Saturday, February 23, 2008

Kelheim and Weltenburg

Brian came home from work yesterday and asked if I wanted to take a little road trip tomorrow (today) to Kelheim. He was talking to some of the guys at work and they were giving him recommendation of neat places to explore. So this morning, after a big breakfast of farmer's omelets (yup, made by me) we headed off to Kelheim, which is only 40 minutes from where we live.

Kelheim is another quaint German city full of hidden history. We knew we were looking for a castle and a monastary along the river. As we entered the town limits, we looked up and saw this HUGE circular building in the sky so we decided to figure out how to get up there and explore.

That huge circular building is the Hall of Liberation. (Taken from the tourist brochure we got when we purchased tickets to enter)

"King Ludwig I commissioned the construction of this monument to commemorate both the victorious battles against Napolean during the Wars of Liberation 1813-1815 and the unification of all the German races...The Hall of Liberation is an 18 sided polygon. The massive supporting buttresses of the facade are crowned by 18 monumental statues (see picture below - each of these signs holds the name of a German nation)...The number 18 also stands for the date of the battle of the nations, 19 October 1813, when Napoleon's forces were crushed by the coalition near Leipzig. The interior is dominated by 34 Goddesses of Victory (which are AMAZING to see, and kind of intimidating, like they could come to life at any time), are made of white marble, mounted with linked hands on an encircling base. The statues symbolize the 34 German states of the German Confederation, which was founded in 1815. The coffered ceiling (see picture) of the 45 meter-high domed hall and the divisions created by the alcoves, arcades and galleries give the room extra-ordinary acoustics, which combine with the architecture and the light to create an appropriately ceremonious atmosphere."

The entire area is surrounded by nature-trails and pathways for walking and cycling. The Hall looks over the Danube river and has an amazing view of Kelheim (the city below). We parked the car in the gravel parking lot and since the area wasn't crowded at all (and no vehicles are allowed past a certain point), we kept the stroller in the car and let Luke walk and run free. He held daddy's hand while walking up the stairs to get into the Hall and as we were leaving, standing at the top of the stairs and looking at the long way down, Luke grabbed Brian's hand then turned around and said "Mommy's coming, hold hands, two hands" and reached out and grabbed my hand as well. Guess he was a little daunted by how high up we were. Anyway, all that walking worked to our advantage and he was exhausted by the time we went to the next city where he stayed in his stroller the entire time without a peep. Below are our pictures from Kelheim - you'll see the inside and outside of the Hall of Liberation, including the massive staircase we had to climb to enter the front doors. We took pictures from the lookout over the Danube River, down to the river and up to the Hall.

From Kelheim we decided to find the monastery that everyone was telling us about. The monaserty is known in Germany as Kloster Weltenburg, or Weltenburg Abbey, and is a Benedictine monastery in the town of Weltenburg (obviously, right?) The Kloster also has a brewery and it is the oldest monastery brewery in the world, having been in operation since 1050! (Is that why all the guys at work know about it?) :) The Kloster was founded in 620 by Scottish or Irish monks and is said to be the oldest monastery in Bavaria. We actually found the monastery fairly quickly but we were on the wrong side of the river and our GPS told us to wait for the ferry! We knew there had to be another way so after taking a couple of pictures from across the river we headed back down the mountain and went back through Kelheim crossed a bridge which took us right to the old monastery. (Pictures below - driving through Kelheim and the entry way into the monastery)

The highlight of the monastary is the abbey church, dedicated to St George.(below) We entered the the church and there was a big group with a German tour guide and everyone was sitting, listening to the guide and looking around at all the beautiful things he was pointing out (a lot of Baroque detail in the church). We waited to see if anyone had cameras and a few did but nobody was using a flash. Well I didn't want to be the obnoxious one flashing my camera all over the place and for all I know you aren't allowed to use a flash camera inside so we took a couple of pictures, without the flash, and they turned out okay, you can be the judge.

We walked from the church up to a small chapel at the top of the ledge overlooking the river. Along the walk are the Stations of the Cross. For all of you non-Catholics out there, the Stations of the Cross are images that depict the final hour of Jesus and is practiced most often during the season of Lent on Friday nights. The movie Passion of the Christ follows the Stations of the Cross. I took a picture of every station (there are 14) and here are pictures of stations 2 and 3.

The Weltonburg abbey was dissolved in 1803 but in 1842 it was re-founded and was raised to the status of independent abbey in 1913. Besides the traditional duties of hospitality (the abbey has a few restaurants and stores alongside the church), it has pastoral responsibilities over 4 parishes. (according to Wikipedia)

I can't believe we live this close to so much history! I love it! I love Germany and I love the road trips we get to take and the history lessons we get to learn. I still am a putz with the language but I am getting more and more comfortable asking if people speak English and I am enjoying myself more when we are in the restaurants and shops. When you first arrive in a foreign country and can not understand a word that is being said all around you, it can be a bit intimidating and can leave you feeling a little helpless. The more we explore and the more we try to learn small but essential phrases, the more comfortable I become.

(Oh, and seeing McDonalds makes me feel at home. We stopped at the Micky-D's in Kelheim before heading home)

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