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April 27, 2022
Würzburg, Germany: Carpe Diem and Memento Mori

Today’s port, Wúrzburg, has two town mottos. Carpe Diem means “Seize the day.” Memento Mori means “Remember you will die.” Both are applicable.

Unlike yesterday’s town of Miltenberg (which has never been invaded), Würzburg has a history of military destruction. During the Thirty Years’ War (1631), the town was conquered by the Swedes. Determined never to be invaded again, Würzburg spent the next 200 years building an impenetrable wall. By the time they finished, it was obsolete. Napoleon simply parked cannons on the next mountain over and lobbed cannonballs over the wall. So in 1850, with growth constrained, Würzburg decided to tear down its wall. Only fragments of the wall remain today.

Würzburg suffered again during World War II, when 225 British bombers destroyed 95 percent of the city in 17 minutes, killing 5,000 inhabitants. Almost everything you see today has been completely rebuilt, sometimes using historically accurate materials and techniques.

(Historical photo)

Viking’s included tour did not start until the afternoon. In the morning, Russell and Cameron went on the optional “Hike the Würzburg Hills” excursion. For three hours, they did an actual hike. They went up the left bank of the Main River to the Käppele (“Little Chapel”), 366 meters high. Though it is a huge church, it is technically a “chapel” because the surly bishop never allowed it to have a priest. The excursion walked through the “Way of the Cross,” a pilgrimage path that includes 14 stations and 77 life-sized statues carved in 1799.

Käppele is left of center, almost at the top of the mountain

The Way of the Cross

Descending down to river level, the excursion then hiked back up another hill to the 100-meter-high Marienberg Fortress. Constructed in about 1200, the huge walled structure features both Renaissance and Baroque architecture. Again, the fortress needed to be rebuilt after severe damage in WWII.

The mile-long hike up to the fortress passes through massive vineyards

Here’s a fun fact: the windows on the right are real; the ones on the left are painted on the wall

The group descended back to river level just in time for lunch aboard ship. Immediately afterwards, Russell and Cameron embarked on the Viking included tour, “Würzburg Residenz and Walking Tour.” Yes, more walking, but this time on the right side of the river through the town center.

Half of the afternoon was spent in the Würzburg Bishops’ Residenz, built between 1720 and 1744. The idea was to create a building equal to France’s Versailles Palace, and the Residenz is certainly reminiscent. The interior is opulent to the point of decadence. Again, the entire complex was meticulously reconstructed after being almost obliterated in WWII.

The Residenz after WWII (historical photo)

The backside of the Residenz is surrounded by gardens

The Residenz does not allow photography inside the building. All interior photos are stock photos. Here are the main stairs.

The main ceiling is covered with a gigantic fresco by the Venetian painter Tiepolo. Miraculously, this fresco survived the Allied bombing, even though the external rooftop collapsed onto it.

The fresco depicts every continent as understood at the time. America (right) depicts a naked Native American woman riding on an alligator.

The White Room

The Imperial Hall, adorned with stucco work marble

The Mirror Cabinet. This room was completely destroyed by Allied bombs. It was meticulously reconstructed using descriptions and a detailed painting. US Army Major John Davis Skilton (a “Monuments Man”) was instrumental in preserving the Residenz’s art treasures when he arrived in 1945.

The second half of the afternoon was a walking tour through the old center of town and marketplace.

Meanwhile, Gail embarked on an all-day optional excursion, “Rothenburg ob der Tauber.” Guests drove down Germany’s scenic “Romantic Road” to arrive at Rothenburg, considered the best-preserved Medieval town in Germany. The walled town features numerous half-timbered buildings in Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. Unlike Würzburg, Rothenburg’s city wall is still intact, and Gail spent some free time walking on it.

By the time we all returned to the Viking Vili, we were good and tired. Fortunately, once again Viking was able to park its longship right in the heart of town.

For her excursion lunch, Gail was offered a choice of wine, beer or juice. She asked to try all three.

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