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Feb 17, 2002
Ulm, part 2>>>
Feb 17, 2002
Ulm, part 2>>>

February 17, 2002
Climb This!
Click on pink-border photos for large, high resolution views
Ulm Munster, World's Tallest Cathedral, Ulm, Germany

Ulm Munster

Ulm Munster, front facia
After leaving Zugspitz, I arrived in Ulm (birthplace of Albert Einstein) just before noon and ran up to the Munster gothic cathedral, the world’s tallest cathedral (530 feet!). It was easy to find from any point in the city. Again, I followed the pointy thing. The Munster was begun in 1377, completed in 1890, and is the largest church in southern Germany. It was impressive--very impressive. It was so large that from 300 feet away it still took three photos to get it all in. Although smaller in size than the Cologne Cathedral, the height of the Munster is very pronounced, due to its single, oversized spire. Sigmund Freud would've loved it. It's 405 feet long, 160 feet wide, has an interior roof height of 146 feet (imagine the task of changing a light bulb), holds a congregation of 2000, and covers 2.04 acres. In the middle ages, before benches were installed in churches, it could hold 20,000 worshipers.

My plan worked well--virtually everything in Germany closes on Sunday EXCEPT CHURCHES! I paid a small fee and began climbing 768 steps to the top. This time, learning from my experience at Cologne, I took my time and made sure I breathed slowly and deeply and the lack of caffeine helped too. This stairwell was worse than that at the Cologne Cathedral though--there were no hand rails, the steep, spiral stairwell was perhaps an inch wider than my shoulders, and like Cologne, both up and down traffic used the same stairs.

Ulm Munster, close up of masonry near top of steeple
There's only so much usable space on a spiral staircase, the center stairs being so steep they are almost vertical. So if someone was coming down, one of us had to move towards the middle and cling to the center spine like a pole dancer so the other could pass. The closest thing to hand rails was a spiral chair rail molding on the wall of the concrete stair tube. There were no windows, just a few holes in the wall. I climbed the first 392 steps (up to 230 feet) and then the winding stairwell changed directions. No rails--holes in the walls--I was very afraid. Why do I do this to myself?

At 335 feet we were at the base of the open spires. I’d already climbed 41 steps more than I did in Cologne, the only difference is, in Cologne you only went to the base of the spires--in Ulm you went up to the tippy top, and the Munster is 14 feet taller. I shot a good photo of this stairwell within the spires. After climbing 19 steps an open metal cage, you climb 189 additional steps in a concrete tube…a tiny stairwell the goes up through the open spires, exposed, no railings, with holes in the walls. That's it in the center of the photo to the left and on the bottom. I made it to the top with no danger to myself except the possibily of slipping and falling down a concrete tube, and stressed nerves. If only I'd brought my Slinky. The top observation deck was extremely tiny, perched up there in the wind, and I was not totally relaxed as you can see by the death grip I had on that metal bar. It also appears that walking in circles all that time caused my face to slope to one side.

My best calculations show the deck to be about 13 feet in diameter, with a spire running through the middle of it, taking up most of the room. As you can see in the bottom photo, two normal size adults can barely pass.

Ulm Munster, spiral staircase, close up
Trying to be cool at the top of Ulm Munster