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This past weekend has been a scorcher! Temperatures have climbed up to 99F/36.5C. People are swarming the local pools, eating ice cream as fast as they can and hiding in the shade. Unlike us, we decided to spend the afternoon driving in our new air conditioned car.
We made a day trip road trip, first checking out the Wiblingen Monastery Library just outside of Ulm before stopping for lunch and a quick walk around through the town of Ulm. Afterwards, we drove further west to wander around the Burg Hohenzollern.
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The Ulm Münster
The history of Ulm dates back all the way to 854 and sits along the Danube river in the state neighboring Bavaria – Baden-Württemburg. It is home to the world’s tallest steeple, standing at a whopping 529 feet with 768 steps to the top! The Ulm Münster is a fine example of true European Gothic architecture and took over 200 years to build! While often mistaken as a cathedral due to it’s sheer size, it is actually just a church and has never been the seat of a bishop. And a small tidbit of extra information, it was also the birth place of Albert Einstein!
This beautiful church dominates the skyline of Ulm for miles around and if you’re brave enough to climb the tower, you will be rewarded with amazing views over the city. We originally wanted to climb the tower, but with the sweltering heat that just didn’t sound very ideal. This I was sad about as I usually always try to climb at least one tower in every city I visit! They say on a clear day, like today, you can see all the way to the Alps and the Zugspitze!
So instead, I settled for taking a walk inside the church. Great columns line the church on two sides with the rows and rows of pews from both sides of the church facing the middle. On one end of the church there was a giant angel baring a sword and shield with massive wings. Behind that, there was a massive sphere on display which changed colors and made a strange noise, more like a planet, possibly the sun. It left an awesome impression together with the angel floating over the church.
During the Second World War, 80% of the medieval town of Ulm was destroyed in an air raid which demolished practically the entire town west of the church. Unfortunately, most of the town was rebuilt in the plain, simple style of the 50s and 60s, which you can see directly in front of the church. The church sustained some heavy damage as well, which was seen especially in the beautiful stained glass windows. Only four looked to be like the original stained glass windows on the right hand side of the church. The rest look more plain and a few even modern. Facing the choir, you can still see more of the ancient stain glass windows with a wooden filigree canopy of the nave pulpit.
Eat Lunch at the Ratskeller
After checking out the church, we meandered around for a bit, looking for a place to eat. We ended up at the Gothic Renaissance painted town hall restaurant called the Ratskeller. I highly suggest going here to eat as the food was delicious! I had a traditional Flammkuchen while Hans decided to try a Swabish dish from the local region which was Fried Maultauschen with egg. Both were very delicious! The town hall itself though is brightly painted with beautiful frescos and even has an astronomical clock.
We only intended to stop in Ulm for a bit as we were mostly on our way to see the Wiblingen Monastery Library before heading out to Burg Hohenzollern, but every corner we passed we found some new beautiful part of town I just had to take a picture of. I had been here before when I studied abroad, but don’t remember seeing very much other than the church and Christmas market.
Auf dem Kreuz and the Hotel Schiefes Haus
Yet, we stumbled upon a district of Ulm which I think is called “auf dem Kreuz” which was a small area of town with canals flowing through between small adorable houses from the 1700s. One of the most beautiful houses was the Hotel Schiefes Haus which was a half timbered house slanting partially across the Blau River. This house dates back to the 14th century and is believed that the basement of the house was by fishermen. The building has been used since 1995 as a hotel and the beds are supposedly built to be even, while the floors are slanted.
We walked through other small allies in this area and found more beautiful houses and the Danube river. Eventually we headed out and made our way to the Wiblingen Monastery, located just five minutes outside of Ulm.
The Wiblingen Monastery
If you have more time, consider driving about 10-15 minutes from Ulm to Wiblingen to check out one of the loveliest libraries in Europe and as usual, it was void of any tourists because it’s definitely one of the best hidden gems in Germany! It was a former Benedictine Monastery that was later used as barracks and now houses several departments of the medical faculty from the University of Ulm. Parking was easy to find directly on the premises and was free.
Ever since I saw one of those Top 20 libraries to see in Europe, I have wanted to come to the Wiblingen Monastery as it was one of the top libraries to see. And it held up to its expectation! Absolutely stunning! Located on the second floor of the abbey, you have to pay 4.50 € per adult PLUS another 3 € just to be allowed to take pictures of the library. However, you do get the option of getting an audio guide in English or German for free which will give you all the information and history about the library as you stare in wonder.
While listening to the audio guide, it was interesting to discover that the library is not actually made out of marble, but instead out of wood. There is a small hole cut into one of the columns just to show you. I was completely amazed that the wood looked like real marble! Also, there are no staircases in the library. Wondering how to get to the second floor? Be sure to look real close at the opposite end of the library that you came in at for a hidden revolving door. Although, now it’s not so hidden as you can clearly see it.
The library is designed in the whimsical Rococo style of pale pinks and blues. It was like walking through a fantasy library, something Belle would have loved. The library is filled with books about imagery, both Pagan and Christian.
At one end of the ceiling fresco is a painting of Adam and Eve sitting below the tree of knowledge. There is a snake wrapped around the tree with a human head to as to trick Eve into eating the fruit of knowledge. At the same time, their eyes are wide and they discover they are naked and have made a mistake.
Definitely well worth the side trip to make it to this beautiful library if you are ever in Ulm! You could easily spend an hour just in this library taking pictures and learning about the history. But I found listening to the audio guide more difficult than I anticipated, strictly because I was more concerned with taking pictures than listening to the audio guide. So I had to do it in pieces.
If you’re interested in visiting Germany and are looking for more information, I highly recommend using the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide! Without these guides, I would be lost! This is my travel Bible!