Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Things to do in Augsburg -- an Unplanned Stop

St Anna Kirche -- Often regarded as the first Renaissance church in Germany, the rather plain-looking St Anna Kirche contains a bevy of treasures as well as the sumptuous Fuggerkapelle, where Jacob Fugger and his brothers lie buried, and the lavishly frescoed Goldschmiedekapelle (Goldsmiths' Chapel; 1420). The church played an important role during the Reformation. In 1518 Martin Luther, in town to defend his beliefs before the papal legate, stayed at what was then a Carmelite monastery. His rooms have been turned into the Lutherstiege, a small museum about the Reformation. The entire complex was under renovation at the time of writing.

Dom Mariä Heimsuchung -- North of Rathausplatz you'll find the cathedral, Dom Mariä Heimsuchung, which dates back to the 10th century. Architecturally it's a hotchpotch of addition on addition, including the instalment of bronze doors in the 14th century depicting Old Testament scenes. The oldest section is the crypt underneath the west choir, which features a Romanesque Madonna. Other treasures include medieval frescoes, the Weingartner Altar by Hans Holbein the Elder, and - dating from the 12th century - the Prophets' Windows (depicting Daniel, Jonah, Hosea and Moses), some of the oldest stained-glass windows in Germany.

Fuggerei -- Built to provide homes for poor Catholics, the Fuggerei is one of the oldest welfare settlements in the world. Jacob Fugger financed the project in the 16th century and this town within a town is still home to 150 Catholic Augsburgers. Many of the 140 apartments have been modernised but the exterior is pretty much unchanged, with the original bell pulls beside each door. For centuries the rent has remained at one Rhenish Gilder (€1 today) per year, plus utilities and three daily prayers. Sound management means the Fugger Foundation is still going strong, despite the global economic downturn.

Maximilianstrasse -- Rathausplatz marks the northern end of Maximilianstrasse, a grand boulevard named for Kaiser Maximilian (1459-1519), which is lined by patrician mansions and graced with two impressive fountains. The Merkurbrunnen (1599), at the intersection with Bürgermeister-Fischer-Strasse, is by Dutch artist Adriaen de Vries and features the god Mercury as a symbol of trade. Further south, near Hallstrasse, is the Herkulesbrunnen (1602), also by de Vries, which shows Hercules fighting the seven-headed Hydra, representing Augsburg's commercial importance.

St-Anna-Kirche -- Founded as a Carmelite monastery in 1321, St-Anna-Kirche hosted Martin Luther during his stay in 1518. His rooms have been turned into the Lutherstiege, a small museum about the Reformation. There's a portrait of Luther by Lucas Cranach the Elder in the eastern choir, while at the opposite end is the Fuggerkapelle, the chapel where Jakob Fugger and his brothers are buried. Also pop into the lavishly frescoed Goldschmiedekapelle (Goldsmiths' Chapel; 1420).

GlasPalast -- The GlasPalast is an industrial monument made of iron, concrete and glass that houses two new art galleries. The Centre of Contemporary Art is cutting-edge while the State Gallery of Modern Art shows post-50s American highlights of the genre. Its public art library is open during visiting hours. Also look out for guided tours, concerts and films.

Rathaus -- Rising above the Rathausplatz are the twin onion-domed spires of the Renaissance Rathaus, built by Elias Holl from 1615 to 1620 and crowned by a 4m-tall pinecone, the city's emblem (also an ancient fertility symbol). Upstairs is the Goldener Saal (Golden Hall), a huge banquet hall with an amazing gilded and frescoed coffered ceiling.

Maximilianmuseum -- In a restored patrician's house (1546), Maximilianmuseum traces the history of Augsburg. It also has a large exhibition of gold and silver work from baroque and rococo masters. A second floor displays sculptures and architectural models.

Lechviertel district -- Rushing canals stemming from the Lech River traverse the mostly pedestrianised Lechviertel district (sometimes referred to as Jakobviertel). Playwright and poet Bertolt Brecht was born here, and his house has been turned into a memorial museum.

Mozarthaus -- Allow an hour to take in an audio-guided tour (in English) of the Mozarthaus , the house where Leopold Mozart - Wolfgang Amadeus' father, who was also his music teacher and creator of the acclaimed 'violin technique' - was born in 1719.

Die Kiste -- Kids will adore Die Kiste , a museum adjacent to the Augsburger Puppenkiste, which takes you on a journey through the marionettes' 50-plus-year career on stage, TV and film, and also has a painting corner and little movie 'cabins'.

St-Ulrich-Kirche -- The St-Ulrich-Kirche was a preaching hall of the basilica's Benedictine abbey and has been a Lutheran church since 1524. Its peaceful coexistence with its Catholic neighbour has long symbolised Augsburg's religious tolerance.

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