St Gallen, a wonderful city of windows and walls

May 18, 2021, 1 Comment

The medieval Berlin. Yes, St Gallen was once a divided city, with a wall separating the Catholic monastery from the Protestant city surrounding it (which in turn was surrounded by the lands of the monastery). After 240 years, the wall was torn down in 1807 but a small section of it remains, a little fragment of an unusual city history.

Despite the division, both sides of St Gallen prospered, thanks to the textile and embroidery industries (more of that later in the week). The Prince-Abbots at the monastery were powerful landowners while the city guilds grew rich from their trades and flaunted their wealth with townhouses and decorated windows.

A stroll around the pedestrianised city centre reveals a host of ornate oriel windows, all competing to be the most elaborate. Some feature animals and birds, others have people or planets, others merely amazing wood carving worthy of a cathedral choir. Schmiedgasse and Spisergasse are the best streets for oriel-window spotting.

This a city that invites you to stroll at a leisurely pace, taking in the different eras of architecture, from half-timbered walls to modern structures (my favourite of those is the splendid train station). But I also went around at quite a lick, with the help of a timelapse camera, so you can see the heart of the city in under a minute.

In the middle of it all is the impressive Abbey, which you can read about in yesterday’s article. Tomorrow, we are going shopping! For more information, visit St Gallen Tourism website.

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