Speyer Travel Guide
Speyer is an interesting Rhine Valley town, famous mostly for its enormous, four-towered cathedral, the Speyer Dom, which has the distinction of being the largest Romanesque structure in Germany. The early 11th-century cathedral is 440 feet (134 m) long, its nave 330 feet (105 m) long and 105 feet (33 m) high, its towers 230 feet (71 m) high, with no fewer than eight Roman emperors and German kings entombed there. Speyer's other drawcard is its large-as-life Technology Museum, where entire, full-size aircraft are on display. Besides which, Speyer also has an atmospheric old town, and historical significance as one of the oldest cities in Germany, dating from Roman times, when it was settled as a camp around 10 BC. At the turn of the first millennium, it emerged as the favored seat of the Salian Emperors (1024-1125) of the Holy Roman Empire, as well as the city where the Imperial Diet met more than 50 times, most notably between 1526 and 1529, when it laid the groundwork for the division of the Empire into Roman Catholic and Protestant areas. In 1689, however, the medieval town of Speyer was largely destroyed by the French, and as a result, the old town of Speyer today, though still lovely, is mostly lined with buildings from the Baroque period.
Speyer is situated largely on the left bank of the Rhine River, some 15 miles (25 km) south of Ludwigshafen and Mannheim, or 44 miles (71 km) south of Mainz. From Heidelberg, it is 10 miles (16 km) to the southwest.
Speyer's principal draws are of course the Speyer Cathedral and Technik-Museum (Technology Museum), the most popular exhibits at the latter being a full-size Lufthansa Boeing 747 and a 150-foot (46 m) German submarine. Among other points of interest in Speyer are the old west gate and tower, Altpörtal, a relic from the original, 13th-century medieval city wall, which, at a height of 180 feet (55 m), is among the tallest medieval towers built in Germany, and it offers from its lofty perch commanding views of Speyer, the Rhine, and all the surrounding countryside; and Maximillianstraße, also known as Via Triumphalis, which connects the Altpörtal with the Cathedral, and is noteworthy as one of the most splendid medieval streets in Germany at one time, now mostly a pedestrians-only zone, lined with colorful cafés and outdoor restaurants, and large Baroque buildings. Try to also see the 11th-century Jewish bath on Judengaße, which, at 33 feet (10 m) below the surface, is the oldest and best=preserved bath of its kind in all of Central Europe.
Speyer's most famous native son is Karl Haas, musicologist and classical music host of the world-wide syndicated radio program, Adventures in Good Music.
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