Michaela Merz

Our visit to Ulm

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My youngest (10 years old) had expressed the wish to visit the highest church tower in the world. He said it was in Ulm. I had never been to Ulm, let alone known that there was an architectural sacred jewel there that in addition was even the highest on this earth. My youngest is usually interested in Lego and he has already expressed the wish to visit Legoland. Up to now he has never wanted to climb a distant church tower.

Obviously I drove there, although it takes more than 2 hours by car. Firstly I was also curious and secondly I wanted to support his interest in architecture. Both of us like climbing and the idea of conquering the highest church tower was more than attractive.

And honestly, if you have never been to Ulm, I can only recommend it. Ulm Minster is something you have to have seen. It is imposing, beautiful and has an enormous capacity for 20,000 people. You have to imagine that, when the foundations were laid, it didn’t have so many inhabitants. That’s as if today Zürich built an auditorium for two milllion visitors.

First we visited the interior of the minster. One has an overwhelming feeling, when one sits there and feasts one’s view on all the statues, images and wooden figures. The space feels airy and lends the soul wings. I was very taken by the wooden figures on the choir stalls. We wandered from one to the other and studied them. We wondered who were the people illustrated there, what were their fates?

Actually that was only the prologue to the climb. And the climb was something else. The tower is 161 m high. The next highest tower is the church tower in Cologne with 157m, followed by the one in Strasbourg (142 m) and Vienna with almost 137m (which we have already climbed with my youngest). To us it looked like a competition for: „Who builds the highest tower“.

Even if then the motives were perhaps not so noble, the result is breathtaking in two senses. To reach the tower, one has to take the stone staircase step by step. 768 steps until the top up to the tiny balcony at the very top, which is so narrow that standing aside is not possible without intensive body contact. This balcony is perhaps 150 metres above the ground and the steps are steep. Even if one’s condition is not the best, the motivation to reach the top and look out over the city from the highest point lends one wings. I believe that I have a head for heights, but this narrow staircase with the windows and the view for many kilometres made you overcome the unease. It would not have entered my head to give up, but keeping up with the tempo of my youngest was really a challenge. And he was driven only by the thought of arriving at the top as quickly as possible.

The distant view from the small balcony is phenomenal. Not much is left of the old town, because on 17.12.1944 the allies reduced the city to rubble and ashes. The minster remained unscathed. If that wasn’t intentional!!

After the descent my left knee signaled that I had overstressed it. From the conversations around me I gathered that it had nothing to do with my age, but the others, who had also made the climb, were just as bad. It felt as if I were using the ancient sewing machine of my great-grandmother, on which one had to tread regularly in order to be able to sew at all. My knee was trembling and so made a funny, uncontrollable movement. Fortunately only for a short time.

In the nearby monastery garden Weiblingen, this weekend the middle ages had unfurled. And so we concluded our trip with archery, jugglers, mediaeval music, making pergament, prophecies with mice and many other enjoyable things. We didn’t really want to return home and back to the present. But just as the towers do not grow up to heaven, the fun also comes to an end somewhere.

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