Friday, August 05, 2005


"Warum?" I asked the German car rental agent when he said I could upgrade to a new Mercedes for the same price of the station wagon that I had reserved.

"Warum nicht?" was his nonchalant reply.

What better way to start a week on the German roads? The Mercedes had a "Kompressor" - which I think is a good thing. It also had six gears. I didn't know cars had six gears - let alone that one would need it (which on the Autobahn, one very much does).


Reunited with Denise after two months (fidelity is sexy), we set out along with my Schwegermutter and Schwegerin who just happened to be on the continent as well, for a whirlwind tour of the significant part of Germany that is easier (and much cheaper) by car than by rail.

Here was our itinerary:

The Wurzburg residence provides all the thrills of Versailles (Versailles' unsurpassable Gardens excepted) without the feeling that you're being slowly pressed through a meatgrinder to make tourist-burgers. The fact that the Tiepolo frescoe was being renovated was more than made up for by the tourguide we had, who was far and away the best guide I had the privilege to see in action. In delightfully snooty English with only a slight Franconian accent he announced
"The architecture of this structure was so well designed by Balthasar Neumann that the Tiepolo frescoe survived a direct hit from a WWII bomb as well as pilings burning directly above it for several hours. My favorite point of comparison is a recent building in France that was so poorly constructed that it fell down all on its own. We've gone from Baroque, to Bawreck."
The town of Wurzburg is packed with religious sculptures, paintings and bookstores on every corner. This meant, as you might imagine, I really like it. Kilian's cathedral, with its menorah that overwhelms you as soon as you step in, was a great reminder to Christians that Israel has always been God's first move... and the Stations of the Cross to end all Stations of the Cross can be found leading up to the hilltop of the Wurzburg Kapelle

Just as we finished dinner and were halfway through the famous nightwatchman tour through the city streets, a storm of such force came in that we all had to scramble under the town hall as shingles crashed down from the rooftops right next to us. In my fear, I swore to Saint Anne that if she'd save me I'd become a monk. And that hilarious chuch history joke leads us to...

Not the most inspiring or beautiful town after gorgeous Rothenburg, but then again, to build a Protestant Rome where I could venerate the relics of Luther and Melanchthon (which do in fact reside in Wittenburg) would kind of miss the point.

However the Cranach triptych at the St. Mary's Church was a brilliant example of every positive thing the Reformation stood for... including art.

The same fable came to mind in touring the Reichstag in Berlin as when visiting the Swiss capital: The tortoise and the hare. By which I mean that we Americans should beware that in proclaiming ourselves as the world's greatest democracy we don't get surpassed by other countries who are doing it pretty well too. The clear Reichstag building means that every citizen (and in this case tourist) can look down into the Parliament and see the decisions that are made and how they make them.

Despite what I said about Protestant Rome in Wittenburg, this was actually attempted in Berlin, where resides the "Protestant Saint Peter's" - the Berliner Dom. I don't think it's quite caught on yet (and it's had 100 years).

Due to an amazing modern Church I visited there, I'll talk a little more about Berlin when I get around to posting about Plateau d'Assy.

The Rhine
We stayed in a castle on the Rhine for our last night (no more pricy than a Berlin hotel), and on the following day visited Berg Eltz (this time I got to go inside). Then to Trier's oldest church in Germany which not unlike Aachen has a little bit of everything. Finally we made a brief stop under a great sunset and a rainbow in Hildegard's Bingen.
"Aww, thank you, Hil. As if she had anything to do with it. But you know, I bet, in a way, she did."
(That, I'm sure you realize, was a reference to Martin Short's SCTV line where on the occasion of a white Christmas he remarked "Aww, thank you, Bing. As if he had anything to do with it. But you know, I bet, in a way, he did.")

While waiting for planes I got to see a bit more of Frankfurt, including the hall and Church where most of the Holy Roman Emperors were elected, as well as a fitting end to my crash course in Europe and a nice transition into what I'll be studying for the next five or so years... The Icon Museum.

Back in the States I reached for the clutch and the six gear shifter in my dinky automatic 2000 (the year before they fixed all the glitches) Ford Focus.

But they were no where to be found.