The Main twists and turns through pretty valleys with castle ruins on the hills and quaint small towns.
Wertheim is a charming little town with a population of just under twenty-four thousand at the confluence of the Tauber and Main Rivers. But this little town is and has been for centuries a major glass producer. They started making glassware and beads in medieval times and moved on to scientific glass ware (pipettes, flasks, etc.), and fiber glass. Today, a successor to Johns Manville employs hundreds of people making fiber glass and optic cable.
Karl Ittig founded a glass company in what became East Germany in 1841. After the second World War, the family escaped to West Germany and settled in Wertheim in 1958. Licensing the patent for Pyrex from Corning Glass, they became a founder of the local scientific glass industry. Seven generations after the company’s founding, little Maximilian Ittig is being taught the trade.
Fifth generation Karl is still very active. It was he who realized the potential for using Pyrex for art glass and other uses. He said a young Dale Chihuly spent time with him, and now Karl and son Hans travel frequently to the U.S. where they co-founded the Eugene Glass School in 1999 and their traditional glassmaking techniques are taught at Chihuly’s Pilchuck Glass School.
The Ittigs use three methods to produce glass products: a furnace; flame-working over and open flame, and glass fusing. Karl came aboard our ship and gave us a long entertaining demonstration of flame-working going far beyond what one sees in Disney World and tourist shops around the world. He even demonstrated the making of a long, flexible fiber optic cable. He used several volunteers from the audience and teased Alie by having her “blow” glass through a solid tube; but then he gave her an ornament as compensation.
Of course, there was plenty of time to buy his ornaments, glass ball thermometers and other collectivles and he signed the heavier pieces using a Dremel tool with a diamond bit.
The Hohenstaufen Castle towers over the town. First started in the 12th century, it was partially destroyed by a powder explosion in 1619, occupied by the Swedes and destroyed in 1634 during the Thirty Years’ War. Today the castle is owned by the city, and you can tour it for a euro. There is also a nice little restaurant where, along with Michelle, we had lunch each of us sampling an different kind of wurst from the area.
The town itself is very attractive. It was Whit Monday, and a priest had made chalk markings on the doorposts of buildings. I just enjoyed seeing the old half-timbered buildings and found one fountain with its somewhat overweight figures out of the ordinary.