Our small group of four world travelers met us yesterday afternoon to begin the CAA’s trip to this year’s FEI World Pony Driving Championships. They had flown in to Munich in the morning and taken the train (a series of trains, actually) all the way north so they could see the scenery on the way, through the length of Germany. When they called to say they would be arriving in Münster at 5:20 p.m. (and sounding quite tired after their long day of train adventures), we said we’d pick them up at the Münster train station, instead of waiting for them to find the bus to the airport (which is much closer to our hotel). At any rate, we were emboldened by my husband’s mastery (after a day and a half) of the German roads and our Mercedes minivan, and so off to the main train station, in the middle of rush hour, we went! Needless to say, our tired foursome was grateful, and the driving here is really not that bad, as long as you remember to watch out for all the bicycles!

Earlier in the day, we had visited the championship site to check in for our press passes and to figure out the lay of the land. The site is the permanent home of a local riding and driving club and so already has a number of the necessary amenities. It all appears quite nice after our first look. The main “marquee” tent is right along the long side of the dressage/cones arena, with grandstands along the other sides. The vendors and various official tents are in this area as well. The marathon obstacles are grouped together in such a way that it should be VERY easy for spectators to see almost everything or to get quickly from one to the other. When we were there, most of the obstacles weren’t decorated yet, and water was still being pumped into the water obstacle, so everything looked a bit forlorn. But I’m sure it won’t take long for the entire area to come alive with flowers, fruits and vegetables (we’re guessing) in the “farmstand” obstacle, and more.

We’ve been informed that the “jog” (vet inspection) is being held in such cramped quarters in the stable area (which only one of the six of us is allowed in anyway) that we’re better off not trying to go to watch any of it. We’ve been invited to the Nations’ Party this evening, though, so we will definitely be there for that! With the jog off the schedule, our little group has decided to do some sightseeing in Münster.

My husband and I actually arrived in Germany last Friday and had done quite a bit of sightseeing on foot throughout Münster, before we picked up the minivan and checked into our group hotel out here in the country (yes, we’re out in the country – there are cows outside our window!).

So we’ll be playing tour guides this morning. After just a couple of days in Münster, we’ve already acquired a few favorite places, and we hope to share these with the group.

One of the first things we want to show everyone is the farmers’ market, which takes place every Wednesday and Saturday morning. From 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., the cathedral square is filled with the most amazing variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, meats, fish, bread, and more. There’s even a café set up in a corner of the square, so you can get a cup of coffee while you shop. While we were there on Saturday, a huge thunderstorm blew through while everyone ran for cover or waited under tent awnings. It will be nice to see it in (we hope!) more temperate weather.

The old, central part of the town itself is unique. A huge percentage of the city was destroyed in WWII but, when it came time to rebuild, the city’s leaders decided to do so in the old style. They took renovated buildings back to their medieval roots, they built new buildings with old-style facades, and they rebuilt everything according to the original medieval city plan. The result is a wonderful mix of old and new, all connected by curvy, narrow, cobblestone streets.

 

a long line of old buildings, and newer buildings built to look old, in Münster's old town

a long line of old buildings, and newer buildings built to look old, in Münster’s old town

About three blocks out from the center of town is a lovely park. Known as the Promenade, this peaceful tree-lined avenue is reserved for (and used heavily by) walkers, joggers, and bike riders. This part of Germany, being so far north and so near Holland, is flat, flat, flat. So in their early days, the area’s towns and castles relied on wide water moats for defense. The remnants of Münster’s moat are found now in the 4½-kilometer Promenade, which encircles the center of the city.

a small section of Münster's lovely, tree-lined Promenade

a small section of Münster’s lovely, tree-lined Promenade

Back in the center of town, the St. Lamberti church dominates the main shopping street (which was the main shopping street way back when and still is today).

the elaborately gothic St. Lamberti church in the center of Münster's old town

the elaborately gothic St. Lamberti church in the center of Münster’s old town

part of the elaborate gothic decoration over the main front doors of the St. Lamberti church

part of the elaborate decoration over the main front doors of the St. Lamberti church

On Sunday, when the fancy shops and boutiques are closed for everything but window shopping, musicians set up in the arcades across the street from the church. In addition to the frequent ringing of the church bells, we heard Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” tango music, and even some snippets of organ music and voices, wafting out from the church during mass.

Over on the cathedral square, after the round of bell-ringing that announced the end of a mass, the cathedral was opened back up to visitors. We went in to have a look around amid the smoky, incense-scented air. Every day at noon (at 12:30 on Sundays) the cathedral’s astrological clock chimes the hour and performs for the crowd, exactly as it’s been doing since it was built in 1540. First, the chime on the top right is struck four times to indicate the top of the hour and the angel flips over the hourglass he’s holding. Then, the chime on the top left is struck twelve times. The first door opens and a soldier comes out, followed by the three magi. These three each turn one at a time to face Mary and the baby Jesus, and they bow, and then continue on. All the while, the melodies of several hymns are played on the glockenspiel. None of this is particularly amazing by modern standards, certainly, but the fact that it’s been doing this every day for nearly 500 years certainly is. 

a portion of the fascinating and elaborate astrological clock in Münster's cathedral

a portion of the fascinating and elaborate astrological clock in Münster’s cathedral

Münster’s rebuilt Rathaus (city hall) is where the Peace of Westphalia Treaty was signed in 1648 to end the Thirty Years’ War

Münster’s rebuilt Rathaus (city hall) is where the Peace of Westphalia Treaty was signed in 1648 to end the Thirty Years’ War