Showing posts with label Half-timbered houses. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Half-timbered houses. Show all posts

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
Ettlingen
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.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Weil der Stadt



City walls surrounding much of Weil der Stadt


Weil der Stadt Coat of Arms

Eagle: Free Imperial City
SPQR: Roman Senate & People
Keys: Catholic Church, as
on Vatican Flag
Forty minutes via the S6 local train from Stuttgart, we arrived at Weil der Stadt, located in the green Wurm Valley on the Württemberg side of the enchanting Black Forest. Also situated in the Greater Stuttgart Region, more specifically Kreis (County) Böblingen, Weil der Stadt with its present name dates back to medieval times. Spared much damage during the Second World War, the town remains original, proudly boasting memorials to her famous sons Johannis Kepler, the renowned early 17th-century astronomer, and Johannis Brenz (They aren't real original on first names are they?), a student of Martin Luther and who was instrumental in bringing the Reformation to Württemberg, although oddly enough after the Reformation, Weil der Stadt remained a Catholic city. Brenz died in 1570, the year before Kepler was born. Evidently, the bombardment of the town by the French military during WWII was called off in respect to the fact that this is the birthplace of that famous astronomer. To think that a person who had been dead some 300 odd years saved his town from destruction says loads.


One a several original towers still remaining in the walls


Upon arrival, the town is indeed immediately impressive in its historical architectural vestments which outnumber anything more modern located there. This of course pleases your writer very much. Fachwerkhäuser are in abundance; so much so, that for one of the rare times in my life, I didn't bother trying to capture every one of them on film. 


Narrenzunft or Fools' Guildhall


I found very interesting the origin of the town's name. Evidently, 'Weil' emerged from the Latin word vila/villa, which not only referred to a town, but also perhaps a manor/estate of sorts which originated any settlement here. (This is how I understood it in any case.) Long after the Romans were gone, 'Weil' was evidently granted the status of Stadt, which means town or city in German. 'der' is the feminine possessive 'of the', so Weil of the Town/City (Weil der Stadt) came about to distinguish this particular 'Weil' from Weil im Dorf (Weil in the Village), for example. 


Holding the emblem of the Free Imperial City of Weil der Stadt


As many of you may already be aware, vast swathes of  Germany were part of the Roman Empire many centuries ago, so its Roman heritage traces are not uncommon at all here. Weil der Stadt once belonged to the powerful Abbey of Hirsau, which I reported on earlier. This was in the first half of the 11th century. Later, Weil der Stadt was to become a Free Imperial City, granting it special trade and military rights amongst other things.





In 1648, Weil der Stadt was utterly destroyed in the Thirty-Years War and was rebuilt into what we see today. It is dominated by its massive St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic church located in the center of town, where a statue in honor of Johannis Kepler can be seen. 

The wall and towers of the city, so much of what still remain today, are what impress me the most. A walk around the outside as well as parts of the inside (where the wall doesn't actually constitute one of the walls of an interior building) give a good idea of how and for what city walls were used, even today.


Tower of the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul rises behind the
Marktplatz statue of Weil der Stadt's most renowned son,
the astronomer Johannis Kepler.


Weil der Stadt is also home to some of the ancient guilds which, although perhaps changed in their modern-day functions, proudly continue to operate, for example in the Narrenzunft, or Fools' Guild here in town. As Carnival is very important here and wonderfully celebrated with a colorful and historic parade of ancient carnival costumes, it would be worth the visit during the Carnival season. The parade itself is held at Fastnacht, or as the locals would say in their Swabian dialect, Fastnet. Visit my report on this topic during the Europe-wide celebration of Narrenfest that took place in Bad Cannstatt some years ago. Participants from the guilds of Weil der Stadt were indeed represented during that brilliant event!




I highly recommend a visit to Weil der Stadt. If you can be there during Fastnet, you will have an experience and loads of photos that you will likely never forget; however, plan carefully for any visit because it is only on one day and the crowds are large. Still, it would be absolutely worth it. Any other time of the year to visit would also be rewarding. Its proximity to Stuttgart via train or car is convenient and only about 20 miles (approx. 30 kilometers) away. It is easily a day trip or less.





Click here to see an Aerial video of Weil der Stadt. You will be able to get a better idea of how small the town is and get a nice view from above.

How to get there:

From Stuttgart via train, take the S6 from underground at the  main station in the direction of Weil der Stadt. If all is running on time, it should be just under 40 minutes.

From Stuttgart via car, head out west of the city on the B14 and follow the signs to Weil der Stadt. Altogether, traffic aside (based on traffic patterns in 2016), it should take under 40 minutes.




Saturday, May 16, 2015

Herrenberg - whose church leans heavily over its half-timbered houses




Looking up from the Market Square over Herrenberg's Town Hall to the massive Stiftskirche
above.




Before 1749, there were two tall spires where the single onion dome and
its white foundation sit today. 


Up in the tower of this late-13th-century Protestant church of Herrenberg 
is the Glockenmuseum, or Bell Museum.


                                         



The imposing façade of the ancient church - known as the Stiftskirche, Collegiate Church, or Protestant Church - dominates the skyline of the entire town. Its tower can be sighted from quite afar as one approaches via car or train, or even by foot across the fields. Steps are everywhere in Herrenberg. I would imagine no skinny legs here. People are probably in pretty good shape. Access to the homes and shops is directly from the steps themselves which could be awkward for guests who aren't thinking as they step outside from a successful cocktail party.                                                           
I have been down here several times from Stuttgart. It really is a nice day trip. Hiking is certainly possible all over this area. Of course, Germany as a country is well suited to hiking, biking, etc. what with all the designated paths throughout the country. Herrenberg is a stone's throw from the famous Black Forest, or Schwarzwald, as it is called around here.


The Market Place of Herrenberg, beneath the shadow of its massive church above.


Half-timbered houses, or "Fachwerkhäuse" are to be found all throughout this lovely
Swabian town south of Stuttgart. 





From the terrace in front of the church itself one looks down over the rooftops of Herrenberg. I would like to see the town from this angle after a heavy snowfall.

Look at those doors! They are pretty solid. The stone around them is also to be admired. I cannot
make out the rest of it, but the word or name above the door on the right, "STEINHAVER"
means "stone carver", so either he lived here, worked here, or both. Or, he just left this advert
over the door for all to know who did it. Good for him. 


More about the Stiftskirche



Have a look at the doors above. The Stiftskirche of Herrenberg is known for more than its 13th-century founding and bell museum high in its wide tower. It is also known for the fact that it is very slowly sliding down the side of the hill on which it sits. "What" you say? That's right, have a look again at those doors above. It's more than just a shot of two old doors. Look at the stone "framing" around the actual wooden doors. See how the center divider between the door arches is leaning to the left? You can see less of the top-right hinge on the left door than the bottom-right hinge on the same door. This is a side door to the huge church tower. Look below and you can see how high and heavy the tower must be. Mind you, there are certainly higher churches in the world, but not such large and wide ones constructed on the side of a hill like this. The clues are subtle, but when pointed out, one begins to wonder if, when, and how that tower might come down on the half-timbered town below.

Well, not to worry. Certainly the authorities have long known of this threat, and precautions have been taken which will certainly be observed for years to come. Much restoration was done to this effect throughout the 1970s. During this time the foundations were shored up and galleries which were added in the 19th-century were removed. The church had been sliding 1mm per year down toward the town due to the unstable hillside on which it is perched. One millimeter may not sound like much, but keep in mind that Herrenberg's church has been sitting here for more than 500 years! That's roughly 500 millimeters, and one of those millimeters would have been the final straw. 

The onion dome atop the tower that is seen today was built in 1749 when the former double spires were taken down and the single top was put on instead.





I couldn't resist throwing this in.
She graced a storefront window in
the town below. 

The choir stalls were carved in the 17th century. I particularly like the figures carved into them. I have seen these in many such stalls dating back a variety of centuries. Some I have seen boast quite humorous depictions - even yawning monks, but not here. 


Fachwerkhäuse, or Half-timbered houses

Herrenberg boasts many of these beautiful structures. Most of the half-timbered houses here were created in the Frankish style of Fachwerk. The oldest house in the town is of the Allemanisch style. Like so much of Württemberg and Baden, Herrenberg was burned to the ground during the devastating 30-Year's War in the first half of the 17th century. When the city was rebuilt, the merchants and inhabitants did not want all their homes to look the same. Therefore, the styles of Fachwerk on the buildings were intentionally made to be different. As you walk around the city, there are placards on the sides of many of the buildings explaining the names and styles of the beam work. 



Here are some shots of half-timbered houses I saw in Herrenberg. The house in the above left is the kind I like to come across in my travels - especially when my iPhone is charged since 90% of my photos are done with it. The amount of windows all over the house and their different sizes intrigue me. When seeing buildings like this one, I like to stand outside and try to figure out the purposes of such little windows such as the one directly above the front door. I mean, how short are the people who can even walk on that floor when compared to the windows and floor above it? 




I have often heard said that in some places, some of the taxes on home owners were determined by how many windows one had on one's house. I don't know if that was a universal rule, but it sounds interesting. Perhaps even window sizes were considered in the tax assessments of the day, hence, the different sizes. On the other hand, though, windows must surely have been added at later dates and in a half-timbered house, the space between the external timbers would have needed to have been taken into consideration as well. Who knows - the point is, they are fun to look at and let the mind wander back to what life was like long ago.




The house, above right, is behind the church. The ground floor contains the workshop of the church. It is quite large and takes care of all sorts of repairs, restorations, etc. Duke Carl Eugen of Württemberg instructed that all the houses be "cleaned", or covered up. Perhaps the Fachwerk looked too primitive and the plastered fronts appeared more solid and stately; I don't know. I do know that in most cases I would differ with the duke. Now, why the rest of the houses down below in the town are not plastered over today, I do not know. Perhaps they were restored to their original beauty in more modern times. Simply based on the size of the structure, imagine what wooden designs are behind that plaster. In any event, it is indeed a substantial structure. The sheer amount of windows across the two main floors are something to ponder. Would like to have seen their tax bill.



As we hiked back down to the city from the Schloßberg (more information below), we came out into a clearing with fields and what appeared to be a farmhouse. The style of the house impressed me; I couldn't resist a shot of it (above left).



When walking around behind the huge church, one comes across a path that climbs further on up the hill above. At one time a castle was here - the Schloßberg. Some of the gates and parts remain as you make your way up by foot. There is a fine overlook from which you can see quite far over the city below and toward the Black Forest which is in the western horizon. The Schloßberg offers a café terrace, but the fortress itself is not really much to see in itself. The view, however, is worth the climb.

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Getting there:

To Herrenberg from Stuttgart main station: three to four local trains run per hour to Herrenberg, ranging from 30 - 40 minutes. No ICE's stop there, although they do pass it on the way to Zürich.