Augsburg has always been independent, but from a touristy point of view it’s like a precinct of Munich which is only 40 minutes away by train to the south east and during the Oktoberfest tourists spill over to Augsburg and the adjoining villages, you won’t find a bed there without booking it long beforehand.
When I left the station I found patches of old snow which looked quite decorative in the winter sun, the temperature was 0° C/32° F (it was January). I went straight ahead along the Bahnhofstraße for approximately 300 m up to No 7 where the tourist information office is located, told the woman that I wanted to visit Augsburg and that I expected her to find this praiseworthy, which she did (she better had, 0° C!). I got a map with all the important info (in German, English, French and Italian) free of charge.
Heading towards the centre I passed the St Anna Church, but didn’t enter. St Anna takes pride in being a church for Catholics and Protestants, but has been ecumenical (also called simultaneous) only since 1999. Bah! There are about a dozen churches like this in Germany and I was baptized in the oldest which is to be found in Bautzen in the East of Germany and it has been used by Catholics and Protestants since 1535!
Later I visited the Catholic St Ulrich’s church, a richly furnished late Gothic basilica built in the architectural styles of Renaissance and Baroque which covers the most important styles European architecture has to offer. So if you’re interested in these styles, you can find them in a nutshell in this church in Augsburg. The martyr St Afra who died in 304 is buried in the basement.
I didn’t know if Augsburg suffered during WW 2, but it’s obvious it did, in fact 50% of the centre were destroyed in a bomb attack in 1943. The following sentence can be used for all German towns with the same fate: after the war reconstruction had to be done quickly, people had to live somewhere, questions of style and taste were not of the uppermost importance meaning that the centres are a mixture of old, not destroyed, often beautiful buildings and ugly, box-like concrete structures.
I peeped into the Maximilian Museum dedicated to the town history. In the inner courtyard there’s a group of monumental bronze statues, when I was looking at them a woman came up to me and told me they had been made for the 1600th anniversary of Augsburg. Her voice was so matter-of-fact that it sounded as if the event had taken place only the year before. But they looked so old! For a moment I was puzzled, but then it dawned on me that we were talking 400 years ago; Augsburg was founded in 15 BC by the Roman Emperor Augustus as a military base.
The Town Hall from the beginning of the 17th century is said to be the most significant secular Renaissance building north of the Alps, I was lucky to find an orchestra practising in the famous Golden Hall sporting pompous portals, a coffered ceiling and mural paintings. What a nice welcome.
Round the corner, down the street and then to the left is a small museum in the house where the actor, writer, poet, director, producer, playwright and dramatist Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) was born. On the lower floor the data of Brecht’s life are listed with some (ugly) photos, on the first floor posters are shown announcing his plays (maybe you’ve heard of The Caucasian Chalk Circle or Three Penny Opera for which Brecht wrote the lyrics), completed with photos of actors. What I liked best were the many poems written in large print on the wall, they took me back to my school days when I had studied Brecht thoroughly. I’m more a prose person, but I know and have reread Brecht’s poems many times.
From Brecht’s house it’s not far to the Fuggerei, a group of houses painted in a warm yellow which are like a village - approximately 170 people are living there - inside the town with an own church and gates which can be closed. (from the net): ‘It was constructed between 1514 and 1523 by Jakob Fugger the Rich. In the letter of endowment in 1521 he laid down that needy citizens of Augsburg should find a home there. In return the residents since that time have to pay one Rhenish gulden (0.88 Euro/1,30 $) [!]) per year [!], as well as say three prayers every day. What is special about the Fuggerei is that spacious flats (around 60 sq. metres) are made available to those in need. The width of the streets and the Renaissance building style mean that the Fuggerei does not have the appearance of a charity settlement. Each flat has its own entrance; ground-floor flats have a garden, upper floor flats have an attic.’
There is a small museum in one of the flats and as I was the only tourist around the woman in charge explained everything in great detail, I left enlightened!
I know what Good Man Jakob Fugger the Rich looked like, I saw a portrait by Albrecht Dürer (painted in 1518) in The Schaezler Palace, the city palace of a banker family, one of the most impressive private Rococo buildings in Bavaria. The Banquet Hall is used for concerts, but was closed for renovation when I was visiting, this building was not damaged during the war and nothing has been done for about 250 years.
So, when you’ve had enough of the Oktoberfest, why not visit Augsburg for a change?!