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Feb 17, 2002
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Danube River, Ulm, Germany

Danube River, Ulm, Germany

Inside the Ulm Munster Cathedral>>>

Decorations inside the Ulm Munster, Ulm Germany

I was talking to myself a lot here, and on a few steps got so nervous I crawled to get my footing--remember there were no handrails. The round and round and round movement gave me a little vertigo, like Dorothy just before she met the Mayor of Munchkin land. The top observation level (470 feet up) had much less room than the one in Cologne, with about an 18 inch wide walking space. On a clear day they say you can see the Bavarian Alps (where Iíd just come from) to the south.

Ulm is a small city on the Danube River. The symbol of Ulm is the Sparrow because when building the Munster, the crew couldnít fit building supplies through the city gate, so the mayor (or boss or king or whatever) ordered work stopped and wanted to tear down the city wall. Then someone observed a sparrow taking twigs to her nest through a small opening, lengthwise (duh) and they decided to do the same. And thatís the story. The sparrow replaced the previous symbol of Ulm, the Retard (Vollhorst, in German). This wise sparrow made me realize that getting into my car headfirst was a lot more comfortable than lying on my side and trying to painfully bend into the driver's seat. It also helped me with my twig.

The Munster Cathedral (although often referred to as a Cathedral, it's technically NOT a Cathedral) was begun 20 years before Ulm itself in 1377, although, depending on sources, some say Ulm dates back to 850. I guess it's important that Ulm is the birthplace of Albert Einstein, who left after he made his first, little-known theory of relativity, E=CM2. Originally, E stood for Eudaimonia (a good life), C stood for relatives (kin--Einstein had weak language skills), and the M stood for meters from them, squared. I guess when you have the greatest mind of all time living in a small town with a bunch of people who stand around watching sparrows when they should be making some time on a 500-year construction project, something's gotta give. It wasn't hard to get out of Germany--Albert used a doctor's note.

The only World War II bombing of Ulm was on December 17, 1944 and killed 707, leaving 25,000 homeless. It also destroyed 80% of the city. The Ulm Munster, because of its size and height, was used as an aim point and was therefore undamaged, which raises another question--why didn't they all move into the 88,900 square foot, 530 foot tall church that they paid for with their own money? Maybe they all tried to get in at the same time instead of one at a time. Watching ants could've helped them with that, and perhaps they wouldn't have been homeless and the city symbol would be the ant. They could honor the ant annually by spilling Coke on their sidewalks. But I think the city symbol should be a chimp scratching his head.

If I was the Mayor of Ulm, I would've torn down the old church and built another Ulm Munster, Son of Munster, or Mega Munster, four times the size, and put the entire city inside it. What's that they always say--if the black box always survives the plane crash, then why don't they make the entire plane out of the black box?

On the way down the Cathedral, I ran into a Chinese couple with a small child who were very nervous about the climb up the tower. I, on the other hand, was very nervous about standing face-to-face with Communists. After I complained to them about a tear in the shoes they made, I didnít reassure them much about the climb. I had counted all the steps and told them they werenít half-way up yet, and that it would get much worse. They were frightened and asked me about the church. Finally, all of this useless knowledge and figures Iíd been memorizing had paid off! I told them all about the size of the churches and the time spans of construction. I think they were scared away from climbing the rest of the way up.

But I jest. Ulm was nice--inside, the cathedral was warmer, brighter and better decorated than the Cathedral in Cologne. Sunlight got in, and I didn't feel like I was standing the world's tallest public shower. They had flowers that weren't silk or dead. Having colored film inside the Munster actually paid off. I could imagine moving in, hanging some curtains, having a 1200 inch plasma television on the altar and inviting friends over for a quaint party. It was homey, as far as 6.7 million cubic feet, 600 year old gothic churches go.

The beggars seemed more sophisticated too, with better people skills. Finally my journey was a success. Iíd seen the Neuschwanstein Castle, Salzburg (and the Sound of Music tour), Zugspitz, and the Ulm Munster in three days without taking vacation time. I had a deep feeling of satisfaction and relief. I climbed through the hole in my windshield from the earlier leap and blasted out of Ulm.