Saturday, April 18, 2015

Weinheim: Beautiful Border Town on the Bergstrasse along the Odenwald on the border between Hessen and Baden-Württemberg





After my short visit to Weinheim the day after Easter, I was looking through all the photos I had taken whilst there and realized that it was going to be hard for me to write something about this ancient town. There were a number of questions that came to mind as my friend and I walked through the cobblestoned streets from top to bottom; questions that presented themselves when walking through the leather-tanners' quarter, the Jewish quarter and the very narrow canals running down the streets up against the houses. Questions such as, who built the former castle residence above the Marktplatz and Old Town; was there an older castle there before? How did Weinheim get its name? The name the Romans had given it had little to do with Wein (wine). The Teutonic Knights had a headquarters here at one time. The cloister next to the St. Laurentius Catholic church above Weinheim's Marktplatz: when was it founded, and who granted the land for it? And not least, the large castle ruins on the hill opposite the town which can be seen by all down below: when was it built, by whom, and for what reasons? Questions, questions, questions. But questions are why I like to travel and learn. I'm filled with them.


Weinheim Rathaus, or city hall, up on the hill.
The city hall occupies the former castle of the ruling family.
   


Another view of the Rathaus


In front of the Rathaus. Claimed to be the largest Lebanon cedar in Germany.
             
During the short period we were there, walking all about, we were not able to learn but so many answers to the questions that arose, so I had to come home and visit the Internet to satisfy my curiosity, and I found that Weinheim is most definitely a town worth reading about if you really do appreciate history; it is full of it! And not just because it is old. Just google it yourself and do more than just depend on Wikipedia to do your learning. Then, make your trip; take your camera and walking/hiking shoes and explore it. It will be worth your efforts.




In the Market Square of Weinheim


Another angle of the Marktplatz of Weinheim, leading down from the
St. Laurentius church. The Markplatz contains a number of cafés and shops.


St. Laurentius Catholic Church of Weinheim














Lower Marktplatz: The Altes Rathaus (right) of Weinheim



Another view of the Brunnen (well) in front of the old Weinheim Rathaus




I found this house particularly interesting not only because of the 
blue shutters, but also because the structure is not attached to any 
of the buildings that surround it, whereas the neighboring 
structures share common walls.






High above, the castle ruins of Windeck overlook the tanners quarter 
in the lower town, which constitutes much of the oldest part of 
Weinheim. This quarter also had a very old Jewish settlement as well.


I was especially impressed not only by the extreme cleanliness of this 
oldest part of Weinheim, but also that there was no graffiti to be found 
anywhere - something sadly problematic in Germany, 
even on historical buildings.



Easter decorations during my visit on Easter Monday.












I think this sign makes it quite clear that this is a bakery.




Close quarters 
I am a total sucker for these narrow structures some of these medieval 
towns boast. I don't think my sofa would be able to fit at the end 
of the room in this skinny little house.


Main house of the Hermannshof Weinheim Botanical Garden


The Hermannshof Weinheim is a botanical garden that was first begun 200 years ago as a private garden. Over the years, this fine garden of 2.2 hectares has been developed and modified into the marvelous exhibition of such a variety of plant specimens from various climates. Definitely worth a stroll! (Leave your dog outside though.)


I was quite pleased to find this Sequoia tree in the Hermannshof Weinheim park. 
It was planted there in the 1880s. I do not know how old or big it 
was when it was planted.








Looking at the ruins above the town of Weinheim, I have to ask myself if the 
inhabitants post 1674, when it was dismantled by the French army, looked up there 
and viewed those ruins as somehow romantic. Or, was it an eyesore for them, rather like 
looking at rusting tanks, bunkers or neglected military bases for us today? Or, were they 
just too busy trying to survive daily tribulations and praying that foreign troops would 
just stop fighting over them?


The castle ruins of the larger and older Burg Windeck date back to the 1100's. It was occupied and made unusable by Louis XIV's troops in 1674 during the French-Dutch War, and the stones were used to build houses down in Weinheim. Only these ruins remain. To the left can be seen the red roof of Wachenburg, which was built 800 years later and still used today.




Der Rote Turm (the Red Tower) got its name from the 
pinnacle atop the 14th C. tower which was originally red. 
It served as a prison until the middle of the 19th C.


Another view of the Red Tower in Weinheim











The amount of Fachwerk (half-timbered) construction found here indeed tickled my fancy, being the Fachwerk lover that I am. You're lucky I didn't put more of my shots in this post. If you like Fachwerk, then Weinheim is the place to go. 







The arms above another former royal residence in the middle of the older part of town, built in 1710.














Weinheim's city arms hang on this house beneath the
German flag.






I will definitely return when all the trees are in bloom. A blue winter's day is also perfectly fine, but I am sure a hike through a green forest would be nice when heading up to the ancient castle-fortress ruins of Windeck above the city. The Wachenburg, the much younger castle neighbor of Burg Windeck, is not owned by the city or state, but rather to its original builders: the Studenten-Corps Weinheimer Senioren Convent (WSC), and to the Weinheimer Verband Alter Corpsstudenten. It was built between 1907 and 1913.


How to get to Weinheim via train:

From Frankfurt main station an Inter-City train leaves every hour for Weinheim. The trip takes between 35-40 minutes.


From Stuttgart main station there are two trains per hour ranging from 55 minutes to 1hr-20 minutes depending on the type of train.


Weinheim is about 15 kilometers north of Heidelberg and 10 kilometers northeast of Mannheim.



Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bebenhausen Abbey and Royal Hunting Lodge (re-post)




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I have reposted this page as I found it way too long in its original posting last year.  You will find here a collection of photographs, many unlabelled, of the last residence of the king and queen of Württemberg, who "retired" here after the end of the monarchy in 1918. 

Bebenhausen was a private hunting residence of the Württemberg royal family for generations, long after it had served as a Cistercian monastery and later a boarding school following the Reformation. It is beautifully nestled in southern Germany, south of the Baden-Württemberg's capital city, Stuttgart, and not far from the renowned university town of Tübingen.

Today, Bebenhausen is a museum. It is quite active, as is the village around it. Photographs of the village can be found further down. Queen Charlotte died shortly after World War II, but remained here until her last days. The large lodge within the complex where the king and queen, styled Duke and Duchess after their abdication, lived can be visited. Their furnishings are still in place. It is definitely worth seeing. The duchess was an avid hunter, and the walls are lined with her trophies.



Bebenhausen is located in the Schönbuch Forest between the ancient university town of Tübingen and the city of Stuttgart, capital of the present-day federal state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. 

Before becoming a royal hunting lodge, Bebenhausen had been a boarding school as well as an abbey before that. It was originally built around 1180 for  Cistercian monks. It remained a cloistered community until 1560 when the Reformation was spreading throughout Germany.

Entrance to the ancient Abbey of Bebenhausen


Above: A substantial amount of the walls around the abbey / hunting lodge remain in tact today.

Jagdschloß (Royal Hunting Lodge) of Bebenhausen is today just as it was when the 
royal couple lived there. 


View of the cloister garden

The inner cloister "walk" as I call it.

Another view of the inner cloister garden which was similar throughout many Cistercian
designs in this part of the world



Ceiling of the former Refectory



Part of the wall that once completely surrounded the Abbey

Student dormitory

After the Abbey was disbanded, it later became a school for boys. Rooms where the monks once lived became a dormitory for the students. One can only imagine winters here as there was no heating. 

The Writer's Tower as seen from the upper garden  







             







                                        


                      


What I found quite interesting were the "House Rules" on a kitchen wall. One of the rules was that all staff members must remember toonly speak on the grounds or in the upstairs royal rooms when they are spoken to by higher-ups or the Duke or Duchess themselves. Otherwised, silence or "quiet" was expected. Such was life in service at that time.

Writer's Tower
as seen from a kitchen 

window





















 
It is worth mentioning that the buildings that housed the royal couple still have the kitchens in place. It is most interesting to see how the "downstairs" people lived and worked before 1946. The stoves and other appliances of the day that were used in the service area are original and are also on display. 

Ceilings and chandeliers in the formal dining room. When the king was finished eating 
and his plate was removed, the plates of the guests were removed as well, whether you 
were finished or not. I hope H.M. wasn't too fast an eater.



To the memory of
Württembergs beloved King
WILHEM II
(Born) Stuttgart, 25 Feb. 1848 - 2 Oct. 1921 (at Bebenhausen)
and QUEEN CHARLOTTE
(Born) Ratiboritz, 10 Oct. 1864 - 16 July 1946, (at Bebenhausen)





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The village surrounding the Royal Hunting Lodge and former abbey of Bebenhausen

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Most all of the village is Fachwerk (half-timbered). Note the stream running through 
the central "square" of the village, directly outside of the main gate of the abbey-palace.








Visiting the hamlet of Bebenhausen is completely worth the trip for anyone who appreciates not only history, but also hiking, walking, photography and simply a lovely day out in nature. Autumn is also a perfect time to go as the trees create a different ambience throughout the village. Although I have given little focus to the abbey's church here (the beautiful spire was completely covered with scaffolding for renovations, so I avoided having that "modern mess" in any of my shots), it is most definitely worth the visit. Guided tours are offered and a visitor's center in the middle of the abbey complex is quite helpful.
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How to get to Bebenhausen

No train lines or trams run there. Click here for a road map from Stuttgart. The 826 or 828 bus runs to Bebenhausen from the Tübingen main train station. The trip is roughly 20 minutes. Ask the bus driver where to get out. Bebenhausen is small, so you won't have to walk far from the bus stop to get to the the Kloster (abbey). Trains run regularly from Stuttgart main station (HBF) to Tübingen. The trip takes anywhere from 42 minutes to 1 hour depending on the train. Check Deutsche Bahn for times and costs.