Stuttgart is the capital of the Land Baden-Württemberg in the southwest of Germany was founded on 25th April 1952. Before that time it had already been the home of the Kings of Württemberg who had castles built in the city and outside, so there’s quite a lot to see.
We’ve met in the main train station which isn’t only a good starting-point for our tour, but also worth seeing in itself as it was built in the 1920s in the style of New Realism. The tower is 56 metres high topped by a rotating Mercedes star which signals to all people arriving what Stuttgart stands for worldwide: car industry! The Swabians (the indigenous ‘tribe’ living there) are very proud of their reputation as the nation’s tinkers and inventors (Mercedes, Porsche, Bosch.
I’m glad to see that our group is quite big. Now, I think not everybody is interested in everything so that I’m going to make different suggestions which you can follow or not and combine this or that way.
The astronomical minded visitors can leave us already and go to the Carl-Zeiss-Planetarium which is just beside the station (Willy_Brandt-Str. 25). The building was opened in 1977, the Stuttgart ‘Star Theatre’, though, as it was formerly called, had already been opened in 1928, one of the first worldwide (the first ever was in Munich) but it was destroyed during WW2.
The first show starts at 10 a.m, you can meet us afterwards at the Pavilion on the Schlossplatz (Palace Square) at 12.15; you get there walking out of the station (cross the street parallel to it via the subway), the street in front of you is the Königsstrasse (King‘s Street), the main pedestrian precinct and shopping centre, to the Schlossplatz it‘s not even 200m; we won’t go there, it only has big and boring buildings with department stores and banks, we’re strolling through the Schlosspark (Castle Park) which runs parallel to it, to the left when we‘ve got the back to the station. It’s beautiful with a lake with a fountain and swans and ducks, and you’re allowed to lie on the grass! Something worth mentioning in this part of the world.
We pass the Theatre consisting of two buildings, the Kleines Haus (Small House) (plays), and the Grosses Haus (Big House) (opera and ballet) which was built at the beginning of the 20th century, only the Grosses Haus survived the heavy bombardment of WW2, the Kleines Haus is a modern concrete building. Even more modern is the building of parliament for the Land Baden-Württemberg, so we’ve got quite an architectural mix on the short stretch. We then come to the heart of the city, the Schlossplatz (Palace Square), here the buildings are all big and majestic, as it is befitting for a former residence, and old. Or are they?
On one side we see the Königsbau (King’s Building) which today houses the stock exchange among other things, a classicist buildings with a colonnade of 135 metres, rebuilt in 1950s. Opposite is the Neues Schloss (New Castle), late baroque, also rebuilt, the third side is formed by the Altes Schloss (Old Castle), a 16th century Renaissance building, badly destroyed as well and rebuilt.
Not that the centre of Stuttgart looks exactly like the centre of other German cities, but the history is more or less the same throughout the country. The inner cities were heavily destroyed, to get life going again, unimaginative buildings were built quickly in the first decades after the war, representative buildings were nearly everywhere rebuilt in the original style whatever that was. People obviously needed that then. Only today new ideas are realised, so Stuttgart, for example, has got an ultra-modern glass cube on the Schlossplatz which houses the Stuttgart City Art Gallery.
I’d like to take you to the Museum in the Altes Schloss, not to start with the history of the Land from the Stone Age on, but to look with you at the crown and sceptre of the Kings of Württemberg. The regalia here may not be so glorious, but you can take your time, and admire them from all sides, as well as all the nice things the kings got as presents from their guests, and you can see the gold dinner service of the Russian Princess Catherine Pavlovna, wife of King William I of Württemberg. Keep that name in mind, some of us will ‘meet’ her again in the afternoon.
Ah, there are the star watchers! It’s time for lunch, let’s all go to the vegetarian self-service restaurant ‘iden’, Eberhardtstr. 1. It’s so good, that many meaties eat there as well. We’ll go there crossing the Schillerplatz with a monument for Schiller, one of Germany’s literary biggies (1759 - 1805) and a Swabian.
We have to pass the central market-hall, so why not peep in? It’s an art deco building with stalls offering mouth-watering specialties from all over the world, d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s! When we come to the Rathausplatz (City Hall Square), you’ll see one of the ugliest buildings of post-war concrete-ism, the city hall, so just walk by.
The philosophers among you can drop the dessert and go to Eberhardstr. 53 to see the house the German philosopher Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel was born in in 1770 and where he lived during his first 18 years.
How can we spent the afternoon? I’ve heard some of you mention the TV tower. You can take the U-Bahn [tube]) to the stop ‘Ruhbank‘, you can see as far as the Swabian Alb and, if you’re lucky, even the Alps. You might like to know that you stand on a superlative there: the Stuttgart TV tower, built in 1956, was the first of its kind worldwide and is the father (or mother?) of all later towers which are all taller, as it is with the offspring. ;-)
Only some of you want to go there, well, so now we can split up in groups. The car museums are waiting for you! They’re both not in the city proper, the Porsche-Museum is in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen, Porschestr. 42 and the Mercedes-Museum in Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt, Mercedesstr. 137/1 (tubes to both destinations).
The Mercedes freaks can travel to Bad Cannstatt (5 minutes) together with the House & Garden friends who want to visit the Wilhelma, the Zoological and the Botanical Gardens, built by the then King in the Moorish style which was en vogue at the beginning of the 19th century. Well worth a visit.
I’m offering a visit to the Old and New State Gallery, anyone in for the arts? (Konrad-Adenauer-Str. 30-32, three minutes from the station, behind the Theatre, on the other side of the road). The Old State Gallery has artefacts from the Middle Ages up to the 19th century, old German, Italian, Dutch paintings and sculpture from Classic up to Impressionists and a great graphic collection.
Or do you prefer the New State Gallery built from 1979-1984 by the British architect J. Sterling and recognised today as one of the main works of Postmodernism architecture? Just to drop some names: works by Matisse, Picasso, Beckmann, Schlemmer, Beuys, Newman, Pollock, Kiefer, Paik can be found there.
To while away the rest of the day let’s take the tube S 1 to Untertürkheim, then Bus 61 to Rotenburg, one of the many villages which have become part of the city over the years. There we go to the hill named Württemberg, the cradle of the royal house of Württemberg. On the top there is now is a very picturesque mausoleum with the grave of the Russian princess Catherine Pavlovna (you remember her gold service from the museum?).
From there we look into the valley of the river Neckar, one of the most densely populated and industrialised areas of Germany (and one of the richest), from the other side we see rolling hills covered by vineyards, the area round Stuttgart is one of the most productive when it comes to viniculture. Let’s stroll leisurely down to the village of Uhlbach, one of the small, romantic, cosy villages full of half-timbered houses foreign tourists look for and find in Germany. We can just pop into the Wine Museum, where they show old wine presses, barrels, glasses and goblets and a corkscrew collection.
Or we can go directly to a Weinstube (literally: wine living-room) and start tasting the different wines of the region, they are light, more red than white wines are produced. Bus 62 will take us to Obertürkheim, tube S1 back to Stuttgart, so you don’t have to be afraid of your blood alcohol. The wines aren’t well known outside the region the reason being that the Swabians drink nearly all themselves.
Let’s all meet at midnight at the hotel bar and exchange and share our impressions of the day!