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Würzburg and Frankfurt
Written July 15-18
Dear Friends and Families,
After ten days of guests and, more stressful, a week of preparing our house for sale, we opted for a small break. The original goal was just a Sunday visit to Würzburg, staying overnight to recover from the one or two hour drive. The trip got extended when Marianne was tracked down by her friend Sylvia. The two met in Rio a couple of dozen years ago and had not connected much over the years. Sylvia and husband Alex live in Costa Rica and keeping in touch has been ... complicated. Now, we found out that Sylvia was joining Alex on a business trip to Frankfurt on Monday and Tuesday. We HAD to extend our trip!
Normally Würzburg is less than an hour away, but we chose a two-hour, top-down, drive on back roads instead. The weather has been perfect and continued so: sun, not hot, puffy clouds, no rain. Sunday morning back roads were largely empty, largely but not completely. We passed a number of old-timer tractors heading to a village where local farmers can show off their machines.
Arriving in Würzburg, our first stop was the Residenz (Residence), another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite living an hour away for 11 years, we had never stopped, always saying there would be time later. With the house for sale, we now recognized "later" has to be now.
The Residenz was built by prince-bishop Johann Philipp Franz von Schönborn, the nephew of prince-bishop Lothar Franz von Schönborn. From 1710 through 1716, Lothar built Schloss Weissenstein, the palace across the street from us in Pommersfelden. Johann Philipp followed with the Residenz from 1720, through 1744 (buildings) or 1780 (decoration.) The Würzburg palace was so well done that Lothar claimed: "... no palace in the whole of Germany can compare with this one." We have not seen them all, but we would agree.
The buildings are immense with 50 formal rooms flowing from the top of the grand staircase. The architect was a relatively young Balthasar Neumann, a professional very popular with the Schönborns. His work ranks among the finest in 18th Century Europe. The interior paintings were done largely by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, a job of amazing productivity, given the expansive painted ceilings and walls. Unfortunately, a March 1945 air raid, weeks before the end of WWII, destroyed 90% of Würzburg, including much of the Residenz. The reconstruction is all the more remarkable, after seeing pictures of the bombing destruction.
Had I been allowed to take pictures, I would have needed several score to show off the rooms, the frescoes, the paintings, the furniture, and the quality and detail of both the original workmanship and the reconstruction. However, only outside shots were allowed. (I know, everyone breaths a sigh of relief.)
After a rest, we walked a few blocks to the walking center of town and had a simple (Italian) dinner. The food was nothing special perhaps, but the service was friendly and efficient. After, we walked across the footbridge that spans the Main River, watching folks sip local wine while river boats floated past, through very narrow locks.
We started with our normal travel routine: Up early, John down to breakfast to work on pictures and diary, Marianne preparing at her own pace. One of the nice parts about hotel travel in Germany is the traditional breakfast buffet and the Till Eulenspiegel offered one as varied and plentiful as any. A good way to start the day.
After that, we decided to stay with side roads all the way to Frankfurt, again doubling the time but making it a vacation, not just another A3 shuttle. In Frankfurt we navigated to the small Hotel Kautz, very near our old apartment in the Sachsenhausen district.
We dropped off the bags and crossed the river to meet with Sylvia and Alex at their hotel. Alex had to run to meetings, despite having flown all night from Costa Rica. I don't miss such business-driven schedules. With Sylvia, we had a slow lunch while she and Marianne caught up on twenty years of family developments. There are ten grandkids, five each, and that alone takes hours to talk about! All in all, a wonderful way to spend an afternoon, but we did have to let Sylvia get a little nap in before her business dinner. I did wonder if she would be able to stay awake for an entire German meal.
In the evening, Marianne and I walked a bit in our old neighborhood. We had great hamburgers at Erbgut, a hangout that used to be called "New York" and was a home-food regular for us back in the old days. The sandwich was good, but the street scene viewing was the real highlight. We do miss the activity of a city summer evening in Sachsenhausen.
Toward sunset, I left Marianne at the hotel and grabbed the camera gear to try some pictures. For an hour or more I stood on the bridge across the Main and just enjoyed the scenes of people enjoying walks along and over the river. The unique skyline of the Frankfurt business district loomed above me. I'd seen better light for pictures before, but just absorbing the atmosphere was at its best this night.
Another pleasant German-hotel breakfast, simpler than yesterday, but OK just the same. The Hotel Kautz was pretty simple, but clean, friendly and very centrally located. After that, we drove over to Sylvia's hotel again, narrowly missing being run over by a street car - really. My mistake. I promise to NEVER override our city-driver doing her job.
From her hotel, we took Sylvia over to the old center of Frankfurt, stopping at Kleinmarkt Hall, our favorite food market. It was another big-city feature that we really miss in our quiet country life. Klein Markt offers specialties unheard of in the villages around Pommersfelden.
By noon, we needed to head home, so we bid Sylvia farewell, promising to consider a visit to Costa Rica to visit her and Alex in their natural environment. Sounds intriguing. Our drive home was top-up, autobahn driving. Nothing special, fortunately. (The other direction on the A3 was completely blocked in one place by an overturned truck and its spilled load of lumber. The type of road mess we always consider a possibility.)
At home, we settled in, waiting to see if our house would sell this day. It didn't, so we are still in that limbo of other home sellers without plans before someone makes the decision to run us out of our home. Sooner or later, it will happen.
Meanwhile, we'll try to have short trips like this one to make the most of our remaining European time.
John and Marianne
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