Sunday, March 2, 2008

Day 21. Würzburg

Today, Sunday, we went to visit Würzburg. It is a very pretty city about an hour's drive from Frankfurt to the southeast. Looking at it from top of the nearby hill, it looks like a traditional Bavarian city, with the obligatory fortress on top of the hill, and the city palace of the Prince-Bishop. Actually, the city was severely damaged by the bombing of World War 2 (more than 95% damage), so what we see today is the result of many years fo restoration.

We went to visit the city palace built by the Prince-Bishop in the late 1700's, in the most pure baroque style. It is a luxurious palace built on the grand scale of Versailles, with room after room covered by gold-leaf volutes, tapestries, and delicate furniture. The two unique features are the room of mirrors, which was completely destroyed during the war and is thus a masterpiece of restoration (using glass and techniques similar to those used in the 1700's), and the vault of the grand staircase.

The vault is free standing, without any columns, and is 18 by 30 m (60 by 100 ft)! It is a masterpiece of engineering, and just about the only portion of the palace that didn't fall during the bombardment. Even more impressive is the fresco that the Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo painted on it. The fresco represents the known world, with America opposite Europe in the short sides, and Africa and Asia on the longg sides. America is looking whatever way (showing the ambivalence that the Europeans had toward the new continent in 1750), but Asia and Africa are clearly looking toward Europe, and the Prince-Bishop himself flutters over the scene as if to signify his overlordship over the whole world.

As soon as we came back we headed for Klaus house, where we had been invited for cheese and wine. I had already planned to cook a Mexican dinner, so we simply packed all the ingredients and we turned the event into a delightful family dinner. The menu included picadillo and "moros y cristianos" (very tasty if I say so myself), but the flan didn't curd and was more like dirty caramel milk than flan.

We also looked at boxes and boxes of family pictures, and laughed a lot about how young they all were. Here is a photo of the whole family. From left to right: Chrissy, Klaus, Gustav, Katherine (the daughter of Klaus and Sieglinde), Sieglinde, Anna (the daughter of Chrissy and Gustav), and Andi (Anna's boyfriend).

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