Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Back Again in Bavaria / 2016 Part # 13 - Landshut

Back Again in Bavaria
GAPP 2016 / Landshut

The River Isar in Landshut
It was the first day of the weekend and I had the luxury of getting off to a slower, more relaxed start.  Today I was scheduled to tour the historic city of Landshut along with fellow chaperones, Wendy and Molly for our first adventuring during the 2016 GAPP student exchange program.  In addition, our German friend Elvira and her daughter Carissa would be playing the role of tour guides and would drive us to our destination.  In sharp contrast to the predicted gloomy weather forecast, it was surprisingly a beautiful day with abundant sunshine and cooler temperatures.  I took along an umbrella just in case, as they were still predicting the possibility of strong storms later in the day.  The hour and a half drive to Landshut was a smooth ride through the well maintained roads of the Bavarian countryside, where farmers were working quickly to collect their cut hay in advance of the predicted rain.  Soon after arriving on the outskirts of the historic city, it was quickly evident that Landshut was old world traditional Europe at its finest.  The cobblestone streets were aligned with colorful interconnected buildings with uniform red terracotta rooftops.  Our host Elvira had only visited the city previously once before a few years ago, so the visit would be relatively new for all of us.    

Colorful Streets of Landshut
The city of 60,000 residents is the official capital of Southern Bavaria and the largest city within the region.  The city is known for having a very rich industrial economy, touting the lowest unemployment rate in Bavaria, which is only about one percent!  Despite Landshut's industrial reputation, it was mostly spared from allied bombing raids during World War II.  Other than major damage to the railway station area, most of the original medieval city was untouched by by the devestating effects of modern war.  The first thing we saw was the River Isar, which connects Landshut to Munich to the west and Deggendorf to the east.  Throughout the city's long history, the River Isar was the key to the economic success of the city through trade within the region.  From a historical perspective, the city is most well known for a famous wedding that took place way back in 1475 between George the Rich of Bavaria and Hedwig Jagiellon from Poland.  The prearranged marriage of political alliance attracted great attention and was attended by over 10,000 people.  The city reenacts the wedding every four years as part of a colorful festival known and the Landshut Hochzeit, which is one of the most attended medieval living history events in Europe.  Unfortunately, the couple did not live happily ever after, as George the Rich had her banished to Burghausen Castle ten years after their epic wedding, where she lived a lonely and isolated life until her death in 1502. 

Hedwig Jagiellon / George the Rich
The famous wedding took place at one of the star attractions within the city, the extremely prominent red brick church known as Saint Martin's Church.  The church has a towering bell tower steeple that holds the record for the tallest freestanding brick structure in the world at 428 feet high.  The tower also has a large clock face on all four sides and still keeps accurate time for the city's residents.  The interior of the medieval church is equally impressive with a simplistic hollow style of white stone, supported by two rows of matching parallel support columns.  The 500 year old church is a true monument to God and you just can't help but be humbled within the quiet, sacred space of worship.  I felt so small within the massive space, and continuously stood in awe, taking in the interior from every angle and vantage point.  After leaving the tranquility of the church, we continued onward and soon upward toward the hilltop fortress known as Trausnitz Castle that watched over and protected the ancient city.  

Saint Martin's Church Interior
We decided to walk up the extensive steps that climbed and twisted up the rock cliff wall to the castle.  As in previous castles I have visited, I was not surprised when one stairway ended and another began in a different direction that was previously hidden from view.  It was a challenging assent and very tiring with the hot afternoon sun beating down on our backs.  We all had to rest and take periodic breaks at intervals along the way to catch our breath, which gave us an opportunity to take in the view of the vast city below.  Building a castle on top of a hill was genius because any enemy trying to attack would be exhausted by the time they reached the outer curtain wall.  Once we arrived at the top, we checked out several interior courtyards and accompanying buildings, one of which was bright yellow and appeared Spanish in style and design.  We took in the view from every available access point and then followed a shielded pathway along the curtain wall, which soon led to an exterior staircase that ended in a quaint biergarten and a small corner lookout post. 

Trausnitz Castle
As advertised, the view of Landshut below was well worth the climb as we all stood along a low wall and gazed over the vast city below.  The interior main street where we had walked through earlier was a colorful sight from above, with all the bright pastel colored buildings.  The sections that panned outward became a little more modern with each ring of development.  The outermost areas in the distance were industrial, visual evidence of the economic might of modern Landshut.  At the center, our eyes were drawn to Saint Martin's bell tower, which dominated the skyline.  As if on cue, the bells began to ring a beautiful cadence of chimes that bellowed out over the city and beyond.  The three Americans in our group couldn't help but think of Fraulein Maria in the opening scene of the classic film, The Sound of Music.  To everyone's surprise, the bells continued to ring for a long fifteen minutes, which we all soaked up in silence.  Apparently, this is a tradition for the city of Landshut that dates all the way back to the Middle Ages.  The extensive chorus of bells from 3:00 to 3:15 every Saturday afternoon was the signal for people working in the mills and distant farms to stop work for the day and begin preparations for the festive evening and restful Sabbath the following day.

View of Saint Martin's Church from Castle
The bells of Saint Martin had just brought the work week to an end, just as it had for many past centuries.  Despite the sudden quiet, we all continued to gaze out over the city in the shade of one of the castle towers.  A welcoming breeze was an additional comfort that made it difficult to finally leave the beautiful spot, which I soaked up as long as time would permit.  We finished our brief tour of the castle grounds and then began the long descent back down to street level.  As we exited the castle portal to the staircase entrance, we were greeted with the pleasant aroma of jasmine, which was protruding from a large flowering shrub just outside the gate.  The climb down the steep series of staircases was much easier than the climb but was still a little hard on the knees. We headed back down the main street by way of  Saint Martin's Church to soon indulge in some refreshing ice cream and to explore a few more shops as we made our way back to the parking area.  The city was beautiful and I hope to return again one day to explore some of the adjacent historic and colorful streets that ran parallel to the one we had just explored.  

  A Storm Approaches
We were tired and wanted to get back home, where we would meet fiends at a favorite local brewery biergarten for a nice relaxing evening meal.  However, the elusive storms that had been predicted all day finally appeared off to the west in the form of dark threatening clouds.  We were soon consumed  by heavy rain, fierce lighting, and strong winds.  Elvira did a fine job navigating her small car through the wicked storm, taking her time, and proceeding with caution.  We arrived at the biergarten safely just as there was a break in the storm.  Most patrons had retreated off the wet patio area and were seated inside to partake the local fare of the popular restaurant.  We were all thankful the weather had been so beautiful and spared Landshut during our tour of the city.  We enjoyed a delicious dinner in the comfort of the restaurant, protected from the storm, which continued in spurts outside.  Another great adventure and a big thank you to Elvira and Carissa who were great hosts and tour guides during our tour of historic Landshut!  

Graminger Weissbrau Pub and Restaurant


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