Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Map

This writer loves maps - especially those old, large maps that people find so beautiful that they hang them on their walls in matted, aristocratic frames. But not so aristocratic as to take away from the map itself. I love those things. If sufficient money were available to me for such treasures, I am sure that a bit of it would be spent on such maps and they would be hanging on my walls. 

That said, wealthy or not, I still collect maps. I have them from my days in China, my life in Portugal and my wanderings throughout the cantons of Switzerland as well as those days in Tibet that late spring and early summer of 1986. Maps are to be gazed upon and one's imagination should be stimulated to wonder what exciting and exotic goings-on are taking place in the remotest of regions on those panels and pages.

Sometimes your writer studies a map, chooses a location and simply decides that he will go to that locale simply because it looks like the most remote place the can go. And this was before the internet and easily acquired satellite imagery was around for the common masses. (Common Masseys, Aunt Olivia?) One simply didn't have pictures or 3-D maps to to help them decide beforehand if it was worth the journey. You simply arrived and got what was there to be offered. Or nothing at all. 

Well, today I went through the flea market at König-Karl-Platz in Stuttgart - the square directly behind the Old Castle. Miriam went too. I really enjoy the place because there are a few book sellers amongst the cornucopia of stalls, and one of them sells books of all ages for just 3€ each! At that price, this writer's budget availability is in full swing. I won't go so far as to say that I come home with a book following every visit, but rest assured I make every effort to do so. Once, I came home with a sack filled with 10 volumes of Goethe's works. The backs of the books are leather. The set cost a total of 20€. The tomes once belonged to a long-gone Bavarian noble named Theodorus, Freiherr (Baron) von Tucher und Simmelsdorf, Behringersdorf und Winterstein. His title and name alone warranted half the inside of the books' front covers. They were printed in 1904 in Berlin, and although I cannot read a lick of the marvelous old style lettering printed in those days, I am just glad to have them. Besides, they look nice. 

But back to today's visit: we wandered around the flea market. I went directly to the old books and stamps (I lead an exciting life.) and Miriam went on her own interesting hunt. Needless to say, I was quite pleased to come across a little book printed in 1927 entitled Württemberg, Reisehandbuch by Rudolf Höllwarth. To his even greater pleasure, your writer discovered that at the time of its printing, today's Baden-Württemberg was called Württemberg-Hohenzollern: Hohenzollern being a principality that is the historic origins to the last dynasty of Imperial Germany up to 1918. You know, Kaiser Wilhelm II and his kin? (By the way, please do not confuse good King Wilhelm II of Württemberg with the egocentric Emperor (Ger: "Kaiser") of Germany of the same name and number up in Berlin at about the same time. Two different men: the good one was invited to live out his retirement years south of Stuttgart on a stipend; the bad one got kicked out of the country altogether and died in exile in the Netherlands.)

Anyway, the whole point of this posting is to tell you that the little book is a 1920s travel guide with maps galore in the forms of inserts and fold-out pages! Pay dirt for 2.50€. There's a big one of Stuttgart in the middle. The streets are even designed showing outlines of the larger landmarks, some of which no longer exist due to World War II. Other towns and cities of the Weimar state of Württemberg-Hohenzollern are also included, of course. I am sure some of the streets have been altered following post-war reconstruction and urban sprawl with the incredible expansion and development of the new Federal German state since 1949. 

Can't wait to show this to Miss A.!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cannstatter Wasen: a Stuttgart tradition

(© Copyright 2012)

Anyone who claims to know anything about Stuttgart is aware of one thing for sure: in the district of Bad Cannstatt, across the footbridge from Berg, lies about 85 flat, open acres known as "the Wasen". This long, rectangular strip of land on the north-east bank of the Neckar River is a popular place indeed to all who live and, well, celebrate here. Six years from now, this beloved piece of real estate will celebrate its 200th anniversary, and this writer has the feeling that due to its reputation, it will see a celebration the likes of which will not be seen for a long time thereafter. However, although its origins were to celebrate good fortune, the situation leading up to that were not good at all.

(© Copyright 2012)

Throughout the growing seasons between 1815 and 1817, the little Kingdom of Württemberg suffered the worst famine in its history. Crops failed miserably due to remarkably cold temperatures which lasted throughout the year leaving hardly any summer at all. The people suffered miserably. Many would starve. 

(© Copyright 2012)

Young King Wilhelm I received grain shipments from the Tsar of Russia to help relieve the desperate situation. When crops finally began to yield produce once again, the king and queen held a festival in what is known as the Wasen in Cannstatt to celebrate the positive change in the people's fortune. It was held on the king's birthday, September 28, 1818. He decreed that every year thereafter on this day, the festival, otherwise known today simply as "The Wasen", would be held.

(© Copyright 2012)

The Wasen, located in what is known today as Bad Cannstatt, is a large fairground of approximately 85 acres which is located right along the banks of the Neckar River, very close to where Rosenstein Palace stands today.

(© Copyright 2012)

Tradition takes root                                                                                                    
Throughout the 19th century and first part of the 20th until the fall of the monarchy and establishmentof the Weimar Republic in 1918, the fall festival, known as the Volksfest, was held for only one day. It was an agricultural fair with prizes and awards given out for agricultural accomplishments. Thousands attended the event despite limited time of one day. In the 1920s it was expanded to just under a week and in the 1970s it was lengthened to just over two weeks. Agriculture is still a part of the theme during this time, but rides and other attractions have long taken over the festival's skyline and now it is the second largest festival in Germany after Munich's Oktoberfest, which has only just wound down when Stuttgart's huge party begins.  

The festival which takes place during the spring, beginning mid April through the middle of May is known as the Spring Festival or Frühlingsfest. Because there are two festivals in the year at the Wasen, people tend to mix the names and call both of   the events the Volksfest and I really don't think many people are too overly concerned about it. The most important thing is that everyone has a good time. And certainly this writer can attest: they do!

(© Copyright 2012)

So what is Frankie Avalon doing at the Stuttgart Frühlingsfest? Well, as can be seen in most of these photographs, the festival is similar to so many other festivals around the world. As this writer walks around the Fest grounds, the references to American and British pop stars from the past are obvious. If the huge beer halls with traditional music bellowing out of them were not so in abundance through fair lanes, it would be very obvious that one was in Germany.  

(© Copyright 2012)

Some people mistakenly call it Stuttgart's "Oktoberfest". It isn't. Certainly beer flows throughout the tents and halls, but doesn't it flow at just about every public event in Germany? Right, so that isn't the only thing that makes this festival what it is today.

(© Copyright 2012)

Interestingly enough, so many millions attend the festival during its duration that it makes it one of the largest such festival attractions in the world! I don't live so far away from the Wasen and I go by the festival grounds on the train or streetcar almost every day. The crowds are mind-boggling, but it all seems to work. It's worth walking through, at least, to see people in national costumes all over. Young people today are more and more caught up in the atmosphere of wearing traditional dress for the occasion, although some of the outfits tend to be borrowed from their Bavarian neighbor's styles than those of the traditional Württembergers. Oh well, it's colorful and a good time is had by all!

(© Copyright 2012)

The Ferris-wheel is said to be the largest portable Ferris-wheel in the world! I think the emphasis is on "portable" because it certainly isn't there the rest of the year. Now, that big thing on the banks of the Thames in London is notably larger, of course, but I don't see that going anywhere any other times of the year.  

Even though the fair-ways could be mistaken for any fair in North America, there is one thing that makes it all German: the massive beer tents with benches and tables and music and singing and eating and large mugs of beer in every hand. You are allowed to stand on the wooden benches to sway arm-in-arm with your neighbor while singing all the songs, but never stand on the table: it just ain't fittin'!   

(© Copyright 2012)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Shades of Solitude

                                                                                                Schloß Solitude                                                   

Compared to Rosenstein Palace (see earlier post), Schloß Solitude is not that much bigger, but it does appear rather more like an actual palace in its façade than that of the less ornate Rosenstein. Despite all its grandeur, it came as a surprise to this writer that it was originally built as a hunting lodge. It's not what one usually thinks of as a hunting lodge, is it? From the outside, the round hall under the rotunda resembles more of a wedding cake than it does a place where hunters would drop their rifles, kick off their dirty riding boots, throw down their packs, and, I dare say, their kill of the day as well! But, as you can no doubt imagine, the kind of hunters who spent any time here were not the type to do that - probably.

Commissioned by Duke Carl Eugen of Württemberg in 1764, the Schloß came into existence through a difficult birth. Previously, the duke had left his capital of Stuttgart following a falling out with his nobles and government there and moved to the ornate palace of Ludwigsburg, where he set up court. So, as the ruler had chosen to reside in a different place, the capital had in effect gone right along with him, and Stuttgart was not to be graced with the presence of its reigning duke for a number of years. While in Ludwigsburg, Carl Eugen chose to build a pleasure palace for himself in the form of this hunting lodge. Philippe de La Guêpière was chosen as principal architect together with a group of other advisors and of course the input of the duke himself. The location on the top of a hill west of Stuttgart and above Gerlingen was cleared of its trees and construction was begun.

One of the reasons the duke had had a falling out with his government was because he tended to be more absolutist in his style of governing than his advisors preferred. And perhaps in his way of ruling, he also felt that money was no object to get in the way of his personal desire to maintain the lifestyle which he felt, as reigning duke, that he should have. Aside from Solitude, Carl Eugen had not only built the spacious New Palace in the middle of Stuttgart and expanded the baroque residential palace of Ludwigsburg, but he also commissioned or improved on other palaces such as the smaller Mon Repos, Favorite and Hohenheim, which we will see more about in a later post. In doing so throughout his long reign, he bankrupted his properties and became dependent on loans from France in the process. Needless to say, this did not sit well with his government.

Despite its lofty location and esthetic beauty, Schloß Solitude was not used very often. Money for the upkeep was always the problem. The duke had extravagant plans, but he had a difficult time financially supporting his lifestyle. Still, the palace was completed, and its design has proven to be most interesting. A good part of the structure itself contains a warren of passageways for the servants so that they would not have to be seen any more than necessary. Wood paneling in the walls camouflaged the smaller service doors. After all, servants were not to be seen coming down the hall and through the main door. They were merely to materialize directly in the room when called and to leave the same way: through the walls. Squeezed into corner spaces, narrow staircases and connecting tunnel-like hallways were constructed for service access. Even the fireplace in the duke's rarely used bedroom had a passageway which led directly to it from a hidden corridor which allowed the charwoman to set, stoke and maintain the fire from the side without being seen. 

In the photograph above, the inner walls of the palace can be seen behind the paneling that has yet to be restored. This particular room is in the north-east corner of the palace and is normally off-limits to tours. As I am an avid admirer of Fachwerk (half-timber) structures, I was shown the room before paintings are one day put back to fill the gaps. Here, it can be seen how the finished walls were installed over the half-timbered structure itself. This includes inner walls as well as the outer. 

The room under the rotunda is grand and beautiful. However one cannot see all the way to the dome. Access to the room up there is not so easy to gain. If ever given the access, the photographs will be posted.


In a crescent just behind the palace itself can be found four sections of service buildings and dependencies. These houses and buildings have served various purposes throughout the past 250 years of its existence. As the Rococo palace was being completed, the duke probably spent his nights there in one of the larger sections close to the walkway which leads back to what used to be the formal gardens. Over time, these buildings would used as schools and lodging for guests or members of the court, depending on need. Even today, the 12 little houses that flank the buildings of the central crescent, six to one side and six to the other, are used mostly as private residences for people who in some way serve the state of Baden-Württemberg or Solitude itself. The state's minister-president (governor) also lives on the palace estate in a modest, modern home just out of sight of the 18th century complex itself. 

The name of the palace was inspired by the duke's desire to have a place away from court where he might find peace and quiet. When visiting the large grounds, any visitor can imagine how true it must have been for pleasant it must have been for him. Of course, he had a large staff in attendance and though most of the court formalities could be left down in Ludwigsburg, some still existed in that quieter surrounding nonetheless, so this writer imagines that the actual solitude he experienced must have been relative. 

Horses are still grazed and kept at the former royal stables still found up on Solitude today. No doubt there is much more solitude for them than there was for ducal gatherings.

As mentioned above, there is a system of servant's passageways. Upon visiting the palace, it was learned that some of the French doors and shutters that are seen on the outside actually cover the site of a few of these passageways that creep along the inside just along the outer walls of the palace. These doors are not even visible on the inside.  

The palace sits atop a huge foundation made of stone blocks and carvings and which also contains a number of rooms as well. The staircases leading up to the palatial dwelling on top are immense on both sides of the palace.

Although the palace is clearly rococo on its exterior, its interior is by contrast mostly classical. The central hall is a beautiful example of this design. Along with the rest of the structure, it was restored by the federal government in the late 70s and early 80s and is today open to the public. The grounds also support the Akademie Schloß Solitude, an art academy which was founded in 1990. Other schools have used the grounds and its buildings since the late 1700s, once the duke finally accepted that upkeep for such a rarely used pleasure palace was beyond reasonable for his delicate budget. The duke himself established the first academy that was to use part of its facilities.

Magnificent plans were drawn up for the creation of extensive and splendid formal gardens. The garden upkeep alone would have been exorbitant. The plans were not all completely followed through with at the time. Even so, visitors today can get an idea of the extent to which they would have been built simply by following the lane that leads away from the palace into the woods which have consumed what gardens were there. Placards depicting diagrams are posted to give an overview of the former layout.

(© Copyright 2012)

(© Copyright 2012)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Rosenstein Palace and Park on the Neckar

Rosenstein Palace (© Copyright 2012)
Rosenstein Palace, or Schloß Rosenstein in German, is the former country seat of Wilhelm I, second and longest reigning king of Württemberg. Yet, it is no longer really in the country. The city of Stuttgart has grown so, that Rosenstein today is well within the greater urban area. It is presently home to the State Museum for Natural History of Stuttgart, but upon its completion in 1829 and grand opening in 1830, Rosenstein was the favorite residence of King Wilhelm and is where he died in 1864. It remained one of several royal residences until 1918, when Württemberg became a Free State (republic) and joined the Weimar Republic. In 1919, following Word War I, its furnishings and paintings were sold at public auction.

Autumn at Rosenstein Palace  (© Copyright 2012)

The small palace sits on a bluff once known in German as Kahlenstein, or "bare rock", as there was little if anything growing there. When the palace was planned, the name was changed to Rosenstein, or "pink rock". Rosenstein Palace overlooks a bend in the Neckar River, which winds its way through the district of Stuttgart known as Bad Cannstatt. At the time of Wilhelm I's reign, Bad Cannstatt was an independent town before uniting with Stuttgart in 1905. Even today, Bad Cannstatt is still proud to call Rosenstein Palace its own.

Excursion boats on the Neckar River just below the palace.  (© Copyright 2012)

Court architect Giovanni Salucci designed the palace in the second half of the 1820s.  He was to design the Wilhelmspalais in the center of Stuttgart shortly thereafter. The classic design on the outside of the palace is still visible today despite the drastic changes to the interior following its devastating fire during the Second World War. 

Rosenstein affords not only a view of the Neckar River and the old town of Bad Cannstatt, but also the Wilhelma Zoo. The zoo was originally built as a private pleasure park and retreat by King Wilhelm where he could entertain all sorts of private guests. Exotic plants and animals were brought there as well. The moorish style of the buildings found within the park echoes that of the Alhambra in Spain. A number of those structures, used for a variety of personal functions in the king's day, still stand. The zoo and gardens are definitely worthy of a visit.

Rosenstein Park, which surrounds the palace, is filled with stately chestnut trees which fill the grounds in autumn with abundant quantities of their beautiful fruits which many Stuttgarters love to collect. In the fall, the colors of the trees mixed with maples and other species provide a beautiful walk, run or bicycle ride for visitors. In the summer months, the lawns are nice for picnics as well. 

The palace is part of the greater Stuttgart Schloßpark system which begins in the middle of the city at the New Palace, or Neues Schloß. The distance between the two palaces is a very nice walk through beautiful, tree-lined allées dating back almost 200 years. 

One of the legacies of King Wilhelm I was the establishing of the Royal Württemberg State Railways. Toward the end of October 1845, the first railway line was in operation between Bad Cannstatt and Untertürkheim, where the Rotenberg is located (see previous "Rotenberg am Neckar"). Soon after, a tunnel was dug directly under Rosenstein for the train which was to go into the city of Stuttgart. The tunnel is disused today, but the sealed entrance can still be seen following a little walk just below the main path between the palace and the river. A new tunnel has since been constructed not far from there.

Very close to the Rosenstein, also within walking distance, is the smaller Villa Berg, later home to King Wilhelm I's heir, King Karl I, and his Russian wife, the well-remembered Queen Olga. Two of the cities numerous mineral spas can also be found directly to the east of the palace grounds. The famous Cannstatter Wasen, or fair ground, is also within close walking distance.
In 1877, some years after King Wilhelm's death, King Karl I opened Rosenstein to the public to view the collection of paintings his father had purchased for the palace many years before. In addition to the art and furnishings of the palace, the gardens contain some interesting and beautiful plants and trees such as Sequoia as well as the rose garden which was created during the reign of King Karl.

Sequoia on the grounds of Rosenstein Palace  (© Copyright 2012)

Rose garden in late spring  (© Copyright 2012)

Rosenstein may not be a grand or opulent palace as many might expect a king's home to be, but it is stately nonetheless. Many foreign visitors to the city do not often make their way to the palace as there are no roads or parking lots leading up to it. It is all on foot with street car or local train stations and platforms within walking distance. Exploring the palace park on foot particularly from spring through autumn combined with the Wilhelma Zoo down the hill is certainly worth the effort.
One of two lions guarding the south entrance to the palace  (© Copyright 2012)

Rosenstein Park in the fall   (© Copyright 2012)


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rotenberg am Neckar: a tragic love story

Rotunda of the Royal Mausoleum of the House of Württemberg  

Rotenberg is the hill outside of Stuttgart on which sits the memorial to a beautiful but tragic love story that took place almost 200 years ago. Württemberg's second king, Wilhem I, had fallen in love with and married a lovely young Grand Duchess of Russia, daughter of Tsar Paul I. Katharina came to Württemberg and immediately took to her new role as consort, mother and patron of a number of lasting causes for the people of her adopted land.

Steps leading up to the chapel

Despite the fact that young King Wilhelm did love his wife, he was still a subject of the times and his station, and he took a mistress. Understandably to us today, Queen Katharina had a hard time accepting this and begged the king to stop the relationship. For whatever reason be it self-control or arrogance, the king could not find it within himself to end it.

On a January evening in 1819, the young queen, upon learning that the king was with his mistress at their rural retreat, decided she would confront them. In her haste, wearing only a shawl, she commanded the coachman to take her there. She ordered the coach to stop across the field from the house so that she might go the rest of the way on foot to surprise them. After confronting them, she ran from the house back through the damp and chilly field catching a cold in the process. Within one week, the popular and beloved queen was dead. 

It is said that she died of a broken heart. For his part, the king was completely stricken with guilt and grief. As a result, he chose the hill bearing the ruins of the castle seat of the House of Württemberg, which could be seen from his small palace of Rosenstein near Stuttgart on which to build a mausoleum for her. People have said that Queen Katharina had often admired the silhouette of the ruined castle from a distance. The king had the ruins dismantled and the present chapel was erected with a crypt for her marble tomb. He would be buried next to her 45 years later. With the chapel directly visible from Rosentein Palace, the king would be forever reminded of not only his beloved queen, but also of the guilt he bore in causing her early death. 

The Chapel on the Rotenberg

It is said that during the funeral procession from Stuttgart all the way to Rotenberg chapel, the king was heard crying the entire way.

The way to the chapel on the Rotenberg   

King Wilhelm I married once again, but despite the best attempts of his new consort, Queen Pauline, their marriage was never truly happy, and she spent much of her time trying to bring peace between the king and his heir, Crown Prince Karl. Toward the end, they lived apart. He left her nothing in his will and she died with very little.

As for his family life, King Wilhelm I was never really happy. The rifts between the king and his heir, as well as that between him and his own father were always problematic. Queen Paulina spent much time trying to bridge these differences. Yet, despite his unhappy private life, the king remained popular with his people. 

Wilhelm is buried next to his beloved Katharina on the Rotenberg, and visitors can see the crypt and chapel today.

                                                                             Wilhelm                                                                        Katharina
                                                                  King of Württemberg                                                               Pavlovna
                                                          born the 27th of September 1781                                      Grand Duchess of Russia
                                                [ascended the throne] 30th of October 1816                                  Queen of Württemberg
                                                              died the 25th of June 1864                          born 10th of May 1788, died 9th of January 1819

The vistas from the hill over the immense vineyards and the town of Untertürkheim below are splendid. The hike from the Untertürkheim train station up to the Rotenberg, which can be seen from the train, is worth the effort. It takes you through the vineyards, some of which are still owned by the present-day Dukes of Württemberg. The dukes are the descendants of the last kings. The village of Rotenberg which is directly below the chapel is lovely, with a nice restaurant which boasts a fantastic view of the vineyard lined valley beneath it. The 18th century church in the middle of the village is worth seeing due to its unique design and balcony for such a small church. It is not always open, however.

Village church of Rotenberg

Cycling to the village of Rotenberg, just behind the chapel 

One set of many such steps wending through the vineyards. 

How to get to the Chapel on the Rotenberg: take the S1 local train to Untertürkheim from the Stuttgart main train station. The trip is about 15 minutes.