Showing posts with label Stuttgart. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Stuttgart. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Well, if you're going to be a fool, at least be a colorful one! Going back to Narrenfest 2009 in Bad Cannstatt

Festival of Fools

Narrenfest, Bad Cannstatt, Germany, January 2009

One of my favorite memories of living in Bad Cannstatt came about on a sunny Sunday morning a few years ago, which turned into a chilly afternoon surrounded by a bunch, no - a mob, of fools. And I mean legitimate fools. It was Narrenfest - a festival of fools who spent part of the year practicing to be fools, and being proud of being fools in a celebration of fools which has lasted for hundreds of years! All sounds a tad foolish, doesn't it? 

I had started out on a late morning stroll down from above the vineyards where I was living at the time. It was a January morning and I noticed that people were starting to line the streets leading to the Old Town. I figured I would just stand there with them until whatever it was that was going to pass by made its way by me for my inspection. I had no idea what to expect, but as I usually never go out without a camera or smartphone, I was ready.

Twins separated at birth
I was first in line on the street. I stood my ground for what turned out to be the most exciting parade filled with the largest assortment of masks and ancient costumes I had ever seen anywhere in the world - and I have been in many countries on several continents. More than a dozen different countries were participating in this time-honored event and it was a photographer's paradise. I ended up being swept along with it right into the middle of the Old Town until I was standing directly in front of the former Bad Cannstatt Rathaus with thousands of other people who had come from many parts of Europe to take part or watch. I was there for hours just clicking away, praying the batteries would hold out on my camera. 480 shots later, well, I guess they did their part.

Narrenfest is nothing new. The celebration, or festival thereof, has been going on forever in these parts. And it has always involved    COLOR!

Now have a look at these young lovelies. Tell me these aren't the dreams of all bachelor party celebrations, no? They would certainly be at the top of my list for entertainment! (Certainly brides would prefer these ladies to be the ones poppin' out of the bachelor's cake, right?)


I cannot swear that behind these masks there are no women at all today; however, I do in fact know that the  medieval Zunft, or guild, to witch these whiches (or vice-versa) belong was  originally only men. After all, this dates in one form or another all the way back to Heaven knows when: medieval times or even the Dark Ages? But, clearly there are women participating in other costumes as they twirl, jump, hop, and wind their way in the long parade through the streets. Be advised: this particular international event does not take place every year. On this special occasion involved guilds and participants from many different countries. The United States even had a small contingent! The Fest of Fools does in fact take place each year in communities all over central Europe, but these usually include the local townsfolk. I happened upon this international festival by luck, and I guess it was double luck that it was also in my town of Bad Cannstatt.

For anyone interested in the history of festivals and pagan holidays, this is most certainly one to research. The best way to do so is to simply come here to  experience it. An expensive way, for sure, but definitely worth it. Of course, one of the most famous of all such events is in the town of Rotweil (that's right, home of the famous dog), a beautifully medieval town which lies south of Stuttgart in the Lower Black Forest region of Württemberg. Their traditional event is especially known for being most accurate as regards following the traditions of the parade are concerned, but one must get up early in the morning to participate in this fantastic, annual event. 

Some of the massive costumes, besides being very warm, if not hot, for the wearers, can be most frightening, not only to children, but also to some more mature guests. I think I may have annoyed some of them by my constant grin from ear to ear as they passed by. I was in history heaven!


As mentioned earlier, people came from all sorts of countries. Some of the bore their flags as they paraded, such as this pointed-nose group from Belgium on the right.

Slovenia was sighted as well at the Narrenfest. The young couple below were a part of that group.

The almost buffalo-like, long-haired "fools" from Eastern Europe were also particularly interesting for the crowd, as they twirled and danced with their massive, heavy head pieces. The masks themselves were of large pieces of wood, and as seen below, they begin at young ages. Not only the weight of the headdresses, but also the heavy bells tied to ropes around their waists. Their constant swinging and spinning made a cacophony of dull, tinny clangs that no one could miss, like a stampede of Swiss cows running to the barn for feeding time. Every few minutes, these participants had to remove their "heads" in order to down half a bottle of water or so. 

The masks were so heavy on these guys, they had to hold them in place to be able to see properly through them. The ram horns adorning these headdresses were real. (Ouch!)


Well, as mentioned above, color plays a large part at Narrenfest. As your dear writer here is not old enough to recall how it was in the early days of these events back in medieval times, I nonetheless think that the more ancient of these costumes are probably rather authentic; but, at the same time, I guess over the past 500 years even these guilds have made changes themselves, so maybe I had better catch up, too. Let's have a look at some more of the colorful parts of the Narrenfest parade here:

Any idea how much all these bells weigh? Any idea how noisy this parade was,
especially when mixed with all the applause and cheers of the people?

This little marcher (above right) was no more than 13 years old. Each of this group carried a box of chocolates. Your chocoholic writer here followed them for quite a while in hopes that they had a giving spirit. Alas, they didn't. 

But who cares under these circumstances. I mean, look at that color - chocolate or no chocolate! It was a party. The beauty of this is that these happy and colorful events have descended down through the centuries from just after the Dark Ages - and no doubt there were similar festivals during and before! The Church was all-powerful in every aspect of life at this time. The control that it had over citizens throughout Europe was also practiced through the threat of loss of salvation. It was so easy to be labeled a heretic, and this simply wasn't advantageous to one's livelihood, let alone one's life span! This opportunity to dress up and hide behind a mask to basically let loose before the Lenten season was a time to make satire about the religious and secular powers that existed at the time. The Catholic Church was not particularly comfortable with it all, since even priests were known to participate in the revelry. Stories certainly exist of leading members of the hierarchy in Rome warning their celebratory brethren not to be so involved in these events.

It was nearly impossible to catch these Bavarian participants when
they weren't twirling or slapping their thighs and kicking. Hence, blurry shot.

There were a lot of dizzy people at the end of the day.
At least, I thought there would have been.
Heaven knows I sure got dizzy watching!
Each of the mouths on these masks was different, 
but not one of them was sad.

So here you go: more masks and costumes. I cannot leave this page without putting more of these simply astounding masks and costumes on show for your perusal:

Something about these ladies(?) intrigued me.

And man, could they play!

A happy pair of fools

Erecting the festival pole in front of the Rathaus (Town Hall)

I am not sure, but I think these ladies came down from the Black Forest in Baden.

He reminded me of a human "smore"

There are several names for this time of year and the event. Narrenfest is directly related to Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Fasching in the Rhineland of Germany, not to mention other pre-Lenten events. It his traditionally held on Rosenmontag, otherwise known as "Shrovetide", which is before Shrove Tuesday, amongst several other ancient names. This is the Monday directly before Ash Wednesday.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Bad Cannstatt - a suburb of spas

Bad Cannstatt boasts a very long history dating all the way back to 98 A.D., when the Romans founded it as Canstat ad Neccarum, or Cannstatt on the Neckar. It was one the largest of the Roman settlements in southern Germany in what is today the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg. Today it is an integral part of, and the largest and oldest district in, Stuttgart, the modern-day capital of the state. 

Old Town of Bad Cannstatt's church tower on a late summer afternoon.

I lived in Bad Cannstatt for almost five years before moving over to Karlsruhe. The photos I have here depict the historical parts of the town (now suburb) which I found most interesting. To be very honest, the Old Town area of Bad Cannstatt, which is situated directly on a bend in the Neckar River, could use a very good sprucing up. Except for several very good restaurants, the Old Town needs a major facelift which could, in my opinion, help to create a much more marketable and very attractive tourist area. Still, that does not mean you shouldn't visit! As you will see in my photographs, there is much to see. I just made a point of not including the "stuff" that I don't want you to see. And, I haven't even included all the good things here; there is still much more left for you to discover on your own!

Shutter-framed windows in a small courtyard near the City Church

There is much that does go on in this district located on the NNW fringe of the original city limits of Stuttgart (It was annexed to Stuttgart at the beginning of the 20th century). The Cannstatter Wasen takes place along the river near the Old Town; Rosenstein Palace, former home to Württemberg's longest reigning monarch and today Stuttgart's Natural History Museum, is situated on the hill above the river directly across from the Old Town; beautiful vineyards on the slopes above the Neckar River; and a variety of neighborhoods of various centuries which combined with the oldest standing building in the district together make a span of over 500 years of architecture. 

The main street which runs past the Rathaus in the background.

If you should ever visit, do not allow the local transportation hub of Wilhelmsplatz to cause you to turn around and leave. There is no other way to describe it: it's ugly. But the Old Town is meters away and from there, anyone who is willing to explore all the back streets and to even take the time to bike or hike along the river paths in the direction of Hofen, you will not be disappointed. The vineyards and places to taste wine when in season are most definitely worth it. 

The Neckar as it approaches the small town of Hofen, located on the edge of Bad Cannstatt
Vineyards line much of the river.

Tourist boats are moored on the river's banks below the Old Town and an afternoon sailing up the Neckar towards Ludwigsburg on one of them would most definitely be an enjoyment. 

Tour boats docked beneath Schloß Rosenstein direct across for the Old Town in Bad Cannstatt

It would be wrong of me to forget to explain why Bad Cannstatt is a Bad, or "spa" town. A town may not bear that "title" without having one. The city is well-known for its mineral-water baths and spas. The district alone has several, the oldest of which was begun in 1825 by King Wilhelm I of Württemberg. König-Karl-Straße, the street from Wilhelmsplatz on which the number 2 streetcar runs in the direction of Neureut, will take any biker or pedestrian right by the beautiful park and historical spa itself. A stone's throw away from the spa, you can easily find where in the early 1880s Gottlieb Daimler worked on the engine for the first automobile. The local police thought he was counterfeiting money!

The first Kursaal, or "Spa Salon", otherwise known as the "Pump Room" when first built.
Its royal patron, King Wilhelm I, is honored in front. He also lived in Bad Cannstatt, though Stuttgart was his capital.

(Left) Mr. Daimler's workshop.  

(Right) The second photo shows what he ended up with.
The frozen Neckar River as it passes the Cannstatter Wasen, home to the Volksfest

The Wilhelma warrants its own blog page, and it will indeed have one when I get around to it. The Wilhelma was the private pleasure retreat and zoo of King Wilhelm I of Württemberg, who built it in the Moorish style of the Alhambra, but named it after himself: "Wilhelm-a". Get it? Alhambra? --> Wilhelma? Right, I thought at first it was named after a lady. Ha! Oh well, despite him being pretty bad tempered to his own family, I reckon the old king had a sense of humor in an egocentric sort of way. But hey, he was the king, right? The Wilhelma is extremely popular to visit - and absolutely worth it! It is probably the most elegant zoo you will ever visit.

Above, you can see one of the beautiful terra-cotta walls surrounding the Wilhelma. The zoo, situated below the 19th-century-king's favorite residence of Schloß Rosenstein along the Neckar River, is open to the public and a must-see for its array of animals and the buildings that grace its extensive grounds.

View from my old neighborhood in Bad Cannstatt
The vineyards are just beginning to turn green
in the spring sunshine.

Same vineyard as taken from the bridge in winter
Autumn colors before the harvest.

Now you know how they cut the grass between the rows of grape vines. 
(You should see the driver clinging to the wheel as he drives uphill!)

And the summer view from my hill
This was without a doubt one of my most favorite views in all of Stuttgart

Turning around in the same spot from which I took the photograph above this one, the Neckar River can be seen making it was through Bad Cannstatt. Stuttgart city is in the far background almost invisible. The Old Town of Bad Cannstatt is not visible but it sits on the left bank of the river past the high white train trestle in the middle of the photo.

Late autumn evening along the Neckar

Rathaus and City Church in the center of Bad Cannstatt's Old Town.
On market day, there is a wonderful open-air fresh-produce and flower market in the square behind the Rathaus

The Rathaus in the late afternoon

Roof line of the houses on the Market Street before a storm

Side street in Bad Cannstatt. Part of the old city wall can be seen dividing 
the two houses. The one on the leftwas built within the wall. The one on 
the right was built a bit later. It was common for homes or other structures 
to use the city wall as a wall in their own building as well.

One of my favorite houses in Bad Cannstatt, located up against the inside of the old wall.
A bit of the stonework can be seen on the far-right of the photo.

A late 19th century mansion located very near the Old Town.  
Restoration was recently finished in 2012.

I don't know if this building still serves as an inn, but the sign is still there in any case.

One of a number of very good restaurants to be found in Bad Cannstatt.
The 1618 date denoting the high-water mark of a flood from long, long 

ago can be seen chiseled into the stonework of the building.
"Zickle" means "little goat" in Swabian.

An example of Fachwerk, or half-timbered
structures still in Bad Cannstatt.

Technically still in the Old Town, but located outside of where the wall
was and next to the river,  I can only say that I just like the green 

wooden porch!

City church (Stiftskirche) bell tower

Local coffee shop - one of many

Lot's of young families with children live in the Old Town 

This is part of the oldest building in Stuttgart: the Beginen Klösterle, 
built in 1463The Beginen (Beguine) were an order of lay-nuns 
dating back to the Middle Ages

Today, this beautiful building, restored in 1983, is now a restaurant,
but the inside of the building has changed very little.
The chapel is still located on an upper floor.

Note the joints and patterns of the building. Perhaps it was enlarged/widened long ago?

Last but not least, I must say that I, a born chocoholic, would be amiss if I did not inform you, dear reader, that the Rittersport chocolate bar was first produced in Bad Cannstatt. Today, the factory and chocolate museum are located south of Stuttgart, but Bad Cannstatt does take pride in being the home of automobiles and chocolate: unlike alcohol, two things which can go together.

There is indeed much to see in Bad Cannstatt, so I guess I could say, "Just see it!"

Close-up of the bell tower.