Saturday, 24 June 2017


Speyer is another German city founded by the Roman Empire over the river Rhine. Its biggest treasure is hidden just behind these trees.

It is the thousand-years old UNESCO World Heritage Imperial Cathedral of Speyer.

Let's step inside.

Before we enter, you can already notice sculptures representing German kings and emperors of the Holy German Empire.

Ready to enter inside? Let's take the amazing bronze porch.

The uniqueness of the Speyer cathedral comes from the fact that it is the largest Romanesque cathedral in Europe (and since nowhere else people built churches at that time - also in the entire world) which has influenced many of such buildings across the continent.

On top of the high vaults you will surely noticed many pictures representing scenes from the Bible.

Besides the main nave, the cathedral has of course two side naves, almost as tall as the main one.

The main altar is dark and modest, especially if you would compare it to Baroque churches.

And in the back, you will notice a sail-like organ. This one is of course not a thousand years old.

In most cathedrals, this would be the end of our visit. But we still need to go down. And up. First, let's head towards the crypt. It is the biggest Romanesque crypt in the world. It is the oldest part of the cathedral, where its construction has begun.

A total of eight German kings are buried beneath the Speyer cathedral. Four of them were also emperors (only those who were lucky to be in good relations with the pope who would then agree to crown them emperors).

Besides them, the crypt includes seven altars, so that all the priests affiliated with the cathedral can celebrate a mass. In the Middle Ages, the cathedral could have up to seventy priests at the same time.

Now time to go up. After we return to the ground level, we need to take ninety steps to reach the Emperor's Hall just above the main gate. From here, you can see the interior of the cathedral.

You can also admire some of the frescoes by Johann Baptist Schraudolph which were removed from the cathedral for restoration and are currently exhibited in the Hall.

Now, we need take another two hundred and fourteen steps to reach the observation deck on one of the towers. Luckily the stairs are newly (re)built, with concrete and then steel, so they are really comfortable to climb (though not Romanesque at all).

From the observation deck you can see a breath-taking panorama of the city of Speyer.

And the river Rhine as well.

But what impressed me the most is the view of the cathedral itself. From the tower you can fully acknowledge its size.

I hope that you have enjoyed this visit to the Speyer cathedral. Surely an amazing place.

Saturday, 17 June 2017


I am so happy to tell you that we are not yet done with new countries! Last week we were in Belgium and today I will take you to the last of the Benelux countries - the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

To be more specific, we will visit the capital of Luxembourg, called (what a Swiss idea) Luxembourg as well. The city of Luxembourg is over a thousand years old.

The reason why the country is called "Grand Duchy" is because it is ruled by the Grand Duc who lives, no surprises, in the Grand Ducal Palace.

The emblems on the front porch represents the lion from the coat of arms of Luxembourg.

Obviously in twenty first century Grand Duc is not having an autocratic rule. The country has a parliament and a government. They are located in buildings adjacent to the palace.

The Town Hall of the city of Luxembourg is also a few steps away.

In front of the Town Hall you will find the statue of William II (and his horse!) who ruled Luxembourg in the middle of the nineteenth century and gave the country its first constitution.

What I liked in particular about the constitution of Luxembourg is that since many years the ducal title could be also inherited by women. One of the most respected was Grand Duchesse Charlotte whose statue is also in the city center of Luxembourg.

The city of Luxembourg is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The listing includes the old quarters and the fortifications. Mostly the latter I guess. Let's take one of the many narrow streets and head towards the city walls.

And here they come - the monumental city walls of Luxembourg.

Deep below you see the Pétrusse river, bordered by nice houses and small gardens. You can see them on the right ...

... and on the left. The tower next to the river belongs to the Neimënster Abbey.

To cross the river one needed of course to use a bridge. In the old days, this had to be the Old Bridge.

On the other side of the valley you can see a castle. I tried hard to find out what castle it is but I was not successful. Any suggestion, dear readers?

The clouds are getting darker and darker. Let's return to the city and look for a nice and cosy cafe we could rest in.

Saturday, 10 June 2017


I wonder how many of you know in which country Tongeren is located. Any guesses? Well my friends, one thing for sure - this will be a new country on our map. As a hint, you can look at the flags on the Town Hall of Tongeren - they are black, yellow and red. Welcome to the Kingdom of Belgium!

Tongeren is a small, sleepy town with a population of around thirty thousand people. But it is exceptional in more than one way. First, it is the oldest town in Belgium, founded by the Romans in 15 BC. The Roman heritage of the region can be discovered in the Gallo-Roman museum.

I am sure that the first part of the name brought some memories. And no, Asterix was never in Tongeren. But Ambiorix was. He was the chief of a local tribe who tried to push back the Romans. But unfortunately they did not have the magic potion.

The second reason why Tongeren is exceptional is that it has not one but two UNESCO World Heritage Sites! The first one is related to the cathedral.

This time, it is not the church itself that has deserved the recognition of UNESCO but the tower, called beffroi or belfry. This tower was actually built by the city not by the religious movements and it was meant to protect the inhabitants, for example by raising the alarm in case of fire.

Obviously the gothic Basilica of Our Lady itself is also worth seeing. After all, it took over three hundred years to build it.

 Inside it is tall and rather dark.

It is one of many German churches on the Route of Santiago.

Just outside the church I noticed a huge book surrounded with flowers. It was dedicated to Our Lady of Tongeren, called the Queen of Tongeren.

Let's take now one of these nice streets and look for the second UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Here comes the sign. Any guesses which is ours?

Begijnhof or beguinage was a commune of women who lived together for religious reasons, even though they were not nuns.

They were building small nice houses. In former Netherlands, beguinage typically comprised one or more courtyards surrounded by houses in which women could live together and provide each other protection.

Obviously they also had their own churches. The one in Tongeren was built in 1294 and is devoted, not surprisingly, to a female saint - Saint Catherine.

The beguinage in Tongeren is nowadays a museum.

Unfortunately as I arrived, the museum was already closed. Maybe I will be more lucky in another location one day - there are 13 of them on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

I hope that you have enjoyed this walk through Flanders in this really nice town of Tongeren.