As I reflect back on my trip to the city of Speyer in the southern corner of Rheinland-Pfalz, I couldn't help but compare it to the town of Worms just a half-hour to its north. The two are eerily similar.
But the biggest difference between two is that Worms has maintained its embrace of history (especially because of the celebrated chapter of its history courtesy Martin Luther), while Speyer looks like it has just finished construction. So while Worms has an old look (made older by the crappy weather on the day I visited it), Speyer looks fresh and new as the sunny day I went.
Unquestionnably, the focus of any visit to Speyer will be on the Cathedral, shown in the first photo. The Cathedral is massive and beautiful both inside and out -- although the interior decor is much less elaborate than you might expect. Having suffered terribly from war damage, the interior has been completely redone, with brand new sculptures for the Stations of the Cross, and new frescoes lining the high walls. The crypt is very, very big, and some portions of it are even used as meeting rooms! (No, there are no caskets in those rooms. Trust me.)
The Speyer Cathedral isn't the only building that has a fresh look to it. All the buildings lined along Maximilianstrasse, the main street emanating from it, look brand new. The maypole, shown in the second photo, is bright and sharp. Some of the nearby attractions are also recently refurbished, such as the massive Historiches Museum right outside the Cathedral, and the Stadthaus, which is left of the Cathedral in the first shot. Finally, the Altpörtal at the end of Maximilianstrasse (third photo), has been given a new look -- allowing it to appear to age gracefully.
Speyer's other churches may not be nearly as glamorous as the Cathedral, but they've also been given a fresh paint job. The Heiliggeistkirche (Holy Ghost Church), next to the Maypole, is a very pretty little chapel.
The town is built away from the Rhein, much like Worms (and probably for the same floody reason), so for the most part the waterfront is ceded to industry. One exception is the Domgarten, the city's main park that extends from the Cathedral to the Rhein. This park is very large and has a couple items of interest. One is the section of the old city wall directly back of the Cathedral. The other is the Protestant Landeskirchenrat, which is a monument to the Protestant movement, reminiscent of the Luther Monument (Lutherdenkmal) in ... you guessed it, Worms.
But all about Speyer is not only old buildings given fresh looks. Speyer hosts a large Technik Museum that is a partner of a larger Technik museum a half-hour away in Sinsheim. Shown in the fourth photo, this Technik museum specializes in military hardware and aircraft. Included are Russian cargo planes, American and German automobiles, and a German U-boat. Like Sinsheim, visitors are able to climb the interior of most of these aircraft. The Museum also sports two IMAX theaters.
Speyer is a beautiful town. Absolutely one of the brightest, most impressive towns in southwest Germany behind the likes of Heidelberg. It's managed to maintain its old-style charm under its fresh coat of paint, and offer plenty for its visitors to see and do. ... Just like Worms.
Trip taken 14 October 2002 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin