Also available: Segment on the Augsburg Christmas Market
Augsburg was a wonderful mix of old and new. Old, because as a city it pre-dated Christ. It was a former Roman settlement that grew alongside the nearby Lech River. New, because it was largely raised from the ashes of World War II to become a bright, cheery, and vibrant city in its own right. Those wanting to escape the massive crowds and driving headaches of Munich and Nürnberg might want to consider Bavaria's third-largest (and somewhat lesser-known) city as an alternative stop-off.
Surprisingly, Augsburg's downtown pedestrian area was about as large as Munich's, though not quite as populated (Lord, no. Munich can be elbow-to-elbow, especially during Oktoberfest or Weihnachtsmarkt). I made my way from the train station to the Augsburg city square, shown in the first photo, and was quite impressed by its size. The fresh white facades of the Perlachturm (left) and Rathaus were perfect decorations for this sunny April day. Certainly, the hundreds among the cafes within the square thought so. It was from there that I got a local tourist map and decided to follow the programmed visitors walk. These walks were well marked with signs throughout the city. The path I followed first took me down to Augsburg's unique attraction in the lower part of the city, the Fuggerei.
Many European cities had historical ties to some dominant clan, such as the Garibaldis of Monaco. Augsburg had its clan as well, the Fuggers. But unlike most such clans who extolled great wealth and often oppressive power, the Fuggers (most notably Iacobius [Jacob] Fugger), were humanitarian. The Fuggerei was one of Europe's first 'low-income housing projects'. Jacob Fugger, with help from the Roman Catholic Church, founded this project, a collection of mustard-yellow apartments reserved for the needy and disadvantaged. Interestingly, it constituted a separate independent district within Augsburg, and only those with a demonstrated need were permitted in by the residents. However, for a mere 1 Euro I was able to visit the Fuggerei museum. It listed the full history of the complex in over a dozen languages and included a re-creation of a 17th Century Fuggerei apartment. It actually was pretty spacious for its time with well-furnished bedrooms and kitchens. Jacob's name also lent itself to the church located just outside the complex, the Jacobkirche, which has clearly been recently repainted or renovated. It's bright yellow and red colors matched that of the Fuggerei structures.
Seeing Augsburg's 'older' side, however, required venturing further away from the city center. There was a walking path that offered views of Augsburg's Roman past through it's extensive line of ancient city walls and gates. The Jakobertor, was built on the northern side in the middle of the wall. Turning right, I followed a walkway that went between the city wall and the city's protective canal. There, I came upon a huge seasonal marketplace that went for almost a kilometer. It not only had a lot of antiques but several amusement rides.
At the end of the market, I went southward towards the scene in the fourth picture, showing the Rotes Tor in the foreground and St. Ulrich's Church in the back. On the way there, I re-entered the city through the gate at Obere Graben, one of the larger towers, that opened up to a large park area with a full amphitheater. I followed an inclined path that took me even with the middle of the Rotes Tor, and then across the front of the two-hexagon white Wasserturm, or water tower, before heading to St. Ulrich's. This church was fabulous. Its interior was finely decorated with metal and ceramic sculptures.
From there, I headed back up to the city center via Maximilianstrasse while hitting several of the side streets along the way. Among the highlights were the very colorful Katherinhaus (a wonderfully muraled building like one would find in Garmisch-Partenkirchen), the Zeugplatz and Zeughaus (Augsburg's main convention center), and the wonderful shopping along Annastrasse. I then continued further to the north to see impressive Cathedral, the Dom St. Maria, which looked like two buildings in one. It maintained its original red and yellow brick in the rear, while the front was painted fresh white and covered with new sculptures. Further on was the city's Residenz, the Bishop's Residence, another brilliant white structure.
From there, I picked up on the longest of the tourist paths that covered much of the outskirts. I went north and west from the Dom to the Wertachbruckertor, near the Eisstadion (outdoor ice rink) where the German hockey team Augsburger Panther (AEV) call home. From there, a large section of wall followed Thommstrasse eastward, then along Mullstrasse and the Untere Graben to the south -- almost a mile in total. Then, from Untere Graben, I ventured two blocks east to an ancient outpost, called the Vencintinum, shown in the final photo. Folks were able to rent a small boat and take a pleasant ride around one of the city's outer canals.
Augsburg impressed me as more of an outdoor location with plenty of walking room, sidewalk faire, and open marketplaces. I didn't pursue the city's museums, so I cannot comment on them much. I certainly found it a good place to visit in fair weather. It is a worthy alternative should you find the elbow-to-elbow conditions of Munich a bit claustrophobic for your liking.
Trip taken 6 April 2002 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin