10 January 2009

A Hall of German Heroes

Last Monday I ventured to the city of Regensburg in order to travel a bit farther and visit a monument built for legendary figures: Walhalla. Trains took me to the city, and from there a bus dropped me off near snow-covered fields and hills. Next, a trail led up one of the hills and through what would have been silent woods if not for the sound of crunching snow under my feet. Near the top of the hill I turned a corner and a view similar to the one below suddenly came into view.

Walhalla was constructed from 1830 to 1842 under the orders of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. In Germanic and Nordic mythology the name Walhalla (Valhalla in the English spelling) refers to the home of the gods. The King wished to create a hall of honor for all heroes of the “German tongue” and for these heroes to come from a shared two thousand-year history of the Germanic nation. This tribute would include warriors, leaders, scientists, artists, musicians, and religious figures, anyone who had greatly enriched or shaped Germanic culture. It was the era of Romanticism in Europe, and ideas such as nationalism were beginning to sweep across the continent.

The monument was designed after the Parthenon of Athens, a symbolic measure to the strength and contribution of Ancient Greece. Walhalla’s architect perched the monument on a bluff overlooking the Danube River, as seen in the following pictures. A tiring series of steps leads up to what is actually the front perspective of the building.

The interior is as ornate as the exterior. By today and after additions over the decades, the names of 191 individuals have now been carved into marble and placed in Walhalla to be honored. Most of those figures are remembered with a bust, but others receive a plaque. Due to the idea that the hall honors heroes united by the “German tongue,” more than a few honorees may spark some controversy or contention, such as Czar Catherine the Great of Russia and several figures commonly viewed as Dutch or Polish. Of course, the majority of the figures are the heroes one might expect from German history: Otto von Bismarck, Albrecht Dürer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Martin Luther, Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Sebastian Bach, Johannes Kepler, Konrad Adenauer, Albert Einstein, and so on.

The only figure to be represented with a full statue is King Ludwig I. For the sake of full disclosure though, his statue was not installed until more than twenty years after his death.

The last individual to be memorialized in the hall was Sophie Scholl in 2003. The university student was a leading member of a Nazi resistance group known as The White Rose. She was executed in 1943 because of her behavior and acts against the state.

Before anyone can be counted among the esteemed individuals represented in Walhalla, the person’s legacy must pass through a difficult application process of many requirements, one being that the potential honoree has been dead for at least twenty years already. Additions are considered every 5-7 years. Today, Walhalla remains the property of the state of Bavaria.

After spending time walking around the grounds of the monument and examining the busts inside, I walked back down the hill to the bus stop and began my return to Eichstätt.

With only four weeks remaining in the semester it’s becoming harder to concentrate on the work for my classes. Dylan came for a visit yesterday and spent the night. Highlights from the day were playing pool and trying a special flame-topped schnapps from the region known as Hochmoorgeist.

This coming week will likely be a difficult one though. Hannah’s visa has expired, and without finding an accepted way to renew or lengthen its validity (and understandably not prepared to marry her German boyfriend), she must return home to America. She will fly back on Thursday. Afterwards there will be only one less American in Eichstätt, but the absence will seem much greater.


Anonymous said...

Nick, the fireworks video a couple of postings back were fun to watch. It just dawned on me how fun it will be to look back over your postings years from now and enjoy the memories. The pictures of Wallhala look like it was really cold there. Temperatures must be very low. How cold has it been the past few days?
I always look forward to the next posting.....take care, mc

Nick O. said...

mc: It has been quite cold recently. Currently it's about 24 degrees Fahrenheit, but with the wind chill it's supposed to feel like -2 degrees Fahrenheit tonight. So yes, really cold. By Friday it should warm up to 32 degrees.

Anonymous said...

Sure missed your blogging when you were back home. Keep it up and like I told your father, I sure hope you publish a book someday!

*even my boys, Liam & Bobby (ages 9,7) enjoy reading and looking at the pictures

Nick O. said...

Renee: Thank you for the comment and support. I'm glad that my posts can be entertaining for you, and also surprised that the same can be said for Liam and Bobby.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed this last post on Walhalla. After reading your post, I did some reading on google about it. Sounds like a really inspiring place. I would like to have a picture of it ( sring or summer ) time. Hope classes are going well, and remember to see if you can get the class to pose for a picture. Talk to you Sunday!

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