top of page

Germany II: 15 May Trier, 16 May Koblenz, 17 May Mainz, 18 May Speyer

Updated: Aug 19

Fortunately, while domestic (Luxembourg) rail was transferred to bus services, to cross the border into Germany involved an actual train. Arriving early, I spoke with folks from Florida (near Cape Coral) before boarding a milk run. At our second stop, we were held, resulting in arriving in Trier 6 minutes behind schedule. There was no wifi on the train, but I had checked ahead and knew how to proceed from the bahnhof to the hotel. (A non-functioning mobile meant no Maps or internet.)

Just after 11, the room wasn’t ready so I pulled my camera out and headed through the Porta Negra to the nearby Tourist Office. Along with arming me with a map, they gave me suggestions for mobile service and directions, which only confused me. At Vodafone I asked after T-mobile, and determined a shop was around two corners. Once I bought a prepaid 10 euro SIM, which set me up for 4-weeks of service and installed the chip, I tested by texting Florida, so I felt better (and connected!)

High Cathedral of Saint Peter, Trier

Roaming a bit, I walked past the abbey to the High Cathedral of Saint Peter where I got head-on shots. Entering, I learned it was Germany’s oldest cathedral. (I had thought Aachen was). I took my shots, and located a guide who confirmed that I‘d actually located the cathedra.

Upstairs behind the altar is a chapel with an unseamed garment venerated as Christ’s. Back into the nave, I appreciated the beauty of the organ, and descending, found the crypt cool in both senses of the word.

The Liebenfrauenkirke Basilika, while not a cathedral, is stunning. New glass is presented in round windows. I marveled at the stations, taking a picture of the 13th as is my wont, but also the 11th, as I thought the guy doing the nailing looked brutal. While I was inside, it rained briefly, probably while I was purchasing two angels and a carabiner which got sent home. The carabiner was to replace the one I had on my water bottle, which joined the list of lost and forgotten items this trip.

Out to wander, stopping at a market to get salad, cheese, bread, bananas, juice and a couple of chocolate bars. After eating on a bench, I walked into a clothings shop (I really have too much clothing and don’t need any more, really,) deciding not to get two polo shirts at 35 euros the pair. Passing the post office, I collected a box, which I took back to the hotel and filled to near overflow, sending some clothing, paper collected on board the ship, those numerous chocolate bars. Taking it back to the post office, I had nearly 10-pounds of stuff to send off.

Having achieved a reduction in my gear, I rewarded myself with a Froh Kolsch and then a Froh Radler (beer and lemonade) which came with a plate of bread and cheese.

Dinner was at Papa Lu’s, a burger place. My meal was a spicy crispy chicken wrap (with pickles, salad, gouda) and mango ice tea, with sweet potato fries.

May 16 saw me moving on, where the walk to the station took 10-15 minutes, less than expected. The train to Koblenz from Trier arrived 10 minutes early, but left 4 minutes late. A virtually empty train that followed the Moselle, crossing it several times, I observed lots of land planted to grapes, a most scenic train ride. My walk from the train station took a half hour, a bit longer than Maps indicated, but I once again managed to start off in the wrong direction. At the hotel I left my gear as the room wouldn’t be ready until 2pm.

Because I was based in the city center, when I walked outside, the big department stores Saturn and Decathlon, as well as the Tourist Office were nearby. At the TO I found the staff unfriendly and unhelpful, avoiding making eye contact staring at computer screens. Their coldness was a surprise, particularly after the warmth of their counterparts in Trier.

Koblenz isn’t a cathedral city, although there is an important basilica there. The four German cities on this leg had been planned when I booked and then canceled a Viking river cruise. Besides the church, my itinerary included crossing the river to the top of the hill and see its fortress. On my way to the basilica I passed and visited two other churches, the Catholic Liebenfrau and the Evangelical Florienskirche.

At the Basilika St. Kastor or Kastorkirche, I found a smaller building with pews just in the central nave, and some interesting glass. The lattice of the ribbing in the vault is notable. Art from various periods was placed throughout the interior, some of which I found intriguing.

Back outside, I wandered over towards the confluence of the two rivers which define the city of Koblenz: the mighty Rhine and the milder Moselle. A brilliant riverwalk borders the junction, with a tree-filled park and several memorials, while the funicular cars ride from the base city to the heights across the Rhine. I booked a combo ticket, which would allow me to take the flight across to the heights for a look at the fortress and park, and then return to board a riverboat for a cruise on both rivers. Cloud cover was about 65%, and it was cool, but the spritzing rain of Trier hadn’t followed. My flight jacker was just right for keeping me comfortable.

The boat trip goes up the Rhine for about 7-8 minutes, turns around and rounds the point to spend about 15 minutes on the Moselle. Back to the point, we traveled downriver on the joined Rhine. A broadcasted recorded travelogue, lengthy in German and brief in English, revealed landmarks and history as we never went under a bridge. There were nice views of the extended city and the citadel, including an island downriver that seemed to be just a bridge support. It was cool and windy, however, I spent the entire trip up top in the bow of the ship.

I returned to the hotel to get settled. Email revealed that my replacement phone would greet me in Strasbourg, so I called Schwab Germany to get access to my account so I could send Sue Ann a check to cover her expenses sending the mobile on. Room 203 was a single twin, with not a lot of room. As I planned on wearing everything again, I didn’t need my larger bag. After booking the included breakfast for 7:45 and requesting a second pillow, I headed out to get a banana, juice and chocolate.

Dinner at L’Osteria, I started with a half liter of Primitivo to accompany the Insalata asparagi (green asparagus and cherry tomatoes with honey and rhubarb juice on mixed baby leaf salad with house dressing and Italian hard cheese) and Spaghetti Chitarra Ragu alla Bolognese. And a bottle of still water. I enjoyed the salad, wishing for a bit of balsamic vinegar to enhance the hot pieces of asparagus and tomatoes. The pasta was cool, probably sitting waiting a bit longer than it should, without much flavor. The bread crust was yummy, and I noted that I enjoyed the flavor profile of the wine.

Up Wednesday morning, I was unimpressed by the buffet breakfast. I limited myself to a portion of scrambled eggs and a buttered piece of bread, leaving the fruit and yogurt. To get to the station I opted for a taxi at 10-euros, not wanting to haul the bags around Koblenz. Arriving at 8:30, I was faced with a choice: the local train was running 10 minutes late, while the express in 20 minutes was behind 5. Using the “bird in the hand” decision-making solution, I boarded the milk-run which arrived first, taking a 80-minute ride with 20 stops. I noted that 3 LDS elders on their mission were waiting on the express train, which passed my train about 25 minutes later.

An uneventful and quiet ride, I exited the train and the Mainz hauptbahnhof using an elevator to get to the opposite of the station, went through an underpass and across a complex intersection to the hotel. My room wouldn’t be ready until 3, so I pushed the bags into the storage room and returned to the lobby.

While researching the trip, I try to find walking tours in my “ports of call”. Mainz has a unique (at least for me) service called Greeters, where a local will meet and guide visitors on a walk through the city. Heide and I had been emailing back and forth, so when she arrived just before 11, we greeted as friends. An older woman, she had modified her plan to complement my desire to see the cathedral, and with our shared interest in churches. I am unsure of how many churches we actually visited in addition to St. Martin's Cathedral, but when we finally parted (I had insisted on walking her to her bus stop) it was nearly 6pm!

St. Martin's Cathedral, Mainz

World War II was hard on this industrial city, so the buildings we passed were sometimes original and other times reconstructions. The cathedral is dark inside, due to the choice of replacement glass of a translucent smoky color, which Heide didn’t like. We visited the crypt, but I was not permitted to mount the stairs to the apse, although I found the cathedra to the rear of the main altar. Burial memorials abound, but no sacrament was kept in the prayer chapel.

While visiting the many churches, I found the Stations and glass in most to be photogenically interesting. Heide insisted on showing the Chagall windows of St Stephen’s, which she felt were lovely.

Mainz is a fairly quiet old city - much of which is solely restricted to pedestrians. With no through traffic, ambient noise is mainly simple street sounds of feet and conversation, the occasional luggage rolling over the stones. In fact, I didn’t hear an ambulance all day! The day was warm, almost too much for the bomber jacket, and it only began cooling down in the evening. After getting assigned room 503, I unpacked a bit and then headed out to dinner. Thai Country was my choice, with tom yam gai (chicken soup) and pad Thai, accompanied by a Konig Ludwig Hefeweisen Hell vom fass (draft ale). No wine as an option, and the restaurant was packed.

Reflecting over dinner, I realized that I like Mainz, and would return to spend a few more days to explore it if given the opportunity. I’d have an hour extra in the morning, as my train was later, and only an hour long ride. [I will likely add more photos to this blog for the churches in Mainz, however, I need a larger screen to be able to better identify which belongs to which!]

My destination on May 18 was Speyer. Leaving Mainz, the escalators in the station worked, but the platform was full of travelers. It was Ascension Thursday, and I’d guess many were making it a 4-day holiday weekend. The train filled, but I was able to get a seat in the bicycle area with both bags, and the elevators were working in Speyer. The walk into town ran along a tree lined street for a good half kilometer, but it was balmy and sunny. So a comfortable walk.

Once in town it got a bit confusing. The reservation was with Maxmillian, which is basically a restaurant business that manages rooms-to-let in four (or more) locations. It was 11:30 when I arrived, and my keycard and room wouldn’t be available until 3. Pulling my camera out, I hefted the bags down a flight of stairs to store, and headed to the end of the main thoroughfare to the cathedral.

Imperial Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption and St Stephen, Speyer

The Imperial Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption and St Stephen is a large and imposing building with four towers at its corners and a central octagonal dome tower over the crossing. Exterior stones varied markedly in color, with horizontal stripes. The entry door is very heavy, a challenge for anyone to open. Royal statues adorn the porch, leading to expectations of splendor, however, once in the nave, the interior is “naked”. The only ornamentation were the Stations in the aisles. The striping from the outside seemed more random, as the Doric-style columns varied with red, gray, beige stones. The vault arches were Romanesque, smoothed curved ribs with a white ceiling. Fresco paintings lined the central nave walls above the arches to the aisles and the clear clerestory windows. Behind the main altar (at the crossing,) 9 steps lead into the apse, with a hanging (or rood) cross above. Wanting to see more, I opted for a ticket giving me access to the crypt, tower and royal salon.

The crypt held royal tombs. The space was similarly unadorned, with low curved arches. It is a vast space, with 6 simple stone altars in the chapels under the aisles, each with a unique sculpted cross, and a central altar below the high altar. Fragments of memorials hang on the walls.Up a short stone spiral staircase, first I encountered the salon, where brilliant large oil painting adorn the walls. A note indicated that Vuillard’s widow paid for the gallery’s extension to the cathedral. It allowed an awesome view of the nave floor.

Upwards on a metal spiral staircase into the tower, the views of Speyer are spectacular, as well as seeing the cathedral roof up close. Descending the straight staircase in the open part of the tower, I got lovely landscape shots with the arches framing them.

Again I visited the porch to study the sculptures there, before returning to the secular wide open space that fills the center of town. It was only 2:30, so I set out to explore the streets, nooks and byways. A Protestant church was nearby, so I stuck my head in and was drawn in to further explore by its opulent interior full of paintings showing biblical scenes. A double gallery skirted the back and side walls, their faces all filled with art. The vast ceiling was covered with a huge mural painted on planks.

After walking past the tower that seems to mark the town center, I walked a few of the commercial streets, empty of pedestrians and vehicles, and into a residential area. Chancing upon a pub “New People” which looked like an old men’s hangout, I had a bier vom fass, a weissbier, cost 3 euros and wet my whistle. Back to Kornstrasse, the central core, I checked on my restaurant options for the evening - most seemed to be Italian, however many were closed.

Back to the Maximillian to register, service was slow and distracted. With another couple, we rolled our bags about 5 minutes to the address. Our cards didn’t open the outside door. Trying a second entry to the building, their’s gained entry, but mine didn’t open the room door. A Swiss family of 4 attempted to enter, failed, and I opened the door. Phone calls resulted in a return. I waited 45 minutes while I sat and had chicken fingers and a bottle of beer. I was then escorted to the building (pulling my gear again) and given entry to the room. I needed to return to get my own card later. (The first couple were at the wrong address; the Swiss family were upstairs.)

Once in the room, I unpacked the small roller into the bathroom, plugged in the camera, hung up the bomber jacket. Back to the restaurant and I finally got a card, which I immediately returned to the room to check, and then took a half hour nap. Out for dinner to Bianco Rosso, an Italian weinstube. With a Nero d’Avola to drink, I had a salad and asparagus ravioli. Excellent food and a second glass of wine, I returned to the room to more blog writing.

11 views0 comments
bottom of page