|Visiting Schaffhausen : Vordergasse and the Munot|
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Karstgässchen leads from opposite the Zum Ochsen house into Platz, its fountain sporting another grim-faced mercenary. From here, alleys bring you south onto the main Vordergasse, a shopping street sloping downhill to the east. On the corner of Münstergasse is Schaffhausen’s most celebrated house, the Zum Ritter, its facade covered in a spectacularly intricate design acclaimed as the most significant Renaissance fresco to survive north of the Alps (although the original is now preserved in the town’s Museum zu Allerheiligen and this is a 1930s copy). Originally dating from 1570, the fresco depicts, over three storeys, various elements of knightly virtues (Ritter means “knight”): the central panel shows Odysseus in the Land of the Lotus-Eaters, tempted by a voluptuous woman, while above is a Roman knight who sacrificed himself for the glory of his country. Below is a trusting girl, symbolizing virtue, protected by a king (the government) and a woman holding a mitre (the church). From the Zum Ritter, alleys head southwest to another of Schaffhausen’s broad open squares, Herrenacker, surrounded by tall, dignified facades, with, on the west side, the town’s massive Kornhaus (1679).
From the Zum Ritter house, Vordergasse continues east to the Gothic, five-naved Kirche St Johann (Mon–Sat: April–Sept 9am–6pm; Oct–March 10am–5pm), expanded six times since it was begun in the eleventh century. In a niche on the south side of the tower is a small statue of the Madonna and Child without any feet: they were removed during the Reformation when a wall was built to hide the image. A few steps east, in front of a fountain statue of William Tell, is the magnificent double-fronted Rococo mansion Zur Wasserquelle und Zieglerburg.
Some 50m north of the Zur Wasserquelle is a footbridge over the main Bachstrasse road, which brings you onto steps climbing the hill to the Munot. This is Schaffhausen’s trademark circular fortress, built by forced labour in 1564 after the religious wars of the Reformation. The interior (daily: May–Sept 8am–8pm; Oct–April 9am–5pm) is dark and gloomy, with massive stone vaulting strong enough to support the 40,000-tonne superstructure. An internal spiral ramp – one of only three such designs in Europe (see also here) – brings you out onto the circular roof of the bastion, with good views over the town. A different door exits onto stairs running through the vines planted on the Munot hill, down to the small riverside quarter known as Unterstadt; Schaffhausen’s annual Old Town shindig, held on a weekend in late June, still passes on alternate years between the salt-of-the-earth folk of the Unterstadt and their toffee-nosed neighbours of the town centre further west.
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