A House Set on a Hill
Posted on December 18, 2013
Cannot be hid, they say. And so the one we were eager to find was easy to spot. A high hill is located at the confluence of the Danube and the Altmühl Rivers and this was found to be an ideal spot to build a magnificent monument to celebrate a feeling of unity among the
Germans. [Nationhood happened a few years later, in 1871]. It didn’t hurt that one of Germany’s largest land owners happened to own and find it worthwhile to gift the land for the purpose.
Once upon a time a guy named Neapoleon happened to overrun the lands we now call Germany and smear around the laws as to who could do what to whom. The power brokers of the time felt pushed out of shape by all this and rallied enough manpower to give poor Napoleon a heave out of their lands, although many human rights laws stuck around. The legend is that the 18 German tribes did it, whoever they are.
That little detail of who the tribes are, or were, doesn’t matter so much. The job of sending Napoleon home got done and it seemed worthy of celebration. Good King Ludwig 1 of Bavaria gave his blessing to the project, along with a pile of money. Work got started about 1843. But right away the architect died and the king abdicated. This brought a quietus to the project for a while. Nonetheless the huge three layered base was already in place and 18 great Doric columns were fabricated at a quarry across the Danube from the project site. But when the time came for the columns to be installed, a small engineering detail gummed up the works. The columns were too heavy to get across the River.
What to do, you say? Sell them off to the highest bidder, of course. And that is what happened. In Munich the new Academy of Fine Arts took four of them for its portico, and others were supposedly used in extending the nearby university. To ensure that this story was correct, Suzi and I snooped around Munich and found the four that were holding up the Academy, but had no luck at the university. Maybe some columns are still at the quarry waiting for your bid.
Slightly disappointed in our search results, we nonetheless reveled greatly in the magnificence of the monument itself, despite its lack of those Doric columns.
Here are some photos of what we saw, inside and out, starting with a fine climb along manicured paths to the grounds with its sweeping views, at least on clear days, scarce in winter.
The good climb up the hill, the views up and down the rivers, and the view over Kelheim itself made this a fine destination and certainly off the beaten tourist route. We also got a good sense of Germany’s desire to unify and join other long agglomerated nations such as France and England.