To check off another German city visited, we traveled for a weekend to the beautiful city of Münster. With being just shy of a two-hour train ride from Hannover, this popular University city was one we thoroughly enjoyed visiting. Although the city was over 90% destroyed during the war, it was rebuilt to look like it had originally, which allows visitors to enjoy the beauty of old German architecture and feel like you're in the old world. Another unique thing about Münster is that a vast majority of the city center is pedestrian only, therefore everyone uses a bicycle to get around. They even call themselves Germany’s bicycle capital. It is very easy and popular for tourists to rent a bike and tour the city that way, but we chose the walking/running method instead. Regardless, this made it extremely convenient to walk around and enjoy the sights without a worry that a car was going to come barreling around the corner.
The "Promenade" is a path around the city where the former city wall used to stand. Today it is a quaint pathway lined with trees on both sides, making it an ideal place for people to stroll, jog, or commute via bicycle.
While walking along the Promenade, we came across a small tower known as the Zwinger. This somewhat boring looking structure actually has quite a history, dating all the way back to its construction in 1528. Initially, it was built as a stronghold for the defense of the city. Around 1534 it was occupied by Bishop Franz von Waldeck’s troops and transformed into a stronghold for control of the city (a bit of a turnaround). In the 1600 and 1700’s it was used as a defense tower, horse mill, and powder storehouse, and then in 1732 was reconstructed into a detention center. Fast forward to 1911, it was acquired by the city of Münster as an unused historical monument. From 1919-1935, it was the home and studio of painter Friedrich Wilhelm Liel. Changing directions completely, from 1938-1943 it became a cultural center for the Hitler Youth, and then in 1944 turned into an incarceration, torture, and execution site of the Gestapo. At the end of 1944 it was partially destroyed in the air raids, and is now a memorial belonging to the city museum which houses artwork as part of the city’s sculpture project.
The historic event that Münster is most notably known for is that it is the city of the Peace of Westphalia. On October 24, 1648, negotiations were finalized that had finally put an end to the Thirty Years’ War. It was in the Hall of Peace within the city’s Town Hall where this event took place.
Münster lies along the river Aa, so the Aasee (in German, the word for lake is "see," and thus the name) is a large lake attached to one side of the city. This beautiful lake was amazing to take a jog around, allowing us to pass by a zoo, an open-air museum, and quite a few different mini-monuments and sculpture art.
As mentioned earlier, within the city is the Westfälische Wilhelms Universität Münster. It is a very popular University, therefore the city center is comprised primarily of students. There is also a beautiful palace, which was the residence of the prince-bishop and constructed from 1767 to 1787. However, only the stunning exterior of the palace was reconstructed after the war, and the inside has been turned into an admin annex for the University.
The Cathedral Square in Münster is directly in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral, which is the city’s main church. As typical in Germany, the plaza of the square holds a large market a few times a week, selling primarily locally grown and fresh produce. We of course had to take a break at one of the many food stands, which was selling delicious German fried potatoes – the enchanting smell was enough to trap anyone passing by. We ventured into St. Paul’s Cathedral, and were amazed by the overall beauty and stunning architecture and works of art within it. The most fascinating thing was the astronomical clock. We didn’t know how cool and unique this clock was until we read a Wikipedia article about it, which states the following: Unlike modern clocks, the Münster clock is divided into 24 hours, runs counterclockwise, and indicates hours and minutes simultaneously. Since the clock faces south, the hands thus follow the actual course of the sun. The main hand, decorated with a silver sun and a rainbow, indicates the time. Each red and white line within the circle of Roman numerals represents four minutes. Five minor hands indicate the position of the planets Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Saturn and Mercury, while a silver ball (half painted black) represents the moon in its phases.
Carnival, or Fasching, is a big celebration in the west and south-west parts of Germany. In these parts, Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) is a holiday where all the people get the day off of work and school and celebrate in the streets while dressed up in costumes and watching the big parade. Even though we left the Sunday before (this is unfortunately not largely celebrated in Hannover / the north, therefore not a holiday), we still got to enjoy seeing quite a bit of people dressed up and partying the weekend away. Basically, the costumes young people wore we're almost identical to what you'd see out during Halloween (minus any scary ghost and ghouls costumes) but some older people wore traditional costimes which resembled colonial soldiers. The parade and celebration itself is actually a mockery of all things political. We'll cover more about this next year when we travel to Cologne to participate in the festivities!