Medieval Cities Puzzle Modern GPS

We walked through the old city quarter (referred to as “Altsdtadt” on the city’s indispensable directional signage) in Koblenz, Heidelberg, Cologne, and Trier.

Finding a landmark that we wanted to visit was a challenge. For example, in Trier, after viewing the imperial Roman baths, we searched for Karl Marx’s birthplace.

Karl Marx house
Ancient Roman bath site

We enjoyed wandering through the streets, admiring the architecture, and quaint squares, like this one.

However, figuring out which of several narrow byways to take out of the square was difficult. Our Android GPS kept finding alternate routes, so we’d wander one way or another and, according to the GPS, were always a mere 500 meters from Marx’s house. Frequently, we’d find ourselves re-entering a square via the portal of another street.

That the skies were overcast and frequently drizzling didn’t help the GPS, either.

The main streets in German Altstadt quarters are favored locations for upscale shops and restrict auto traffic so that pedestrians can wander about shopping without worrying about cars and buses.

During the Christmas season, holiday lights are strung over the streets…

and temporary holiday markets fill the Altstadt squares offering stocking stuffers, wurst, beer, and mulled wine for folks strolling through the quarter…

and carnival style rides for the kids.

Local shops add glitter to their windows. Germans love chocolate stores, and so did we.

Cologne re-built its Alstadt after it was leveled during World War 2 bombing raids preserving the medieval byways and replicating the architecture. (Similarly, after the Great Fire of London in 1666, Christopher Wren’s plan to straighten the streets into something more grid-like with wide major thoroughfares failed to be adopted because property owners feared losing bits of their land in the process.)

Rural villages retain their medieval streetscape, but their small size make navigating much simpler than the urban Altstaedter.

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