The city of Limburg an der Lahn was close to the border between Hessen and Rheinland-Pfalz, along the main ICE train line from Frankfurt (Main) to Cologne. I took that express line a dozen times, just about any time I took the train northwest from home. I spied the downtown from a distance as the ICE went over a high bridge above the Lahn River valley. I saw the Cathedral and the Limburg Castle perched way high on the sheer cliffs, a scene so picturesque that I figured I had to visit there some time. And, we finally did in the early spring of 2005.
Limburg was surrounded by wide open farmland on rolling hills above the river valley. Yet, the city itself was densely packed and built up on the cliffs. Like its fellow Lahn river city Marburg, getting to the old city was an incredible climb. It was worth the physical effort, though, as Limburg's landmarks were fantastic and the city walk was equally terrific.
We started early and went straight to the top of the hill, enduring a fifteen-degree climb most of the way, to reach Limburg's famous Cathedral, shown in the first photograph. The photo did not do this Cathedral justice, making it look primary white and red. However, all over the red sandstone portions were intricate designs done with yellow and green paint. The portals on each of the towers were wide open and contained the bells. The round stained glass window in front was the original medieval design and was gorgeous. As we visited during the Lenten season, the lovely interior was fully decorated with artwork done by the children of the parish, along with special exhibits of the crucifixion.
The Limburg Castle stood directly behind the Cathedral, and both structures were right on the edge over the valley (although the photo does not show this). While the Cathedral was restored to a brilliant white and red and other colors, the Castle was unrestored, mostly a gray shell of its former self. The main accessway from the Cathedral was a footpath on the cliff's edge with only a short wall protecting the walkers, not to mention the fact that the grounds were typically wet and eroded easily. The Castle was closed to visitors at the time and it didn't look all that inviting anyway, so we didn't stay there long. Looking down to the valley, I noted that it was heavily flooded from the snows melting in Hessen's northeast mountains. Following the river, bounded by cliffs on both sides, were a park and walking paths. However, all we could see were the tops of the benches.
The white-and-red motif was pretty much the local scheme among its half-timbered buildings, as the rest of the photographs show. The second photograph shows what was referred to as the bishop's residence. Its construction was not entirely unusual for the oldest half-timbered houses as they tended to use old city walls or cinder blocks as the foundation. The awkward lines of the timber suggested that this was an old structure (likely not rebuilt recently) but modified to fit modern windows.
Similarly, the buildings in the lower market square, shown in the third photograph, were also older. Notice how cock-eyed the building on the left was, with the windows practically on a diagonal from each other. This lower square was near where we parked our car and represented some of the boutique shopping.
The remainder of the downtown was arranged with the shopping on the lower side, and the restaurants and museums closer to the Cathedral up top. The fourth photograph shows one of the lower streets where a mix of original half-timbered structures and Marshall Plan-era plain facades stared down each other. The photograph was deceiving in that the walkway was a lot steeper than it appears.
We picked one of the older restaurants to have our lunch, and it was a sight to behold (too bad the photographs came out badly). It was clearly one of the original half-timbered structures that was repainted on the outside but not renovated so much on the inside. Numerous artifacts from Limburg's storied past crammed the walls, including some original pottery and murals of happy Hessians drinking beer and dancing. The food was claimed to be original Hessian, although it was only a variant of other western German cuisines that we had enjoyed. Closer to the Cathedral were outdoor restaurants decorated in the same red half-timbered motif with outdoor beer gardens.
We did venture around the residential area and train station at the bottom of the hill, but it frankly wasn't interesting. Pretty much the places to go were up top. While we did enjoy our visit to Limburg, it probably qualified as a place to visit when a festival or event was on-going. By itself, it wasn't so memorable to warrant going back, although the Cathedral and the scenic view of the river were both very nice.
Trip taken 10 April 2005 -- Page last updated 27 October 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin