Showing posts with label Hermann Hesse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hermann Hesse. Show all posts

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Calw, Hermann Hesse's Half-timbered Heimat

Well, I think the next best posting that I could make should be about the other town I talked about in the last post, which is about Hirsau. So let me introduce you to Calw (pronounced: /Kahlv/), the larger of those two towns and only a few kilometers further south along the Nagold River in the Black Forest region of Baden-Württemberg. It was the Count of Calw – Adelbert, I think his name was – who, more than 1,000 years ago, supported the founding of Hirsau Monastery.  And, it was in Calw only about 135 years ago, that Hermann Hesse, their most famous son, was born.

I had been here before, but I was so enthralled by the ruins of Hirsau, which I saw from the windows of the train as I travelled from Pforzheim to Calw, that I spent my time in Calw thinking more about how to return to Hirsau than actually enjoying this lovely, historical city. Hence, the return last Saturday.

The author of "Steppenwolf" and "Siddhartha" standing on the
Nikolausbrücke over the Nagold River in Calw.
I had coffee with Eva in Durlach around 10:00 at our favorite little café on the Altstadtring just across from my home. It was only the night before that I had decided at the last minute that I needed to resume my photo-taking day trips which had seemed to have fallen off my things-to-do list for some months at that point. I have so many photos in my external drive, and I had planned to do something with them all, such as make more blog posts. But, I realized that despite all the pictures I have – and we're talking several thousand now – I just didn't have enough to be able to give a decent show on Calw! I had just completed the Hirsau page last week and written about Calw several times in that post, but of the three or four measly pics I had decided to keep, they just weren't enough to make a story out of it, so back I went following coffee with Eva.

The other side of the River Nagold from the main part of Calw. These houses abut a rock-face that can only be seen when walking along the street directly in front.

After Eva and I said good-bye, I went directly to the Durlach train station and caught the 11:23 to Pforzheim, where I changed to the 12:something-or-other to Calw. It was basically a modern little single-car/wagon train and it was quite full, as there were many people with their hiking poles and backpacks looking for a nice outing. The last time I took the train some four years or so ago, I had failed to notice along the way, or at least remember, the sight from the train window of Bad Liebenzell, a spa-resort town also along the Nagold River there in the Black Forest. (Note to self: Bad Liebenzell is next - visit in autumn when forest leaves are in full color.)

Anyway, I arrived in Calw at their pathetic excuse for a train station (more like the top deck of the city parking garage, actually!) about 55 minutes after leaving Durlach. The weather was perfect and the Marketplace was just beginning to be taken down after what was no doubt a bustling Saturday morning of trade, as people were walking away with full baskets and armloads of freshly cut flowers, sacks of vegetables and other foodstuffs. It was very similar to what I see out of my windows in Durlach every morning. 

Market stalls coming down after a full morning of business.
It was on this very square (well, more like a rectangle in the case of Calw's Marktplatz) that Hermann Hesse was born in 1877. His family lived in the house for seven years. Where they went after that I have no idea, but today the ground floor of the building is a shop, though upstairs there are still apartments, I think. Based on the looks of the open windows, I think people still live there. 

Birthplace of Hermann Hesse in 1877.

When I went to Calw the first time, I had yet to read any of Hermann Hesse's works. And yes, I am duly ashamed. I am pretty sure that Steppenwolf was on the summer required-reading list for high school. We had to choose three out of the ten, but I only ever read one anyway, so Lord knows I chose one that I already knew. Steppenwolf, which sounded more like a like a Poe-ish werewolf in a horror story, was definitely not my taste, so I never bothered to pick it up.  But, dear reader, rest assured that I have mended my ways and read not only Steppenwolf, but Siddhartha as well to make up for my sins, and I can tell you that if you haven't read them, you should! I wish I had read them long ago. I am about to begin The Glass Bead Game, but don't expect a book review from me! I don't do that kind of thing. Requires more brains, writing talent, and re-writing than I am ever willing to do. I'll just stick to photography and these meagre stories that I add to my pictures.

Nikolauskapelle (St. Nikolaus Chapel) on the Nikolausbrücke (Nickolaus Bridge)
in Calw. It is this bridge that statue to Hermann Hesse stands (see photo at top).
The bridge was built across the Nagold around 1400.

By the way, Hesse didn't stick around in Calw. He moved to Switzerland some years before the First World War and stayed there until he died. Fascinating man, Hermann Hesse. 

Evidently, Hesse liked to look at the Nagold River from the Nikolaus Bridge in Calw – the bridge photographed above – on which the St. Nikolaus Chapel stands in the middle. It is on that bridge the bronze statue of him can be found.

Leaving Herr Hesse on his bridge, I wandered uphill to begin my mini-pilgrimage in search of Hesse's birthplace. I could recall having seen a plaque about his birthplace somewhere in town the last time I was there and I thought it was on a side street somewhere, but after quite a walk about, sometimes going back and forth along the same street, it turned out the house was not far at all from his bridge there. As a matter of fact in is right there in the market square in the middle of town for all to easily find. How kind of his parents to choose that location. Most thoughtful for future tourists. 

But, as I first walked away and upward from the St. Nikolaus' Bridge, the first building I came to at the top of the road, just outside of what had been the city wall, was the Lecture Hall and Reading Room, pictured a. It's a stately building with a fine view of all the town beneath it as it goes down to the Nagold at the bottom. I don't have a shot of that view, for some reason, but trust me, it's there.


Since the 15th century, Calw had been one of the cities which had a monopoly on the salt trade. Salt came from Bavaria and Austria in those days, and the revenue from the trade played a major part in the city's financial situation. It was also exchanged for Württemberg wines. The building pictured above, built in 1696 following the burning of the city by the French in 1692, was used for the storing of the salt.

When I look at the market-square buildings here, I am easily reminded of Bretten, here in Baden. Guess I'll have to do a post on that too since they boast their own "favorite son" as well. It's another beautiful town to enjoy for the afternoon. 

You know, once you have seen three or four small German villages that date back a few hundred years–the kinds of villages of half-timbered structures with their central market-place fountains surrounded by cafés and small shops–I guess you've pretty much seen them all. But, I still keep looking for other ones to visit. Part of it is the love of travel and wandering throughout the countryside, and the other part is my eternal search for that place off the beaten track that few people on the outside have seen, a place with fabulous scenery.

Yet another source for community water at the other end of Market Square. What's nice
is that very often the water coming out of these beautiful old water fountains is in fact

Looks like someone decided to buck the trend and do some colorful updates to their home. Works for me!

This is the only tower left from the city wall that once surrounded Calw. Long after the
wall was largely dismantled, this tower was used as a jail right up into the 1900s.

The shingle hanging above the door says
it all: "Hermann Hesse Museum

Catching up on the news. Reading the latest edition of the local
paper.  Many local newspapers throughout the country are found posted in glass cases like
this for public reading. This may not be a daily paper, so I don't know if they have to
change it every day.


I think this is the first time I have seen the timber painted green. I like
it. This house is smack up against the old city wall which still remains
on this side of town. Below is another shot of it further down. The sun
was directly behind it when I took the photo so the sky is completely
washed out.


Something  annoying that I've  come across often when travelling throughout Germany, looking for good architectural subjects to photograph, has been the seemingly large amount of new Baustelle, or construction, as well as restoration work going on. At just about every location, I have encountered work sites and cranes and fences. Steeples and towers are found covered in scaffolding, and large containers used for construction offices are stacked one on top the over blocking an otherwise good shot. The photos (left and below) demonstrate what I'm talking about. Several of the posts I have created in this blog over the past several years have been "marred" by this and when you travel so see something and it is completely covered, it can be a disappointment. Well, restorations must take place, though it seems they have been doing the whole country at the same time over the past several years; and, new construction most also go on, so, "What 'cha gonna do?"
The covered steeple in the right of the picture and
the orange crane in the middle are good examples
of what is often found these days.

Across the Nagold River from the center of town is the Palais Vischer (above).
It was built by the 
Director of Public Works of the ducal court in Stuttgart in 1791.
It was Calw's municipal museum until recently. 
The original interior has been preserved
until today. Martin Vischer, chief administrator of the timber trade, had the palace built.

Another photo taken from the train "station" on the roof of the parking structure. Clearly, this is a town that does a poor job of enticing passers-by on the train to stop and have a look since the many interesting things wroth seeing are not very obvious in this panorama. 

How to get to Calw: Unless travelling by car, or hiking along the river from Bad Liebenzell or somewhere else, the fastest way to Calw is via train. Actually, it is the same train that stops in Hirsau. The stop is just across the River Nagold from the the center of town itself. Funny thing is the train stop itself. The tracks run high along the side of the river on the hill. A multi-storied parking structure is built against that hill and part of the roof-level parking area constitutes the platform for the trains. Oh, and before I forget, if you do not have a return ticket, the ticket machines are on the ground floor, not the on the platform where they would make more sense. Do go up without your ticket. As this is in the Black Forest, and as the photos show, it is all wooded and very beautiful. It is also possible to walk from Hirsau to Calw along the Nagold. It is a long, but nice walk.

Via train from Stuttgart, you will need to check online at for train times. I would strongly recommend looking for the connections that take you via Pforzheim Hauptbahnhof (train station), where you can change to a local line that takes you directly to Calw. It is a nice ride through the Black Forest, and the total time is less than 90 minutes. 

Via car from anywhere in Germany (or the entire world, for that matter) use your navigator because I don't have a car and you could be coming from anywhere. The least I can do here though is to tell you the "navi" info:

State: Baden-Württemberg
City: Calw
Postal code: 75365