A window into the life of a professional geek, wife and mother (and nonni), stitcher/designer, bibliophile, old-school gamer, and whatever other roles she finds herself in.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

In-Speyer-ed (Germany blog 3 of 4)

The steady snowfall of the evening continued into Sunday morning. Our plan was to drive to Speyer to attend Mass at the imperial cathedral (called the Dom) and then go sightseeing. We left Karlsruhe at 8:45, which would give us plenty of time to get there and perhaps see a bit of the cathedral before Mass at 10:30.

Man plans, God laughs. The snow was falling heavier along the highway, accumulating on the road faster than the faithful Winterdienst ("winter service") vehicles could keep it plowed. (DsD managed to get a picture of it.) Travel was slow, and DH later admitted that there were times when our car was in full hydroplane, but we did arrive safely in Speyer, on the banks of the Rhine. We found a parking place, and traipsed through the snow toward the spires of what we assumed to be the Dom. Upon arriving, we discovered that the spires we saw actually belonged to a large reformation church. Spotting another pair of spires down the street, we arrived (after a brief misguided detour down a side street) at St. Joseph's, and ducked in during the homily. As it happened, a Monrovian nun was giving a presentation on an orphanage there. In English, so we not only understood what she was saying, but had the experience of hearing it translated into German. There was also a baptism during Mass. Despite the language barrier, we had very little trouble following along with where we were - any Latin rite Mass is going to follow the same format as any other.

St. Joseph's was a beautiful church, and it put me in mind of a small cathedral. Unfortunately they don't have a website, and we didn't get any pictures. After Mass, we went over to what turned out to be the parish library, and got directions to the Dom. The lady I spoke to didn't speak English, and my German was rusty, but I understood the words for tower, right, and left, and was able to get a visual. A quick stop at a pizzeria for lunch, then we finally arrived at our original destination.

The Dom is nearly 1000 years old, and its architecture is quite impressive. The crypt area houses several Holy Roman Emperors and queens, including Konrad II and his wife, and a number of bishops. One of the upper chapels houses the relics of several saints, and a memorial to Edith Stein, a Jewish intellectual who became a Catholic nun and was martyred at Auschwitz.

Surprising, though, most of the main area of the cathedral was rather sparse in decoration - a cathedral that old should have had beautiful windows, rich mosaics, and impressive statuary. We later learned that there had been a fire in the late 1600s, and not long after restoration was completed, it was ransacked and desecrated during the French Revolution. Who knows what treasures were lost....

After leaving the Dom, we went to the nearby Museum of Palatinate History, which was very large. There are several floors of exhibits, including a children's museum area with a lot of activities, a Jewish exhibit, a Roman and Frankish historical section, and an exhibit of cathedral treasures. These last were absolutely stunning - chalices, reliquaries, liturgical vestments, tapestries - these give a tantalizing hint of what the cathedral must have been like before its tragedies. DH had me try to translate some of the information about the reliquaries, and I was able to make out the gist of most of them.

Like the museum in Karlsruhe, the Speyer museum also had a variety of hands-on activities in all of the exhibits, including a Roman lock and key mechanism that one could try out. I wonder if the experiential aspect of these museums is typical for Germany, or whether we just got lucky.

It was starting to get dark by the time we left Speyer, but the snow had stopped and the roads were clear thanks to the ever-present Winterdienst. We had dinner at a little Chinese restaurant across the street from the hotel. I don't recall the name, but it translated to "Chicken and Duck". Most Chinese restaurants in the US only have one or two duck dishes, if any, but this little place had as many duck entrees as any other meat. We each had a different duck dish, and they all were absolutely wonderful. DD announced that she wanted to come back sometime before we flew home.

After dinner, we went back to the hotel. DsD was flying back in the morning, two days before the rest of us.

No comments: