On the road: Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic

Posted by David Eicher
on Wednesday, October 19, 2011

On Friday, I’ll be flying from Milwaukee to Atlanta and then on to Munich, Germany, with a group of Astronomy magazine readers to tour astronomical sites in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Our tour leader, Melita Thorpe of MWT Associates, is directing the event that will take us across lots of space and time until we return to the United States on October 31. Although I’m technically on vacation on this trip, I’ll be blogging a bit about some of the amazing sights we’ll see attached to the world of astronomy and history.

One city this tour stops in is Prague, Czech Republic, a place full of astronomical history. For example, the Prague astronomical clock pictured here was first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the only one still working. Credit: Alessandro Giangiulio
The tour will shadow three great personalities in the astronomy world: Tycho Brahe (1546–1601), the great Danish astronomer who spent the last period of his life in Prague; German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571–1630), who served as Tycho’s assistant and carried on his work in Prague; and German optician Carl Zeiss (1816–1888), the master lens maker who produced the finest telescopes in the world for some decades.


We’ll start in Stuttgart, the German manufacturing city that holds the Mercedes-Benz Museum (can we take one home?), before seeing Kepler’s birthplace and museum in nearby Weil der Stadt. After checking out the Zeiss Optical Museum in Oberkochen, we’ll motor on to spend three nights in Prague.

One of Europe’s most spectacular cities, Prague will enable us to walk in the footsteps of Tycho and Kepler. We’ll enjoy the Old Town, the city’s famous astronomical clock, and the Klementinium, the seminary that today houses the Astronomical Tower and Baroque Library. We’ll also visit Štefánik’s Observatory, meet with local astronomers, and enjoy the double Zeiss refractor there before catching a concert at St. Nicholas Church.

Following Prague, we’ll move on to Vienna, another of Europe’s great cities, to see the House of Hapsburg, who ruled as Holy Roman Emperors from the city’s palace. We’ll see the United Nations office in Vienna, the Vienna State Opera, the Danube River,  Hofburg Palace, and St. Stephen’s Cathedral before taking in Urania Observatory. We’ll also check out the Beethoven Museum and the Viennese Heurgen (wine bar) at Heiligenstadt before we move on.

Moving back into Germany, we’ll encounter Munich, capitol of Bavaria, with full force and right in the midst of Oktoberfest. Our group will see the Olympic Area of 1972 fame; the largest palace in Germany, Nymphenburg; and the celebrated Old Town District with its Frauenkirche and famous City Hall. And we will also attend Mineralientage München (the Munich World of Minerals, Gems, Jewelry, and Fossils), the largest gem show in the world, with more than 1,250 exhibitors from 56 countries. As a mineral collector, this will be a paradise for me, and I expect to pack a few things away in my carry-on bag to bring back to the States!

I’ll give you some blogs as best I can from the road as we travel through Europe and across the centuries to relive the worlds of Tycho, Kepler, and Zeiss.


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