed the parking meter. We were fine with it not giving change, but it wouldn't accept an overpayment, and we had to accept a limit of 2.5 hours for our Luxembourg visit.

We practically ran into town and grabbed lunch at the first restaurant we encountered. The food wasn't bad and had some of the best vegetables we'd eaten recently, but despite the abundance of butter, the cut of meat was still tough; water brand (Rosport Blue).

Next stop, the Casemates Bock. For our limited time, this was a fantastic choice. Luxembourg is a fortress city, and its first underground tunnels were built in 1644, in the era of the Spanish domination. Subsequent generations have enlarge and added to the subterranean defensive passages which are located at different levels and reached down as far as 40 meters. Now, 17 km of the casemates remain and portions of these world heritage tunnels are open to the public.

We had a great time exploring the twisting passages, dark in places, low ceilings, limited signage, very worn spiral staircases and 2 girls trying to find Connor made for an outstanding visit. There were signs to the Wenzel (Wenceslaus) walk, but our car was going to turn into a pumpkin if we didn't return to feed the meter, and since it was nearing 5pm we decided to just continue driving back to Germany. This led to the heaviest rush hour traffic we encountered during the whole trip (5-7pm Friday evening). We stopped to fill the gas tank while still in Luxembourg and found the price at 1.36/liter compared to 1.59/liter in Germany.

Tiredness from the long day put us in a perfect mood to get a kick out of our "Planet Ocean" themed room at the Hotel am Triller. The hotel was simply listed as a business hotel with discount weekend rates in our guidebook, but it turned out to have wacky themed floors. Some of the other themes were Impressionists, and Heaven. Our hallway had some mannequins with diving gear stationed at the end, and the room had sea horse knobs and some wacky LED lights that illuminated the strange fish painting on the wall. It also had a very trippy looking floor, perhaps meant to represent waves, and a cool magnetic key.


We overnighted in Saarbrucken in preparation for visiting the world heritage Volklingen Ironworks. Saarbrucken is a charming modern town bisected by the Saar River. Our Fish Planet hotel was near the Schlossplatz and Alt Rathaus on one side of the river, and the towns bustling St. Johanner Markt was a short walk across a pedestrian bridge. However, we found the Markt area even more bustling than usual due to some sort of fair/band set up and the crowds drove us back across the river to dine at a cafe set up in the Schlossplatz. Despite having the slowest dinner service of our entire trip (the waiters had to walk about a km to get to/from the kitchen) John had his best German meal to date, a schnitzel in sauce with spetzel. Lynn had a tasty three-fish salad accompanied by Gerol Steiner brand water.

During dinner a car accessed the restricted area which was delimited by retracting posts. Two small children with another dinner party have seen this action before and positioned themselves perfectly on top of the retracted posts awaiting the ride up. It was quite cute.

The next morning we backtracked approximately 10km for our visit to Volklingen. The ironworks, which cover some 6 ha., have recently gone out of production. They owe there world heritage classification to being the only intact example, in western Europe and North America, of an integrated ironworks that was built and equipped in the 19th and 20th centuries and has remained intact. Despite this dubious distinction, Volklingen was a terrific spot for a visit with its gigantic rusting hulks of buildings and machinery. The 12 euro entry fee allows for self touring with a very useful audio guide unit.

The iron process begins with coal. Coal mining, or at least what looks like piles of coal from mining operations seems to still be going on in the surrounding area. The coal was heated at 1200 degrees without air and turned into coke. The coke is then mixed with iron ore and dropped into the top of the blast furnace where molten pig iron will pour out and the iron is the preliminary product needed for steel manufacture. Today, for miles around buildings bearing the Saarstahl Logo can be seen, so steel production is still be an important industry for this area.

Safety first was likely not foremost in anyones mind during the Volklingen operating days. We learned that men had to manually tap holes into the blast furnace every couple of hours to let the molten pig iron out. They also used the name "furnace fleas" to describe the flying droplets of hot molten metal that would fly about the work place.

Our tour began in the large burden shed that is now used for art exhibitions. They had a fascinating array of large blow-ups of AP photos with many pulitzer prize winners on display throughout this space. Periodic sound effects designed to mimiced the actual sound conditions from when the ironworks was in operation would occassionally blast out and drown out all conversation. There was also a brief display of some props left from filming what looked like an awesome childrens' sci-fi picture called Wilde Kerle. Then, after donning hard hats, we were able to tour the area of the blast furnaces from top to bottom up and down ladders and across catwalks. My legs were very sore later from all the climbing. Next up was a tour of the coking plant, followed by the Ferrodrom.

The Ferrodrom was essentially a big science museum with many hands on displays including the smell-o-rama. We failed miserably at identifying common items like coffee by smell, though I did managed to pick out the tar as a petroleum product. All-in-all we spent about 4 hours looking around Volklingen, and there was still more we could have seen if we weren't about to drop from hunger.

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We conveniently arrived in Speyer at 5:15pm and pulled up to the Domhof Hotel located next to the Dom. A hotel has stood on this spot since some time in the middle ages, so it really has location, location, location. After checking in, we walked over to check out the Romanesque Speyer Cathedral (Dom). This church is noticeably plainer than some of the other ones we've visited, but it is not lacking in size. It has very pleasant red and yellow candy-striped stonework.

We visited the crypt and noted the abrupt change in temperature and smell as you descend the stairs. There was quite a bit of space down in the crypt including a separate room with the tombs of some of the Salian rulers. The centerpiece is the tomb of Konrad II who is responsible for laying the cornerstone of the Kaiserdom in 1030.

Our hotel has a great location and looks attractive with its lovely ivy covered courtyard. However, we found the bed so hard that it felt like sleeping on the floor. Otherwise, we would have stayed a second night since our next WH sites are within an hours drive.


The Messel fossil pit site is best known for the specimens of early horses found here along with many other well-preserved animal and plant remains from the Eocene era (around 49 million years ago). There's not much to see at the pit itself, but we had to include a stop there since we have a minor interest in fossils. Fossils can be found at the Messel Museum, a museum in Frankfurt, or a museum in Darmstadt, however, the Darmstadt collection is currently on tour.

First, we visited the pretty half-timbered house that contains the Messel museum collection in the town of Messel about 3km from the pit. We arrived just as it opened at 10am on a Sunday morning and had the place to ourselves. The small museum is attractively laid out with examples of all the main fossils including an aligator, the little horses, and fledermaus. We saw a number of fishes including Wolfsbarsch (Palaeoperca proxima) and the Klienes Messeler Urpferd (Propalaeotherium messelenee).

We then drove over to the pit site and arrived shortly before the info center opened at 11:00am. There is a viewing platform over looking the pit site, and some signage describing the place in German and English. More material can be found in the info center and tours of the pit can be arranged. We discussed the tour with the friendly and helpful staffer working and decided that we wouldn't get much from a tour of the pit in German since there is little to see. We did, however, buy ourselves a souvenir fossil and spent some time watching one of the videos about the formation of the pit in the comfortable air conditioned space.


Fortunately, there was no traffic on Sunday morning since construction and Umleitungs made navigating through Darmstadt difficult. After 30 minutes we arrived in the small town of Lorsch and found the parking area near the Cloister filled with a fair ground. This later provided a pleasant diversion as we found a shady spot along a wall to sit and people watch while listening to the "Die Original Blutenweg - Jazzer" group. The locals were having a great time buying trinkets with the most popular items being metal lawn ornaments and brushes of various sorts. We, too would have picked up a lawn ornament if we thought we could carry it back on the plane.

Not much remains of the Kloster Lorsch. It was founded in the 8th century and was an important religious site for the Carolingian dynasty. The old gatehouse appears to have a new roof with an intriguing fish scale pattern. Chickens populate the grounds.

We chose to get lunch at 2pm when everyone else from the fair also decided to eat, so the kitchen was backed up, but our waitress warned us it would be a 45 minute wait. Water was Odenwald Quelle.

WORMS (Jun 30)

We chose to spend our last day in Germany in the town of Worms, known for the Niebelungen and the Diet. We got a very comfy room at the Prinz Carl Hotel located about 1 km from the city center. We arrived in the evening and walked looking for dinner options and found the streets deserted for the final game of Euro 2008. Germany lost to Spain 0-1, but this didn't stop the revelers from driving around honking later in the night. An Italian cafe was open, and we ended up having cake and ice cream for dinner. Water = GMQ Grafin Mariannen Quelle.

The following day we made an extensive walking tour of the city and took a look in St. Peters Cathedral which was undergoing extensive rennovations. We took note of the fish mosaic tile on one section of floor. We also saw a number of colorful dragons on display about the town. We also visited old Jewish cemetery which looked very old with the head stones not placed in neat little rows. Most were inscribed in Hebrew, but a few we could read indicated that 19th century denizens had lived to ripe old ages (70s-90s).

We ate dinner at our hotel and had our best meal in Germany. Duck in raspberry sauce for Lynn, John had soup served in a potato and some type of pork steak, and we shared a strawberry tiramisu. Water = Taunus Quelle.

Lynn Salmon <>{

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