Germany off the beaten track

Würzburg: Mozart Festival in the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Residenz" (Residence) © Oliver Lang

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1 City 5 Ways: Augsburg

Another installment of my mini series called “1 City 5 Ways,” showcasing the surprising number of ways you can experience some of Historic Highlights of Germany’s magnificent cities. 

Today's post focuses on
 Augsburg, Historic Highlights of Germany's Bavarian city, located roughly 30 minutes from the more famous Munich (Munchen). 

1) Beer Connoisseurs
The opportunities to experience beer culture – at restaurants and pubs– are virtually endless in Augsburg. Bavaria has a long-standing beer tradition. This is a fact many people already know. But it was Augsburg that effectively pioneered the area’s tradition of producing top quality beer  when in 1143, the city of Augsburg officially passed the very first beer purity law. That was nearly 500 years before such laws were introduced in Munich or anywhere else in Germany. This tradition of fantastic beer remains very much alive in Augsburg for those adventurous enough to experience the beer world beyond Munich.

I recommend a visit to
Riegele brewery, one of the world's oldest breweries. It is currently a family-run business, and the 5th generation beer brewer at the helm who recently named the WORLD CHAMPION BEER SOMMELIER (2013). You’ll find plenty of English in this establishment, the owner himself having been educated in the United States. Benjamin Franklin is even quoted on the walls, stating "beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." The brewery itself dates back to 1386.

2) Music Lovers
Anyone with an appreciation for classical music will love Augsburg, as it is on this rich soil that the Mozart legacy was founded. The name Mozart actually means "of the earth," and centuries of Mozarts lived in Augsburg, making their living as craftsmen, predominantly brickmakers. However, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s father was actually the first Mozart to break away from the family’s traditional trade to explore music. Leopold became a bookbinder when always had a musical inclinations. His thriving bookmaking business also afforded him the opportunity and freedom to introduce his son to music. In his spare time, Leopold became Wolfgang's music teacher, actively encouraging him from a young age, and well…the rest, you know, is history.

Visitors to Augsburg can stop at Mozarthaus, a small museum located in the actual house where Leopold lived and raised Wolfgang. 

3) Architecture Enthusiasts
Augsburg has style. So much so that it was once famous across Europe and "Augsburg style” became an actual term. This style, defined by its abundance of ornate silver and gold, was a result of the overwhelming number of gold and silversmiths living in Augsburg. The Augsburg Rathaus (City Hall), has been described as "the most significant Renaissance secular building north of the Alps.” It overlooks the town square. Inside, the building’s "Golden Hall” is literally a room decorated in REAL gold. The City Hall was nearly entirely razed during World War II bombings but the city dedicated more than four decades to painstakingly restoring it to its former glory, piece by piece.

The Schaezler Palace, also in the town center, is also a great sight to behold, a perfect example of German Rococco style. In fact, the palace’s rococo ball room, the walls and ceilings of which were decorated by artist Gregorio Gugielmi (1714-1773), was once admired by Marie Antoinette herself, when she stopped in Augsburg on her way to be married in France...

4) Economics Buffs
Augsburg was once the Wall Street of Euroe, the economic center of Europe.  A large number of Europe’s top banking entrepreneurs resided here. Of those bankers, Jacob Fugger was the most accomplished, having been a key financier behind the Roman Empire’s expansion. In fact, by many accounts, he was the world's first international banker. “Jakob Fugger the Rich," as his contemporaries called him, had a scale of wealth greater than is even imaginable in modern times, his relative wealth far exceeding that of any modern-day mogul. And before it became trendy to do so, Fugger had an interest in giving back to his community. He was also highly religious and his massive wealth made him feel waves of guilt. So, as a balance to his grandiose wealth and luxurious life, he created the world’s first social housing project. This project consisted of 150 apartments for the city’s hardest working folk. Jakob Fugger charged residents the equivalent of only 1 dollar per year to live there (in modern day currency equivalent). He also stipulated that the rent never increase so that families could continue to live there virtually rent free for as long as they needed.

Families continue to live in this beautifully maintained social housing project to this very day.
This social housing project housed many of Augsburg's craft families, giving them an opportunity to overcome poverty, and make get ahead in their lives. In fact, Wolgang Amadeus Mozart’s grandfather lived in the Fuggerei.
Visitors can stroll through the community with a small entrance donation at the gate.

5) Religious History Enthusiasts
In 1518, Martin Luther stayed in Augsburg, at St. Anna's church, formerly named the Carmelite Monastery. Some time later, Luther's colleague published the "Augsburg Confessions" based on their discussion and concerns. These documents detailed their concerns with the way the church operates and its concentration of powers. Many historians suggest that the movement we have now named the Reformation was largely a result of these papers and thus had its roots in Augsburg.

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