the one in the hills

After arriving in Luxembourg late in the evening i wandered around in the Petrustal, the neighborhood of my hostel, with is World Heritage. In the morning i met up with Claudine Bechet-Metz, who works for the city at the Culture Office. We strolled through Luxembourg and talked about her work and she showed me some of her favorite places. We f.e. visited the black Madonna at the Johannes church and the Melusina statue designed in 2013.

Next i met up with Gilles Genot. I already heard the romantic version of the Melusina legend from Claudine. He gave me a tour of the Letzebuerg City Museum and we talked about the historic background of the Melsusina legend and its meaning behind it. But Gilles also showed me the Schueberfouer exposition he curated at the museum.  Sadly i was  just about too late to visit the real Schueberfouer funfair that is taking place annually in the city. The funfair was founded by John the Blind, King of Bohemia and Count of Luxembourg,  in 1340. And it will be soon part of the intangible World Heritage, Gilles told me. This would be the second intangible World Heritage after the Echternach dancing procession that is specific to Luxembourg.

On our way to the Bock plateau, Gilles drew my attention to small Melusina details that are spread all over the old town like the sandstone panel with  a depiction of a mermaid under the balcony of the Palais Grand-Ducal. At the Brock plateau we talked more about Luxembourg’s history and Gilles showed me the spot where Melusina allegedly sat when Sigmund first laid eyes on her. You can read all about the famous legend of Luxembourg if you scroll down. After lunch i met up with Robert Philippart. In his position as a UNESCO site manager for town and fortress of Luxembourg we talked a lot about the organisation and discussed different viewpoints people have on World Heritage. Before sundown i visited the Kasematten, a network of caverns underneath the city which are part of the fortress.

I also tried out the Unesco bike tour and was pleasantly surprised. On my bike tour i really enjoyed spectacular view from the special bike bridge that is located directly underneath the Grand Duke Adolf bridge. It was the perfect way to discover Luxembourg as a whole and not only the city center. Where Brussels is a constant mix, Luxembourg is like all typical city types combined in to one. But because of its special topography it does not not feel thrown together and overwhelming. All quarters are bit segregated by the hills and plateaus Luxembourg is built on. The charming old town, the modern business quarter, the quite suburbs, the beautiful green Petrustal.  All could be their own complete town, but together they form a perfect city.

During the day i met up for lunch with Shaaf Milani-Nia, a city architect. We talked about future projects, like f.e. a third city elevator and the  reinstatement of the riverbed, and about how she is working together with the locals and what their opinions are about World Heritage.

I stayed in Luxembourg during mobility week. All week i could use the buses for free. From next year on an, all regional transit in Luxembourg will be free. So i think i have to come back and discover the rest of the Dukedom.

 

– Legend of Melusina –

Many hundreds of years ago a noble knight, Count Siegfried, lived at Körich Castle. Once he lost his way while hunting, and toward evening he found himself in a narrow, deep, and wildly overgrown valley. This was the Valley of the Alzette at the place where today the suburbs of Luxembourg City picturesquely blend with the cliffs. Rising before him, the count could see sheer rock cliffs, upon which stood the ruins of an ancient Roman castle. Suddenly the sounds of wonderful singing fell upon the startled knight’s ears. After listening for a time, the count hurried in the direction that the sounds were coming from, and soon he discovered a maiden sitting among the castle’s ruins. Captivated by her beauty, he stood still. It was Melusina, the Nixie of the Alzette. With a fixed gaze Siegfried stared at the otherworldly vision. Seeing the handsome knight, the maiden covered her face with her green veil, then disappeared with the last rays of the evening sun. Overcome with fatigue, Count Siegfried lay down beneath a tree and fell asleep. The next morning the song of a bird awoke him from a blissful dream. He got up and followed the river. He soon found himself in the familiar vicinity of Weimerskirch, and from there he returned straight away to his homeland.

The vision of the beautiful maiden and her wonderful singing had mightily captivated the count’s soul. He often returned to the place, now very dear to him, in order to see her and hear her again. Once he met her in the valley, for she took pleasure in the count’s visits, and she had fallen in love with the handsome knight. He rushed toward her, declared his love for her, and asked her to become his wife. She consented under the condition that she not be required to leave the cliffs, and that he would never ask to see her on Saturdays, when she wished to be alone. Under oath the count promised this to her.

Siegfried entered into an agreement with the Abbot of St. Maximin near Trier to trade the former’s fruitful commune of Feulen near Ettelbruck for the latter’s infertile rocky cliffs and their surrounding woodlands. Because it would have taken years of time and great expense to build a castle on the rocky cliffs, where he could take Melusina home as his wife, Siegfried gladly accepted the help of Satan, who offered to build the castle for him and make him exceedingly wealthy if the count would surrender himself after thirty years. At the top of the cliffs a magnificent castle appeared overnight, proudly looking down on the valley below.

Siegfried married the beautiful Melusina and lived happily with her. Melusina presented him with seven children. However, every Saturday the nixie remained hidden from all eyes, retiring to her room and locking the door. This proceeded for many long years without her husband asking her what she was doing on those days. However, his friends, who with time learned about the situation, planted seeds of distrust in the count against his good wife. Now, at any price, Siegfried wanted to know why Melusina withdrew from him every Saturday. The next Saturday he secretly approached her room. From inside he could hear the sound of rushing and splashing water. Looking into the room through the keyhole he saw his wife in her bathtub combing her long blond hair with a golden comb. Her beautiful limbs ended with a horrible fishtail, with which she was splashing waves. The count uttered a cry of horror, and in the same moment Melusina sank into the depths of the cliffs. Siegfried had lost her forever.

– The End –

That is the lengthy and detailed version of the legend about the woman who is said to have been the wife of the founder of Luxembourg, Count Siegfried.  Every child in Luxembourg knows the story of the mermaid, its even told at school. In a survey Luxembourger were ask who they thought are important figures from Luxembourg. On fourth place many people mentioned Melusina. Even tough every adult knows that mermaids aren’t real, some of them still think Melusina is a real historical figure.

There are also tales surrounding the whereabouts of the mythical mermaid: Once every seven years, Melusina returns, either as a serpent with a golden key in its mouth or as a beautiful woman. All it will take to win her freedom is for some brave soul to kiss the womanly vision or take the key from the serpent’s mouth. Other stories speak about  Melusina appearing every seven years in human form above the cliffs, asking people to redeem her. If this does not happen, the white figure soars over the city crying, “Not for another seven years!” then sinks back into the cliffs.

Those stories are the reason why, when Luxembourg was still a fortress, sentry duty, especially at night, was not very popular. One time a courageous soldier who had traded shifts with a comrade was standing guard on the cliff-top. Melusina appeared to him in the form of a beautiful maiden and asked him to redeem her. She told him that it would be a difficult, but not impossible, task. However, he should not attempt it if he thought that he might not succeed, because if he failed she would sink three times deeper into the earth. While she was thus speaking there arose a mighty rumbling sound around the cliffs, causing the soldier to fear that they were about to collapse.

The soldier promised to fulfill Melusina’s wish. She said that for the nine following days, every night at exactly twelve o’clock, neither one minute earlier nor one minute later, he would have to appear behind the altar of the Dominican Church. On the tenth evening she would appear to him in the form of a fiery serpent with a key in her mouth. With his mouth he would have to take the key from her mouth and then throw it into the Alzette River, which would redeem her. For eight nights the soldier stood behind the appointed altar at precisely twelve o’clock, but on the ninth night he arrived late. Returning to his quarters he heard such howling and screeching coming from the cliffs that he thought all the wild animals were fighting one another in the air. However, no other person heard the noise.

According to another legend, Melusina is imprisoned within the rock that helped form Luxembourg City’s tremendous defenses. She passes the time by knitting, but thankfully she manages only one stitch each year, because should she finish her knitting before she’s released, all of Luxembourg and its people will vanish into the rock with her. It is also said that whenever Luxembourg City is threatened by danger or mishap, Melusina circles the cliffs while crying out mournfully.

the one with a good mix

On my way to Luxembourg spontaneously stopped in Brussels for a short stop. The capital of Belgium was a bit of a shock for me.  Never have i ever traveled for so long alone and after staying in Bruges, Lille, Brest, Nantes and La Rochelle, i think i was used to small and/or quite cities.  Even the bigger cities like Budapest and Bordeaux could not compare to this city. The feeling was totally different. I stayed in a youth hostel in the turkish quarter. I visited all the big places i could fit into my small time frame: Grand Place, Royal Palace, Bourse, Art Nouveau Quarter, the Atom, the Cathedral and the Mont des Arts.

If New York is the city that never sleeps, than Brussels for me is the city that never passes up the chance to celebrate something. In the one and an half days i stayed there they had a free comic festival, a free electronic music festival, a beer fest, a stage at the Grand Place with traditional music  and many markets like a flee market and a turkish market. Tom, a local, told me himself  that Brussels can be overwhelming, weird and confusing at first and that is the way i felt half of the time i stayed there. The wild mix of architecture, from decorative, golden guild houses to big, glass office buildings in the next street. But i also learned to love the people in and their mentality. Tom told me a lot of funny but untrue tales and the special ways the people of Brussels dealt with problems. For  example they just covered the river Zenne in the late 19th century with earth instead of cleaning it up. It had become a health hazard because everybody used it as their trash can.

Its really good to have a tram card in Brussels. You can visit all the quarters.  Brussels has 19 mayors because why have one if you can have for one for every part of the city. My favorite places to spend time were the terrace on Place Poelaert Plein by sundown with a view over the hole city, eating congolese food at the Rue de la Longue Vie in Little Africa and the comic festival was pretty amazing too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legend of Brussels – MANNEKEN PIS

The legend of Brussels is not something new to anybody. I’m sure even every tourist knows about it after one day. Some might have guessed it already, it’s the famous Manneken Pis. Located in the old part of Brussels near the Grand Place a little bronze boy urinates in to a fountain and everybody loves him. The statue was designed in 1388 naked but nowadays you see him dressed up most of the time and you even can visit the  Musée de la Ville  where all of his clothes are on display. Because the statue is so beloved by the locals many armed forces have tried to steal it in the past. The story goes that after the french grenadiers stationed in Brussels attempted to steal in 1747, the population rebelled against this deed and threatened a bloody revenge. To calm things down, the King of France  offered a outfit made of brocade, embroidered with gold for Manneken Pis. He also allowed him to carry a sword and gave the statue the Cross of St. Louis, the royal french military order.

There are more than one origin story of the Manneken Pis statue.  The most common one, at least of that i know, is about a little peasant boy. The little boy wandered around out side the city gates as he heard enemies forces approaching and he hid. He saw how they buried dynamite underneath the gates to blow up the city gates and walls. He did not quite understand all the enemies whispered to each other but he knew it was not something good. The boy did’t not know what to do. There was no time to get a adult or warn someone so he got to the end of the fuse and urinated on it. And so a little peasant boy put out the dynamite and saved Brussels.

Other stories take about the little Duke Godfrey III of Leuven, a two-year old that was hung in a basket from a tree to bring the troops luck during a battle in Ransbeke. From high up he urinated on the enemies and they lost the battle. Another legend speaks of the son of a noble man, who left a procession to urinate on the wall of a witch’s house. Furiously the witch transformed him into the statue.

Near Manneken Pis you can also find his sister Jeanneke Pis. But she has not so much history to her. A restaurant owner put her up to get more business. There is also statue of a dog urination. So you can see the fame of Manneken Pis really caught on.

 

 

the one that does not need advertising

 

Bruges is a beautiful city. The old town really looks like a postcard. But because of the exceptional big amount of preserved historic buildings, it’s very attractive for tourists. And too many of them are coming to Bruges. Since 2016 the visitor numbers have risen almost a million per year.  In 2018 there were 8.3 million visitors compared to 20000 residents in the Unesco protected city center.  Because of the rising numbers Buges doesn’t even promote itself anymore. From the 8.3 million visitors 6 million are day trippers, meaning that they don’t stay overnight. They spend only half of the money that regular tourists spend on their trip. Were other cities are campaigning for more visitors to bring revenue to the tourist sector, Bruges is drowning in them. But sadly it’s not the right kind of tourists.

One day doesn’t do Bruges justice.  Outside the busy old town i found many gems. I went to the Volkskundemuseum “De zwarte Kat” (The black cat) and lost myself in the oldtimey rooms. I especially liked the pharmacy, the full functioning confectionery  and folkloric games. Speaking of cats Bruges has also a cat cafe called Puss and Books, were you also can adopt cats. Near the cafe you can find

a neighborhood guerrilla gardening project. Another wonderful relaxing place is the windmills. After that go along Langestraat fo find second hand and alternative shops.      My real highlight was the Heilige Magdalenakerk church behind the Konigin Astridpark. The YOT hosts exhibitions, plays and concerts there.  But even without a event the transformed church is worth a visit.  I relaxed on the big swing that hangs from the painted high ceiling and  enjoyed the original glass windows. 

In Bruges I met up with Minou Esquenet and Leentje Gunst in Bruges to talk about the World Heritage, tourism and how both affect the city and it’s locals. Because I had the chance to talk to a city official in Bordeaux too, i now could ask question to compare World Heritage Citys from an other standpoint.  On of the my questions was about ecotourism because it was so clear to me that Bruges is swamped by tourists. We also talked about the brand new four-leafed clover plan, which is a concept to chance tourism and it’s effects on Bruges. There are four pillars to ensure the plan works: the balanced, connected, attractive and enterprising city. By 2024 the city wants tourists that stay longer, have more sustainable and accessible tourism and locals that love to live in the city and don’t feel stressed by the tourists. Even though most of the locals support tourism and for some their income depends on it, one third sees the rising numbers as a threat to livability and one fourth thinks tourists are causing everyday inconvenience. 

I also had the chance to visit the new Gruuthusemuseum and talk to Leentje, a city architect, about the architecture of Bruges. Everybody talks about the new pavilion you see in the picture right here. It was built on to the estate as a information and ticket center. Compared to the surrounding buildings the pavilion looks quite abstract and new. The sharp roofs are inspired by the classic Bruges house.  Many locals protest that the pavilion does not fit in and want it removed. It is important to keep in mind that Unesco does not only stand for preserving, we can and should change things , else we have no world heritage to give and future generation will live in a museum. Bruges city center is so well preserved and so it seems that for some locals this little pavilion is to much change.

 

 

 

 

Legend of Bordeaux

“La terrible legende du dragon de la rue de la Vieille Tour”

as told to me by a local:

Once there was a dragon who would bring illness to the people and let the fields full of crops burn, so that the citizens would have nothing to eat anymore. He lived up high in a tower in Bordeaux and would only stop terrorizing the locals if he would get young virgins as a sacrifice every Sunday. So the city would offer him poor girls from the streets to keep him satisfied.

But one day a girl from a richer family offered to go. She took a lot of wine and fresh food with her. Because she had a plan to talk to the dragon and hopefully find out his weakness to free the city from this terror.  Luckily when she went in to the tower the dragon did not eat her immediately. The girl was intelligent and had a lot of wit, the dragon enjoyed talking to her.  And he also enjoyed the food and especially lots of the wine. As the night went on the dragon told her his secret: only the holy staff of a saint could kill him. The girl quick wrote this down and threw little pieces of paper out of the window when the dragon wasn’t looking. Of course the people found the clues and searched everywhere for the staff but the weapon was nowhere to be found in Bordeaux. Actually a town near Bordeaux called Limoges had the staff but when the people of Bordeaux asked for it, they wouldn’t give it to them. They were afraid that they would never get it back. But the Bordeaux people begged and even agreed to send sons of the rich families as hostage to Limoges as insurance.  

The staff was traded and when the bishop hurried to the tower and touched the wall, the frightened dragon burst out in a stunning noise and jumped into the Garonne where he went up in flames and smoke. Nicolette was saved and all the people of Bordeaux gave her a wonderful celebration. She was proposed to by a rich and beautiful lord of the region. But the staff was never given back, because they just washed and dressed up some poor men of the streets that they did’t want them back.

I loved the story and the way the french lady told it to me but of course i had to research a bit more. So here are some additional info about the legend:

The name of the girl allegedly was Nicolette. She was very pretty, very intelligent and a ploughman’s daughter. The dragon told her he could only be forced to leave the tower by presenting him with the miraculous stick of Saint Martial, a pastoral staff endowed with miraculous powers, which Pope Saint Peter had given to Martial a long time ago before sending him to convert Aquitaine to Christianity. The staff had been in the Limoges Cathedral for years. Twelve jurats from Bordeaux were sent to Limoges to negotiate the loan of the famous staff, six were held hostage to guarantee the loan and the staff of Saint Martial finally arrived in Bordeaux. The sad end of the story tells us that the people of Bordeaux, having learned of the other magical powers of the St Martial’s staff, in particular its ability to bring rain, decided to keep it in the Basilica of St Seurin. As for the hostages, in other sources i read that they were not jurats but in fact poor heirs paid for this mission. Because of the Bordeaux refusal to return the staff of St Martial, they were buried up to their necks and massacred in a square in Limoges.

The legend about a dragon in Bordeaux originates from a time, in that the city of Bordeaux belonged to the English.  In the famous tower there was a cannon, used to announce the curfew or to sound the alarm in time of war. At the top of the tower, floated the english standard decorated with leopards that the Bordeaux people called “dragons”. Extraordinary things were reported very quickly about the tower and the children who were shouting were threatened to be handed over to the dragon. Even though in the legend the dragon dies, scary stories of a dragon in the tower continued to be told to the children so that they would remain well-behaved.

The dragon’s tower allegedly still stands today, but now it’s part of Hôtel Tour Intendance so you can’t visit it anymore, a tour guide told me.

the one with the moon

Bordeaux – the Port of the Moon always has been and will be a melting pot of cultures and ideas. A local told me that the only people not welcome in Bordeaux are those who want to keep people out. And that’s exactly the feeling i got from my stay in the city.  Bordeaux has a proud number of 347 listed UNESCO buildings. Wandering through the city, i noticed a lot of them: the Basilique Saint-Michel, Cathédrale Saint-André, the Grosse Cloche and other belfries and city gates. Colorful wooden shop facades and many beautiful green areas. For over a decade the city is working on transforming itself into a much greener place. Every year the city f.e. plants at least 1000 trees, from this year on, the new major, doubled the goal.

Tourism increased immensely since Bordeaux became World Heritage in 2007. The city tries to minimize the impact of tourism f.e. by allowing only 50 cruise ships a year into the port. And there are other World Heritage sites only an one or two hour train ride away. This helps to stretch out the the big tourists numbers in summer. The city is perfectly situated for day trips f.e. to St. Émilion with it’s amazing monolithic church carved out of a limestone cliff. Bordeaux and St. Émilion are both very famous for wine, which is an intangible World Heritage as part of French cuisine since 2010.  But more importantly on it’s own as the ancient Georgian traditional Qvevri wine-making method. In Bordeaux i visited the new wine museum Cité du Vin and studied up on some wine facts.

In front of the World Heritage Center of Bordeaux at the Place de la Bourse is a unusual sight: The Miroir d’eau was built by the city as a meeting place. For rich, poor, locals, travelers, adults, children … In the summer is also perfect for dogs to cool down. The mirror is even more spectacular in the summer months when the water transforms into a field of fog every 15 minutes.

 

 

 

 

While staying in Bordeaux i got the chance to meet with Leila, a architect from the city. We talked a lot about the measures that are in place to keep the city as beautiful as it is. The world heritage of Bordeaux includes many 18th houses and shops, which are in use every day. That’s why the regulations for the old town are very strict: f.e. the doors should always be painted in classic

 

 

 

 

 

 

colors. A deep blue, red or green is fine, but no pastels. Leila also goes from house to house documenting every building . This work is time consuming but she says she loves it, because she gets to go out of the office . She also often gets approached by people who are interested in her work and wanna discuss or make her aware of a problem in the area.

 

the one that wasn’t planned + Legend

Leaving Budapest right when the Hungarians started to celebrate their national holiday, i was dreaming of Zagreb. Sadly i had to cancel my stay there, to visit my sister, who was vacationing on the Garda Lake near Verona. She had a old extra mobile phone with her for me.

Largo di Garda is a vacation destination beloved by Germans. It’s perfect for a holiday with children. You don’t have to drive to long and some of the locals that work in the tourism sector can even speak German. I just spend half a day there, but i had the feeling that, while it was not too over crowded, the town existed still because of tourism. The structure of the city is hidden behind all the touristy shops and restaurants. Still beautiful but for me not real.

In Verona I stayed near the train station. So every day I wandered along the old city walls into the old quarters. The Scaliger, one of the important families of Verona, rebuilt those walls to expand the city beyond it’s original roman quarters. The city dates back to the first century b.c. Situated on the river Adige and in the center of North Italy, the city was perfect for a roman colony. Amazingly two city gates, the Arena, the Theatre and the Ponte Pietra bridge still standing from those times.

Verona is a World Heritage City since 2000. There are so many antiquity, medieval and renaissance style houses and churches, i can’t even count. This and the preserved military stronghold distinguish the city as a World Heritage site. Many backpackers i meet adored the city but also said that there is not much to do. In my opinion Verona is wonderful to look at and when you leave the crowded shopping streets behind. In the evenings i always found myself coming back to Piazza Corrubbio near the Basilica di San Zeno with her impressive bell tower. At this Piazza children are playing way into the night, family and friends are meeting after a long day. You will find ice cream and some benches with good lighting so you can read a book.

Last tip: Don`t get distracted by the many tours/ reenactments surrounding Romeo and Juliet. Talking about Romeo and Juliet:

Verona is in general known as the setting for the shakespearean drama. The balcony of Juliet is a tourist magnet. I asked a lot of locals if they knew any legends about the city. Nobody could tell me one. Online i didn’t find specific ones either, so i looked in to the Romeo and Juliet Story, everybody seems to be crazy about. The story about the tragic lovers was no original by Shakespeare. Back than it was “chic” to copy themes from Italian stories. Tales exist because of reason, for example to warn young children to stay in at night. Legends additionally often are centered around true events or involve famous 
people from the past.

Tho the Casa di Julietta with her statue, grave and balcony and the  lesser known Casa di Romeo want us to believe the lovers were real people, that’s not true. In the time the stories were written, there was a family feud: Italy was divided by the Ghibellines and the Guelphs. The influential families in every city swore their allegiance to one of those factions. Everyone who had something to do with the rivaling family was a enemy too. So the starcossed lovers with there intrusive families could have been from everywhere in Italy.

But Shakespeare might still have taken inspiration for real life. Some Shakespearean scholars believe that the writers patron, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton, inspired Shakespeare’s Romeo. Henry’s  stepmother was a descended from the Viscount Montagu. Sounds a lot like Montague. Henry Wriothesley had an unapproved relationship with Elizabeth Vernon. Queen Elizabeth I was not amused about their marriage, the queen put them both in jail as their union was a political threat to her reign.  Unlike the real Romeo and Juliet, the Wriothesley and Vernon were later released and  lived “happily ever after” outside prison.

Legend of Budapest

The legend i chose for Budapest is one of the many about  King Matthias of Hungary.

Matthias the I (Hungarian: Hunyadi Mátyás), was King of Hungary and Croatia for 32 years between 1458 and 1490. In this time he was also elected to be King of Bohemia and had the titel of Duke of Austria.  After his father, the regend of Hungary died, Matthias was imprisoned along with his older brother, on the orders of King Ladislaus the Posthumous. King Ladislaus was as Duke of Austria, and King of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia. He feared the regands sons. Matthias elder  brother was executed,  the people rebelled and the king fled the country. With the help of his uncle Matthias than became king after King Ladislaus died shortly after he fled Hungary.

Matthias Corvius is now and was for a long time before that prasied by the people. But in his time he was hated and cursed out for the high taxes he introduced to finance a new standing army. Sadly after him there were worst kings and politicans. Because of that and the conquests he made, his reign is now rememberd as a positiv time.

There are many legends about “Matthias the Just”, which he was named because he was rumored to wander among his subjects in disguise, to see for himself if somebody was treated unjustly. He also  rather promoted the careers of people with abilities than of those born into aristocracy.

Matthias is not only part of many hungarian legends, he can be found in many other slavic folktales too.

Today i bring you:

King Matthias and the Shepherd Who Never Lied

also known as: The Lamb with Golden Fleece 

Once upon a time, the Prussian king was a guest in the court of the Hungarian king Matthias. They were good friends.

“I hear you have a lamb with golden fleece” – he said. “Is this true?” – asked the Prussian king. – “Yes” – said Matthias. “And I have a very good shepherd, too. He never lies.” – replied Matthias. – “I can make him lie” – said the king of Prussia with a smile. – “I don’t think so” –  king Matthias doubted. – “Do that, and half of Hungary is yours” – Matthias said. “But I know my shepherd well, and no one can make him lie.” – “I can” – said the Prussian king. “Or half of Prussia is yours, Matthias.” – “Very well” – said the Hungarian king. They agreed.

The Prussian king left to find the shepherd. But first, he changed his clothes and dressed as a peasant. Then he went to look for the shepherd. The Prussian king said hello to the shepherd. – “Greetings, Lord King!” the shepherd answered. – “How do you know me in these clothes?” – “I can hear your voice, and it’s in the way you speak” – answered the shepherd. “What do you want?” – “I have six horses for you” – said the Prussian king. “But first you must give me the lamb with the golden fleece.” – “No!” – said the shepherd. “I can’t steal from King Matthias.” – “I’ll give you a lot of gold if you give me the lamb with the golden fleece” – bargained the king. – “I’m not interested in money, and I can’t give you the lamb. King Matthias will execute me” – the shepherd replied. – “What about ten horses?” – asked the Prussian king. – “No!” – answered the shepherd.

So the king went back home to Prussia. He told his daughter about the shepherd. – “I’d like to meet him” – she said. And she took a bag of gold and a bottle of wine with her.

“Look!” – she said to the shepherd. “I can give you a bag of gold for your sheep with the fleece of gold!” – “Never!” – said the shepherd. “I don’t need your money!”

The princess stayed and persuaded the shepherd to drink some wine with her. After a while he began to feel very happy. “All right” – he said. “Take the sheep with the fleece of gold. But first you must give me a kiss and be my wife.” – “Very well. But I want only the sheep’s fleece, not the meat” – she answered. The girl took the fleece back to her father. And the Prussian king was very happy.

The next day, the shepherd was very upset. He didn’t know how to explain this to King Matthias. He came up with many lies in his mind, but they were all doomed. Finally, he arrived at the throne room. What can I tell him about the fleece? He thinks. I don’t want to lie.

“Good morning!” said King Matthias to him. “What is the news from the field? Where’s the lamb with the fleece of gold?” “I don’t have it any more” – said the shepherd. “I changed it for a black one. Now I have a black lamb.” “I see. And where is this black lamb?” – Asked Matthias angrily. “She is sitting next to you!” – said the shepherd. And he looked at the Prussian king’s daughter. “You told the truth!” – King Matthias said. “As a reward, I’ll give you the Prussian king’s half kingdom that I have won.” “And I give you my daughter” – promised the Prussian king. “I can see you’re in love with her.”

And so it happend that a  shepherd did become the next Prussian king.

The Prussian princess and king are depicted in prussian blue and King Matthias in the colors of Hungary. The shepherd has also some green tones in his trousers to represent hiss loyalty to the King. As said before, there are many tales about Matthias and in general you can’t take a legend as historical accuracy. At the time Matthias lived, Prussia f.e. was not yet a kingdom, only a dukedom in the polish kingdom. But the tales very well show the principes King Matthias lived by and which were important to him f.e. that he valued honesty.

the one with the many construction sites

Before i start at the beginning you have to know that there are two sides to Budapest, Buda on one side and Pest on the other side of the river Danube. A little like the old town and Stadt am Hof at home in Regensburg.

The first day of my travels didn’t start out as easy for me as for my friends who joined me on the first leg of my trip. Shortly before i arrived in Budapest, my phone was stolen in the bus. But because of that i spoke to a lot of helpful tourists and locals.

When my friends arrived later that day at the flat we decided to relax the rest of the day in one of Pests thermal baths: the Széchenyi. Under the city there is a patchwork of almost 125 thermal springs. They are not just popular with tourists, for locals it’s been part of everyday life for a long time. There are still baths standing that date back to the Turkish occupation, others have been updated f.e. in a beautiful Art Nouveau style.

On Saturday we started our day strolling down the Andrássy street to the heroes square. Our hunger drove us to the food market, where you can get all kinds of Hungarian specialties like langos, fishsoup, goulash and more. And of course all ingredients to cook them yourself. We also found Café Frei, which does have typical coffees from all around the world.

As the day went on we tried to explore as much of the city center as we could. All around the city we noticed little bronze statues. For example the Little Princess at the riverside of the Danube. And an Installation of shoes on the river bank to remember the victims of the holocaust & those who survived it.

Next was the Royal Palace but to get in, we had to buy a festival ticket first. Why you ask? Because of the upcoming celebrations of the national holiday, a festival with traditional craftsmanship and music was held in the courts of the castle. Once we where in, it was worth it. There where not only local shoemakers, woodworkers, etc but also some from other parts of the world.

I had seen similar traditional dresses as our Bavarian ones  but i never knew that the Hungarian had a tradition to make gingerbread hearts like we do too. Of course they differ and i was curious to find out why the had a mirror in them. The baker told me that the mirror protects you from bad luck. I found out later that the gingerbread craft is also part of the intangible world heritage since 2010.

In the next picture you can see the Buda Castle at sundown. What is fascinating about the Royal Palace to me, is it’s architectural history. Time and time again the palace was destroyed, rebuild or had to be redesigned, because there wasn’t enough left to go on. The monarchs could have given up and for example rebuild on the more secure Gellért Hill, but they wanted to stay near their people and the city center. So now there are literally layers of history beneath the Királyi Vár.

Close to the Royal Palace we got our hands on some traditional cakes like the Dobos cake. After relaxing we visited the Halászbástya – Fisherman’s Bastion. This neo-romanesque masterpiece was originally part of the castle and protected by the fisherman’s guild, which worked and lived near the Bastion. The seven towers represent the seven chiefs of the hungarian tribes.

Another thing to see in the world heritage Buda Castle district is the Matthias Church. The building has other names too but this one stuck. As did the many legends and tales about King Matthias of Hungary, which the building was named after.

After freshening up we explored the night life on the Pest side. The famous Ruin Pubs were just amazing. Rooms with bathtubs to sit in, rooms that looked like an abandoned botanical garden and so much more wondrous things. On the last day we hiked up the Gellért Hill. Named after a christian bishop, which was killed by the people of Budapest at the beginning of christianisation in the city.

In the evening we went on a boot tour up and down the river Danube and watched the city by night. I especially liked the  neo-gothic parliament, embellished with 40 kilograms of gold. It looked even more majestic lit up at night.

the one at the beginning

Regensburg – you beautiful beast. As others before me I will start my journey in a city I’m studying and living in. I’m very lucky to stay in such a diverse city. Here you meet the traditional Bavarian sitting next to the extroverted student. Buildings and incorporated ruins from the middle ages and even roman times. My favorite place at the moment is right behind the gothic dome: the stonemason hut. It is surrounded by many trees and ivy. Right in the busy heart of the city hides a quiet oasis.

At midnight I’m gonna start my trip and my first destination will be Budapest. I’m curious how my view on the Regensburg and it’s world heritage will change through out visiting other cities. Because I’m already used to Regensburgs world heritage, which is the whole old town. Of course the streets still amaze me after two years with their small and contorted alley ways. But often I don’t realize, that every building I walk by has so many stories from the past to tell. Many World Heritage Sites are just one or two buildings, we are in luck that we have a whole district of preserved, wonderful architecture.

So at the end of my journey I will write about Regensburg again and we will see if something has changed.