Here are some touristy photos of Augsburg that I took on 13 August 1999.

Augsburg (Augsbourg, Augusta, Augsburgo) is a big city that's close to Munich but in Bavarian Swabia. I'm not sure what that means, but perhaps it's why you don't see people wearing Bavarian togs in Augsburg as you do in Munich.

Like Munich, it's a very affluent looking place. The bird-brained can keep themselves amused windowshopping handbags with fancy names, etc., etc. Bat-brained as ever, I looked at other things.

[St somebody or other, Augsburg] [stone deer skulls over an entrance, Augsburg]

Augsburg is handsome; its citizens have clearly worked hard over the years to embellish it and keep it embellished, whether with Christian icons or with what appear to be deer skulls.

[stuffed animals in Augsburg shop window] [Guinness-powered teddy bears producing string instruments, Augsburg]

The shop windows are neat, too. (Sorry for the lack of a polarizing filter.) Clearly Guinness is good for Augsburg bears.

[zur goldenen Gans brewery, Augsburg]

And it's not just pretty. Here, just off Maximilianstrasse, is a brewery ("zur goldenen Gans", since some long-distant year that I can't quite read).

[typical street within the Fuggerei, Augsburg] [The former Hoechstetter house, 1507, now part of the Seniorat (administrative) building of the Fuggerei, Augsburg] [street within the Fuggerei, Augsburg, with discreet souvenir stall] [one of the archways into the Fuggerei, Augsburg]

The Fugger family was the richest in the world. But in an era before tax write-offs, they set up the first low-cost housing estate (founded in 1521), called the Fuggerei. There were 52 houses by 1523, and many more were built later. With the addition of electricity, running water, etc., they still function as first intended. Some of them survived the war; some didn't and were reconstructed; the houses are still worth seeing. One is open as a museum; <rant>contrary to the belief of a group of oafish or dimwitted Japanese tourists who turned up when we did, entrance is not free and the aim of the place is not to provide what in Britain would be called the "Fuggerei Experience" (ulp)</rant>.

[Augsburg, Dom, stained glass window] [Augsburg, Dom, saint with fleur-de-lys implants, uh, no, a halo] [Augsburg, Dom, corbel]

Views of the interior of the Dom (cathedral). The stained glass window (of the prophet Daniel) is one of a set of five dating from the 1140s. They're not in a museum, either, but are mounted in the clerestory (one of the bits near the top).

[book about the Augsburg doors]What most impressed me were the romanesque doors, which have been moved inside for safety. There didn't seem any point in taking photos of them -- photos that would certainly be fourth-rate at best. Instead I got myself a copy of Hanna Bösl and Franz X. Bartl, Die Augsburger Domtür (Freilassing: Pannonia-Verlag, 1985; 3-7897-0126-2); a snip at DM4.00.

As for the exterior, the tympanum (from c. 1360) of the south portal is outstanding:

[Augsburg, Dom, whole of the tympanum] [Augsburg, Dom, left of the tympanum] [Augsburg, Dom, right of the tympanum]

The pride of Augsburg is within the Rathaus: the Goldener Saal, so called as it's encrusted with a pile of gold. Originally built in the early seventeenth century, this gives a powerful impression of being a huge and uninviting room encrusted in the 1980s with a pile of gold. (Pace the writers of guidebooks, it was not "restored", at least in any normal sense of that word. It was completely destroyed in 1944, and thereafter completely rebuilt.)

[Augsburg, Rathaus, Goldener Saal] [Augsburg, Rathaus, Goldener Saal]

But look closely and you see that much that isn't encrusted with gold is covered with the most delightfully grotesque murals (below). These repay hours of study.

[Augsburg, Rathaus, Goldener Saal] [Augsburg, Rathaus, Goldener Saal] [Augsburg, Rathaus, Goldener Saal] [Augsburg, Rathaus, Goldener Saal]

Now we come to Augsburg's most splendid thoroughfare, Maximilianstrasse, whose scale and gentle curve reminded me of Venice's grand canal. (Not an original observation.)

[Augsburg, Maximilianstrasse] [Augsburg, Maximilianstrasse] [Augsburg, Maximilianstrasse] [Augsburg, Maximilianstrasse] [Augsburg, Maximilianstrasse] [Augsburg, Maximilianstrasse] [Augsburg, Maximilianstrasse] [Augsburg, Maximilianstrasse] [Augsburg, Maximilianstrasse]

The Rough Guide simply says that Maximilianstrasse was so named in honor of the Hapsburg Maximilian I; the Cadogan guide clarifies matters: "Until 1957 Maximilianstraße was named after King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria. Then it was renamed after Emperor Maximilian I, a great lover of Augsburg. . . ." The buildings that face Maximilianstrasse include several that are of historical and architectural importance . . . but I was only in Augsburg for less than a day, so it will have to await its web-based Nikolaus Pevsner.

[Augsburg, mystery building]

A colorful building at one end -- the Rathaus end -- of Maximilianstrasse. It's the Weberhaus, the guildhall of the weavers. (In medieval times, all the buildings of Maximilianstrasse were painted.)

[Augsburg, St-Ulrich-und-Afra]

At the other end of Maximilianstrasse -- and visible in some of the photographs above -- is the large, gothic and renaissance structure of St-Ulrich-und-Afra.

[Augsburg, interior of St-Ulrich-und-Afra, artistically, no, incompetently blurred] [Augsburg, interior of St-Ulrich-und-Afra] [Augsburg, interior of St-Ulrich-und-Afra] [Augsburg, interior of St-Ulrich-und-Afra]

The interior of St-Ulrich-und-Afra -- somewhat too grand for my taste. (Immediately next to it, looking at first like a mere annex, is the Protestant church of St Ulrich, whose interior was only visible through a glass partition but which looks very attractive.)


Klosterkirche Maria Stern, built by Johannes Holl, 1574-6.

[Augsburg] [Augsburg]

A painting that I think was inside it . . . but oh dear, I find that I've forgotten.

The Fugger fortune was largely established by Jakob Fugger the Rich (1459-1525). . . . He brought in double-entry book-keeping, took risks in buying up some flooded mines and ended up with monopolies over Hungarian copper, Austrian silver and Spanish quicksilver. Soon he had amassed a fortune that historians estimate was the equivalent of the combined assets of today's top ten multinational companies. . . .

Rodney Bolt, Bavaria, 2nd ed. (London: Cadogan Guides, 1999), 142.

Clearly Bill Gates still has some way to go.

Back to the Fuggerei

In Kelowna, Canada, Angelika Offenwanger read that I didn't know the meaning of "Bavarian Swabia", and rushed to set me straight:

It's a political term, as well as an ethnic one.

Germany is divided up into "Bundesländer": Bayern, Baden-Württemberg, Sachsen, etc. -- the equivalent of the U.S. States. Bavaria is then further divided into "Regierungsbezirke", much like States are into Counties: Oberbayern (Capital Munich), Niederbayern, Oberfranken, Unterfranken, Mittelfranken (Capital Nürnberg), Oberpfalz, and Schwaben (Capital Augsburg).

Ethnically, only the folks in Oberbayern and Niederbayern are "real" Bavarians, with the Lederhosen and Dirndls and what-have-you. The other ones are Franken (Franconians), Oberpfälzer, and Schwaben (Swabians), respectively. There's quite a difference in culture and dialect. The dialect in Augsburg, Augsburger Schwäbisch, is very similar to that spoken in Stuttgart ("regular" Swabian), but quite different from Bavarian. For example, "small cat" is "Kätzchen" in high German, "Katzerl" in Bavarian, and "Kätzle" in Swabian. . . .

Writing from Munich, Christa König elaborates:

the people from Augsburg speak Suebian, but not quite the same as it is spoken in Stuttgart. Augsburg was a "Freie Reichsstadt", but in 1804 Napoleon gave it to Bavaria, and therefore it's been part of Bavaria ever since.

And from Augsburg itself, Andreas Greiser adds:

Yes, in the Western parts of the City, the dialect is pretty much similar to the way they talk in Ulm or Stuttgart. But if you cross the river Lech to Lechhausen (to the East), they have sort of their own dialect. As soon as you go to Friedberg, the city right at the Eastern city limits, they very much tend to Bavarian.

Back to the top

Any comments? Corrections? Write to me (Peter Evans), or tell the whole world.

intro | Bamberg | Dinkelsbühl | Forchheim | Freising
Friedberg | Landshut | Munich | Regensburg | Straubing | opticians

Other snaps


First created -- in home-devised cookie-cutter style (batch files and lean, mean software) -- on 13 January 2000. Last fiddled with: 14 November 2001. My thanks to Andreas Greiser, Christa König, Angelika Offenwanger, and Robert Rowen for corrections and amplifications.

Valid XHTML 1.0