I had never heard of Ulm, but we knew we wanted to visit Karma at least a couple of times. We decided that this last weekend would be perfect. We had finally recovered (emotionally, at least) from the lost wallet and were willing to travel once again.
Regional trains within the state of Baden-Württemberg are very inexpensive, so we knew we were starting our trip on the right foot. We left our house at 9:30 in the morning, and due to another train strike, didn't arrive in Ulm until about 1 o'clock. Karma picked us up at the train station and we drove just a short drive to her daughter's house.
We had a lovely Chinese salad and fried rice for lunch and chatted as if we had known each other for years. Karma told us stories about Curtis's grandma and grandpa—how they first met and what Karma thought of him for the first time.
Then Lorraine, Karma's daughter, and her husband, Hao, showed us around the city center in Ulm.
Ulm sits at the crossroads of the Baden-Württemberg state boundary and the Danube River and is known for being the birthplace of Albert Einstein. Ulm is also known for having the church with the tallest steeple in the world. And Curtis and I climbed to the very, very top.
The Ulmer Münster, or Ulm Minster, is a Gothic-style church that was begun in the 14th century and completed in 1890. It stands 530 feet tall and houses 768 well-worn stone steps to the very top. Of course, the intricate details on the interior of the church are as impressive as the details on the exterior—and just as impressive as, if not more than, the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. I wasn't around in 1377, but I imagine the tools and construction equipment in that day were a bit more primitive than what we use today.
To build a sturdy ceiling as tall as this is remarkable on its own. But add vibrant stained glass, colossal organ pipes, intricate stone-carved gargoyles (hoisted to 500 feet in the air)—I am completely in awe.
Since Sebastian and Livia were sound asleep, Lorraine and Hao felt confident—and kind—enough to allow us to climb to the top by ourselves. We weren't able to climb Notre-Dame together, so we were just beside ourselves at the opportunity to see the Danube from the tip of the spire.
We began our ascent up the steep, spiral staircase, excited and taking in each view—both inside and outside the cathedral. We tried to imagine the monks who, over hundreds of years, wore down the stone in each step.
We finally made it to a platform with views of Münsterplatz and close-ups of stone gargoyles. We were already dizzy and sweating, but we looked up and realized we were only one-third of the way to the top!
I started feeling incredibly uncomfortable going up the second tier of stairs. The stairwell is extremely tight—room for only one person to go up at a time. It's very steep, claustrophobic, and dark. And on an overcast day, the open windows (which were open) didn't contribute much light. My knees started to shake and I may have started hyperventilating a bit. Step by step, we made it to . . .
. . . the next tier . . . ! We weren't even at the top yet! We still had to climb that ultra-narrow staircase in the middle of the spire. But not before we got a panicked phone call from down below. Apparently, Sebastian woke up a while ago, and we missed a few desperate calls while we were on our way up. Both babies were in more of a panic than I was. But we were so close!
We snapped a few pictures beneath the gorgeous spire and made the final climb up to the "Third Gallery." Oh, my shaky hands, my unsteady legs, my weak spirit! We were so high.
We quickly took a selfie and Curtis decided to run down to rescue Sebastian and Livia. If climbing up the stairs made me nervous—with Curtis right behind my back—I was nearly sent into a panic attack trying to climb down all by myself. Nothing to hold onto except those gaping windows.
It took me a full fifteen minutes longer to tremble down the stairs than it did Curtis. I am not ashamed.
We strolled around the old and new parts of the city for the rest of the time we had until we had to catch our train back. Fun fact: It took about the same amount of time to travel to Ulm as it does to get to church every week.