Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Germany - Day 3, Speyer

I was interested in visiting Speyer because this is the twin town of Spalding and I had heard people talk fondly of it but had no idea of what it was like. And what a surprise it turned out to be, a real gem of a place with a huge Cathedral and a wide main street with gaily coloured buildings and a very pleasant vibrant atmosphere. And, thankfully, a very big car park, clearly sign posted (even though I did miss it the first time around, which was entirely my own fault) with plenty of available spaces.

Speyer has been Spalding’s twin town since 1956 and I have often wondered what the process was for getting a twin town. Perhaps it was like the draw for the third round of the FA cup when all the names go into a hat to be drawn out with each other, you know, number 36, Rugby, will be twinned with number 87, Russelheim, and so on; or perhaps it was like the UCAS University clearing house system where towns made their preferred selections and waited for performance results to see if they were successful; or perhaps it was a sort of dating service and introductory agency. Who knows? Anyway, the English city of Coventry started it all off and was the first ever to twin with another when it made links with Stalingrad in the Soviet Union in 1944 and is now so addicted to twinning that it has easily the most of any English town or city with a massive twenty-six twins (Honolulu in the United States however beats this by one, registering twenty seven twins). That is a lot of civic receptions and a lot of travelling expenses for the Mayor of Coventry and seems to me to be a bit greedy and unnecessary. Perhaps even more surprising is that Sherborne in Dorset, a town of only ten thousand residents has fifteen twin towns, which is even more excessive.

Speyer has a compact centre which is dominated by the Cathedral, a number of churches that would be impressive in their own right if they were not overshadowed by the cathedral and a well restored and maintained old town gate. In the cathedral, beneath the high altar, are the tombs of eight German emperors and kings. This is a seriously important cathedral and the laying of the foundation stone was the decisive impetus for the development of the town in the early medieval age. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1061 but not completed until 1111. It was the largest church of its time and, in its monumentality and significance symbolised Imperial power and Christianity and it is one of the most important Romanesque monuments from the time of the Holy Roman Empire.

What I didn’t know was that Speyer has been so important in the development of modern Christianity in Europe because in 1529 the Imperial Diet met in Speyer and agreed to reconfirm the Edict of Worms of 1521 imposing the Imperial ban on the trouble maker Martin Luther and his followers, who were causing the church all sorts of difficulties by challenging the traditions of the Catholicism,. This resolution caused great descension and the outraged imperial towns drew up a letter of protest which was delivered to the Emperor Charles V. This Protestation at Speyer caused the separation of the Christian church and is considered to be the birth of Protestantism and from this time on the adherents of the reformation movement were called Protestants.

I thought Speyer was really very nice with big open spaces, cobbled streets and I have to say a bit like being in France which as it is only a few kilometres from the border was not really all that surprising and I had to keep reminding myself that I really was in Germany. The weather was improving rapidly now and blue patches of sky were opening up the clouds and letting the sunshine through and as it was about midday it was time for a spot of lunch and a gasthaus next to the cathedral provided the perfect place for a sit down and a rest. After soup and beer it was back to the town to enjoy the improving weather but sadly it didn’t last long and the clouds began to muscle their way back in and soon the town was short of blue sky and sunshine once again.

Leaving the town for the return journey was a bit of a leap of faith because the road map was missing the first thirty kilometres or so of the journey and trusting to luck I followed the signs for Karlsrhue and hoped for the best. We passed signs for Hockenheim, the home of the German grand-prix and then seemed to go an awful long way before finally reaching the Autobahn again for the final few kilometres back to Baden-Baden.

Safely back there was time for a beer in a little bar close to the hotel overlooking the main buildings of the town and later a very good day was finished off with a revisit to the French restaurant where this time I sensibly had the house chicken and made sure that I avoided the cassoulet on account of its unfortunate and anti-social explosive properties.

1 comment:

Sandra said...

Hi Andrew, Speyer does like a nice place to visit and I`m glad you enjoyed your time there. I`ve wondered myself how towns come to be linked with places from abroad. I`ve noticed that places near the Kent coast are often linked with places in France. I could just imagine the FA cup idea, my own town of Slough could be twinned with Panama City for!