Showing posts with label Swabia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Swabia. Show all posts

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.

_________________________________________________________________________________

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. 


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Late Afternoon in Markgröningen, where barefoot shepherds run




Markgröningen's main square in the late afternoon sun.



My visit to Markgröningen was a short one as I was there on business, so I regret that I don't have a lot of photos or stories to tell you about this very interesting town. Still, I wanted to post this because it is definitely an interesting place with a very unique tradition - the Schäferlauf. I'll tell you more about that further down.  First, a little something about this historically unique town.



Bartholomäuskirche, Markgröningen
(Bartholomew's Church)



Evidently, Markgröningen was originally known as Gruoninga when it was first mentioned in a deed in 779. This deed was a gift (from whom, I don't know) to the Monastery of Fulda, which is today the seat of the Archbishop of Fulda, yet another beautiful city worth visiting which is located in the center of the German state of Hessen. Later, Mark (meaning: border region, particularly of an area of defence) was added to the name to denote its location at the time between the Alemannisch (today, roughly the area of western Baden-Württemberg running along the French border down into the Basel area of Switzerland) and Frankish (basically in what is today northern Bavaria, parts of Baden-Württemberg, Hessen and also Thuringia) territories.





Close-up of the Markgröningen Rathaus on the main square

(I can assure you that the wood is solid. My own home is of the same style and age. It is so old, it almost
seems to be petrified. Drive a nail in and you will never get it out again. It's as solid as rock!)



Markgröningen is located 15 km northwest of Stuttgart, but it is not accessible by train. Buses run there regularly from Asperg. The trip from Stuttgart should be about 35 minutes, so it still makes quite a reasonable excursion. If for no other reason, it is worth the trip for its Fachwerkhäuser (half-timbered houses). So, if you are in the area, make a point to stop by.




A view through the main square toward the Bartholomäuskirche 




For those of you interested in German history, this town was designated a Free Imperial City as far back as 1229. This meant that the city was responsible directly and only to the Holy Roman Emperor himself, and not to the local lord no matter how high his or her rank. And yes, this was a good thing.  Markgröningen did not last long as a Free Imperial City, however, as the Swabian House of Württemberg acquired it in the 1300s. It was designated a seat of government at different times between then and the second half of the 15th century. 






Marktplatz

Just look at that house. Doesn't it look a bit top heavy? Looks like you can just 

give it a good push and it will fall right over. It has been there a very long time.








Following the Reformation, Markgröningen became Protestant. Its Spital (can be a hospital for the poor or a wayside shelter for pilgrims; the word is also used for "hospital" in Switzerland and Austria today), which was established in 1297 and run by the Catholic Order of the Holy Spirit, was taken over by the city in 1552 and has been administered by it ever since. 




Another view of the Rathaus

Note the angle of the clock and bell tower at the top. Beneath it, you might be able to make out
the eagle on the Wappen (coat-of-arms) on the right-hand side. This eagle distinguished the city as
a Free Imperial City. See below for other photos.










Okay, so I said earlier that I would tell you a little about the shephards' run, or Schäferlauf. I do wish I had photos to show you, but I don't. You will have to see it for yourself and make your own photos. Fortunately, if you are in the area, you still have time to get there because it will be held August 22 - 25 this year.  As of this posting, that is only a few weeks away!

So what is it? It is a barefoot race through what is called a Stoppelfeld (field of stubble). Sounds like it would hurt. Anyway, young girls race each other for the coveted crown and title of queen, and the boys do the same for the king's crown. And what else do each of their majesties receive? Well, something that all kings and queens covet, of course. A sheep! 










This has been going on in Markgröningen since about 1445. (They ought to be pretty good at it by now, I would think.) The event has turned into a three-day festival with a period costume-filled parade, church service and demonstrations of the various tasks of shepherds. Yes, there are even sheep. Surprised? Although I have yet to see the actual event, I have only heard that it is indeed worth meandering through and experiencing.










I do wish I had more photos to show you. Hopefully the few I have here will at least whet your appetite enough to at least do some research on your own via the internet. Don't just look at Wikipedia. Go to other sites, or click here and find more online photos of the actual Schäferlauf on Google. 





Der obere Torturm
(Upper gate tower)

This is the last remaining of the four gates into the city of Markgröningen when a wall surrounded it.
The wall was dismantled before 1850.




How to get to Markgröningen by public transportation: From Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof (main station), take the S5 (underground platform) to Asperg (another interesting town with a castle above it). This takes about 18-20 minutes. From there, go out to the front of the station and catch the no. 532 bus in the direction of "Mühlstraße Oberriexingen". Ask the driver to tell you when you have arrived because the old town is not where he drops you off. I don't believe any buses go through that part of town, but it is merely a couple of blocks away. Remember where you got off, because you will need to come back to that spot to return to Stuttgart. Altogether, the trip from Stuttgart should take you about 35 minutes.

By car? Hmm, I don't travel that way, so I can't tell you, but I would assume streets and perhaps a highway or two might be a good idea ;-). Otherwise, I think most of you who drive have a navigator, so enter "Markgröningen" or "Markgroeningen", and any of the options that come up will get you there. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

BEBENHAUSEN - Where it all ended

In the autumn of 1918, just after the end of World War I, the monarchies of Germany began falling like dominoes. Württemberg's respected king was one of them. Wilhelm II and his wife, Charlotte, left the city of Stuttgart for the hunting retreat just south of the city and never returned to the capital again.



King Wilhelm II and Queen Charlotte

at the front door of their hunting lodge at

Bebenhausen, Württemberg

(1915)

How it happened:

From Stuttgart to Bebenhausen


When the Kingdom of Württemberg ceased to exist in 1918, the country, already a part of the greater German Empire - now republic - became a "Freistaat", which, very basically, meant that it was not a monarchy. 


The last sovereigns of the little kingdom, King Wilhem II (not to be confused with the German Kaiser [Emperor] of the same name,) and Queen Charlotte, left the capital of Stuttgart very quickly on the same fateful Saturday that the lightening-fast revolution took place.  


The First World War had just come to a close and there was confusion, hunger and all sorts of social issues that needed immediate attention. Other kingdoms, principalities and duchies within the now defunct German Empire were either toppling their rulers or the rulers themselves were frantically trying to figure out what immediate next steps they themselves needed to take in a land which up to this time had numerous "mini-monarchies"; everything was happening so fast - in some cases within a matter of days or hours. 


As for the Kingdom of Württemberg, the vast majority of the population did not have much issue with the monarch himself. King Wilhelm II had been loved by his people and was affectionately  known as a citizen-king, who eschewed police protection as he walked his pet dogs freely through the streets of the capital. He was even greeted by the local Swabians as "Mr. King", for he was in no way an autocrat. He was nearing 70 years old as the revolution approached and he had been on the throne since 1891. Locals have indeed told me of their grandparents having spoken of being one of the many locals who would see His Majesty in the street when they themselves were children so long ago. They greeted him as he in turn would greet them. It is true that the country was not a constitutional, democratic monarchy as monarchies in Europe are today, but a heavy-handed king with absolute power he was not. 

On that fateful, though otherwise quiet, Saturday morning in Stuttgart, King Wilhelm was holding a  cabinet meeting in the small Wilhemspalais (Wilhelm Palace), located directly behind the large, opulent city palace, or Stadtschloß, which was much too grand a residence for his taste. On that same morning, a labor demonstration had been planned to march through the city at about the same time. This demonstration boasted nothing about overthrowing the government, and certainly not the monarchy itself (although its demise was inevitable at some point as greater Germany was already in the throws of becoming republican in the post-war upheaval that was rapidly engulfing Germany overall. The Kaiser himself had already fled into exile in the Netherlands). As the demonstration made its way through the streets around to the front of the large square in front of the Stadtschloß in the city center, a rumor was spread that the king had weapons hidden in his smaller palace, as well as extra food. 

One might think that having food, or extra food, in one's home would not exactly be cause for an entire revolution - the Swabian monarchs were in no way comparable to the frivilous court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette - but as the end of the war had brought such hardship to the country, and it was being said that the king had more than his share and perhaps the weapons to protect it, it was not much to get the already unhappy, war-weary crowd to go one step further. Some people began calling for the demonstration to go around to the Wilhelmspalais to find out what the king was hiding in his home. 

As mentioned above, the king was in council at that time. Clearly, it can be noted that as this large demonstration was taking place, there had been no intent on the part of the king to even stop the demonstration - no troops were sent to disband it. That alone might demonstrate something about the "freedom" to hold demonstrations at that time. Nonetheless, there were in fact some revolutionaries in the crowd and they wanted trouble - and it was trouble that they got. 

King Wilhelm's small palace only had one policeman on guard duty that morning - again, another example of how unthreatened this otherwise popular king had always felt amongst his fellow Württembergers. The demonstrators and revolutionaries in the crowd demanded to enter and to check the kitchens and cellars for the extra food stuffs the king was alleged to have been hiding. An attempt was made to storm the palace. The poor policeman at the door did not abandon his post. He was roughed up trying to keep the crowd from entering until the king himself told the leaders of the crowd that not only did he not have extra food stores or weapons in his house, but that they could check it themselves if they did not believe him. And they did. 

They found nothing, of course. Still, the leaders of the mob demanded the king's banner be lowered from the flagstaff above the palace and the red flag of revolution be hoisted in its stead. His Majesty absolutely refused. It is believed that the majority of the crowd had not expected this demonstration to turn into this, though I, personally, would assume that the revolutionary elements in the crowd had been planning for this to be the result. Still, the revolutionaries were demanding the change of flags. As things were becoming more heated, and in order to stop potential bloodshed of innocent people, the elderly king said that if they wanted to change the flag, then they had better do it themselves because he was certainly not going to be the one to do it!

And so it was. With his fellow monarchs falling all round him, he realized that he had little choice but to abdicate his throne. It was inevitable. But the king was personally devastated. He felt betrayed by his own people, especially the citizens of Stuttgart who did not come to his aid. The people had otherwise always seemed to love and respect their citizen Mr. King. It could, however, be assumed that more than the abdication itself, the king felt a personal hurt in the manner that it was carried out. He wrote out the act of abdication himself, stating that he would never stand in the way of the development of his country. Within a few hours, King Wilhelm II and Queen Charlotte left Stuttgart in a motorcar, forever, retiring to their personal residence of Bebenhausen, formerly an ancient monastery and the present royal hunting lodge, some kilometers south of the city not far from Tübingen. 



Jagdschloß (Royal Hunting Lodge) of Bebenhausen as seen today. 

(The above black and white photo of the king and queen was taken in front of the door to the turret, above. 
It was in this building that the Duke and Duchess of Württemberg [the former king and queen] lived out their remaining days. The rooms can all be visited. They were left just as the royal couple left them before they died, Queen Charlotte being the last in 1946.)


King Wilhelm ceased to refer to himself as "king" and took his second title, that of Duke of Württemberg, instead. The king's heirs and descendants remain in Württemberg to this day, living in a former royal residence not terribly far from the Swiss border.

One thing that should be noted, is that all the while this little revolution was taking place on that otherwise sleepy Saturday morning in the middle of Stuttgart, the vast majority of the citizens were still waking up or tending to their Saturday-morning chores. Funny as this may sound, the majority had absolutely no idea their king was being deposed. By the time King Wilhelm, now Duke of Württmeberg, was being chauffeured to Bebenhausen, the city of Stuttgart was still waking up to what had just happened. When all was said and done, the vast majority of the people were apparently shocked. Many felt a sense of remorse that they had not done anything to help the king. As stated above, King Wilhelm felt betrayed. It has been noted that people even sent food to Bebenhausen for the king because they felt sorry for him and felt bad for not having somehow helped him. They were even more concerned that the now ex-king and queen would be hungry! Ah, the dear, unpretentious Swabians. It was November 30, 1918: this royal pair had held on longer than all their royal counterparts throughout the former empire. 

The Duke and Duchess were not completely forgotten. There was no reason to exile the royal family. The new state granted them a stipend on which to retire, popular as they had been. Their private residences, such as Bebenhausen and a few others were not confiscated from them. The Stadtschloß (this would also be considered as the official "royal palace"), however, went into state ownership along with the Wilhelmspalais and several other major palaces. 

King Wilhem only lived another three years, dying on October 2, 1921, at 73 years old. Having declared never to return to Stuttgart ever again, his funeral cortege made its way from Bebenhausen, south of Stuttgart, to his final resting place north of the city at Ludwigsburg Palace, where his ancestors, first wife and two of his children (one of whom was stillborn, and the other, who died in infancy) were also buried.  His instructions were that the cortege not pass through Stuttgart, which would have been a more direct route. It did not. It went around the city through Feuerbach instead. Many lined the streets along the way to see the cortege as it made its way to Ludwigsburg. The republican government in Berlin even sent an honor guard to accompany the dead king to the cemetery. The plot where the king and his family are buried is quite simple for people of such royal heritage.  



Wilhelm II
King of Württemberg
Born 25 February 1848
Died 3 October 1921
                       

Queen Charlotte, a friendly but shy,   down-to-earth woman who preferred to stay out of the limelight   as much as possible, lived on at Bebenhausen until her own death in July 1946. She was buried very quietly in Ludwigsburg next to her husband. The duchess outlived all other kings and queens of the former German monarchies. King Friederich August of Saxony had died in 1932 and the last queen of Prussia in 1921.


Queen Charlotte's simple gravestone in Ludwigsburg

Charlotte
of Württemberg
born Princess of Schaumburg-Lippe
Born 10 October 1864
Died 16 July 1946
                    

During my own visit to Bebenhausen in 2012, a friend and I were fortunate to meet an elderly woman who was native to the village. She casually recalled the lovely old lady who lived with her ladies-in-waiting in the walls of the little hunting-lodge palace. Of her recollections, she told us that she recalled being told by her mother that she was to always address the lady as Ihre Majestät (Your Majesty), and that she was to curtsey whenever meeting her. She told me she didn't want to do that; after all, what child wants to have to do such a thing.

She remembered fondly of sometimes seeing the queen about the garden and grounds into which the local children of the little village would often sneak in order to play hide-and-seek and other games. The ladies-in-waiting were friendly but always reminded the children to play quietly. When she encountered the queen, Her Majesty would ask the little girl about her brothers, "Ach, die Knaben mit den himmelblauen Augen!" ("Oh, the boys with the heavenly blue eyes!"). Apparently, the queen, who was childless, was quite fond of children. She had met the little boys and was quite taken with their blue eyes, and would often enquire about them.

Queen Charlotte would also make visits on her birthday or Christmas to the little schoolhouse and bring fruits and other gifts of food for the children. It was a big thing during the times of austerity during the Weimar Republic and World War II.  What a pleasure it was to meet someone who had known the last German queen and was able to relate these and other lovely anecdotes about her.



Graves of the immediate members of King Wilhelm II's
family at rest in Ludwigsburg, just north of Stuttgart.


How to get to Bebenhausen from Stuttgart