roskilde cathedral

April 21, 2008

i took a (wonderful) day off from thesis to go to roskilde, a town about half an hour west of copenhagen by train (some might know it as home to the annual-and-very-famous-in-denmark summertime roskilde festival). i’ve been excited to visit roskilde for two reasons: the cathedral and the viking ship museum – which will get its own post because it was so great. stay tuned for viking ships. so, back to the cathedral…which is very historic, as churches have been constructed on this site for more than 1000 years. the first one was wooden, built by harald bluetooth. the present-day brick gothic/romanesque church has existed in more or less the same form since 1280. and, surprise, it is on unesco’s world heritage list (i think i’m going to make a new category just for all of the unesco sites i’ve visited…done!). it really is a dramatic building – you can see the trademark copper spires from very far away, and the cathedral is situated at the high point of the town, overlooking roskilde fjord. seen from below, it looms over the ridge in a rather imposing sort of way.

view from roskilde’s town hall square of the copper spires in the distance/model i found of the city circa 1400…you can see how the cathedral really dominates the townscape (unfortunately someone has absconded with the trademark copper spires…)

oblique view of the cathedral/cathedral in the distance…view from the beautiful ‘byparken’ that leads down to the fjord

the cathedral is undergoing restoration…it’s getting a new roof over the crossing and new copper roofing on its spires

exterior brick detail/the cathedral square and the side chapels

there is restoration happening on the interior, too/view of the nave

cross-vaulting details

more cross-vaulting…i really liked the painted designs on the ceiling and the contrast of the white surface with dark brick accents

roskilde cathedral is perhaps most famous as the burial place for danish royalty – all kings and most queens have been buried here since the reformation, and many have special individual chapels (left: the tomb of king christian ix and queen louise). and here’s the story behind the mechanical clock (right) from the official cathedral site:

The late 15th century clock with the mechanical figures is unique in Denmark. To the left is the knight Saint George. According to legend, he saved a city in Asia Minor from damnation. A dragon had the city in its thrall and refused to spare it unless it was fed with a virgin every year. Once, when it was the turn of the King’s daughter to be the next victim, Saint George arrived on horseback and slayed the dragon. Being a true saint, he would not accept the princess and half the kingdom as his reward – he had to move on and keep fighting evil elsewhere in the world.

st. george slays the dragon on the hour. it’s pretty cool.

next time…viking ships!

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idzioreks in warsaw!

March 27, 2008

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the third and final stop on my trip was warsaw, where i was able to meet some distant idziorek relatives. they kindly invited me into their home for the holiday and fed me wonderful food. i stayed with jerzy and anya (in the foreground) and was able to meet their son, daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. they also showed me around warsaw and were able to share many stories about the city and about poland. i had a fantastic time, and can’t thank them enough for their hospitality. my dad says that i’m the first idziorek to return to poland since his great-grandfather emigrated to america in the late 1800s, so i’m glad that i had this opportunity to meet the polish idzioreks. the photo above is of delicious easter breakfast with the whole family in jerzy and anya’s home.

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antosch passes the bread at breakfast/”the idzioreks” in polish (“owie” makes it plural)

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the first stop on my tour of warsaw was the wilanów palace, which was built for king john iii sobieski, a great ruler of poland who stabilized the polish-lithuanian commonwealth and defeated the turkish army in the battle of vienna. it was modeled after an italian villa, and is a blending of baroque and renaissance elements. after sobieski’s death, the building was owned by many great polish families, and has also functioned both as a museum and as a temporary residence for important guests of state.

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jerzy took this photo of me in front of the monument to polish composer frederic chopin. this was in lazienkowski park, which had beautiful trees and a few early crocuses.

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a reconstruction of warsaw’s old city walls in the stare miasto (or “old town”). warsaw’s historic center is also a unesco world heritage site (yes, i saw three such designated city centers on my brief easter vacation!). although it was originally established in the 13th century, the stare miasto was almost completely destroyed (more or less leveled) during the german invasion of 1939. the city made the decision after the end of wwii to completely reconstruct the old town just as it had been before the war, using surviving architectural drawings of what had existed there before. there’s lots more to this story (and a great chapter devoted to it in anthony m. tung’s book, “preserving the world’s great cities”), but for now i’ll leave it at this – it was a controversial decision that has caused a lot of discussion about the authenticity of the city center and the quality of the workmanship used in the reconstruction. however, it is today a lovely area and i think that the city would feel very empty without this physical reminder of its pre-wwii past. but i digress.

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the barbakan, built in 1548, that used to control entrance through the city’s double walls/colorful buildings on plac zamkowy, or “castle square”

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rynek starego miasta, the old town market square – colorful buildings with beautiful decoration/me with the polish idzioreks in rynek starego miasta

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another view of plac zamkowy – the column on the left of the photo holds the statue of sigismund iii wasa (a native swede), and was erected by his son, founder and king wladyslaw iv/view of the statue from below – it’s the oldest secular statue in poland

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st. anne’s church in the stare miasto, where jerzy and anya were married

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the monument to the warsaw uprising on krasinski square. the polish resistance against german occupation began on august 1, 1944 and lasted for 63 days. there is disagreement about the number of deaths that occurred, but likely more than 200,000 polish civilians and soldiers were killed during the fighting.

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monument to the little insurgent, another tribute to the 1944 uprising and the many children that were actively involved in the fighting/monument to józef piłsudski, marshall and key figure in the regaining of poland’s independence in 1918 (after having been partitioned for more 123 years)

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the presidential palace, home of the republic’s leaders since 1994 (also the location of the signing of the warsaw pact in 1955, during the cold war)

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church of the visitation sisters, and a monument to great polish poet adam mickiewicz

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view from the stare miasto toward’s warsaw’s downtown – the tower in the center of the photograph is the “palace of culture and science,” a 760-foot-tall gift from stalin to the city of warsaw/st. anne’s church in wilanow, near the palace

historic kraków

March 26, 2008


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like vienna, kraków’s old town (or stare miasto) is listed as a unesco world heritage site. kraków was the capital of poland until the late 16th century, when warsaw took over. wawel castle, (above and below) was the royal residence during kraków’s time as the seat of power.

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the path up wawel hill to the castle/wawel cathedral up close…a number of polish kings and saints are buried here (also i liked the aesthetic of the two chapels – identical in form, but different in material)

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interior of the wawel castle courtyard/there have been human settlements on wawel hill since the paleolithic age (i’m sure these ruins aren’t from that time, but show how layered the history of this spot is)

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a view of the vistula, poland’s great river, from wawel hill

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view over the rooftops of kraków

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colorful streets!

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lots of plazas and nice urban spaces – notice the guy on the bike in the left-hand photo

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i particularly liked this square – the installation was done by the polish design firm lewicki and latak. the space with its bronze chairs is a tribute to the tragic fate of 63,000 of kraków’s jews that were exterminated from the ghetto in 1943.

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the designers chose the chair forms because they recalled historic photographs of the city’s jewish population in exodus, carrying their belongings with them – everyday objects, even furniture. the chairs evoke a feeling of emptiness, and also provide a place to sit and think in this powerful space.

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some beautiful building details

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statuary in front of st. peter and paul’s cathedral

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the barbakan, or old city gate

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a ring of parks (called planty) now stand in the place of the former city walls, and encircle kraków’s historic center (this is also how vienna’s inner ring boulevards came to be)

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there seems to be a really great tram system in kraków, though i didn’t ride any while i was there/this bar had the best name, one i’ll use some day if me and joe ever open up a place – the ‘alkohole’

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a green building that i liked/one of the only obviously contemporary buildings that i saw in the center, and an interesting use of upended brick

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i liked the colors on these two buildings

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rynek glówny, kraków’s main square, is the largest medieval european marketplace (it’s about 40,000 square meters in area and dates back to the 13th century). the main building (center) is the sukiennice, or “cloth hall” and was once a meeting and trading place for merchants from around the world (today it houses souvenir stands). rynek glówny was also #1 on the project for public spaces list in 2005…!

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there was an easter market going on while i was there, which was really fun

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lovely buildings in rynek glówny

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horse-drawn carriages waiting at the edge of the square/the tower is all that remains of the town hall, which was demolished in order to make more space in the square

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this rather sleepy lion guards the tower…while sunbathing

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rynek glówny in the evening, just before i boarded the night train to warsaw…

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two days was not enough time for vienna. guess that’s what i get for trying to divide my short easter break among three cities…next time i’ll know better. : ) one fun thing about my visit was getting to meet some very distant idziorek cousins, michal and maciej, who are studying in vienna – they gave me a quick insider’s tour of the city center and we enjoyed some native wienerschnitzel. 😉 very fun. i had some fairly wet, rainy/snowy weather while i was in vienna, so i’m not sure that my photos really do justice to how picturesque the city center is (it’s actually designated as a unesco world heritage site)! i could probably go on for a while about how great the streets were and how each building was lovelier than the next and how of course so much amazing music and art comes from such an inspiring environment…but i have lots of photos to show, so:

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horse-drawn carriage with the rathaus in the background

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i think the highlight of my stay in vienna was fulfilling a young katie’s wish to see the lippizaners at the spanish riding school. i got a tour of the stables and also got to watch the morning exercises set to classical music. photos weren’t really allowed, but i snuck a few – this is supposed to be the most beautiful indoor riding arena in the world, and used to serve as an occasional ballroom for various austrian monarchies. this is where the lipizzaners train to do a kind of ‘equestrian ballet’ that was derived from the breed’s past as cavalry horses. okay, enough about horses…now for buildings! : )

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the ‘inner ring’ of vienna, a series of connected boulevards that encircle the historic center. i walked the circle – lots of beautiful trees, lanes for biking…there’s even a tram that follows the ring. excellent street.

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while following the ring, i took a detour to the stadtpark, where i was lucky enough to catch a patch of blue sky.

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i also visited the art history museum, which was fantastic!

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the dome over the entrance hall at the art history museum

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more museum interior…i saw an excellent exhibit of arcimboldo’s work here.

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exterior and interior of stefansdom, vienna’s most famous cathedral. i love the pattern on the ceramic tiled roof!

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it was a rainy day in vienna.

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i ran across otto wagner’s majolikahaus, which was designed as part of the viennese jugendstil movement. the facade is covered completely floral patterns of tiles…so beautiful!

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not far away was something completely different (it kind of reminds me of a wedding cake, like you could just eat the icing off of the facade…)

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the ‘downtown’ center of vienna, where the serious shopping was to be had…an interesting mix of older and more modern buildings (that’s hans hollein’s haas haus on the left).

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i was very excited to see otto wagner’s austrian postal savings bank, even if it was snowing a bit.

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exterior bank details: angel with laurels, detail showing the (decorative and functional!) aluminum rivets that attach the marble plates to the building facade.

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i got stuck inside the building during one of the day’s snowier moments, but it was great to spend some time checking out all of the neat steel and glass interior details.

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the city is full of ornate statuary: the pestsäule, devoted to victims of the plague; and the fountain at michaelerplatz

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more statuary: a tribute to josef haydn; fountain in the neuermarkt

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i of course had to visit the secession pavilion.

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it was designed in 1898 by joseph maria olbrich as a temple to the arts…inside is the absolutely incredible beethoven frieze by klimt, a tribute to the composer’s ‘ode to joy.’

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detail of exterior decoration of the secession pavilion…the owls are apparently symbols of pallas athena, the goddess of wisdom, victory and the industrial arts.

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i also took the metro a little ways out of the city center to visit prater, vienna’s famous amusement park, and the riesenrad, the giant ferris wheel that has become an icon of the city since it was erected in 1897 (to celebrate the 50th anniversary of franz-joseph’s coronation).

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i also got off the metro at the stop on the ‘donauinsel,’ the island in the danube (the metro stop was actually on the bridge over the river, which i thought was kind of cool). thought i should see the great danube as long as i was so close…

and a slide show to finish: this was just a ‘random’ block of buildings that i happened to walk by…i photographed them in order, just as they are on the street. i thought maybe it could help to show how beautiful and ornate many of the buildings in vienna’s center are:

kronborg slot

February 14, 2008

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last weekend, i went with some friends to helsingør (about 45 minutes north of copenhagen by train, and maybe better known to some as shakespeare’s “elsinore”) to see kronborg slot, the castle featured in “hamlet.” this is yet another unesco world heritage site – i feel like i’ve been to lots lately. or maybe it’s just because i’ve been researching unesco policy for thesis. anyway, i digress. let’s see more castle:

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the entrance to the castle – clearly, if we were danes, we would have had our bikes, too.

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what many people don’t know about kronborg slot is that it is fiercely guarded by swans (with nasty, sharp, pointy…beaks)

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entrance to the interior ramparts/the inner courtyard of the castle, where summer performances of hamlet are staged outdoors – that would be fun to see!

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some architectural details from the courtyard – kronborg slot is, according to its homepage, “both an elegant renaissance castle and a monumental military fortress surrounded by major fortifications with bastions and ravelins

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a display on the castle interior about the history of hamlet – the character of the danish prince is fictional and was created by shakespeare, but was loosely based on amled of norse legend

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interior of one of the “royal compartments”/one of the king’s tapestries

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ceiling painting detail

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a (plastic) meal fit for a king!/a royal-table-canopy

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there was even some authentic(?) fencing going on in the ballroom…i’m sure that’s what it was used for between parties…

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definitely the highlight of the castle interior was the children’s room with its giant bin of legos. check out the scan|design fellows immersing themselves in the danish cultural tradition of lego building (yes, legos are danish!)

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we also visited the castle’s chapel

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beautiful carved chapel details

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ok, back to the exterior. the castle has an impressive moat and some beefy battlements. click here for a pdf map of the grounds with some cool info about the site.

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view of the castle from the helsingør side/view from the beach side

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view across the castle wall and the øresund to helsingborg, in sweden, on the other side. helsingør is the closest point in denmark to sweden (see ferry in the distance), but i think there’s no bridge here because it’s a really busy shipping lane. anyway, that’s all for our lovely day in helsingør! vi ses!!

germany in january: lübeck

February 10, 2008

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the holstentor, lübeck’s trademark structure and one of the two remaining main gates to the medieval city

the last stop on my germany trip was lübeck, a small town in northern germany that i learned about when i was a ta for brian mclaren’s renaissance, gothic and romanesque architectural history class. the city was for several hundred years the head of the hanseatic league of cities and is now a unesco world heritage site, celebrated for its historical importance for european trade and its fine examples of brick gothic architecture. it’s also supposedly the european birthplace of marzipan (not sure what that means, because i think it’s originally from asia) – so there are lots of marzipan shops, yum. i also learned while i was there that three nobel prize winners are from lübeck – thomas mann, willy brandt, and günter grass, so it’s steeped in history, significance, and confection. lübeck is really close to the danish border, so i thought that this would be a good chance to visit. it was really fun, and i think that the three cities i chose made a really good assortment of travel/architectural/urban interest destinations. the train ride back from lübeck to copenhagen was excellent, as the train i was on actually boarded a ferry (yep, tracks right onto the boat…it was a short train) to cross the sound between puttgarden and rødby. awesome. i put a couple of photos at the end of the post in which i tried to capture the ferry-boarding experience.

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another view of the holstentor, the main southern gate (there used to be four gates; two remain today). this is how i entered the medieval city coming from the train station. also a detail shot of the gate.

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some of that fine brick gothic architecture

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the medieval city is surrounded by a moat and a lovely ring of moatside park area

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looking from the medieval city toward lübeck’s port facilities

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here is the other remaining (north) gate, the burgtor. both of the gates were built in the 1400s – the model in the foreground shows how it used to look with its portcullis…!

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the main city square, with the town hall in the background; the large circular holes in the upper facades allow for improved wind resistance, so that the buildings won’t be blown over.

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i believe (if i remember correctly from architectural history) that the gold emblems on the rathaus facade represented different merchant guilds, and show the importance of trade to the city. the photo on the right is a view of the “back” side of the rathaus.

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thursday market in the main square/a small bronze model of the medieval city

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the niederegger marzipan shop – a treasure trove of delicious almond-flavored desserts. there was an impressive marzipan recreation of lübeck’s architectural icons in the front window.

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the side stairs leading up to lübecker dom, the city’s main catherdral

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twin spires of lübecker dom

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a wet lübeck cityscape (left)/and one more view of the cathedral (right)

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some fun details – arches over the tiny streets, and the ‘kaak,’ a small pavilion in the main square

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the st. jacobi church and square

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some examples of the red brick gothic architecture

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i liked how the scaffolding followed the shape of the facade on this building : ) (a tectonic-tourist moment)

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ok, here are the train photos that i promised. it was a little difficult to capture, but in the photo on the left, you can see the train approaching the ferry through the window, and then on the right is when i had to get off the train once it was on the ferry for the duration of the crossing. kind of like bringing your car on the bainbridge ferry…but not quite.