MARBURG, Germany


From Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, the main train station, to Marburg will take you about one hour. The population of this medieval town is about 80,000; more than 20,000 of them are students. In 1527 count Philippe 1 founded the first protestant German university, which is still named after him, though it is not a religious institution anymore. Though officially the university does not have a campus, one can see at once that Marburg is a university town. There are many young faces everywhere. Students who come to study at the university from other places live at university houses, many of them dating back to the Middle Ages (though renovated inside). Walk from the old Rathaus, Town Hall, along Die Barfüßerstraße, which dates back to 1234. “The Street of Bare Feet” got its name after the old Franciscan monastery; the monks used to walk around barefoot. You will find a pretty little house in one of the tiniest side streets, Weldelgasse, with memorial boards in various languages: the Russian polymath Mikhail Lomonosov lived there in 1736-1739. That’s where he met and fell in love with Elizabeth Christine Zilch, the daughter of his landlady, whom he later married. Amazingly, when I went into the hallway, and through it to a small backyard garden, there were students sitting around on the benches, reading, same as many centuries ago. The University of Marburg has its own program for teaching the blind. Young people busily running along the streets, with their distinctive long slim white canes, are clearly a habitual sight, and an integral part of the town life. 150 young men and women get their diplomas and find a job, thanks to the university’s special programs for the disabled.

Imagine getting out of the train, and going straight into a fairy-tale. It is clear that the whole population takes care of the town, preserving it as it was, as it is. Situated among the hills, on the banks of theLahn River,Marburg is fresh and green. Walking along its streets is pleasant even when it is very hot. Google map does not tell you about one specific feature of this lovely place, though. While it is easy to find one’s way among the many little streets and alleys, the whole town is built at different levels. One has to constantly walk up or down, in the literal sense of those words, climb up or down many narrow stairways, to get from street to street, or even from one side of the street to another. The locals obviously do not pay attention to this peculiarity, running or cycling back and forth. If you follow any one street to the top, you will see wonderful panoramas of the town and its surroundings, and take as many pictures as you like. Marburg is one of those places where one is tempted to stop and take a picture of every building, every fountain and statue. When you get tired, relax in one of the numerous cafes and restaurants, either right in front of the old Rathaus, or closer to the train station. The food is great, the service fast. If you wish, you can also do some shopping there. The shops mostly cater to young people’s tastes. Actually, the one with the most beautiful display of summer dresses was closed, and the announcement was written over with anguished questions, “WHEN WILL IT OPEN?!”, and comments like, “Ready to buy ALL!” Marburg is a medieval town which leaves a very youthful impression on any traveler.


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