Kara and I and a couple friends from work spent last weekend visiting Ulm Cathedral.
- The tallest Cathedral in the world at 530ft
- Took 513 years to finish (starting in 1377)
- You can climb to the top, 768 steps up.
- The stairs are not in doors...
The day was foggy, which was wonderful for photos and keeping your paralyzing fear of heights somewhat at bay.
We began our ascent up the 768 stairs. The staircases were a spiral all the way to the top, with large windowless openings in the stone, partitioned by steel bars so it was more difficult to fall out. The spiral was very constricted. Along the lower walls of our ascent were hundreds of carvings and etchings - many dating back to the early 1900's and some, like this one, to the late 1800's. (1877)
|A view from the first leg of stairs.|
The staircases were broken up into segments of a few hundred. At our first stop was the above room, lined in early sketches and photographs of all the major cathedrals in the world. In the center was the bell chamber, which had viewing glasses to the bells below.
A couple tiers later, we reached the final set to the steeple. Previously, we had been twisting up staircases that were just wide enough to fit 2 people. At this next stage, the stairs narrowed to the width of one person. This meant if someone was coming down, both of you had to put your backs to a wall and shimmy along each other (We got the opportunity to try this. It was terrifying.)
|The never-ending staircase. How's that for concept art. Click for hi-res.|
As scary as it was this high up, the fog floating through the scaffolding was beautiful.
I also forgot to mention it was just above freezing and everything was wet. The twisting stone to the right in this photo is actually the "hand rail," and although those look like windows, there's no glass there. Just big hollow openings.
We reach the top! Everyone is thoroughly terrified, wet, and freezing. Through the fog you can barely make out the tops of buildings below, and the platform we have to stand on is only about 20" wide.
We made our way back down, which turned out to be even more disorienting then the way up. I was fighting off my body's urge to break into a paralyzed fear based panic the whole way. Once you make it half way, you realize that the lower staircases were actually spacious in comparison. Above is a scale model of the cathedral in the center of Ulm. All in all, it was the best experience yet.