By Sigrid Weidenweber
As we observed in previous reports, every country visited by our ship shows the scars and psychological wounds of WW II together with residual damage from Russian and Communist occupation and governance. Henceforth we will travel through countries that were involved in the war but were spared Soviet occupation with its accompanying communist governance thanks to the amazing U. S. army. The Americans freed Italy, Austria and almost all of Germany from German National Socialist troops, a fact remarked on, as we spent a lovely morning sailing through the beautiful Wachau Valley with its spectacular views. Soon we arrived at the Abby of Melk. Melk is possibly the most famous of Austrian Abby’s. It is 900 years old, a prestigious Benedictine monastery school with 700 students and renowned place of magnificent art. It rises, as it has been praised, “in golden hues above the Danube.” It is beautiful, rich and imbued with the spirit of learning, as its magnificent library documents with 116,000 volumes. I could write many pages to laud the extraordinary Abby, however, I am not a travel guide and suggest that you visit the Abby yourself, as I must also advise for many of the treasures here mentioned.
The city of Passau, Germany, is another of those treasures one wishes to spend more time visiting. Unfortunately, since our days in Vienna a heatwave had entered Europe and the high temperatures, as high as 104 F made our lives miserable. Already early in the morning temperatures rose into the nineties and the humidity was unbearable. Bravely walking the towns, one succumbed after a few hours, languishing in shaded sidewalk cafés while sipping cold, high-caloric beverages.
I confess that Passau, my beloved Regensburg and Nuremberg became all-too rushed experiences.
My grandsons, who at 14 and 16 years respectively were the youngest members on a ship were the average age was 65+, had demurred to be herded anymore among slow-moving septuagenarians and had chosen to stay with their Dad—either far ahead of, or far behind the languid throng. They, the faithless, trotted through museums, Cathedrals and Forts at a far faster clip than the rest of us. There was also an anti-cultural rebellion afoot by the young set, for they stated bluntly, “by now all the churches and museums begin to look alike.” It was time to ease off.
I often asked them how they got along with the sedater set, and was gratified that they liked being with senior citizens a lot. They had great talks with some of them and helped with I-phone and computer problems. Their parents received nice reports on their behavior.
I will skip Bamberg but report on Würzburg. That was the high-point of our trip, for I had studied, got married and gave life to my daughter in this wonderful town. We had visited before but this was special—the whole family was here.
Würzburg lies in the lovely valley of the river Main, and is enclosed by Mild, medium-sized mountains that are covered in vineyards. The latter produce the famous Frankenwein, which from its rich, chalky soils attains a mineral-rich flavor, for which one has to cultivate a taste. I must mention here that most students acquire in very few months—I needed a bit longer. It would be frivolous and superficial not to mention the fabled Bishops Residence a Baroque work by Balthasar Neuman, the incredibly beautifully paintings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, and the opulence encompassed in this seat of mighty prelates, reveling in money and power. I would be remiss no to remark on the enormous Festung Marienberg that withstood the onslaught of many enemies, a bulwark much loved by my daughter; must also tell you of the many beautiful bridges spanning the Main River, of which the most impressive is the Old Main Bridge or the “Heiligen Bruecke,” featuring enormous statues of the Holy Kilian and other holy men. Kilian was the Irish Missionary Bishop of Franconia, honored with a statue on the lovely old bridge. Würzburg is a city I could marvel about for many pages; however, I leave it to you to visit. Instead I will confess that my troop of indomitable spirited warriors broke down in the heat of fore-noon after visiting the Bishop’s Residence and gardens, and clamored for shade and water. Incredibly, I still remembered after fifty years that near our vicinity was one of the best restaurants in Würzburg. In the Juliusspital, one of the most respected wineries, a miracle occurred, for five people with five totally different tastes, ordered five different dishes and beverages and swore at meal’s end that this was the best food they ever had.
The experience was so gripping that Alexander, 14, is now very interested in a grand German excursion—I am open to the wish. Furthermore, I want to report that on board was group of German/Americans and Americans who had served in the army in Würzburg and Schweinfurt. They all spoke fondly of their service and their time spent in Bavaria. As my husband had served here, too, with the Sixth Army Division it followed naturally that for a few days on board we reveled in army stories from way back. Most of these dear people used their time off ship to visit old friends and favorite places. Amazing how close we—a bunch of strangers before—felt after sharing our stories.
These are the more important experiences to look for when travelling—there will always be another church.
Historical Context | Observations During a Europa Trip (Part I)
Sigrid Weidenweber grew up in communist East Berlin, escaping it using a French passport. Ms. Weidenweber holds a degree in medical technology as well as psychology and has course work in Anthropology. She is co-founder of Aid for Afghans. Weidenweber has traveled the world and lived with Pakistani Muslims, learning about the culture and religion. She is a published author and lecturer. You can find her books on Amazon.com