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25.09.2012

In Augsburg, all that glitters is gold


I went on and on in the last post about some of the great buildings in Augsburg, and yet I don't feel it did Augsburg justice. So, I wanted to emphasize it once again with a separate post. 

Augsburg is so rich with preserved or restored historical architecture. Especially for those interested in art and architecture, it would really be a shame not to stop in Augsburg.  I've found many of the Historic Highlights of Germany cities to be beautiful architecturally, but Augsburg is extra special. I'd say that for fans of architectural masterpieces, a combined visit to Augsburg, Wurzburg and Potsdam should definitely make the bucket list. 

First of all, the "most significant Renaissance secular building north of the Alps" is the Augsburg Rathaus (City Hall). It overlooks the town square and it truly must be seen to be believed. While the outside of the building is nice, it is the inside that really counts. Because inside is the "Golden Hall," and the name leaves no mysteries. It is a room of gold. Real gold. And, of course, it is stunning. If the sun is shining in through the windows, there's so much gold that it's even somewhat blinding. 

Actually, an interesting point is that Augsburg was famous across Europe for its particular "Augsburg style." It was the envy of royalty everywhere as they dreamed of imitating this style in their own palaces. "Augsburg Style" boasted ornate silver and gold, due the concentration of gold and silversmiths living in Augsburg. 

A point I find even more incredible than the original artistry put into the Augsburg Rathaus, though, is the energy put into restoring it. This is a point that should not be taken lightly. After all, like many cities in Germany, Augsburg was nearly entirely razed during the bomb raids at the end of World War II. However, the city has since dedicated 40 years to painstakingly restoring the Rathaus, and especially the Golden Hall, to its original splendour. 40 years! To put that in perspective, that's four times as long as it originally took to complete the building. 

In order to preserve all aspects of the history of the building -- including the point that it had been destroyed -- the restoration is also not "seamless." I love that fact. One of my favourite aspects of the wall and ceiling decorations is the fact that you can see actual the seam where the restored portion was pieced back together with the original rendering. It shows that bit by little bit, a devoted team pieced this building back together for its citizens. 

And that is a story I keep telling people again and again, because the story of these cities' recovery is not one to be taken for granted. 


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