No one knows exactly when the town of Linz, about 18 miles down the Rhine River from Bonn in Germany, was founded. The oldest records anyone can find of the town are dated 874.
It’s a little boggling for this American to think that this town has existed for well more than a millennium, long before modern Germany existed. It survived a lot of regimes, a lot of changing country borders, and a lot of wars. But so did many other German and European cities and towns. Here in the United States, while a surprising number of cities and towns predate the American Revolution — about 100 — for the most part, anyplace you are was founded after that. Compared to Linz, your town is but a youngster.
Today the town is the seat of a municipality called Linz am Rhein (Linz on the Rhine). To us, it looked like the municipality and town names were used interchangeably.
I’ve seen photographs of utter devastation in Germany after World War II. Cologne in particular, not far up the Rhine River, lay in complete waste but for the enormous Cologne Cathedral. Yet here is Linz, looking for all the world like it spent the war in a protective bubble off which bombs merely bounced.
I’m confident that I’m showing my ignorance of history as I write this article. Perhaps there were places less affected, perhaps there were places entirely spared. Perhaps some damaged places were carefully restored or even rebuilt to original spec. Whatever Linz’s story was, here it is looking like the pages of a storybook.
Most of the town’s roads lead to the wide plaza at its center. Here we found lots of shops and little restaurants. We took our lunch under the white umbrella.
The sign on the left advertises this bistro’s Flammkuchen, a kind of flatbread. Some of them are savory and make a fine lunch, and some of them are sweet and make a fine dessert. Margaret had one of the savory Flammkuchen for lunch here.
Notice the pavement, which is laid out in a fan pattern. This was once a common way to arrange paving blocks, even in the United States. (I found the last remnant of a street paved this way in Indianapolis; see it here.)
On Linz’s streets, the fans alternate gray and red. For these streets to look this fresh, these pavers have to be well maintained and perhaps even replaced after many decades or centuries of use.
As a Midwestern American, I’m used to streets being arranged in neat grids. That’s not so in the parts of Europe we’ve explored!
As a lifelong Hoosier who has always lived in the northern part of Indiana, I’m also used to cities and towns being flat. Linz was built up on the rolling terrain just as it was found.
We spent a whole day in Linz. There’s a lovely old church on a hill, which we toured, and I’ll probably share in a later article. We also walked along the Rhine River. But here I’m focusing just on the old city center.
This is the historic town hall in Linz, the oldest town hall in the German state Linz is in (Rheinland-Palatinate) that still serves as a town hall. It was built in 1517.
As we stood in the plaza near the town hall, bells began to ring. I took the opportunity to record them with a video on my phone, and turn to take in the panoramic scene around me.
Finally, on many buildings we noticed words painted like this. We felt sure that they told a story. Despite my moderate abilities speaking German, I didn’t always track with the words used or the syntax. I had to look up the word Gesell below, which I guess means fellow. So this says to me, “poor fellow for the rich into hell.” What? Perhaps this fragment makes more sense in its wider context.
I loved spending the day in Linz. But while here I learned a really important lesson. By late afternoon I could feel that my battery was almost drained. But I knew we are unlikely ever to pass this way again, so I kept going. Finally I was past the point where I needed to sit and take a good long break. We found a little pastry shop and stopped for cake and coffee. I was so tired that I struggled mightily to understand the proprietor’s German, and to respond to her in words she could understand. Even when I used some English, she didn’t catch my drift and return the favor. Despite English being widely spoken in Germany, that doesn’t mean everybody can do it, or is willing to do it. We finally got the job done, but I’m sure I frustrated her. I felt pretty vulnerable in that interaction. I didn’t enjoy the feeling.
Our future travels will be to places where I don’t know the language. I think it will be even more important for me to heed my inner energy warning signals as we will need to successfully surmount the language barrier.