Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Night (and day) at the Opera

Stuttgart Staatsoper

Großes Haus von der Staatsoper

101 years ago in 1912, the Royal Court Theater, Königliches Hoftheater, designed by Max Littmann, was opened with a performance of Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos before King Wilhem II and Queen Charlotte of Württemberg. 

When the Court Theater, today known as the State Opera,  opened, it consisted of two theater houses: the opera (shown above), Großes Haus (Large House) and the theater, or Kleines Haus (Small House). The theater was completely destroyed during the bombing of Stuttgart in 1944. 

The opera was one of only a few pre-war opera houses throughout all of Germany that actually survived destruction in the Second World War. Most everything which one sees  when visiting today is just as it was at its opening in 1912. When this writer was there recently, the interior of the theater itself looked as though the royal pair had just left the room. 

Today, the Stuttgart Staatsoper is home to the world-famous Stuttgart Ballet, of which the renowned John Cranko was not only its founder but also choreographer in the 1960s.

The larger of the two theaters, the Opera, seats 1,404 guests. The crowned royal box is still as it was during the monarchy, which ended in 1918. 

A photo of the new post-war theater, or Kleines Haus, is not shown here simply because the photographer refuses to waste time on it. He just can't "make peace" with this particular, umm, (What does he call it, hideous?) structure which replaced the original beauty. Berliner Platz (see previous post of same name) one can adapt to, but this one? Uh-uh. 

The Stuttgart Staatsoper is situated in the center of the city beside the palace gardens and next to the Landtag building (State Legislature) of the German Federal State of Baden-Württemberg.

Stuttgart Staatsoper in springtime. A corner of the Landtag building is on the right.

Monday, June 17, 2013

University of Tübingen (Universität Tübingen) - an ancient tradition of learning

As I make my way out of Stuttgart (with return visits to be expected), I have found myself south of the city seeing other parts of this southern-most federal state in Germany - besides Bavaria next door, of course. This part of the state is the heart of Swabia (or Schwaben), where a dialect is spoken that not all in other parts of Germany may completely understand - certainly I don't - but of course, I am not a native speaker of German. 
I found this ancient university a very special place. There is just way too much to photograph and post. I have chosen only a few of the shots I have taken. You will need to visit this place yourself to get the full effect and see some of the other angles that are missing in this posting.
It, like so much else in Germany, is worth the visit!

The University

The University of Tübingen, known formally as Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, located in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, is one of Europe's oldest institutes of higher learning. Founded in 1477 by Count (later Duke) Eberhard "the Bearded" of Württemberg, the school was opened with four faculties: Theology, Law, Medicine, and Philosophy. More faculties were added over the centuries

Market Square

Tübingen was the first German university to establish a university hospital in 1805, housing it in what is the university's oldest structure, dating back to 1478. This same building is still in use by the hospital today. 26,000 students from across the Federal Republic of Germany, Europe, and many corners of the world make up its diverse student body. 

Ornate facade of the Tübingen Rathaus (City Hall)

View of the roof facade of the Rathaus. 

View of the Rathaus balcony

Half-timber joists found in so many of the medieval structure found in Tübingen
Fountain in the Market Square

Rathaus as seen from one of the many narrow streets

One of two smaller tributaries which flow directly through the city of Tübingen into the
Neckar River below the city

View of the Wilhelmsstift to the left

Schloss Hohentübingen

The center of the university "town" of 90,000 is still most reminiscent of the Middle Ages. Tübingen lies on and above the Neckar River, making its way up the hill toward the castle-fortress above the city. There, one will find Schloß Hohentübingen, begun in 1078, which is also used today as the university museum - a must-see for any visitor to Tübingen.

Square outside of the Castle entrance

Entrance to Schloß Hohentübingen

Details of the entrance gate to the castle

Schloß Hohentübingen

In the Castle courtyard

From the Castle

View of the Neckar River as taken from the Castle of Hohentübingen
looking in the direction of the Schwäbisch Alb

A "Stocherkahn", or punt, unique to Tübingen on the Neckar River

The beautiful allée that runs the length of Neckarinseln (Neckar Island)
 which is located in the middle of the Neckar River directly below the castle,
Schloß Hohentübingen

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tübingen - a university on the water

The Neckar River wends its way throughout the Württemberg region of southern Germany.
It has played an endearing role throughout the history not only of the university town
of Tübingen, but the entire region itself.

Not unlike Venice

Punts have been a part of Tübingen's river-life and scenery for ages. Students, locals and tourists alike have long enjoyed these low-slung boats for cruising the lovely river, enjoying picnics, cocktails, a bottle of champagne, and even playing their musical instruments directly on these pleasure crafts as they slowly "pole" their way through the water.

A black and white perspective:

 The colors of a late afternoon as autumn approaches:

Tübingen is most certainly worth the visit. It boasts one of the oldest universities in all of Germany, founded in 1477.  (See the official website of the university for more information on the school: University of Tübingen )

How to get there from Stuttgart, capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg: The Road to Tübingen

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

BEBENHAUSEN - Where it all ended

View of Bebenhausen and the Schönbuch Forests

King Wilhelm II and Queen Charlotte

at the front door of their hunting lodge at

Bebenhausen, Württemberg


How it happened:

From Stuttgart to Bebenhausen

When the Kingdom of Württemberg ceased to exist in 1918, the country, already a part of the greater German Empire - now republic - became a "Freistaat", which, very basically, meant that it was not a monarchy. 

The last sovereigns of the little kingdom, King Wilhem II (not to be confused with the German Kaiser [Emperor] of the same name,) and Queen Charlotte, left the capital of Stuttgart very quickly on the same fateful Saturday that the lightening-fast revolution took place.  

The First World War had just come to a close and there was confusion, hunger and all sorts of social issues that needed immediate attention. Other kingdoms, principalities and duchies within the now defunct German Empire were either toppling their rulers or the rulers themselves were frantically trying to figure out what immediate next steps they themselves needed to take in a land which up to this time had numerous "mini-monarchies"; everything was happening so fast - in some cases within a matter of days or hours. 

As for the Kingdom of Württemberg, the vast majority of the population did not have much issue with the monarch himself. King Wilhelm II had been loved by his people and was affectionately  known as a citizen-king, who eschewed police protection as he walked his pet dogs freely through the streets of the capital. He was even greeted by the local Swabians as "Mr. King", for he was in no way an autocrat. He was nearing 70 years old as the revolution approached and he had been on the throne since 1891. Locals have indeed told me of their grandparents having spoken of being one of the many locals who would see His Majesty in the street when they themselves were children so long ago. They greeted him as he in turn would greet them. It is true that the country was not a constitutional, democratic monarchy as monarchies in Europe are today, but a heavy-handed king with absolute power he was not. 

On that fateful, though otherwise quiet, Saturday morning in Stuttgart, King Wilhelm was holding a  cabinet meeting in the small Wilhemspalais (Wilhelm Palace), located directly behind the large, opulent city palace, or Stadtschloß, which was much too grand a residence for his taste. On that same morning, a labor demonstration had been planned to march through the city at about the same time. This demonstration boasted nothing about overthrowing the government, and certainly not the monarchy itself (although its demise was inevitable at some point as greater Germany was already in the throws of becoming republican in the post-war upheaval that was rapidly engulfing Germany overall. The Kaiser himself had already fled into exile in the Netherlands). As the demonstration made its way through the streets around to the front of the large square in front of the Stadtschloß in the city center, a rumor was spread that the king had weapons hidden in his smaller palace, as well as extra food. 

One might think that having food, or extra food, in one's home would not exactly be cause for an entire revolution - the Swabian monarchs were in no way comparable to the frivilous court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette - but as the end of the war had brought such hardship to the country, and it was being said that the king had more than his share and perhaps the weapons to protect it, it was not much to get the already unhappy, war-weary crowd to go one step further. Some people began calling for the demonstration to go around to the Wilhelmspalais to find out what the king was hiding in his home. 

As mentioned above, the king was in council at that time. Clearly, it can be noted that as this large demonstration was taking place, there had been no intent on the part of the king to even stop the demonstration - no troops were sent to disband it. That alone might demonstrate something about the "freedom" to hold demonstrations at that time. Nonetheless, there were in fact some revolutionaries in the crowd and they wanted trouble - and it was trouble that they got. 

King Wilhelm's small palace only had one policeman on guard duty that morning - again, another example of how unthreatened this otherwise popular king had always felt amongst his fellow Württembergers. The demonstrators and revolutionaries in the crowd demanded to enter and to check the kitchens and cellars for the extra food stuffs the king was alleged to have been hiding. An attempt was made to storm the palace. The poor policeman at the door did not abandon his post. He was roughed up trying to keep the crowd from entering until the king himself told the leaders of the crowd that not only did he not have extra food stores or weapons in his house, but that they could check it themselves if they did not believe him. And they did. 

They found nothing, of course. Still, the leaders of the mob demanded the king's banner be lowered from the flagstaff above the palace and the red flag of revolution be hoisted in its stead. His Majesty absolutely refused. It is believed that the majority of the crowd had not expected this demonstration to turn into this, though I, personally, would assume that the revolutionary elements in the crowd had been planning for this to be the result. Still, the revolutionaries were demanding the change of flags. As things were becoming more heated, and in order to stop potential bloodshed of innocent people, the elderly king said that if they wanted to change the flag, then they had better do it themselves because he was certainly not going to be the one to do it!

And so it was. With his fellow monarchs falling all round him, he realized that he had little choice but to abdicate his throne. It was inevitable. But the king was personally devastated. He felt betrayed by his own people, especially the citizens of Stuttgart who did not come to his aid. The people had otherwise always seemed to love and respect their citizen Mr. King. It could, however, be assumed that more than the abdication itself, the king felt a personal hurt in the manner that it was carried out. He wrote out the act of abdication himself, stating that he would never stand in the way of the development of his country. Within a few hours, King Wilhelm II and Queen Charlotte left Stuttgart in a motorcar, forever, retiring to their personal residence of Bebenhausen, formerly an ancient monastery and the present royal hunting lodge, some kilometers south of the city not far from Tübingen. 

Jagdschloß (Royal Hunting Lodge) of Bebenhausen as seen today. 

(The above black and white photo of the king and queen was taken in front of the door to the turret, above. 
It was in this building that the Duke and Duchess of Württemberg [the former king and queen] lived out their remaining days. The rooms can all be visited. They were left just as the royal couple left them before they died, Queen Charlotte being the last in 1946.)

King Wilhelm ceased to refer to himself as "king" and took his second title, that of Duke of Württemberg, instead. The king's heirs and descendants remain in Württemberg to this day, living in a former royal residence not terribly far from the Swiss border.

One thing that should be noted, is that all the while this little revolution was taking place on that otherwise sleepy Saturday morning in the middle of Stuttgart, the vast majority of the citizens were still waking up or tending to their Saturday-morning chores. Funny as this may sound, the majority had absolutely no idea their king was being deposed. By the time King Wilhelm, now Duke of Württmeberg, was being chauffeured to Bebenhausen, the city of Stuttgart was still waking up to what had just happened. When all was said and done, the vast majority of the people were apparently shocked. Many felt a sense of remorse that they had not done anything to help the king. As stated above, King Wilhelm felt betrayed. It has been noted that people even sent food to Bebenhausen for the king because they felt sorry for him and felt bad for not having somehow helped him. They were even more concerned that the now ex-king and queen would be hungry! Ah, the dear, unpretentious Swabians. It was November 30, 1918: this royal pair had held on longer than all their royal counterparts throughout the former empire. 

The Duke and Duchess were not completely forgotten. There was no reason to exile the royal family. The new state granted them a stipend on which to retire, popular as they had been. Their private residences, such as Bebenhausen and a few others were not confiscated from them. The Stadtschloß (this would also be considered as the official "royal palace"), however, went into state ownership along with the Wilhelmspalais and several other major palaces. 

King Wilhem only lived another three years, dying on October 2, 1921, at 73 years old. Having declared never to return to Stuttgart ever again, his funeral cortege made its way from Bebenhausen, south of Stuttgart, to his final resting place north of the city at Ludwigsburg Palace, where his ancestors, first wife and two of his children (one of whom was stillborn, and the other, who died in infancy) were also buried.  His instructions were that the cortege not pass through Stuttgart, which would have been a more direct route. It did not. It went around the city through Feuerbach instead. Many lined the streets along the way to see the cortege as it made its way to Ludwigsburg. The republican government in Berlin even sent an honor guard to accompany the dead king to the cemetery. The plot where the king and his family are buried is quite simple for people of such royal heritage.  

Wilhelm II
King of Württemberg
Born 25 February 1848
Died 3 October 1921

Queen Charlotte, a friendly but shy,   down-to-earth woman who preferred to stay out of the limelight   as much as possible, lived on at Bebenhausen until her own death in July 1946. She was buried very quietly in Ludwigsburg next to her husband. The duchess outlived all other kings and queens of the former German monarchies. King Friederich August of Saxony had died in 1932 and the last queen of Prussia in 1921.

Queen Charlotte's simple gravestone in Ludwigsburg

of Württemberg
born Princess of Schaumburg-Lippe
Born 10 October 1864
Died 16 July 1946

During my own visit to Bebenhausen in 2012, a friend and I were fortunate to meet an elderly woman who was native to the village. She casually recalled the lovely old lady who lived with her ladies-in-waiting in the walls of the little hunting-lodge palace. Of her recollections, she told us that she recalled being told by her mother that she was to always address the lady as Ihre Majestät (Your Majesty), and that she was to curtsey whenever meeting her. She told me she didn't want to do that; after all, what child wants to have to do such a thing.

She remembered fondly of sometimes seeing the queen about the garden and grounds into which the local children of the little village would often sneak in order to play hide-and-seek and other games. The ladies-in-waiting were friendly but always reminded the children to play quietly. When she encountered the queen, Her Majesty would ask the little girl about her brothers, "Ach, die Knaben mit den himmelblauen Augen!" ("Oh, the boys with the heavenly blue eyes!"). Apparently, the queen, who was childless, was quite fond of children. She had met the little boys and was quite taken with their blue eyes, and would often enquire about them.

Queen Charlotte would also make visits on her birthday or Christmas to the little schoolhouse and bring fruits and other gifts of food for the children. It was a big thing during the times of austerity during the Weimar Republic and World War II.  What a pleasure it was to meet someone who had known the last German queen and was able to relate these and other lovely anecdotes about her.

Graves of the immediate members of King Wilhelm II's
family at rest in Ludwigsburg, just north of Stuttgart.


Bebenhausen Abbey and Royal Hunting Lodge


View of the Abbey / Hunting Palace,  

located in the Schönbuch Forest between the ancient university town of Tübingen and the city of Stuttgart, capital of the present-day federal state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany.

Entrance to the ancient Abbey of Bebenhausen

Before becoming a royal hunting lodge, Bebenhausen had been a
boarding school as well as an abbey. It was originally built around 1180
for Cistercian monks. It remained a cloistered community until 1560 when the Reformation
was spreading throughout Germany. 

A large segment of the wall remains around the abbey as seen
in these two photographs.

The cloister of the abbey as seen today

The Cloister

Ceiling of the former Refectory

Part of the wall that once completely surrounded the Abbey

Student dormitory 

After the Abbey was disbanded, it later became a school for boys. Rooms where the monks once lived became a dormitory for the students. One can only imagine winters here as there was no heating.

The Writer's Tower as seen from the upper garden                      


What I found most interesting were the "House Rules" (in German) on a kitchen wall. One of the rules was that all staff members must remember toonly speak on the grounds or in the upstairs royal rooms when they are spoken to by higher-ups or the Duke or Duchess themselves. Otherwised, silence or "quiet" was expected. Such was life in service at that time.

Writer's Tower
as seen from a kitchen window

It is worth mentioning that the buildings that housed the royal couple still have the kitchens in place. It is most interesting to see how the "downstairs" people lived and worked before 1946. The stoves and other apparatus that were used in the service area are original and are also on display. 

Ceilings and chandeliers in the formal Dining Room

To the memory of
Württembergs beloved King
(Born) Stuttgart, 25 Feb. 1848 - 2 Oct. 1921 (at Bebenhausen)
(Born) Ratiboritz, 10 Oct. 1864 - 16 July 1946, (at Bebenhausen)


The village surrounding the Royal Hunting Lodge and former abbey of Bebenhausen


Most all of the village is Fachwerk (half-timbered). Note the stream running through the central "square" of the village, directly outside of the main gate of the abbey-palace.

Visiting the hamlet of Bebenhausen is completely worth the trip for anyone who appreciates not only history, but also hiking, walking, photography and simply a lovely day out in nature. Autumn is also a perfect time to go as the trees create a different ambience throughout the village. Although I have given little focus to the abbey's church here (the beautiful spire was completely covered with scaffolding for renovations, so I avoided having that "modern mess" in any of my shots), it is most definitely worth the visit. Guided tours are offered and a visitor's center in the middle of the abbey complex is quite helpful.

How to get to Bebenhausen from Stuttgart