Another year gone by, another GoodReads reading challenge completed. This past year, I felt increasingly overwhelmed by my ‘To Read’ list. With over a 1000 thousand books waiting to be read, surely I would never read them all in this lifetime. I am a slow reader. But my resolve to make a dent to my To Read list prevailed. I decided to plan my reading list for the coming years. This year, I simply chose the books at random. But for next year I decided that I am going to read only women authors. Why you ask? This won’t be a one-line answer. I have been having a nagging feeling that I don’t read enough female authors. I mean yes, I have read Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and Margaret Atwood. But my reading lists tended to be men heavy. That’s a shame.
For my 2020 reading list, I decided that it would not only read only women authors, but women authors is as many different genres as possible. On my list are 38 books, and my goal is to read at least 25 of them, if not all. You’ll find my list here. I am excited and looking forward to my reading this year!
Having had a good night’s rest after our journey to Saarbrucken from Trier, we were raring to go visit the final UNESCO world heritage site of our trip. The Völklingen Ironworks is situated nearly 14km east of Saarbrucken. Inscribed in 1994 as a world heritage, this well-preserved pig-iron production facility is a testament to the industrial revolution. The entire plant is indeed a sight to behold. The sheer size of the complex made me realize the amount of energy, materials and man-power which go into maintaining our global economy.
At first we were treated to a multi-media introduction to the plant and it’s history. What we didn’t know is that there is an audio guide available online, which is free to download. However, even without the audio guide, the tour through the facility is very informative. After the introduction, we walked through the blower hall with the blast furnaces and then made our way towards the sintering plant.
Clockwise from bottom left: blower in the blower hall which provided compressed air for the blast furnaces, view of the sintering plant, monorail cars that transported raw materials and view of the plant again.
Like most industry in Germany, the Ironworks has a dark past as well. During the second world war, over 12,000 people were forced to work at the factory. At the time we visited, this topic was mentioned just in passing, but presently there is an exhibition that delves deeper into it. A memorial to the forced labourers has been created by Christian Boltanski and will be on display until 2028. For further information, I would recommend visiting the Völklingen Hütte website.
Apart from being an albeit impressive relic to the industrial revolution, the Völklingen Iron Works is also home to different art exhibitions. At the time we were there, there was the Urban Art Biennial which showcased some very beautiful art works.
Take me out of the bush (Left) and I am on a diet (Right), both by the Brazilian artist Cranio as exhibited at the Urban Art Biennial in 2017
We spent about four hours touring the plant. After that we decided to walk into the inner city of Völklingen for some lunch. After coffee, we drove back home having seen a part of Germany, the landscape of which has been changing since the pre-historic times.
We set off quiet early from Koblenz the next day, continuing our journey towards Trier, the oldest city in Germany. On the banks of the river Mosell, Trier is not only the birthplace of Karl Marx, but has been an important trade hub since the time of the Romans. The monuments that are part of the UNESCO world heritage site include the Roman monuments, the cathedral of St. Peter and the church of our Lady.
Upon arrival, we decided it was a good idea to do an English walking tour through the city. We started the tour at the Porta Nigra, which has been standing there since the Romans conquered the city. Situated at the northern entry to Trier, the gate has seen many uses. The obvious one being as a gate, it was also used as a church at one point, which led it to almost being destroyed by Napolean. Our guide also emphasized that the gate is not dirty. Apparently, during his time as a guide, several tourists asked him why the city didn’t make an effort to clean it. It is because of the chemical composition of the sandstone.
Clockwise from top: Model of the city, Saint Peter in the Market Square and the Electoral Palace.
During the Walking tour, not only were we treated to some funny anecdotes, but were also made privy to the veiled strife between the church and the merchants through the various statues erected around Trier. The 75 minute tour took us through the market place, the cathedral of St. Peter, the church of our Lady, ending at the Electoral Palace. The palace, which is adjacent to the Aula Palatina, is not completely symmetrical when viewed from the front. The reason for this, as told by our guide, is that the walls of the Aula Palatina were too strong for the 16th century builders to demolish!
Clockwise from top: Ruins of the Barbara baths, view beneath the amphitheater, fighting pit of the amphitheater and inside the Porta Nigra.
After the tour, we decided to continue walking around Trier, looking for the other Roman ruins. We made our way towards the Amphitheater which was a part of the city wall. Below the Amphitheater are cellars which were used for exotic animals, as well as, prisoners. We ended the day with a visit to the Barbara baths.
Clockwise from top: Archivolt and tympanum of the Cathedral of St. Peter, the inner garden of the church of our Lady, window to the side chapel of the relic, ceiling of the side chapel and the organ of the cathedral.
The next day, we decided to revisit some of the monuments we learned about on the tour. We went inside the cathedral of St. Peter as well as the church of our Lady. The organ inside the cathedral has been by far one of the most unique ones I have seen. It is also home to several relics, the most important of which is the Seamless Robe of Jesus. At the time we visited, it was not on display, but can be viewed on certain special occasions.
Before leaving Trier, we decided to buy some wine from the region. We stopped at the winery, Weingut Gehlen, and bought a couple of bottles of white and rosé.
After the long drive along the scenic Rhein valley, we decided to spend the night in Koblenz and ended up treating ourselves to the local wine. The next day we woke up to a thick dense fog, but decided to make our way to the inner city for some Stadtbuemmel, hoping that the fog would lift. Situated at the northern end of the Rhine Gorge, Koblenz is also where the confluence of the Rhein and Moselle occur.
Foggy Deutsches Eck and Ehrenbreitstein Fortress
We arrived at the Deutsches Eck and decided to take the cable car up to the Ehrenbreitstein fortress. The fortress hosts several exhibitions featuring various artists from the region, as well as classical music events. We lucked out that day, cause the fortress was going to close at 2pm for an event. After strolling around the fortress and going through the exhibitions, we had a cup of coffee and then made our way back down, at which point the fog started to lift.
Views from the Rhine river tour
After our excursion to the Ehrenbreitstein fortress we took a boat tour down the Rhine river. There are several options available, and we decided to do the one that lasts an hour. Since the weather was wonderful, we sat on the upper deck and enjoyed some coffee while taking in the views.
After the boat tour, I must admit, we were quiet saturated. So, we decided to just spend the rest of the day strolling around the city, winding down and getting ready for the next destination on our road-trip.
The second day started early, with us leaving Heidelberg at 8am to make our way to Lorsch in the state of Hessen. The ruins of the Lorsch Abbey were added to the UNESCO list in 1991. Founded in 764, it was destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War, only leaving the King’s Hall, the monastery church and the monastery wall, as ruins. We opted for the guided tour, which was a great decision, ’cause we got to go inside the King’s Hall. The remains of the frescoes inside are very impressive indeed. What was also impressive, was the varied history of the Abbey. At one point, it was even used as a tobacco warehouse!
The King’s Hall (on the left) as viewed from the Monastery church (on the right).
There is an experimental archeological lab near the abbey, but since we wanted to reach Koblenz before sun-down, we skipped it. Perhaps for another time. After the tour, we had a quick coffee, soaking in the cuteness of Lorsch. We then made our way towards the village of Messel near Darmstadt, to visit what would later become one of my most favorite World Heritage site (it is very difficult to have a favorite actually!)
Fossils and replica of fossils at the Messel Pit
The Messel Pit, is a treasure trove for well-preserved fossils from the Eocene era. During that time in Earth’s history, this area was surrounded by sub-tropical forests. We participated in a guided tour here too, and I was so glad, ’cause we got to touch real fossils! That was the best thing ever. There are several tours that they offer, and I would have liked to do the 3.5hour geological hike, but we opted to the shorter one.
View of the Rhine river, Bingen, Fort Fuerstenberg
Our final heritage site of the day, spans 65kms and was listed in 2002. We decided to start our drive along the Upper Middle Rhine Valley towards Koblenz, in Bingen where we had a wonderful lunch. We walked around Bingen and around the castle Klopp, then started our drive towards the ruins of the fort Fuerstenberg. The day was really wonderful, and the view from the fort was magnificent. There are several other castle and other ruins along the road. But we decided to stop just at this one. After walking around the ruins, and enjoying the view, we continued driving along the Rhine, stopping our journey in Koblenz.
In the summer of 2017, my partner and I decided to take a road trip across south-west Germany. The main goal of our trip? To cover all the UNESCO world heritage sites in this part of Germany. And yeah. That’s a thing. We decided after the trip to make this a yearly tradition, because you know. Why not?
Before I blab on about our journey, let me back up a bit. So why south-west Germany? Well, we live in the region, and were in desperate need of a vacation. But money was tight, so we thought well how about a good ol’ road trip. Turns out that they are not really popular here, which I found odd, cause people seem to love RVs here. And what do you do with any RV? Go on road trips!
Anyway, I digress. We loaded up my partner’s car with our back-packs, a six-pack of water and snacks, and were ready to go. Not to forget a special road trip playlist! Our trip lasted a grand total of 6 days. We covered 805km of Autobahns and Bundesstraßen across 4 states, and visited 7 world heritage sites.
Day 1: Maulbronn-Speyer-Heidelberg
We started the day quiet early so that we could beat the rush-hour traffic on the Autobahn. Maulbronn monastery, which was listed as a World Heritage site in 1993, made a lasting impression on me. Although it was a sunny day, and I had my fleece on, it was still chilly inside the abbey for me. I kept wondering how the monks survived in the winter time there. Nevertheless, it was wonderful to walk around the abbey and soak in the old frescoes. I highly recommend taking the audio guide, which is also available in English.
After spending some hours at the abbey, we continued northward towards Speyer. The seat of the Bishop of Speyer, the Speyer Cathedral was added to the heritage list in 1981. Consecrated in 1081, it is the largest Romanesque cathedral in the world. The red sandstone walls, the chapels and sculptures, the crypt and the organ, together make the cathedral a testament to Romanesque architecture in medieval Germany.
After visiting the Speyer Cathedral, or Dom as the Germans would say, we drove north-west to the beautiful city of Heidelberg, where we ate a lovely Lebanese dinner and spent the night. Although not a UNESCO world heritage site, it is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a ‘City of Literature’.