We sailed into Speyer this morning. This time, there was a third tour on offer: “Speyer and the ShUM”, part of Uniworld’s Jewish Heritage series of tours. I was afraid it might not operate because today is Yom Kippur, but it did, so we met our guide and set out for…
…the Cathedral! I was a bit surprised, but not only was it beautiful, but it was also relevant to the history of the Jews in Speyer. When the First Crusade came through Speyer in 1096, the Bishop invited Jews to take refuge in his palace on the northern side of the Cathedral. The Emperor at the time was Heinrich IV; he is depicted fighting a wolf (I think it signifies the Church) in a statue outside the Cathedral.
Speyer claims to have invented the pretzel (it’s disputed), but they take that claim seriously; there’s even a pretzel-maker on the façade of the Cathedral alongside an angel.
We left the Cathedral and walked to the Judenhof, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has the ruins of a synagogue and an extremely well-preserved mikvah which we could walk down and see.
We spent about an hour in the Judenhof, then our guide took us to the market street and turned us loose. The market street is part of the North Route of the Palatine Ways of St. James which eventually connects to the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. I saw a pilgrim on the street (he looked like a backpacker but he was also carrying a pilgrim’s staff) but I wasn’t quick enough to get a picture. Fortunately, there’s always a pilgrim on the market street.
We walked to the new synagogue (our guide said that the Jewish community is now mostly from Eastern Europe).
Our guide told us that the synagogue had been placed so that it faced the Cathedral; it certainly didn’t align with the surrounding streets. It adjoins St. Guido’s Park, where we found a menorah with this inscription:
A gift from Speyer’s Catholic and Protestant Christians for the inauguration of the synagogue, 9 November 2011
We walked back to the ship, had lunch, and set out again to meet one of my oldest blogging friends, Andrea Frick. She and I had both started blogging on EditThisPage.com (thanks, Dave Winer!) and we’ve read each other’s blogs over the years. She lives near Speyer and offered to come and take us around the area, and we were delighted! Unfortunately, her husband André (also an early EditThisPage blogger) had to work.
We then drove to Rhodt, a small town along the road, and walked up its Main Street to enjoy the atmosphere.
We stopped at Hofverkauf Familie Wolff to look at their cordials, jams, and honeys; the woman running the shop asked where we were from and when I said “California”, she gave me a free jar of fig jam, which I look forward to enjoying at home.
Andrea brought us back to the ship and we parted – I hope it’s not another 23 years before we see her again!