Churches and Cherries in Southern Germany

German Word of the Day:


Dom

n., masc.; cathedral


Spring break has come and gone in Germany!  I’m really lucky to be living in a host family that loves to go on road trips, and I’ve seen so much of this beautiful country this year.  This time around, we focused on the southwestern corner of Germany, visiting the Black Forest, the cities of Freiburg, Stuttgart, and Cologne, and a bit of eastern France (plus a lot of places in between!).

The Black Forest

First, we headed south to the Black Forest – a large mountainous and forested region in southwest Germany (der Schwarzwald, in German).  I was blown away by how gorgeous this region was – the mountains and dark evergreen forests are quite a contrast from northern Germany’s flat farm fields and beech woods!  While the forest is not black so much as brown and green, some of the fir and spruce stands are so thick that it’s perpetually dark underneath, giving the forest its name.

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The gorgeous woods, valleys and farms of the Black Forest made me one happy camper!
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One of the coolest ways to experience the Black Forest is on the Treetop Trail in Bad Wildbad. This boardwalk path takes you through the canopy of the forest and ends with a 40m observation tower looking out over the region – and a tube slide to get down to the bottom again!
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Freiburg is one of the largest and best-known cities in the Black Forest. It’s claim to fame is the bächle – these tiny canals that run through the streets of the city. They used to supply fresh water, but now they’re used for advertising rubber duckies, apparently.
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While I was in the region, I decided to try the authentic original version of black forest cherry cake. Made with cherry schnapps and decorated with chocolate “tree bark”, it’s a pretty amazing invention.

France

From the Black Forest, France’s borders are just a couple of hours away.  As we slowly made our way north again, we visited the French cities of Colmar, Strasbourg and Nancy.

Colmar was a sweet, albeit extremely touristy, village in the region of Alsace.  It was decked out for Easter when I arrived, and the streets were filled with vendors selling soap, jewelry, and leather goods, and in the squares there were rabbit hutches and chicken coops to celebrate spring.  That pizza-ish thing on the right is an Alsatian “tarte flambeé”, and is pretty much unlike pizza served anywhere else in Europe.

 

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Next, we visited Strasbourg, a town on the border of France and Germany and the official seat of the European parliament. The parliament building was closed when we visited, but it’s still cool from the outside. Strasbourg is one of the few cities where French and German culture are intermingled. Although the two countries share a long border, they’re very distinct culturally, and don’t seem to have the warmest relationship. Even on many border towns, you’ll find barely anyone in France who speaks German, and few in Germany who speak French.

Our last stop in France was the city of Nancy.  Nancy has a beautiful palace, square and cathedral in the centreville, but otherwise, I found it pretty disappointing.  Except for those three attractions, the city seemed run-down.  We walked past dozens of shuttered shops and crumbling buildings searching for a single open café or bookstore, but the city was eerily lifeless.

The Cathedrals of Southern Germany (and France)

We visited a lot of cities, big and small, during our two weeks on the road.  In every one, we found our way to the local cathedral, or Dom.  I’ve lost count of all the amazing churches I’ve visited this year, and I love stepping into each ancient cathedral – many built in the same gothic style, but all unique and all beautiful.

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The cathedral in Nancy
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Easter Sunday in Freiburg
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The basilica in Trier
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The Cologne Cathedral

My favorite part of visiting these churches soon became searching for the pipe organs.  These old cathedrals have the largest and most beautiful musical intruments I have ever laid eyes on.

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Nancy
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Trier
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Cologne
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Luxembourg
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Strasbourg

While it would be a dream to get to play one of these instruments, it would sure take a lot of guts to sit in one of them – suspended several dozen feet in the air!

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One thought on “Churches and Cherries in Southern Germany

  1. Wonderful! Have seen some of the cathedrals of Europe. Am always amazed with the workmanship, the gold used, and how much man power it must have taken. And how they have survived. The comparison between France, Germany, and Belgium, is so different to Norway and Denmark. The latter countries seem less ornate and more wood. That may be the difference in religions. Anyway they are all beautiful . Enjoy reading your blogs. Love Aunt Dorine Sent from my iP

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