Between Frankfurt and Nuremberg lies the lovely Franconian city of Würzburg, home of powerful prince-bishops for many centuries. During medieval times its name was Latinised as Herbipolis based on a folk etymological connection to the German word for “herb” or “spice” (“Würze“).
We drove in from Dortmund in the afternoon and spent the day wandering around the city centre with a friend, who is a Würzburg native. She was surprised to see that I’d already picked out a restaurant and it just happened to be a popular establishment she used to frequent — Backöfele [Ursulinergasse 2, 9707 Würzburg].
When we showed up past 2pm we were afraid the kitchen was closed, but inside it was bustling. Backöfele has an additional seasonal menu and at the time the star was the asparagus.
The two vegetarians I was with chose pasta dishes — the hubby had a very tasty pasta with asparagus and shiitake mushrooms.
Based on our friend’s recommendation, I went with a traditional Franconian dish — pork medallions in a cream sauce with cranberries, served with what tastes like fettuccine that’s been lightly coated and fried with mustard. Really good.
Following lunch we checked out the old City Hall, which is actually a group of buildings originally used for different purposes from different times. What you see above is the Grafeneckart, a symbol of bourgeoisie struggle for independence against the episcopal ruler, and now home to the new council. The Grafeneckart survived a bombing in 1945 and on the front door of the hall is the phrase that when translated means: “Stronger than death and destruction is our will to live”. I’m not entirely sure of this information, so if I’m wrong, please feel free to leave a comment.
The Dom St. Kilian, or the Würzburg Cathedral, is the seat of the Bishop of Würzburg and the fourth largest Romanesque cathedral in Germany. St. Kilian was an Irish bishop and the apostle of Franconia, who met an untimely death after he made the mistake of crossing the Duke Gozbert’s wife. The saint informed the Duke that by being married to his brother’s widow, Geilana, he was violating sacred scripture. When Geilana, who resisted converting to Christianity, heard that St. Kilian was against their marriage, she sent her soldiers to behead him and his companions. Ouch.
Before the Dom was built, there were two other churches on the site — the first built in 787 was destroyed in a fire; the second that was rebuilt in 855 was then again damaged by fire. At 105 metres high, it’s considered a masterpiece of the architectural style from the Salian period.
Residenz, or the Residence Palace, is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site and one of Europe’s most famous baroque castles. If it looks familiar, you might be thinking of the Palace of Versailles in France. The Residence resembles the French château so much that it was used in the Paul Anderson’s film, The Three Musketeers starring Orlando Bloom and Milla Jovovich. Guided tours are available in English twice daily at 11am and again at 3pm.
Two must-see highlights in the city are the Marienkapelle and the Neumünster. The Marienkapelle, or St. Mary’s Chapel (the one that looks like a cake), is a late-Gothic church that, despite its size, is canonically a chapel. After it was badly damaged from the bombing of Würzburg in 1945, the interior was given a modern facelift. Many famous Franconian knights and citizens are buried here, including Konrad von Schaumberg and Baroque architect Balthasar Neumann.
The Neumünster is a Baroque church built in the 11th century. Its massive dome and sandstone façade were added in the 18th century. Buried here are St. Kilian and his companions St. Colmàn and St. Totnan. Their preserved skulls (inlaid with precious stones!) are paraded every year from the crypt to the Dom by theological students. Artwise, the 14th century crucifix Man of Sorrows, and Madonna by Riemenschneider can be found here.
The Alte Mainbrücke, or the old bridge, connects the city on the right bank of the Main River with the Marienberg Fortress. It’s the oldest bridge over the Main River and was, up till 1886, the only crossing in Würzburg. Along the bridge are statues of the saints and rulers from the 18th century, such as the three saints mentioned earlier, the Virgin Mary and Charlemagne.
From Würzburg we followed the Romantic Road — brown signs that say “Romantische Strasse” — to our next stop: Rothenburg ob der Tauber.