With its magnificent castles, luxurious resorts and the beautiful recreation areas of the Schwarzwald (Black Forest), Baden-Württemberg is one of Germany’s most popular tourist destinations. In addition, the region’s long and turbulent history has given it a rich cultural and religious diversity. The southwest region of Germany was the cradle of two dynasties that played important roles in German and European history and culture – the Hohenstaufen and Hohenzollern families. The great number of urban centers in the state is due to the influence of these two families. Baden- Württemberg also has more universities than any other state in Germany, the oldest being located at Heidelberg, Tübingen, and Freiburg im Breisgau.
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FREIBURG IM BREISGAU
Freiburg is a natural gateway to the Black Forest. The count von Zähringen first established the town in 1120, and since 1805 it has been part of Baden. From the Middle Ages, fast-flowing canals, or bächle, have run through the town, providing water to help extinguish the once frequent fires. The cathedral was built in the 13th century in Gothic style. Münsterplatz, the picturesque cathedral square, is lined with houses from various architectural periods. Completed in 1520, with ground-floor arcades and richly adorned gables, the Kaufhaus was used by merchants for meetings and conferences.
Densely planted with tall firs and spruces, the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) is one of Germany’s most picturesque regions. The area is famous for Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest gateau) and Kirschwasser (schnapps), as well as for its therapeutic spring waters. Todtnau is a popular sports center and a base for hikers. Nearby, Hangloch-Wasserfall is one of the most magnificent waterfalls in the region. The heart of the resort of Todtmoos is the Baroque pilgrimage church, which dates from the 17th–18th centuries. Popular dog-sled races are held annually in the town. In the health resort of St. Blasien stands a Benedictine Abbey, founded in the 9th century. Its church (1783) is an excellent example of early Neoclassical style. The main attraction of Furtwangen is its clock museum (Uhrenmuseum), which houses a collection of more than 4,000 chronometers. In the open-air museum near the small town of Gutach visitors can see the Black Forest’s oldest house – the 16th-century Vogtsbauernhof.
Stuttgart grew from humble beginnings as a stud farm to become the ducal and royal capital of Württemberg. It is now one of the largest and most important towns of the Federal Republic. Beautifully situated among picturesque hills, the town is a major industrial and cultural center, with a world-famous ballet company, chamber orchestra, and splendid art collections. When Württemberg Castle burned down in 1311, the family seat was moved to Stuttgart. The ducal residence, the Altes Schloss, was given its present square layout in 1553–78. The palace now houses the Württembergisches Landesmuseum, which holds vast collections of decorative art and jewelry. On the east side of Stuttgart’s main square is a huge palace complex, the Neues Schloss, built in 1746–1807. The palace gardens still have much of their original charm, with neat avenues and impressive sculptures. The Staatsgalerie grew from a fine art museum containing King Wilhelm I of Württemberg’s private collection. Among the Old Masters on display are Rembrandt and Bellini, while modern artists include Monet, Picasso, and Modigliani. A building exhibition held in 1927 left behind a complete housing estate, the Weißenhofsiedlung, which contains houses by Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Peter Behrens, and Hans Scharoun. Another must for all lovers of modern architecture, the Liederhalle congress center is a successful synthesis of tradition and modernism. The Linden Museum is one of Germany’s finest ethnology museums, containing exhibits from all over the world. Figures from the Indonesian theater of shadows and a 6th–8th-century mask from Peru are among the eclectic items on display. To the east of the center is the famous Mercedes-Benz- Museum. Its splendid collection illustrates the development of the automobile with over 70 historic vehicles, all in immaculate condition. Stuttgart’s other famous car manufacturer has created the Porsche-Museum, which includes around 50 examples of these high-speed, expensive vehicles. Once an independent health resort, Bad Cannstatt is now a district of Stuttgart. Set in a beautiful park, it has a late- Gothic church, a Neoclassical town hall, and a kursaal (spa house). One of its main attractions is the magnificent Schloss Rosenstein (1824–9).
Situated on the banks of the Neckar river, Heidelberg is one of Germany’s most beautiful towns. For centuries, it was a center of political power, with a lively and influential cultural life. In 1386, Germany’s first university was established here by the Elector Ruprecht I. The construction of the town’s palace began during his reign, continuing until the mid-17th century. However, French incursions in the late 17th century totally destroyed medieval Heidelberg. The town was subsequently rebuilt in the 18th-century in Baroque style. Towering over the town, the Heidelberger Schloss is a vast residential complex that was built and repeatedly extended between the 13th and 17th centuries. Originally a supremely well-fortified Gothic castle, it is now mostly in ruins. The Universitätsbibliothek (University Library), erected in 1901–5, has one of the largest book collections in Germany, with over two million volumes. The French Count Charles de Graimberg built up an extensive collection of fine drawings, paintings, arms, and other curios. His collection forms the core of the Kurpfälzisches Museum, which also has a fascinating archaeology section. The Baroque domes of the Heiliggeistkirche are city landmarks. Former canons of the college were university scholars, and the church aisle features extensive galleries of books.