Tuesday, October 27, 2009

October 2, 2009 (The Romantic Road)

I am on a train to Berlin and I just finished the Romantic road. There is no way possible to explain all the places I saw between Oktoberfest and now, but I can give you a little taste with a town called Dinkelsbuhl.

Dinkelsbuhl is a fully-functioning, walled Medieval with enough charm and lack of tourists to completely fulfill my Medieval fetish. It is exactly what you would picture a Medieval town to be: cobbled streets, an enormous Gothic cathedral, thick walls with towers, old mills, half timbered buildings, and even a little hole in the outside of the town walls labeled “Mauergeist,” or wall ghost. The lady that ran my hotel told me that it’s for the children and you can ring the old bell that’s next to the little cave to summon the ghost. I love it.

Walking through the town, the scents of wood smoke, freshly fallen leaves, and old masonry hit your nose. The occasional bakery puts off smells of buttery and fruity treats. As you look around, you notice that the walls are covered with moss, lichens, and some small plants poking out to say hello. You can easily place yourself five hundred years ago to see Teutonic nights emerging from the front of their quarters in the middle of the city. You can just see all the workmen scurrying about the street, the farmers wheeling their goods about on carts, and the masons mixing the mortar for the grand churches they’re building. Nowadays, it’s a little more modern, but still retains its charm.

The morning after my stay in the quaint Hotel Palmengarten, I decided that I was going to use the brisk weather for a jog around the city. I actually ran around the whole thing twice: once outside of the walls and once inside. It was absolutely amazing running by the two mills that the towns used to operate under special privileges granted by the king. It was amazing to run through the great gates to the city, to trod over the ivied bridges that traversed the moats and waterways and to see the mallard ducks and swans below. At one point, I looked across the moat to see a few goats grazing amongst small shrubs. I also happened upon one of the antique locks that controls the level of the moat. That thing hasn’t been replaced in a while.

I was also quite impressed with the Gothic cathedral in town. It actually smelled like a church and had real candles lit in the aisles. When you looked up, you could see the dust particles coming through the light that was filtering in through large stain-glass windows. The roof was vaulted with sharp edges and sharp ornamentation around the columns supporting its weight. And a very dark looking pulpit wound its way around one of the center-right columns to look down upon the Bavarian carved wooden pews. The artwork wasn’t special and neither were the sculptures, but I enjoyed the simplicity of it all. I’ve seen a lot of churches in the last year and this one is definitely a stand out.

Speaking of churches, I found it very odd and creepy walking about at night, because there were lit up ivied crucifixes everywhere with a naked and pierced Jesus hanging upon them. There was also a dead Jesus laid behind bars in the back of the Gothic cathedral, right next to the Last supper, and Jesus dead in Mary’s arms. I really almost wet my pants when I rounded the sharp corner to find this. If that wasn’t creepy enough, I turned the next corner to see a night watchmen walking down the street, complete with leggings, leather pants, gold-buckled leather shoes, a little hat, and a glass sided lantern to light his way. This, all without tourists. I actually felt like I was in a Medieval town. It was creepy and awesome! Oh, and on my morning jog I also saw an everyday worker carrying some carpentry equipment along the park with all the same leggings, shoes, leather pants, and hat. He looked to be about 60 years old and there’s no way he was doing that for the tourists at the crack of dawn.