When I started to organise my trip through Germany I realised that many of my train journeys would be cheaper if I booked them in advance (including my trip to Speyer Cathedral).
In Germany you can pick up super cheap tickets for 19 Euros but there are only a small number of them available and thus you need to get in quick.
In contrast if you just rock up at the station on the day you might find yourself forking out up to 100 Euros, at least for a fast ICE train.
But the downside of booking my train trips while I was in Australia was that I hadn’t started travelling yet. At that point I didn’t really know how I was going to feel about my style of travel; did I want to move quick, did I want to move slow, was I ever going to do all those day trips that I had planned in each city?
Hence when I found myself setting my alarm for a 8am train from Wurzburg to Speyer that was going to take three hours I felt like I’d made a huge mistake. What was I thinking?
Two months before when I’d booked this ticket I thought a three hour detour to Speyer on the way to Trier sounded like a good plan. Historically the Speyer Cathedral was incredibly important and it was somewhere I wanted to visit.
The first issue was at the time of booking the ticket I hadn’t checked that Speyer train station had left luggage. They didn’t. Luckily I was stopping at Mannheim both on the way to Speyer and on the way back to Trier so I was able to leave my luggage there.
Whilst that crisis was averted as I sat on a four hour delayed train I wasn’t so sure I’d made a great decision. Spending seven hours on a train to see one cathedral seemed excessive even for me.
But as I settled in with my kindle and the pretzels I’d picked up I realised that sometimes when you are travelling it is great to spend seven hours on a train. When we travel we often don’t get a lot of downtime- my days are usually full of walking tours, monuments, art galleries, museums and searching for the best food.
In the hectic world of travel it is sometimes really nice to just sit on a train and do absolutely nothing.
But not long after I’d come to this realisation I realised that it was a Saturday. And I didn’t know whether the Cathedral opened on Saturdays. In fact Google was telling me that it would absolutely be closed by the time I got there.
At this point I was already on my way to Speyer and I thought that even if I couldn’t go inside at least I could take pretty pictures of the outside.
Luckily google isn’t always right; the Cathedral was open!
And as soon as I saw the looming façade of the Speyer Cathedral and went inside I knew I’d made the right decision. Seven hours on a train was definitely worth this!
The oldest part of the Speyer Cathedral was built in 1030 and then remodelled at the end of the 11th century. It’s the biggest Romanesque church in the world!
Whilst I can’t particularly appreciate the religious significance of the cathedral, the history buff in me was over the moon to be exploring this place. The crypt in particular is incredibly old and apparently home to the remains of some pretty important historical figures; like the Hapburg Emperors! Yes I was geeking all over the place.
I’m not the biggest fan of the over-the-top Baroque style so I also couldn’t help but like the Romanesque architecture of the Cathedral. I particularly loved the symmetry of the design, as well as the stark colours of the outside of the building.
And when I was wandering outside the building it was obvious that the Speyer Cathedral had a unique style; it didn’t look anything like the other cathedrals I had visited in Germany.
My one complaint is that like everywhere in Germany (with the exception of the hugely informative English tour of the Wurzburg Residence) there was a distinct lack of information about the cultural and historical significance of the Cathedral. I was able to pick up an English flyer with a short summary inside but other than I didn’t find very much information.
The Germans are really good at keeping their historical sights preserved and restored, but they need to work on providing good historical information, especially in English.
Before heading back to the train station to start another 3.5 hours of train travel, I stopped by at the Speyer Christmas Market. I’ve since worked out that Speyer is a popular stop on the Christmas River Cruise itinerary and thus I shouldn’t have been surprised to find it packed full of tourists.
Despite this I did have one of the best pork sandwiches of my life from a stall here. The ‘Prager’ cost me a measly four Euros and was a heavenly mix of roasted ham in caramalised onion sauce. It was the best thing I’ve put in my mouth since the goose in Vienna.
Visiting Speyer Cathedral meant a long day of train travel for me. But I can’t say it’s a decision I regret. It’s almost been two months since I was in Speyer and I still don’t think I’ve visited a Church that wows me as much as this one does. I’d happily skip Cologne Cathedral and come here.