The crest for the city of Hamburg prominently features a castle which represents the Hammaburg that was built by order of Charlemagne around the year 808 AD. Subsequently the castle was attacked and destroyed, by Vikings, then rebuilt no less than 8 times. Hamburg really got a boost when, in 1189, Frederick I granted it the status of a Free Imperial City and tax free access into the North Sea. This made the city a major port in Northern Europe. In more recent times, they have discovered that in fact, Frederick I died before he could sign this actual document but they were successful in convincing others that he had done so.
While visiting the city of Brussels, we took a day tour to the city of Bruges, located west of Brussels near the coast of the North Sea. Bruges is considered to be one of the best preserved medieval towns in the world and due to its canals, is referred to as the “Venice of the North.” Bruges is in the Flanders section of Belgium where Dutch is the primary language.
Innsbruck sits in a valley with mountains to its north and south and the Inn River running through it. Just on the other side of those mountains is Germany to the north and Italy to the south. With relatively accessible mountain passes in both directions and a bridge across the Inn River (thus the name “Innsbruck”), this town became a very important trade route. Innsbruck is the capital of the Austrian Federal State of Tirol (or Tyrol). This region was much larger but the area of South Tirol was ceded to Italy at the conclusion of World War I.
Once again, we began our visit to Barcelona with a walking tour. We were told that Romans founded the city in 38 B.C. In the first 200 years they built a walled city that defined the boundaries of Barcelona for the next 1600 years! During this time they had to build higher since they could not build out, given that they could not extend the city beyond the walls. Not until the mid-1850’s did they break out of their medieval walls. People were dying very young from disease caused by the overcrowding. Previously unknown engineer Ildefons Cerda created a plan for the expanded city that turned out to be extraordinarily visionary ultimately leading to him being credited as having defined “urbanization”.
Barcelona is part of Catalonia, an “autonomous community” in the northeast corner of Spain. It is also referred to as a nationality for the people in this region who for centuries have been agitating for the creation of an independent state for Catalonia. Before the 18th century it was a principality of the Crown of Aragon with its own language. Today, Catalan, along with Spanish is the official language of this region.