Showing posts with label Karlsruhe-Durlach. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Karlsruhe-Durlach. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Portals of Durlach: its windows and doors

October 2012, I moved from Stuttgart, where this blog all started, to Durlach, which is actually where the city of Karlsruhe started 300 years ago this year. The Margraves of Baden-Durlach resided here in what has become today a suburb of its daughter city, but before 1715 it was the seat of margrave rule. 

What is a margrave, you might ask? The German word is Markgraf, and French equivalent, I believe, is marquis, a title which the British also still use in their ranks of aristocratic titles. Anyway, these nobles were originally military men given the responsibility of defending the "marches", or borderlands. The British word for the feminine equivalent is "marchioness". As I began to think about it and look through historical maps, surely enough, I found that the lands of a margrave were indeed right on the borders with other territories. In the case of Durlach, it is situated not far at all from the Rhine, across from which other territories once owned by kings or princes of other lands sit against which the local margraves were defend their lands. Today the former margrave's lands are an integral part of modern Baden-Württemberg in the Federal Republic of Germany. Between the time of the margrave of Baden being elevated to the status of grand duke, by Napoleon, many changes and border alterations have occurred in this part of Europe. How will long will the present configuration last?

Now, when I began to travel over here from Stuttgart after work in order to find an apartment before starting my job in Karlsruhe, I can only call it good luck that I ended up in this unique and tight little suburb community on the eastern edge of the city of Karlsruhe. 

Romans came through these parts more than two thousand years ago, and it has been permanently settled ever since and maybe even before; I don't know. Whatever the case, in addition to the Romans, the French were back and forth across the border as well over the many centuries and often left their mark through war and fire. 

Their last most destructive visit was in 1689 during the Nine-Years' War (also known as the War of the Palatine Succession, amongst others). Unfortunately for Badeners, the Palatine (Pfalz) is only just across the Rhine River. In those days, some Palatine territory was in present-day northern Baden-Württemberg. Rulers of the Palatine were known as electors and much of their territory was intricately woven through that of the Baden margraves as well. The ruling Elector of Palatine's residence was the castle of Heidelberg. (See upcoming post on Heidelberg Castle). 

In 1688, the French king, Louis XIV, supported the claim to the electorship of the Palatine by his sister-in-law the Duchess of Orléans, who was also the sister of the recently deceased elector, Karl.  In the end, it was not only a bad war for Louis, but even more disastrous for the people of the Palatine. As he retreated back across the Rhine into France, Louis XIV directed a scorched-earth policy which left not only Durlach, but also other cities such as Heidelberg, Mannheim, Worms and Kaiserslautern utterly destroyed. Baden lands were simply too close to the Palatine and Louis could risk no chance in the margrave's supporting his German cousins in defeating him. Therefore, the burning of Durlach.

Surely you have seen pictures of the world-famous ruins of Heidelberg Castle? Well, that was destroyed at the same time the French made that notorious visit through the lands of Baden. As already stated, King Louis XIV was committed to burning everything in his retreat; and, well, he pretty much did. He burned the margrave out of his palace here in Durlach as well the rest of the town. This went on all over the lands of the margrave to make it clear that he, Louis XIV, would have no contender for the Palatine. Although the armies of Louis XIV were just about the most powerful in this part of Europe at that time, he did not get his way despite this destructive nine-year war. Later, in 1701, it would all happen again.

Now the point of this history lesson and what it has to do with windows, doors and any city gates is that almost everything seen here in Durlach today was constructed or reconstructed post 1689. It is said that my home was the first to be rebuilt in the town after the fires. The margrave's palace had to wait for some time because the townspeople were not too sure about letting him back in since he didn't let them know Louis' plans of burning them out ahead of time so they could run. You see, as the Margrave was of the noble and ruling class, King Louis gave him heads up about his plans, giving the margrave time to escape. Loving prince, right? Anyway, the building I live in, which is not seen in this particular post, was erected in 1690. However, it turns out that Louis' armies, as powerful as they were, missed a couple of houses as the conflagration consumed the town. A couple of buildings did survive, so my home is not oldest one. In some of these photos, you will notice some dates carved into the frames above a few of the doors which clearly go back to before 1689. 

I am so fortunate to have the opportunity to experience life in this town. Being the history nut that I am, being able to look out of any of my windows here on the Altstadtring and see such nice buildings and to sit and wonder about the lives that have occupied the rooms of these buildings is a privilege for me. As a kid, I always wanted to live in a historical building, and here I am, merely by coincidence or luck, doing just that.

Going back to what I had started out to say a few paragraphs back is that as I came here to look at an apartment on the marketplace one afternoon, I felt I was in some sort of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, which was founded in 1632. (As a native Virginian, I take great pride in the fact that there are older places at home than there are here in Durlach. LOL)  I knew I would end up here.

Notice the date. This home somehow survived the fire of 1689.
A piece of history trivia: the first English child, Virginia Dare, 

to be born in North America was born just one year before in 1587 
in what is today North Carolina.

I walked around before my appointment with the real estate lady in order to get to know the neighborhood a bit. I was immediately taken by its charm, restored history and very strong sense of community. It turns out that one never really needs to go into the city center of Karlsruhe for anything if one lives here. It has simply everything. I only go through Karlsruhe to get to work on the other side of the city. Mind you, getting from here into Karlsruhe is only a 15-20 minute bike ride. Durlach is like a town within a city and clearly unique and obvious in that distinction.

So yes, the doors and windows. Well, I have always had a thing for them. I used to like to draw or sketch them back in Virginia. You know, the elegant though somehow simple door and window frames of those nice old Tidewater plantations of Eastern Virginia (not to be compared to later, antebellum plantations of the deeper South). Over the years, I came to realize that doors and windows somehow represented escape for me - a way out. I used to do a lot of running away in my mind. So, coming here, I was in window-and-door heaven. Couldn't take enough photos of them. And still can't!

I have been particularly drawn to the huge arched doors found in many a city throughout Europe.  Depending on which region one finds oneself in Europe, the ones in Durlach have smaller doors within them. The larger doors open up widely enough to allow entry to a wagon, horses, whatever was big enough to require wide berth back in the day. Often there was a court behind the house or building where work went on. Today, many of these surviving passageways leading past the doors and basically through the house before entering the inner court (Innenhof) are used to park bicycles for the tenants. Quite convenient for all sorts of things and sealed from passers-by on the street, Whatever the case, I find them very interesting. They all tell me a story, which I usually make up as I gaze at them.

S  H  U  T  T  E  R  S

Now just about ANYone who knows me in Germany and Switzerland knows of my almost lunatic obsession with shutters! I love 'em! Shutters, for me, are what put the cherry on the cake in the building of a home. Of course, not all homes or buildings need to have them, nor would they even look good with shutters, but if the house comes from era in which they were originally used, then to take them off is, in my opinion, to destroy the character of the house. Just a minute, where's my soapbox? Ah, here it is: It's a sacrilege! It warrants psychoanalysis on the part of the individuals who claim they are too much trouble to keep and who want to live in a boring - no, drab, dead, soul-less - edifice! It's antiquities abuse! And it is done WAY too much around here! Just walk around and see the naked hinges still embedded within the outside walls of the houses where the shutters once hung. I used to think they were just taken down to paint or clean. Ha! Stupid me. Okay, let me get down off this box and get on with my tour. 

Look at the shutters!!!

What can be seen above the main entrances to many buildings can also be an interesting find. Coats of arms are not strange in this case. A number of them can still be found in Durlach. Not all arms were for one individual or family. I believe that some of them represent a guild of some sort as well, but I can't swear to that. If anyone of you readers here can understand Latin, let me know and I'lll make a clearer photo of the Latin writing that is sometimes found above the portals. Maybe that will help in finding out the origins. 

The grate above the door to the left causes me to wonder what kind of establishment this place was in the beginning. The simple glass window panes above the colorful door to the right tell me that this door is not older than the 19th century. The door itself is only the right ⅔ of the tri-paneled door. Many doors were created in this fashion 100 to 150 years ago.

Can you find the shutters? Might be hard to see.

This portal is the "Basler Tor", or Basel Gate. It is the only such tower gate left
in Durlach and was the south exit leading in the direction of Basel, Switzerland,
which is where the Margraves of Baden-Durlach also had a residence.

The next three photos show three different shades of green shutters. In the first photo, the shutters are simple pieces of wood - completely utilitarian. Sadly, the large shutters on the bottom windows were removed very recently. This house is a neighbor of mine. Every time I walk by it, I wonder if the top-floor shutters will still be there. The hinges can still be seen on the sides of the windows on the ground floor.

The location of this completely new building is where the western segment of the city wall of
Durlach once stood. Why do I include it in this posting? Well, I had to give it several points
for at least being very colorful and not drab, even though the windows are so simple. I rather
like it. After all, it is 2015 and I can't roll back time even though I sometimes wish I could.
Like my posting about Berlinerplatz in Stuttgart a couple of years ago here, I have to make
an effort to befriend some change. 

This last photo is of the Durlach town wall on the northern side of the Old Town. In many cases, privates dwellings took advantage of city walls so they could build their homes against it and save money on building one of the walls of their own homes. Today, the wall itself has basically become home to about a dozen or so dwellings, with the arches becoming entrances or rooms themselves.

Visiting Durlach, if in the Karlsruhe area, would be highly suggested. The old town hall from the first half of the 19th century, located on the Marktplatz, or main square, is quite attractive with its gabled façade. Restaurants and cafés here are quite charming as well and offer quite good local fare. Durlach is at the end of a major artery that runs east-west through the city of Karlsruhe and is located at the foot of the Turmberg, where a 12th century castle-fortress once stood above the town of Durlach. From the top of the large, square tower that remains of that fortress, the view on a clear day allows you to see all the way to France, the Pfalz across the Rhine and almost to the Hessian border to the north. It's worth a visit and good walk about. If you're lucky, you can arrange for the night watchman to give you the lantern tour of Durlach in the evenings.

Check it out...

How to get to Durlach: from Karlsruhe city center, the number 1 tram (Durlach) will carry you all the way down through Durlach's main street, Pfinztalstrasse, and end at the Turmberg stop. It should take only about 15-20 minutes from the Karlsruhe Marktplatz. The number 2 tram (Wolfartsweier) will take you as far as the stop for the Durlach train station before veering off to Wolfartsweier. Other trams are available directly to the Durlach train station and from there, you can walk into the town.

From Karlsruhe main station: there are several trains and S-bahns that run through Durlach station. The trip is only about 5 minutes if you take the larger trains.

Cycling: from the center of Karlsruhe eastward along Kaiserstrasse which becomes Durlacher Allee is also an option, using the bike path that runs beside this route. I can bike it in 15 to 20 minutes as well. There are other designated bike paths to get there as well. Check Google Maps for bike paths in the greater Karlsruhe area

By car, it is off exit 44 (Karlsruhe-Durlach exit) from the A5. Just follow the signs.