Showing posts with label Architectural History in Stuttgart. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Architectural History in Stuttgart. Show all posts

Friday, September 12, 2014

The half-timbered houses of BRETTEN

Well, look at me! Finally, I am travelling further afield. This is my first posting outside of the Württemberg part of the state, as tonight's subject, Bretten, is located in Baden. However, in the event you have not read any of my earlier posts, or German history and geography are not at the top of you reading list, the German state of Baden-Württemberg is made up of what was until 1918, the Grand Duchy of Baden and the former Kingdom of Württemberg. And, since I have been living in the Baden part of the state for two years now, it's high time I did some reporting on this side. So, here you are.
Market Square of Bretten
The focus of this blog entry is on the Fachwerk, or half-timbered, architecture of yet another of the hundreds of small, historical villages that are found all over this country. Bretten is no exception. Fortunately, the citizens of Bretten have kept many of these wood-beamed façades visible rather than covering them over with plaster, as has been done way too much, in my opinion, taking away the beauty and charm of the houses. I have heard a couple of theories as to why. Some say it is cheaper not to have to keep up the appearance of the wood through treatment and paint, and others have said it is because there came a time when half-timbered houses were considered rough and unrefined, whereas "clean-front" structures looked more modern or permanent or simply even higher class. But I always ask, doesn't more plaster simply mean more paint? In any case, I think the reasons are different from owner to owner, so I really don't know. But I do know fro personal experience based on the beams in my own half-timbered home, this wood is not going anywhere. It is nearly petrified. Yes, it needs to be cared for, but it is so hard that if you hammer a nail in, there is a good chance you will never get it out again. It is indeed remarkably solid after hundreds of years of age and the pressure against it from all sides.

I am pretty sure the home pictured above had exposed beams once upon a time. Nonetheless, I give it points for having the added shutters and flowers to make it pleasant to the eye. Consider it without these two accoutrements and imagine how dull the place would actually appear. Sadly, that is often what one sees now instead in many old towns throughout the country. And it is d-r-a-b. So, hats off to Bretten for being proud of its architectural heritage and showing it off.

In theory, half-timbered houses can be dismantled. Take away the plaster between the beams, take out the joint-pegs and it can be taken apart and moved. Not that I have ever seen this happen, but I guess it was therefore considered a less expensive way to build. It was certainly cheaper to construct than a stone or brick building. Maybe in days gone by these beautiful structures were thought of by people of means as mere medieval "trailer-park" homes. I'm kidding, but whatever the case, you will find a lot of building fronts today that are solid plaster, painted a dreadfully dull color and without their shutters (of course, most half-timbered buildings did not use shutters in the earlier days of their construction), and you would never have known at first glance that they were once as appealing to the eye as some of the examples below and in my other blog entries. Allow me to mention, however, that even in my village, where a number of half-timbered structures still remain, many of the houses with plastered fronts still retain the beautiful Fachwerk on the back of the house. After all, that is not easily seen by passers-by, so the "low-class-ness" of the building was not obvious, and they saved money not needing to have the entire place plastered. Oh well, at least it saves part of the house from total ugliness. I'll give some examples in a future posting about my town.

This photo is probably my favorite of the shots I took in Bretten. The lamp posts, the bend in the street, the clean cobblestones, the simple colors somehow make it work for me. The cream-color house very likely had its half-timbered façade visible many years ago. Although I tend to prefer the exposed fronts, the vibrant burnt-orange of the house in the background is very nice.

I don't know enough about the colors that houses were painted in the early days of Fachwerk, but I'm guessing that color was much more expensive than basic whitewash. Therefore, the color of the house pictured above (also pictured from another side further down) was probably not found on the house hundreds of years ago. But don't quote me. I didn't stop to ask. Still, it's a shade that is such a pleasure for me to look at. By the way, the window in the door, with its little round (wine-bottle bottom) circles is most likely what many of the houses had in the early days. Since it was so difficult to see clearly in or out of those windows, shutters were not needed on the structures that used them.

At this point, you might be wanting to know a little bit about Bretten. I came out to visit one hot Saturday on the recommendation of a client who knew that I liked old towns like this. It is not such a big place overall and easily seen in an afternoon or less, depending on what you want to see.
As of this writing, I have found that Bretten has about 28,000 inhabitants. As mentioned somewhere above, it is quite old. When I went to visit, I had never before heard of the Lorsch Codex. Now, rather than doing a bad job of explaining what that ancient manuscript is, I'll let you click here to read about it yourself. But in that book, Bretten is mentioned as having been around since 767A.D. It was known at that time as "Villa Breteheim". It became a city in 1254, and its coat-of-arms today is still very similar to the blue and white flag of Bavaria that is so familiar. At one time, this part of Baden was in fact a part of what is known as the Palatinate, which was under the rule of the Dukes of Bavaria hundreds of years ago. In the photo below, you can see the blue and white I am describing here. 

Close-up of the Marketplace fountain. Note the date on the column: 1555.

Looking down the street at the various façades just off the Marketplace, you can see how some of the older houses have been modernized over the years. These are typical changes that can be seen as one gets further away from town centers – officially known as "old towns" in some places.
The two photos directly below show one of the towers and Bretten's old city wall. The tower leans a bit as you can see here. 

This home seems to have been built up against the low wall to the left. The center wooden beam is partly supported by it, as you can see here (above). I have seen other houses like this where the external stone wall has been removed for some reason and the house is left looking a bit lopsided. Often, city walls were used as part of the walls of other buildings. I imagine it was perhaps easier and cheaper to take advantage of an existing "free" wall as part of your home than to have to put out the money to build one unnecessarily.  Nothing like being resourceful!

By the looks of this woodwork, it isn't going to fall easily.
Bretten is worth the visit if you have a few hours to spare. It's a nice place to walk around and enjoy. There is more to see than what I am posting here. Philipp Melanchthon was born in Bretten in 1497. Together with Martin Luther, he is a primary founder of what we know as Lutheranism. The beautiful museum on the Market Square built to remember him is impressive and certainly worth the visit if you are interested in history of the Reformation.
How to get to Bretten

From Karlsruhe via train: the IC (inner city train) as well as trams can get you there. The S4 outside the front of the Karlsruhe main station takes you there directly, with no changes, in about 45 minutes. Other trams or the IC will require a change at either Bruchsal or Mühlacker, making your trip 5-10 minutes longer. Check Deutsche Bahn for train schedules.

From Stuttgart via train: depending on your time of travel, the trip via train and tram could take anywhere from roughly 55 - 90 minutes. There are no direct trains from Stuttgart. A change must be made in either Bruchsal or Mühlacker. Check Deutsche Bahn.

Via car: this is where the modern technology of navigators or the time-honored method of maps come in handy. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

BESIGHEIM: another surprise find

Besigheim, located in the southern German state of Baden-Württemberg, is a town located at the confluence of the Neckar and Enz rivers. The town is surrounded on three sides by water. The earliest written documentation of Besigheim was dates back to 1153. Its ownership passed through various hands and was ravaged by war numerous times over the centuries. Most of the military occupations were imposed by the French armies, the last of which was during the Napoleonic Wars, which ended in 1815. 

The old town once boasted a castle, but it was destroyed over a period of more than 50 years following Louis XIV's Nine Years' War (War of the Palatine Succession). A couple of towers still remain in the old town amidst a number of other beautiful, historical buildings. I found some of the ancient stone manors found in the town calling me to photograph them. I gladly obliged.

Not only was Besigheim owned by several different German princes, it was for a time owned by the Hapsburgs as well. 

The colorful Fachwerk (half-timbered) buildings are a favorite of mine, which can be found all over Germany. The old Rathaus (Town Hall) above shows an example of this.

It was nice that my first visit there was a sunny autumn day. The creeper making its way all over a number of walls could not have been more splendidly bedecked in glorious shades of reds, yellows and more. The sun and the blue skies made for marvelous backdrops to photographs.

The Schoch Tower, built somewhere around 1200, and the old stone house above are principal landmarks in the upper part of the Old Town.

One of several very old homes located in the upper Old Town. Note the size of the windows and simple carving around the doorway.

Besigheim is definitely worth the visit. It can be reached from Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof (main station) via the R4 line within approximately 25 minutes. Trains leave every 30 minutes on the quarter hour.

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