Sunday, July 3, 2011

June 28th – Steeplechased in Ulm

Having had countless failures in Bavaria to find lunches that satisfy both a marmite-loving bread eater and a non-meat eating health freak, we decided to take a picnic into town for our exploration of Ulm, in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg. So, imagine our annoyance to finally find a place with an enormous choice of fabulous-looking cafes and restaurants serving exactly what we would have loved to eat. Never mind, we had a nice picnic in the sun by the Danube.

The centre of Ulm was pretty much devastated in the Second World War, but it's been re-built quite nicely, even if most of the new buildings don't have much character – however, there is plenty of character to savour in the beautiful historic fisherman's district down by the river. A lovely place to stop in one of the riverside cafes, if only you hadn't brought a picnic with you!

Fortunately one city centre building that did survive the bombing is the enormous Ulm Dom, the city's cathedral. The Dom boasts the tallest steeple in the world – 168 metres high, and a dizzying 762 steps up to the top of it. From ground level it looks pretty tall, but not that tall, so we thought we'd breeze up to the top. However, by the time we'd panted our way up to about halfway up, it wasn't a breeze that was blowing outside, but a full blown gale, howling through the filigree stonework.

The filigree looks nice from below, but when you're 400 steps up (with crucially, another 362 more to go), getting buffeted by the wind and with a fairly clear view straight through the open stonework down to the tiny square below you, you tend to get worried. Tracy was energetically leading the way, bounding her way up the stairs, gleefully counting out the number of steps, "100", "200", "300". By the time she got to "400", our progress was much, much slower and her count much less self-assured. It wasn't that we were getting tired, we were getting petrified.

But, as long as she kept going, I was never going to admit that I was now beginning to feel slightly sick with fear – neither of us had ever experienced vertigo before, so this wasn't the time to start. Imagine my joy, when she just sat down on step 402 and said she couldn't go on any further. I pretended to be disappointed, but with the wind getting stronger, if it was this scary just over half way up, how scary would it be roughly the same height up again. I really cannot imagine how the builders managed it.

So, we both trudged back down despondently feeling like total failures – has age caught up with us?