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Eric: Four German Cities
Big City Germany:
A Tale of Four Cities

By Nancy & Eric Anderson
Photography by Authors

n most countries the cities have a lot to offer: That's where tourists find the museums, the special attractions, the pieces of history. That's especially true of Germany. It has such an efficient train system. If locals complain the DB train system is not as good as it used to be, United States visitors have to smile at the criticism; perhaps Germans are unaware of how poor train travel is in America - even as California has the hubris to promote a high speed rail system it can't afford and which will never be self sufficient.

The surprise about large German cities is how a little tourist exploration shows how different they are. Yes, Berlin has its museum island but the vast reaches of Germany allow cities an individuality, that delights many vacationers. Travelers sure like to find their own special places - and those may not be exactly what the guide books talk about.

Cologne, population about 1,007,000

It's less than one third of the population of the capital Berlin but in bygone ages it may have had more history. In the Middle Ages it was more important than London or Paris. Part of its attraction was perhaps preposterous. Cologne was supposed to have the heads of the Magi, the three kings who paid homage to the birth of Jesus Christ. On such faith religions are born. And on them a massive cathedral was built in Cologne, amazingly -- unlike Coventry cathedral in England - undamaged by bombing in World War II. The cathedral might take all day to visit. Amongst the exhibits inside is the tomb of Saint Engelbertus whose marble carving shows him in extreme repose. Surprising considering how he died: pulled from his horse and fatally stabbed 47 times in 1225 because enemies thought he behaved more like a king than a bishop. Those were surely difficult times.

interior of Cologne Cathedral; a cafe in Old Town Cologne

Easier times are represented at a little café in Old Town: Papa Joe's Biersalon on Alter Markt in Altstadt, a "kitschy place" as Fodor's says, "offering oldies from Piaf to Cole Porter." It just looks like fun.

This city has a busy urban center -- the fourth largest in Germany -- with shops to delight any tourist on an expense account. Situated on the cross roads of the European trade routes how could it not prosper?

Frankfurt, population around 641,000

Frankfurt comes as a surprise. Its new tower contrasting with symbolic evidence of its past. We've passed through its sleek, efficient airport a few times and knew it was the 7th largest city in Germany but here it is from the river Main looking like Small Town Germany even to the old-world half-timbered buildings around the "village" square. This area looks magical in the evening when lights make it look almost like a Christmas scene. On the river swans sail serenely past bicyclists keeping pace with kayakers and boats so full of people having fun it looks like the boats might capsize.

scenes from Frankfurt

Frankfurt was first mentioned in documents in 794 and from 1356 the kings of Franconia had to be crowned here. Big trade fairs in the Middle Ages brought visitors from all over Central Europe. The foreigners needed their currency changed and Frankfurt, pleased to oblige, started the banking system that is all-powerful today. Visitors still come: the Frankfurt airport is the second largest in Europe where 42,000 shops and businesses show their wares to passengers. When the railway station was built it was the largest station in the world and the first building in Germany to have electric light. It serves a million passengers a day.

"We were bombed heavily in the war," says our guide, "So what you see is almost all-new." She tells us 85 percent of the city was destroyed in two air raids in World War II. The Goethe house was completely rebuilt and 32 museums were relocated in mansions along the river.

Dresden, population about 454,000

If Frankfurt suffered in the war what can we say about Dresden, a far more beautiful city that was almost totally lost in World War II to not only Germany but to the world?

Dresden is smaller and more easily embraced by the visitor on foot. We are walking with Christoph Muench, Dresden's International Press Manager. "Dresden" he says, "is one of the most beautiful cities in Germany … a condensed book of German history: from the glamour of its royalty to its destruction in war. Everything you could expect of a German city is here: culture, museums and music. The city is known as having one of the 10 best city orchestras in the world and has 50 museums, so this is a great place for visitors if it rains!

"Plus," he continues, "The city has castles, wineries, mountains and lakes -- with one of the oldest and largest paddle steamer fleets anywhere on the globe. It is romantic and picturesque and close to other interesting countries like the Czech Republic and Poland. The New York Times says Dresden is one of the 41 best cities anyone could visit; so walk around and you'll see why!"

scenes from Dresden: memorial to Julius Otto, a statue of Martin Luther and the 1969 The Way of the Red Flag

A walk indeed shows why. We pass the 1886 memorial to the celebrated Julius Otto, cantor of the Kkreuzkirche Boys' Choir, recreated in 2010 (redone like most things in Dresden) with the extra modern choir boy added to symbolize the choir's long tradition. There is, of course, a statue to Martin Luther. During the 40 years of communist occupation other memorials went up in town such as the triumphant 1969 The Way of the Red Flag.

But it seems the re-building never stops. Volkswagen has built a huge glass-fronted factory in a park! Visitors and family members can gaze on this "Transparent Factory" where a typical German automobile worker spends his day, a far cry from the work conditions and benefits American employees get.

Volkswagen 's glass-fronted factory in a park and the Military History Museum, Dresden

The Military History Museum was renovated also and re-opened in October 2011 with a startling (and now a completely accepted) contribution from American architect Daniel Libeskind: an addition that cuts like a knife right through the building. The museum has, says its advertising, more than "10,000 exhibits to violence." Captain Sebastian Bangert, the museum's information officer, says that's true and adds, "We don't make judgments here. We just tell it like it was."

Wurzburg population now 133,500

This city is a paradox. In contrast with an American city like San Antonio, Texas that has a population of 1.3 million but, to us, seems small, Wurzburg is a small town that seems big. Probably that’s because of the overwhelming majesty, the intimidating grandeur of the Residenz. This building happened because a relatively unimportant (in terms of world history) but wealthy prince bishop wanted his large palace to be in this small town. How large? Well, it has the largest ceiling fresco in the world! Why did a prince bishop, a man of the cloth, want such splendor? Because those aristocrats were more prince than bishop, a guide tells us. Most had bought their bishoprics from Rome with borrowed money and now needed to tax the peasants in their lands harshly to repay the loan. But why such magnificence? “Because they all wanted their own Versailles – that’s why so many German immigrants came to America, to turn their backs on the feudal system.”

the ceiling fresco and a wine cellar in the Wurzburg Residenz

It is impressive. “Napoleon,” Elena, our guide, says, “once called it ‘the nicest parsonage in Europe.’ He actually slept here on three occasions.” The gigantic building is a tribute to Baroque architecture -- and modern German resilience because the Residenz was bombed in World War II and required tedious reconstruction in some rooms. Elena takes us from room to room pointing out items we might not have noticed on our own. We stop in the Mirror Cabinet, the most extravagant room in the Imperial Apartments. It was completed in 1745 and completely destroyed exactly two centuries later in the air raid of March 1945. The room was reconstructed from a mirror fragment, photographs and a watercolor painting of the year 1873 “But, says, Elena, “When it was recreated they couldn’t find the bath tub! I think someone must have sold it on eBay.”

Down below the Residenz are other rooms, a vast labyrinth of wine cellars from a wine estate has been producing Franconia wine since 1128. The Residenz wine estate is the oldest in Germany. It’s also one of the largest, producing 0.85 million bottles a year.

Of the other wine estates in town the most famous is the Juliusspital founded in 1576 by the prince bishop of Wurzburg, Julius Echter von Mespelbrunn. He gave some of his estate to fund a foundation to treat the “poor, sick, destitute and injured people who need medicine for wounds and other forms of illnesses, as well as abandoned orphans, pilgrims en route, and other persons in need." The winery grew to become the second largest wine estate in Germany. And possibly the best: a 1950 Riesling Auslese was served at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in England!

stone  carving on the wall of the Juliusspital wine estate showing a priest giving the Last Sacrament to a patient; a bust of X-ray discoverer Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen

A stone carving on the wall shows its earliest days as a hospital although it begs the question, What’s with the two finger salute where the attendant, a priest, a doctor? is holding presumably a Bible and perhaps giving the Last Sacrament to a resigned patient? We don’t know who this man is but we do know who toiled just a few hundred yards from here and has done more for patients than any medieval attendant. He revolutionized the practice of medicine. His name was Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen. He discovered the magic of X-Rays.

Related Articles:
Johann Sebastian Bach; Berlin in 5 Hours; Augsburg; Bavaria; Berlin: Yesterday and Today; Munich Christmas; Offbeat Germany; Berlin's Hoppegarten; Steam Safari in Saxony

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Tell Eric what you think of his article.
In the meantime, here are some of the feedback we have already received:

Hey Eric and Nancy! As a fellow Traveling Boy journalist, and as a confirmed WW2 aficionado, just wanted you to know how much I loved your story on Arnhem. Really great stuff, and truly brilliant riveting writing.

I’ve been there twice and covered it on my KNX radio show when I was on LA radio, and your story and evocative photos brought back a ton of wonderful and poignant memories. This could have been an amazingly brilliant military operation – as you both know – that might well have ended the War in Europe maybe a year earlier. However, allied misreading -- and in my view disregarding certain aspects of the situation in Holland -- plus the fact that they dropped the paras over 3 days and not in one huge assault at night (and not in the day as they did) doomed the mission to failure.

Your clever words and great photos brought all this graphically to life, and it should be required reading for anyone interested in any aspect of WW2, and certainly should be read by today’s teenagers. Again Bravo and well done!!!!

John Clayton
Travel with A Difference

We just couldn't leave your website before saying that we genuinely enjoyed the high quality information you offer for your visitors... Would be back frequently to check up on new stuff you post!


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What a fantastic write-up!

I could almost copy and paste most of your narrative verbatim as it reflects our fantastic experience with Fantasy Cruises almost to a tee. It was truly one of the greatest vacations my girlfriend and I have ever experienced.

Mike Richard, Editor,

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One of my dreams is to go to Alaska by way of cruise. This article very much intensifies the longing for that dream to come to fruition. I simply cannot wait much longer. And I will never again be able to think of a waterfall without picturing myself "nosing up" to it. Thank you for this intriguing, virtual journey.

Sandra Mines, Seattle, WA

Thank you for writing, Sandra. Alaska really is a wondrous place. Re "Nosing up" to a waterfall: we have a different article up at Physician's Money Digest on the same cruise (Small Ship Cruising: Alaska by the Back Door). The third last set of images there shows a crew member filling a jug of ice water from a waterfall while standing in the bow of the ship! Best wishes. Get there! To Alaska one day.

Eric & Nancy

Loved your photos from Alaska! Because I am the Director of Sales & Marketing for Westmark Hotels, I am up in AK and the Yukon quite often to visit our hotels and staff! But your pictures were so enjoyable-love to see the "real" Alaskans!

Heidi Howeiler, Seattle, WA

Hi Ms. Howeiler, That was kind of you to write and yes, you do see real people in Alaska, don't you? Alaskans always remind us off rural Texans or Australians in the isolated Red Centre of their country: hard working, sensible, rolled-up-sleeves people with no affectations. We love your Westmark hotels and we take our hats off to the person who started your company, Chuck West. What a great guy!

Eric & Nancy

Enjoyed your realistic and practical comments on Provence. Always wanted to go there ever since reading Peter Mayle's 2 books on Provence. But the two times I went to France, time was always short, so we spent our days in Paris. And now you say, it is losing its unique charm to tourism. (Sigh). It's always a choice between sharing beauty, and keeping it hidden. The world lurches on. Thanks for your thoughts.

Dette, Iligan City, Philippines

Hi Dette, (Would love to see all your waterfalls), Thank you for writing. Provence is busy in the tourist season but it hasn't lost all its charm or the quirkiness Mayle talks about in his book Provence A to Z. It's still a place to visit. Appreciate hearing from you. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

What a great article, especially regarding Louis XIV. I was not aware there was a contemporary account of his execution. It was fascinating. Thank you!

Celtic fan, Nashua, MA

Dear Celtic fan, Thanks for writing. I didn't know about the account of his execution either till I stumbled upon it. Sad to think that the French revolutionaries thought they could be both judge and jury. We are lucky to have a more elegant system today. Thanks for writing.

Eric & Nancy

Nancy and Eric,

Enjoyed reading your article on Santa Fe, NM. I was in AZ travel nursing in 2008 and 2009 and made it to Santa Fe. Took a lot of pics and really loved walking around the old town while I was there. Hope to be able to take the wife there in the future.

Brett Eidson, Soso, MS

Hi dude! Nice to see your site. It's beautiful. My congratulations.

New York

Hi New York, Thank you for writing. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

Hi! Your web-site is very interesting and I want to tell G'night.

New York

Dear New York,

Thank you for writing. Glad you find the site interesting. We are here for you. Keep visiting.

Eric & Nancy

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This is all genuine. I will return to scan.


Hi Keflavik, Thank you for writing. We are happy you will return.

Eric & Nancy

Good article.

On Behalf Of Diane, Port Ludlow, WA

Thanks for writing from Port Ludlow. We hear that's a beautiful place. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

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When I was hurt in a boat accident my life would be changed totally. I really don't post much but thanks for the good times I have here. Love this place. Long time lurker, thought I would say hello!


Dear Miami, Thanks for writing. It's nice to hear from you. Hope you are getting better. Glad you get some good times at Traveling boy. Good luck.

Eric & Nancy

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Dear friends,

My name is Adelina. I am a 22 years girl from Italy. I was looking for a free translation software and I found one. Program's name is Babel Fish and it supports 75 languages. I installed it but I could not understand how to use it. I am not a computer expert. Can someone help me please on how to run this.The link is here : I thank you very much for your help.

Adelina, Celaya

Adelina, I didn't want to download it but I saw examples online. It seemed easy. You select the page you want translated, copy it and paste it into the box. You then click on the button to translate. You may have to do one page at a time. You can also use Google to translate a page; that's what I do because I don't want to load too much software.

Eric & Nancy

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Amiable brief and this mail helped me a lot in my college assignment. Thanks you seeking your information.

WordPress Themes, Gray Mountain

We are glad to have been of help. Best wishes.

Eric & Nancy

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What's up everyone? Great forum. Lots of lovely people. Just what I need. Hopefully this is just what i'm looking for. Looks like I have a lot to read.

Spanish John, Benidrom

Encouraging to get your feedback. Glad to hear from you. Thank you for writing.

Eric & Nancy

Nice dispatch ( - and this enter helped me a lot in my college assignement. Thank you as your information.

Gray Mountain

Hi Gray Mountain,

Thank you for your comment. Your email reminds us all at TravelingBoy how important it is to be accurate in what we write. Good luck with your studies and have a great life.

Eric & Nancy

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Hello people, I just signed up on this splendid community forum and wanted to say hey there! Have a wonderful day!


Hi Jacksonville, We are pleased to hear from new readers at TravelingBoy. Your feedback encourages us all to do better. Thank you for writing.

Eric & Nancy

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What a fascinating bit of Russian history you wrote about! How sad to learn that 100,000 churches were reduced to create skating rinks and such during the revolution, after seeing the photo of the interior of a magnificent church filled with art! War is so devastating on so many levels! The art of their culture is so beautiful as is shown in the image of the painted box! Thank you,

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

Dear Yoka,

Thank you for writing. Nancy is originally Lutheran and Eric is a dour Scot, more used to the frequently cold and often cheerless churches of his native land so we were both overwhelmed to see the beauty of Russian churches. It was kind of you to write, Yoka.

Thank you,
Eric & Nancy

Interesting observations.... Very informative and thought provoking. Questions.... What would be the best way to get from Moscow Airport DME to boat dock? taxi? prearranged limo? prepaid Viking Tours transfer? Any idea on cost and travel time for taxi or limo or Viking Cruise pickup from airport to boat? We shall be flying to Moscow on our own. Do you happen to have an address for the river boat dock that Viking Cruises uses in Moscow? I would be nice to Google map the situation. Thanks,

Robert Hopwood, Ottawa, Canada

Hi Bob,

Excuse the delay; we were on a trip. I do understand your question and will try and get you an answer. The Viking river dock in Moscow was for us in the north part of the city but once we were on the boat it was an easy ten minute walk to the Metro station that had us downtown within 30 minutes. I'm a lot more relaxed at the end of a trip than at the beginning and therefore I always feel taking the cruise-line sponsored trip from the airport to the dock makes sense: What starts right usually ends right.

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Hi Bob,

I’m back with more information. The river port’s address is Northern River Boat Station Leningradsky Prospekt, Khimki. If you Google that you will see it is about 15 minutes’ walk from two Metro stations. .

I spoke to Nancy at customer relations at Viking Cruises at the new LNR Warner Center in 5700 Canoga Avenue, Woodland Hills, Calif.

She was very helpful and advises you to take the Viking transportation service. She is biased, of course, but she’s right. Moscow DME airport is 40 miles away on the opposite side of the city, at least two hours driving time. The airport has no Metro station; you’d have to take the Aeroexpress train to Paveletsky station then change to the Metro and go to Rechnoy Vokzal station then take a cab to the port. A cab all the way from DME would cost at least 2000 rubles (more than $70). That’s less than the $60 each that Viking would charge…but…I think you’d be ill-advised to do it on your own. Why start the trip where the potential to screw up is so likely? Moscow taxi drivers are as dishonest as most tourist city cab drivers and probably yours won’t speak English. I think the address in Russian is


I strongly discourage you from economizing on this and doing it on your own. Buy the transfer and save money somewhere else.

We have other Viking Volga web articles up at and at

Good luck. Great show Canada’s putting on for the Olympics!

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Reseller Hosting, London

Hi, Is it Britni Freeman?

Thank you, we think... We suspect your comments are valid. In fact we think all of us writing for TravelingBoy are starting to get into the swing of things and do a better job -- and your encouragement spurs us to do even better. Thank you for writing. Have a good 2010,

Eric & Nancy Anderson

Dear Nancy and Eric

Thank you so much for the wonderful article on statues in Europe. Statues are my favorite art form and your descriptions were delightful to read - knowledge and fun together. I do still wonder about that foot in Rome...

Peggy - Pasadena, CA

Hi Peggy,

Thank you for writing. We appreciate your comments. We used to be critical of people who can't identify the persons on statues in foreign cities -- until one day a tourist stopped us in our own San Diego and asked us, in vain, for details on a statue we'd never noticed before! We wonder about that Roman foot too. If Eric had stood any closer he'd be in his typical foot-in-mouth position.

Eric & Nancy Anderson

I live in Santa Fe and see and delight in it every day, but your writing makes it sparkle even more. How nice to see Santa Fe through your eyes. Great photos!

Cynthia Whitney-Ward - Santa Fe, NM

Dear Dr. Anderson:

I have followed your writing career for as long as I can remember, and I think the thing I enjoy the most about your travel writing is the sense of joy and discovery that leads the reader to anticipate ever corner you turn in your travels.What a delightful traveling companion you are, and I know have always been, with that wonderfully eternally youthful joie de vivre...I wonder:do you feel that East, West, home is best? And where IS that place you have never been, but want to go most of all,yet? Bring we, your devoted readers ever along!

CAT -- San Diego (Scrips Ranch), CA

Dear CAT,

Thank for taking the time to write to You are very kind. We don't know that travel writers make the best companions; we suspect they may be obsessed with getting the best photograph or may monopolize the guide with questions so that others don't get to ask what interests them. What place is best? Well, it may be fun to sit in a rickshaw in Beijing or try to master the Metro in Moscow, but -- as you imply -- it is good to get home after trips.

Home is as comfortable as a pair of old shoes and home for many of us fortunately contains family.

We've never been to Easter Island and may have missed the boat (no pun intended) there. The island is losing its innocence; we've seen that happen at Machu Picchu or, closer to home, at Lake Powell in Arizona. So maybe the best travel advice is: Go when you are fit and healthy, before rising prices make a destination inaccessible -- and before hordes of tourists ruin any destination's mystique.

With best Holiday Wishes from Traveling Boy,

Eric & Nancy Anderson

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What a fantastic primer on New York City. I think you have really captured its essence with this exciting overview of its offerings. Well done!

Gillian Abramson - New York

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You describe a city on wheels - er, wings - and an absolutely perfect way to travel. SHOWERS & FLOWERS! Amazing! I love that your passion for all-things-aviation comes through in this story about an almost unbelievable airplane. Thanks for breaking the news in such an engaging way!

Richard Frisbie - Saugerties, New York

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Enjoyed your blog on Romania. Noticed you called Bucharest "The Paris of the East." I wonder, is there any city not called "The Paris of something." I've read San Francisco is 'the Paris of the West,' Buenos Aires 'The Paris of South America,' and even Tromso, Norway 'The Paris of the Arctic.'

Terry Cowan - Fresno

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Hi Terry,

Thanks for writing to TravelingBoy. And thanks for educating me; I didn't know that about Tromso, didn't even know there was a Tromso. I heard Bangkok called the Venice of the East when I was there and, in two weeks, I'm heading for the Venice of the North, St. Petersburg, Russia.

It does become a bit silly, doesn't it? But we are originally an immigrant nation that was Eurocentric. Maybe it gave our forefathers confidence even courage when they took old names, old ideas to the New World with them. I know I feel nostalgic if I drive around Ontario, Canada and see all the British place names.

I appreciate your email. Thank you for writing.


Eric -

Enjoyed your article on Madrid. I noticed that you find it superior to Rome. Most of the Spanish folks that I meet seem to prefer Barcelona. How would you rate that city?

Samuel K

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Hi Samuel,

We loved Barcelona although driving around the city was surprisingly complicated as our maps were inadequate. The cathedral had scaffolding around it so I couldn't get the pictures I wanted but we found the architecture fascinating and the Picasso museum rewarding. We were anxious to get on the road to Costa Brava and didn't have more than a couple of days in Barcelona.

Thanks for writing.

Great article on Madrid. I've heard there is a rivalry between the people of Madrid and Barcelona. In which city are the people friendlier? How about for hipness? I noticed you were Scottish. I felt a similar thing in Scotland, with a Glasgow v. Edinburgh vibe.

Santa Monica

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Thank you for writing to TravelingBoy, Gary. We found Barcelona friendlier.

Maybe that's because it's not the capital and it's not so busy either. Maybe it's because the Gaudi architectural influence is pervasive and -- to both its citizens and tourists -- comforting. Maybe it's because Barcelona is the gateway to the work of artist Salvatore Dali, and his spirit catches us. (I don't know much about art but I've seen a lot of Dali's work enough to think he never took himself too seriously and often painted tongue in cheek. Maybe fun people spring for fun places?) Hipness? Madrid is more formal and dressy but Barcelona, I believe, is more hip maybe, again, because it's more fun.

Your points about Scotland are valid. It's more than a joke. The Glaswegians are more down to earth. I think we see it here in the belief that if you had a flat tire in Middle America passers-by would be more inclined to stop and help than perhaps New Englanders.

- Eric

Dear Eric,

I liked the article. As I read it, I was wondering how you as a physician were influenced by Hippocrates. What influence did this historical figure have on the practice of medicine beyond the obvious 'oath.' Why is Hippocrates considered to be such a paragon of medicine? DWA - San Pedro, CA

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Dear David,

Thank you for writing to

Hippocrates is revered because he believed his duty was to the individual patient, not to the community at large. This is a very important premise. The Romans, whose empire followed that of the Greeks, achieved much in health matters by emphasizing clean drinking water and personal hygiene, and created great national works like aquaducts and public baths but wealthy Romans apparently preferred Greek doctors as their personal physicians.

Hippocrates is also respected because he brought intellectual thought to diagnosis. He taught his students to use their five senses in assessing patients and was openly critical of the junk science of his day as practiced by the priest-physicians who preyed on the fear and ignorance of the ill persons who came to them.

It is true that not all medical chools today require graduating doctors to take the Hippocratic Oath but most conscientious physicians base their lifetime commitment to the practice of medicine on the life and teachings of that one man.

Or so I think. Perhaps if we knew more about our heroes they would seem less heroic. But in Hippocrates' case he did leave a record of his thoughts and some of his principles are today as strong as ever.

Thank you for writing, it is appreciated.


Stay tuned.

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