Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Freudenstadt, at the top of the Black Forest

What a history this place has!

In one of my many sojourns throughout Germany, I made a last-minute decision to take a tram from the city of Karlsruhe all the way up through the Black Forest to Freudenstadt, the largest city on top of the Black Forest range. The city, whose name actually means City of Joy, was founded for Huguenots (French Protestants) in 1599 by the Protestant Duke Friederich of Württemberg, who invited them to come into his domains to escape further persecution, this time by Catholics in Salzburg. This was not the first time German princes had welcomed French Huguenots who were escaping persecution and death because of their faith. The Germans had another good reason for inviting them into their domains: the Huguenots were hard workers and merchants.

Part of the market square in Freudenstadt. Unless one is in an airplane, it is
very difficult to get the entire square into one shot.

It was autumn when I visited here and I clearly recall how much cooler it was up here than down in Karlsruhe, near the banks of the Rhine River below. The city is 736m (2415 ft.) above sea level and has a population of just under 24,000. It boasts the largest market square in all of Germany, and I can tell you that if indeed there is a larger market square in the country, it must be the size of the Vatican because this is indeed huge. It appears to be perfectly square and has several dozen fountains within it. 

Toward the end of World War II, the city was severely damaged - vast swathes of it were burned in a devastating fire. Interestingly, in keeping in mind the fact that its founders had already once escaped religious persecution by the French hundreds of years ago, it was Allied French forces which played a large part in its destruction in April 1945. Yet, since then, it has been meticulously restored. 

Upon arrival and after my scenic tram journey up the sides of the Black Forest's mountains, I decided to find a nice café for coffee and, well, Black Forest cake, of course: that cherry and whipped-cream delight with a flavoring of espresso and cocoa. I chose a café on the expansive market place and ordered coffee to go with it, of course. There were numerous tourists who mostly seemed to be retired. The service was slow, as is often the case in Germany, but the as is often the case, the cake was worth the wait. 

I think my favorite structure in the city has to be the church on one corner of the market square. It was constructed in an 'L' shape. As can be seen in the photographs below, there are two steeples, or towers, which stand at the end of each wing, with only one containing the clock faces. The reason for this interesting construction is that at the time the original church was built between 1601 and 1608, Protestant men and women were to sit separately, and by having two distinct wings, this was more easily ensured. The pulpit is directly in the middle at the angle, so the pastor had a clear view of everyone in the congregation.

As can be seen in the photograph above and below, the arcade which is part of the rest of the vast market square which this church helps to create as one of the square's corners, is part of the church itself just as it is on all of the neighboring structures. 

The Stadthaus (city house) can be seen through the arcade of
a house next to the Evangelical Lutheran Church

Other side of the church: street view of the 
Lutheran church outside the Market Place

One of a number of independently standing structures on the market square. Note the
obligatory arcade which is on all structures which make up the perimeter of the
market square of Freudenstadt

Another angle of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and its

Windows and shutters of one of the many beautiful houses of
Freudenstadt. I don't know anything regarding the background as
to why that toy VW bus is on the flower box support, but it was the
original reason for this photo.

There are many beautiful, large homes in Freudenstadt that were built around the turn of the 19th-20th centuries. Unfortunately I don't know anyone from there, so I can't honestly tell you the history as to why they are here. I want to think that perhaps they were vacation homes used as mountain retreats in the hot summers, but the houses are particularly large for vacation homes, so maybe some were built as flats or apartments just as they are today. Whatever the case, many are certainly worth walking past to admire. 

The designs on the walls of the house appealed to me. Very quaint

Shopping and living quarters are mixed here as they are in so many other European

Getting there:

From Karlsruhe main train station the trip is about two hours. Trams run several times an hour. 
From Stuttgart main train station, the train journey is about one hour 25 minutes. Trains run roughly once an hour except midday when it is twice. 


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Deggingen Abbey all dressed in autumn

I should have posted this a very long time ago, but I forgot the details of the place and instead of doing my online research then, I just pushed it under the rug. Nevertheless, here it is and here as well goes the short, simple description of my visit one Sunday (or was that a Saturday?) about five years ago to the abbey of Deggingen, located in central Baden-Württemberg, and a lovely drive from Stuttgart.

The Ave Maria Chapel of Deggingen.

It was a gorgeous, late-autumn morning and a friend and I drove out of Stuttgart along a beautiful route lined with forest-filled vistas boasting one of the most beautiful Indian-summer days I had yet experienced in Germany. Yes, 'Indian summer' - Germans seem to have reinvented the meaning of that phrase to refer only to the colorful autumnal foliage, rather than the original way we North Americans use it. I've given up telling them what it really means, but it doesn't really matter. Regardless, the car ride in itself was worth every kilometer and the abbey proved to be the cherry on the cake (chocolate of course) of the day.

The abbey is located in what is known as the Schwäbische Alb (google it ;-). Its Chapel of the Ave Maria was constructed between 1716 and 1718 by a Capuchin Order of monks. In the early 20th century, the monastery itself was built. Today only a small handful of brothers and their pastor live there and offer pastoral care to the community.

The chapel of the Ave Maria itself is known as a pilgrimage church. It belongs to the parish of Deggingen, which can be seen in the background in the photo below. Several of the stations of the cross are also shown in the foreground leading up to the sanctuary.

The abbey buildings are of a simple, yet elegant design. Nestled against the forest which surrounds the abbey on three sides, the pale-lemon paint on the walls of the buildings contributes to the charming scene it creates for approaching visitors.

The chapel ceiling

The golden-orange showpiece above the altar in the photo above is of the Ave Maria. It is late Gothic. I learned from Wikipedia (perish the thought) that it was done by an unknown artist of the 15th century.

The setting of the abbey is indeed lovely and serene. It is still a place of pilgrimage and I can understand why. Since we were there in the fall, apples were for sale everywhere. I really like it when, depending on the season, you are walking along and come upon a table with apples or cherries that are either bagged or are in a little carton and a small sign on the table tells you how much money to leave in the tin for the purchase, and no one is around to make sure everyone is honest. That is trust, and I dare say it is probably usually honored. I've gotten some good fruit that way!

Getting there:

- You can take a regional train (RE) from Stuttgart main station to Geislingen station and then a 22-minute bus ride to the "Abzw. Ave Maria". This would take you about 2 hours. 

- The other rail option is to take an inter-city (IC) train from Stuttgart to Göppingen and then the bus for a 1:45-minute trip.

- Lastly, there is an inter-regional express (IRE) which is the fastest from Stuttgart, though it still includes the bus; this is about one hour altogether. I would take this one. The walk from the bus stop to the abbey is very nice. It isn't far at all.

- Otherwise, you can rent a car and find it yourself. Don't forget the navigator. After you turn off the main road there is a parking area below the abbey at the end of the drive.