Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rotenberg am Neckar: a tragic love story

Rotunda of the Royal Mausoleum of the House of Württemberg  

Rotenberg is the hill outside of Stuttgart on which sits the memorial to a beautiful but tragic love story that took place almost 200 years ago. Württemberg's second king, Wilhem I, had fallen in love with and married a lovely young Grand Duchess of Russia, daughter of Tsar Paul I. Katharina came to Württemberg and immediately took to her new role as consort, mother and patron of a number of lasting causes for the people of her adopted land.

Steps leading up to the chapel

Despite the fact that young King Wilhelm did love his wife, he was still a subject of the times and his station, and he took a mistress. Understandably to us today, Queen Katharina had a hard time accepting this and begged the king to stop the relationship. For whatever reason be it self-control or arrogance, the king could not find it within himself to end it.

On a January evening in 1819, the young queen, upon learning that the king was with his mistress at their rural retreat, decided she would confront them. In her haste, wearing only a shawl, she commanded the coachman to take her there. She ordered the coach to stop across the field from the house so that she might go the rest of the way on foot to surprise them. After confronting them, she ran from the house back through the damp and chilly field catching a cold in the process. Within one week, the popular and beloved queen was dead. 

It is said that she died of a broken heart. For his part, the king was completely stricken with guilt and grief. As a result, he chose the hill bearing the ruins of the castle seat of the House of Württemberg, which could be seen from his small palace of Rosenstein near Stuttgart on which to build a mausoleum for her. People have said that Queen Katharina had often admired the silhouette of the ruined castle from a distance. The king had the ruins dismantled and the present chapel was erected with a crypt for her marble tomb. He would be buried next to her 45 years later. With the chapel directly visible from Rosentein Palace, the king would be forever reminded of not only his beloved queen, but also of the guilt he bore in causing her early death. 

The Chapel on the Rotenberg

It is said that during the funeral procession from Stuttgart all the way to Rotenberg chapel, the king was heard crying the entire way.

The way to the chapel on the Rotenberg   

King Wilhelm I married once again, but despite the best attempts of his new consort, Queen Pauline, their marriage was never truly happy, and she spent much of her time trying to bring peace between the king and his heir, Crown Prince Karl. Toward the end, they lived apart. He left her nothing in his will and she died with very little.

As for his family life, King Wilhelm I was never really happy. The rifts between the king and his heir, as well as that between him and his own father were always problematic. Queen Paulina spent much time trying to bridge these differences. Yet, despite his unhappy private life, the king remained popular with his people. 

Wilhelm is buried next to his beloved Katharina on the Rotenberg, and visitors can see the crypt and chapel today.

                                                                             Wilhelm                                                                        Katharina
                                                                  King of Württemberg                                                               Pavlovna
                                                          born the 27th of September 1781                                      Grand Duchess of Russia
                                                [ascended the throne] 30th of October 1816                                  Queen of Württemberg
                                                              died the 25th of June 1864                          born 10th of May 1788, died 9th of January 1819

The vistas from the hill over the immense vineyards and the town of Untertürkheim below are splendid. The hike from the Untertürkheim train station up to the Rotenberg, which can be seen from the train, is worth the effort. It takes you through the vineyards, some of which are still owned by the present-day Dukes of Württemberg. The dukes are the descendants of the last kings. The village of Rotenberg which is directly below the chapel is lovely, with a nice restaurant which boasts a fantastic view of the vineyard lined valley beneath it. The 18th century church in the middle of the village is worth seeing due to its unique design and balcony for such a small church. It is not always open, however.

Village church of Rotenberg

Cycling to the village of Rotenberg, just behind the chapel 

One set of many such steps wending through the vineyards. 

How to get to the Chapel on the Rotenberg: take the S1 local train to Untertürkheim from the Stuttgart main train station. The trip is about 15 minutes.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Galatea Fountain, Eugenplatz

(© Copyright 2012)

Eugenplatz in Stuttgart: Queen Olga of Württemberg, consort of King Karl I, gave this fountain known as the Galatea fountain to the people of Stuttgart in 1890, only two years before her death. It was paid for in part with her private funds. The queen chose the designs of Otto Rieth for what we see today. It was erected to contribute toward the beautification of the city. It was damaged only slightly during the Second World War and was completely renovated between 2005 and 2007.

    The goddess Galatea                               (© Copyright 2012)

                                           The Galatea Fountain at Eugenplatz          (© Copyright 2012)

Queen Olga is still regarded today as one who cared greatly for her subjects' welfare. Together with King Karl, she also founded a hospital which still bears their names even today. Queen Olga, born a Russian grand duchess, is probably the best-remembered of Württemberg's five queen consorts.

(© Copyright 2012)

Despite the plans drawn up by some prominent architects which were preferred by the committee overseeing the construction, it was Queen Olga who overrode their decision and chose the architect Rieth over the others.

(© Copyright 2012)

by Her Majesty
the Queen


With the financial support
of the royal capital of
Erected by the Society
for the Promotion of Art 


(© Copyright 2012)

Eugenplatz affords a great view of the city. Across the tram lines from the actual fountain is an ice-cream store purported to be "the best ice-cream" in the city. It's called "Pinguin". You can't miss it.  The lines are certainly long on hot summer days and I have even enjoyed it myself, but I am not going to speak for anyone else on the topic of food and taste. 

Your writer heard a wonderful story from a Stuttgart lady about the goings-on around the realization of the hefty project to construct the fountain: It was heard that the conservative people of Stuttgart were pleased to receive the fountain, but when they heard a nude statue of the goddess would be atop the finished work, there was grumbling about the immodesty thereof. When the complaints got back to the queen, it is said that she made it clear that if they didn't like it then she would have the statue turned around so that the godedess' backside would face out over Stuttgart. 

It isn't really known if that was true or not but it surely makes a good story. Queen Olga was apparently a rather benevolent lady. Her marriage to the king was in fact a sad one, and as stated above, she still did what she could for the people with the little money she actually had. She had wanted to be more involved in somehow making positive improvements toward the lives of the citizens. She was in fact an intelligent woman and probably could have been of some practical and worthy influence over her husband the king, who was hardly interested in ruling, but that never really panned out and she stayed in the background. He left her alone to be away from court as much as possible. More on them in another post later. 

(© Copyright 2012)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Glückwünsche zum Geburtstag

         Liebes Baden-Württemberg!

Ich gratuliere dir zum heutigen Geburtstag! Schon 60 Jahre alt? Das würde
niemand glauben!
Schön, dass sich die Bürger aus Baden, Württemberg-Baden,
Württemberg-Hohenzollern und Württemberg in der Gegenwart gut verstehen -
das war am Anfang nicht so! Oh, die Leute haben sich gestritten und zum
Teil fast gehasst! (und das so kurz nach einem Krieg!!!)

Heute machen alle nur noch Witze: Die Badener über die Württemberger und
anders herum. Das ist manchmal doof, aber nicht mehr ernst gemeint. 

Deine Hauptstadt ist auch nicht schlecht und sehr international: ungefähr
40% der Stuttgarter haben Eltern, die im Ausland geboren wurden ODER
wurden selbst im Ausland geboren! Zum Beispiel ist Jay ein Stuttgarter mit

Übrigens: Du bist nur ungefähr 3 Jahre älter als ich, aber viel
erfolgreicher! Du hast so viel Geld, dass du noch an andere deutsche
Länder etwas abgeben kannst. 

Also, der alte König Wilhelm wäre stolz auf das vergrößerte Land!!! Die
Württemberger denken noch heute an ihn und erzählen sich
Königs-Geschichten! Und Menschen aus weiter Ferne, aus Amerika, möchten
ihn in Bebenhausen besuchen! Einer davon lernt sogar Deutsch, damit er
auch mit Ihrer Majestät sprechen kann!

Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Baden-Württemberg, mach weiter so!

                                                                                          - eine Stuttgarterin


Monday, April 23, 2012

Architectural History in Stuttgart

Königsbau on the Königsstraße in the heart of Stuttgart     (© Copyright 2012)

Stuttgart is most certainly worth the visit whether you like history or not. Everywhere I go, I look for history, especially if it isn't staring me right in the face. I find myself being somehow magnetically pulled toward ornate and plain doorways alike, as well as windows boasting shutters and cornices and overhangs that most people never pay any attention to. I'm an avid walker and photographer. It's useless for me to take a city hike with another person unless that person has the same passion for architectural history and an imagination for how things looked "once upon a time" as I do. If I do walk with others, I make it clear in the beginning: "Don't wait for me: just go on ahead if I seem to be staring at a wall, door knob or shutter hinge. I'll catch up." Out comes the faithful Samsung Galaxy and the memory card is almost full by the time I get home. 

The State Opera (left) and the modern Landtag (state parliament)             (© Copyright 2012)

The Neues Schloß in the city center                                  (© Copyright 2012)

Market Day in Schillerplatz              (© Copyright 2012)

Stuttgart Opera                                                     (© Copyright 2012)

 The House of Economics                       (© Copyright 2012)