Western Franconia was known for its immense palaces. One of the more impressive and imposing of these palaces was the Schloss Johannisburg (first photograph) in the city of Aschaffenburg, at the northwest corner of Bayern. Its four stout towers gave it a distinctly massive look. But Western Franconian cities tended to be full of other points of interest -- churches, parks, towers, weird structures. Thus, the temptation to concentrate on the big palace was one to be avoided. Indeed, Aschaffenburg fit that description. One who stayed too long at Johannisburg missed an awful lot from the rest of the city.
But we might as well start with Johannisburg, because that was where my visit began. The view in the first photograph showed my first view of the palace coming out of the parking lot. The wide open plaza was used for festivals, as was the inner courtyard, which was packed with people for an art show. Johannisburg sat on a six-meter tall wall off the east bank of the Main River as it completed a long bend. Immediately beneath the wall was a long stone staircase that passed a series of krautergartens (herb gardens, where the bushes are trimmed and sculpted into squares).
I followed the stone path toward the bank. As was common in Germany, the riverbank was preserved as a park (after all, given how regularly the Main flooded in the past, who would want to build on it?). I decided to first walk north, following the signs for the "stadtrundgang" or tourist walking path.
The stadtrundgang eventually took me back up to higher ground to reach the next stop -- the Schlosspark, a forested park adjacent to the palace grounds. Another stone wall was built over the river, with a round white building that looked like a small observatory. Going further, I came upon the Pompejanum (second photograph), a Roman-style villa and vineyard. The picture doesn't do justice to the Pompejanum's decor, the yellowish walls actually contain very intricate line patterns in red. The Pompejanum now serves as a museum that cost a couple Euros for entry (I decided to pass). After walking the ground a couple times, I went back down to the riverbank and headed south. The second photograph was taken from the riverbank.
Reaching the palace, the walking tour took me to the market streets outside the palace's gate. Across the palace was the Galerie Jesuitenkirche, which was once a Jesuit church, now an art gallery. It looked odd because it was tall and compact like many sandstone churches I'd seen, but this was painted over in deep yellow. Schlossgasse, the main street, contained mostly touristy spots -- ice cream parlors, souvenir shops, and cafés. Halfway down was the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche), with its gabled facade that iwa common among churches in the region.
The end of Schlossgasse marked the beginning of the commercial district, which had mostly modern structures. But only a block away was the Stiftsplatz, site of the Stiftsbasilikum (basilica), shown in the third photograph. The basilica was clearly reconstructed, as its old sandstone tower, red facade, and the white middle part clearly did not match. The pillared section at the right of this photo was a passageway that substituted for a sidewalk, and contained old photographs of the square. The left part of the photo shows the fountain, and the buildings off the photo to the left were very decorative -- in particular a half-timber house where the timbers were erected in an unusual interlocking-oval pattern. The cobblestone road shown went up to a residential hill, which also contained a huge music school complex and a theater.
Passing back through the Stiftsplatz, I came upon Aschaffenburg's main street, known as Sandgasse, bounded at the end by the Stadttor, shown in the fourth photograph. Sandgasse was pretty much what one would expect of a main street -- lots of contemporary shopping and the 'regular' non-touristic eats.
Beyond the Stadttor was a city park, the Schoental. This park was surrounded on several sides by a series of walls. Near the entrance was the primary feature, the Klosterruine, shown in the fifth photograph. This former convent was built on a small island with an artificial moat, crossed only by this one-man stone bridge. The interior was unfortunately not open to the public. I toured around the rest of the park and then returned to the river.
Earlier in the day, I heard a lot of children at play on the south bank, so I decided to cross the bridge and see what was there. The bridge provided me with some absolutely fabulous shots of the Johannisburg as it sat above the treeline over the Main. Going beyond, I found that the noise came from the city swimming pool, located on the back side of a very large school ground. There really wasn't much else to see on the south bank. By the time I got back to the palace, it was pretty much time for me to go.
There was one point of interest that I was unable to visit, and I surely will if I return. It is the Schoenbusch Palace and Gardens about ten minutes to the west. It is a massive park with a small white palace, several canals where visitors can rent rowboats, and miles of walking paths.
Aschaffenburg was a wonderful day trip, and is popular with some of my colleagues. It's proximity to Frankfurt (Main) made it a convenient place to go.
Trip taken 3 August 2003 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin