Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Eppingen of 'Fachwerk' Fame

The first photo in this blog entry is of the oldest Fachwerkhaus in Eppingen as well as the entire region itself. Built in 1412, this structure must have fascinating stories to tell from the past of more than 600 years, and it is still lived in today! 

It was such a pleasure to arrive in Eppingen and to find only then that this town was on the "Fachwerk map". I have long been attracted to this beautiful form of architecture so it came as a wonderful surprise to me when I encountered so many examples of it still shown in many of the town's buildings. And, to make things even more exciting for this Fachwerk enthusiast, I found myself on a walkway into town from the train station lined with specific examples and explanations of the craft, as you can see below: 

"Fränkischer Mann"
(Franconian Man)
"Wilder Mann"
('Wild Man')
Corner piece

When looking for somewhere interesting and historical to visit and take to photographs, I googled Eppingen, which is about 50 minutes away from me. Instead of reading anything, I just scanned the photos in various websites. Eppingen seemed to have more Fachwerk structures concentrated in one area than other towns, so I decided with that information alone to head on over there on the tram. Eureka!

(Christmas tree
(St. Andrew's Cross) 
"Alemannisches Weible"
(Little Alemannic Lady)
"Alemannisch Säule"
(Alemannic Column)

Without knowing how many half-timbered houses would be awaiting me, I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that Eppingen is quite known for its abundance of examples of Fachwerk, and I was not to be disappointed. It was everywhere. Unfortunately, the temperatures on the day of my visit were about -20C and my iPhone with which I take all my photos was freezing and shutting off. Constantly having to resuscitate the phone ran the battery down and I ended up limited to what is posted here. Alas, you will have to visit there on your own, and preferably in warmer weather, to see the rest of it. 

From outside the Epplingen train station, one sees immediately the peaked roofs in the town center which boast these decorative façades; therefore, a map is not required for anyone with opened eyes seeking such Fachwerk architecture. 

The house above with the green shutters on the ground floor really trips my trigger. The colors together with the un-uniform wood and plaster facade of the house make it unique and a pleasure to admire. 

View of the Piper's Tower, one block from the Market Place, which 
is located in the center of town.

D   O   O   R   S 


An odd favorite

For some reason, out of all the structures I saw in Eppingen, this house (above) attracted me the most. Why, I don't really know, except that maybe since it appeared un-restored, my imagination was able to play more with whatever historical version of the story I wanted to give it. 

The tall, church-like window on the upper section was intriguing to me. Why is it there? Was it original to the house? So often one can see sections that have been plastered over or bricked in where windows either once were or had been planned and not realized. But, this peaked window was curious to me. Perhaps doors had once been there for hoisting storage or goods into the upper floors. Who knows.

Together with the church (to the right, just out of the photo), these two houses make up a small church courtyard. The painting across the front of the house between the floors is the Totentanz, or Dance of Death. I would advise googling "Totentanz" or "The Dance of Death". You will find a variety of them. Perhaps even a version of the one in the photo above.

Note the odd-shaped windows (above) in the run-down plaster of the house in the background; they have curtains in them. People living there still? Is the outside worse-off than the inside? The gaps in the wall toward the top could have been intentional or not. Sometimes these floors were used for storage or drying purposes of everything from meats to tobacco. Primitive air vents such as these would have been needed for these purposes and perhaps simply created (improvised?) in later years following construction. Anything is possible.


Above can be seen the Catholic Church of Our Lady (Old City Church), built in 1435, expanded between 1972 and 1974. Part of the church was built in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Tower of the Church of Our Lady

Getting there

From Karlsruhe Main Station:

Local trains run from the front of the station or one of the platforms within the station. The S31/S32 runs from within, but you will need to transfer at the next stop which is Karlsruhe-Durlach station (about 5 minutes away from KA main station). 

If you leave on the S4 from outside the front of Karlsruhe's main station, you will not need to change trains, but the journey will take you 8-15 minutes longer, as it must go through Karlsruhe city and all stops in between to get to Durlach, where you would change trains if you take the S31/S32 from within the station. Your choice. The ticket cost is the same. 

In total, the trip is anywhere from 58 minutes to 1:15 minutes, depending on the local train you choose to begin the journey.

Get off at Eppingen station (Bahnhof), and the Old Town will be visible to you toward the left once you are out in front of the train station building itself. Not even a 10 minute walk.

By car: get a navigator or a good old map because I only travel by train, bus, plane, or donkey. 


Safe travels and make sure you have enough battery in your mobile phones to take all the photos you desire. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ettlingen - that pretty town near Karlsruhe where Napoleon once slept

Ettlingen is approximately 10 kilometers by bike from my home in Durlach, which means little less than 30 minutes at my rate of pedaling. The bike path is clearly laid out with good signage, is quite easy (with a few minor inclines and fun dips) and altogether a lovely ride which takes me through wooded area and strawberry fields along the way. 

Together with Durlach and Heidelberg, as well as many other communities on the right bank of the Rhine River across from French Alsace, Ettlingen suffered almost total destruction by fire at the hands of Louis XIV's troops during the Nine Years War (known in Germany as the War of the Palatinate Succession). The town's most well-known patroness, the Margravine Sybille-Augusta von Baden-Baden, widow of the famed Türkenlouis, Margrave von Baden-Baden, had the town rebuilt following the war and made the palace at Ettlingen her seat of power in her dowager years. Much of the city owes its present-day charm to the late Margravine.

The Alb River flows directly next to the charming Old Town of Ettlingen

Marketplace with several restaurants and cafés next to the palace
Break from biking: on the wall along the Alb in Ettlingen

One of several bridges that span the Alb in Ettlingen. This is covered and also acts as a dam or weir.

The town of Ettlingen, which today boasts more than 30,000 inhabitants in its greater area, is definitely worth the visit. It doesn't require an entire day just to walk around and enjoy the charm and history, but if you are in the area, you shouldn't pass it up. You can visit Ettlingen and one of any other similar towns in the immediate area if history and early 18th-century architecture are your thing. You will find numerous outdoor cafés and restaurants and possibly also city events taking place in one of the two marketplaces or in the inner courtyard of the palace itself which hosts festivals and musicals.

The St. Martin's church, which is found not far from the Ettlingen Rathaus, was badly damaged during the Nine Years' War. The church predates many of the structures to be found in Ettlingen today. Under the church are what's left of a Roman bathhouse that dates back almost 2,000 years. 

St. Martin's Church is one of the oldest buildings
View of the Rathaus and tower gate.

Main walking street into and out of Ettlingen through the tower gate.

As someone who doesn't often make repeat visits to but so many places, Ettlingen is definitely one of the few destinations that I like to revisit time and time again, not only because it is so close to my home, but the charm and open atmosphere of the town attracts me to it. The clear water of the moving stream in the river is another draw for me and contributes to my feeling relaxed every time I go, even if for only an hour. 

Fountain found in the palace courtyard
Ettlingen Town Hall (Rathaus) on the Alb River

Since I also find half-timbered houses (Fachwerkhäuser) so fascinating, I enjoy biking around Ettlingen's  side streets in search of them and photographing what I find. The town, like so many in Germany, is certainly tourist-friendly, but it is also a living community which adds to its vibrancy. Just like in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, the dwellings are lived in which adds to the charm of these old houses. And as I confess I tend to do, peeking in windows through the corners of my eyes, I can register that these old wooden houses are still alive and are adding new chapters to their histories every day.

Another covered bridge and weir over the Alb near the Rathaus of Ettlingen. Note the birdhouses on the bridge.

A well cared for and restored half-timbered home in
Looking down the Alb River as it passes the Old Town

One of the charming oddities in town, a private home
that may have once been squeezed into any available
space. Zoning may have been lax once upon a time.

Ice-cream shops are rather popular throughout Germany in the warmer months, and it can get pretty hot in Germany these days. Numerous ice-cream shops are also found here in Ettlingen mixed in with the cafés and restaurants along such streets as shown in the photo above. 

Well-marked bike paths and bike-friendly cities are also found throughout the Federal Republic and Ettlingen is no exception.

The tower standing over one of the main entrance to Ettlingen. This gate leads north to the next town, Durlach.

A beautiful example of "Fachwerk" in Ettlingen
Dating back to 1494, the St. George Fountain, protector
of the market place and watering hole, sits in front of the
Rathaus, or City Hall.

If you were to remove the plaster from this building, you would find the original half-timbered structure that it was. 

As mentioned above, the Margravine Sybille-Augusta of Baden-Baden took great interest in the rebuilding of this Ettlingen following devastation from the long War of the Palatinate Succession. By this time she was a widow and would end up living here in the palace (shown below) that was also rebuilt. Roughly a hundred years later, the Emperor Napoleon would briefly call  Ettlingen Palace his headquarters when passing through with French troops once again as they crossed the nearby Rhine during his campaign to attempt to subjugate Europe into his empire. However, on this trip the town was spared destruction.

Entrance to the palace chapel
A side view of the square-shaped palace. This side 
boasts two round towers on its corners. 

A larger view of Schloss Ettlingen The inner courtyard hosts musical festivals.

Pictured above, you can see the beautiful baroque city hall of Ettlingen that was constructed in 1738.  It is made of red sandstone, which is common in the region. The tower to its right straddles the gate that leads directly to Durlach to the north.

Another view of the Alb River

The Market Place just outside of the palace walls, which were behind me when I took the 
photograph (and still are!) You can see some of the many outdoor cafés in town.

Of course, if you are a beer afficianado, then perhaps the Vogelbräu in Ettlingen is a place you shouldn't pass up. Visit all three Vogelbräu sites by bike with the Tour de Vogel (Ettlingen, Karlsruhe, Durlach) in one day, and whichever brewery is your final visit will give you a free beer. Check the link here: Tour de Vogel (only in German). 

This house with its odd roof dormer window has always
intrigued me. There are two floors in that peaked roof.
A later shot of the tower without the scaffolding.

A final shot of the Alb River taken from the other side of the river, with St. Martin's church tower in the background. 

How to get to Ettlingen: 

From Karlsruhe HBF (main train station) - The S1 or S11 tram leaves from out front of the train station roughly every ten minutes in the direction of Ettlingen. It takes about 14 minutes. No passenger trains run there.

By bicycle - Follow signs from the Karlsruhe train station or from Durlach or even from Baden-Baden, located to the south of Ettlingen. Asking the Tourist Info Center, or possibly just about any cyclist you run into, might also give you a good head start. The ride shouldn't be more than 30-40 minutes depending on your speed. maybe even faster? You might be able to lease a DB (DeutscheBahn) bicycle from out front the station as well.

(By the way, The Durlach to Baden-Baden bike route (roughly 40 km.) takes you directly through Ettlingen, and it is a good ride on relatively flat terrain passing through nice villages, ending up in Baden-Baden, which is another jewel of a town to visit! It is roughly the same distance from Karlsruhe main train station to Baden-Baden as well.)

By car -  get a map or use your navigator ;-) It isn't far at all. If it takes a cyclist less than 40 minutes to get there, you shouldn't have long in the car, save traffic problems.

Walking - I certainly do not see why not. You could easily get there on foot and after a nice morning of walking there, you can enjoy a beer at Vogelbräu or lunch at one of the nice outdoor cafés.