Ettlingen has preserved the charm of its historical centre in spite of rehabilitation measures in the 1970s that have destroyed quite a number of old buildings. What is left, however, is well taken care of. The major monuments and preserved houses are mostly baroque. Etllingen is small, so everything can easily be reached on foot . There are many romantic spots in the narrow lanes, along the river and in the squares to discover, and many outdoor cafes for a rest.
The old town extends on both banks of Alb river. The town hall occupies the central point by the river and the main bridge, overlooking the wide market square. The western part extends to the palace and its gardens. The tram line now cuts off the newer quarters further west from the centre. This area is quite busy with many small shops and a of old and new buildings. The market square is connected with the palace through a series of small squares.
Schloss Ettlingen, a palace that belonged to the Margraves of Baden-Baden, contains parts of a medieval castle. Three rectangular wings were built in the 16th and early 7th century. In the war of 1689 the French troups burnt down the town and the palace. The widowed Margravine Sibylla Augusta had the palace restored and enlarged, she lived here from 1728-1733. In these years the Eastern wing was added. Its facade towards the courtyard shows elaborate baroque architecture and ornaments - but it is all fake. The columns and rocailles are all just painted. Even some windows are fake.
In summer the courtyard hosts the Ettlinger Schlossfestspiele, an open-air festival of theater and concerts.
The Albgaumuseum occupies the Southern and Western wing of the palace. It shows regional history, art by regional painters, a collection of oriental treasures, temporary exhibitions, and the former apartment of the Margravine. Unfortunately all the furniture was taken away in the 19th century, and there isn't much left of the original decoration either. (If you want to see the rooms of a baroque palace, better go to nearby Rastatt instead).
Schlossgartenhalle, located next to the palace, is a modern hall for concerts, events and conventions. The building itself is of little interest to visitors but its roof garden is worth a look. Stairways lead up on the corners. The little garden on top is at the height of the roofs of the surrounding houses. You'll have a different view of the palace, the streets, into people's windows and backyards.
The so-called Narrenbrunnen (Jester Fountain) outside the palace is dated 1549. The statue on top shows a jester in the uniform of a lansquenet. The relief portrait on one side of the pillar depicts Hans von Singen, the court jester of Margrave Philipp I.
The role of a court jester meant more than just making fun. The jester was the only one who was allowed to tell the prince even unpleasant truths, as long as he did so in a witty way. According to late medieval theology, the figure of the jester symbolized a godless, worldly life. The mirror became his attribute, as he is someone who looks only at his own reflection instead of god. Thus he became the one who showed the prince the mirror, reflected the prince's good and bad doings. That way he reminded the prince of his own mortality. The inscription at the sculpture's back recalls this warning:
LAS MICH UNVERAC[H]T / BEDENCK DER WELT WYSHEIT UND BRACHT / IST VOR GOT[T] EIN DORHE[Y]T GEACHT
(Don't despise me, remember, the world's wisdom and glamour is considered foolishness in front of God)
If you want a rest among trees and flowers, stop next-door at Rosengarten. The little park was planted in 1998 in the grounds of the former palace gardens. In the summer season it is full of blooming roses. Benches invite to sit down and relax. Best with an icecream, which can be obtained nearby at the icecream parlour opposite the palace next to the jester fountain...
The catholic parish church of St. Martin is mostly a baroque building, the romanesque tower and the gothic choir derive from the medieval predecessor.
The baroque nave contains a surprise: The vaulted ceiling is covered with colourful modern frescoes by Emil Wachter, painted in 1987: Wachter is a renowned artist and has done many church interiors in Baden-Württemberg. He translated the baroque principles of ceiling frescoes into modern style. He tells biblical stories with contemporary elements, like the Prodigal Son leaving home on a motorbike.
The church is usually open in the daytime and can be entered from the southern side door.
Ettlingen's town hall was built in 1737 with some changes in the 19th century. The baroque facades face the market square and the river. The adjacent tower, which is much older, serves as town gate from the bridge across the Alb. In market square a beautiful renaissance fountain is preserved.
The narrow pedestrians' gateway through the town hall's tower has a remarkable memorial to the victims of World War I. The names of Ettlingen's World War I casualties inscribed on its walls. From the outward side of the gate a soldier points into the passage: „Hie habt Ehrfurcht vor den Toten“ (Here have reverence for the dead) - this is a reference to the medieval monk sign pointing to the hospital (see separate tip). Towards the market square, a dramatic relief (Oskar Alexander Kiefer 1927) shows Death on horseback. While Death is swaying the fiery scythe above the soldiers, the Titans are fighting underground.
The so-called Neptunstein is a relic of Ettlingen's distant past. The relief, dated to the 2nd or 3rd century A.D., depicts the ancient Roman god Neptun, to whom the stone was dedicated by the guild of the Alb rafters. The white stone below contains a Latin inscription by the reformator Caspar Hedio written in 1554 which tells the history of the stone of Neptun and the foundation of the town. This stone here, however, is a 16th century copy. The original can be admired in the Badisches Landesmuseum at Karlsruhe.
A statue of St Nepomuk guards the bridge behind the town hall, as it is common in catholic areas. Ettlingen belonged to the Margraviate of Baden-Baden, the catholic part of Baden’s territory. The town owes several baroque buildings, including the town hall, the facade of the main church, and parts of the palace, to Margravine Sibylla Augusta who resided in Ettlingen during her widow years.
Discover the romantic spots along the river that runs through the town. The street next to the river's northern bank is like a promenade walk. Not very long, admittedly, but still pleasant. The bridges offer more views, especially in summer when they are ornated with blooming geraniums. Photogenic views can also be found from behind the church of St Martin.
The quarter beyond the river has preserved its historical structure with small winding lanes, some dead end. The side streets are quieter here.
The eyecatcher on this side of the old town is the mighty steeple of the neogothic Herz-Jesu-Kirche, the second catholic parish church in the town centre.
On the northern corner of the old town (corner Schillerstraße/Pforzheimer Straße), Ettlingen’s only piece of the old town wall is preserved, together with one single tower, which is named Lauerturm. You'll need some imagination for „romantic old-world feeling“, though, because these are major roads with heavy traffic.
I am concluding with some romantic impressions caught on a summer evening and sunset and then under the full moon...