A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

Baden-Baden: Germany's Poshest Spa

large_IMG_12523.jpg

4153769-Carriage_Rides_On_Lichtenthaler_Allee.jpg
In Lichtentaler Allee
3953053-Friedrichsbad.jpg
Friedrichsbad
872361263952007-Romantic_Spo..aden_Baden.jpg
4020986-Stourdza_Chapel.jpg
Kurpark
4020998-Schweizerhaeuser_Swiss_Chalets.jpg
House in "Swiss" style
IMG_12535.jpg
Protestant church
in Augustaplatz

Baden-Baden is Germany’s most upscale spa town. Statistically, the average age of the population is the highest in the whole country, as it is a popular place for retirement among wealthy people, which one can't fail to notice when walking the streets.
Not only Germans, but also foreigners, in particular Russians. A glimpse into the shop windows tells of the average customers’ style as well as the size of their wallet.

One can certainly spend a lot of money in Baden-Baden.

3952170-Fur_Coats_On_Sale_At_The_Flea_Market.jpg

A sight that characterizes posh Baden-Baden 'in a nutshell' is the flea market: There you will find fur coats and Chanel dresses on sale among the usual flea market knickknack. The flea market takes place on Saturday mornings in front of the Trinkhalle. People set up their stands on the paved small road along the edge of the park. A good spot not only for typical flea market items but also second-hand luxury brands. The smaller your size in clothing, the luckier you'll probably be.

On the other hand, Baden-Baden has a lot to offer for the shoestring traveller, too: The atmosphere, the architecture in the old town and the spa quarters, the walk along the river and through the lovely parks, people-watching in town, sampling the water from the thermal springs, hiking the forests and enjoying the views, the visit to Hohenbaden castle, all this is free.

Why the double name? In the late middle ages the castle named Baden (the ruins now known as Hohenbaden) became the centre and residence of the Margraves who named themselves after the castle. When the house of Baden split up in two lines, the one that stayed here named itself „Baden-Baden“, the other one „Baden-Durlach“ (later the founders of Karlsruhe). The town's name remained „Baden“ until people noticed that they were frequently mixed up with the just as famous spa of Baden bei Wien in Austria. The resolution was made to use the Margraves' name of „Baden-Baden“ from then on to distinguish the towns.

The healing powers of the hot springs were already known to the ancient Romans who named the place „Aquae“ - waters. In the 19th century Baden-Baden became the summer capital of Europe where the powerful, the rich and the important (and those who wanted to be) met for the holidays. The late 19th century, the belle époque, has formed the appearance of the town till today: elegant hotels and villas, the parks along the river Oos and Lichtenthaler Allee, the spa hall and the casino, upscale shops...

large_P1270559.jpg

Mark Twain on Baden-Baden

One of the 19th century visitors was Mark Twain. The author travelled the Black Forest in the 1870s and wrote a book about it, which is 50% travel report and 50% fiction, but 100% entertaining and hilarious: „A Tramp Abroad“. I recommend it to all visitors to this region.
Here is Mark Twain's opinion on Baden-Baden:

„Baden-Baden sits in the lap of the hills, and the natural and artificial beauties of the surroundings are combined effectively and charmingly. The level strip of ground which stretches through and beyond the town is laid out in handsome pleasure grounds, shaded by noble trees and adorned at intervals with lofty and sparkling fountain-jets. Thrice a day a fine band makes music in the public promenade before the Conversation House, and in the afternoon and evening that locality is populous with fashionably dressed people of both sexes, who march back and forth past the great music-stand and look very much bored, though they make a show of feeling otherwise. It seems like a rather aimless and stupid existence. A good many of these people are there for a real purpose, however; they are racked with rheumatism, and they are there to stew it out in the hot baths. These invalids looked melancholy enough, limping about on their canes and crutches, and apparently brooding over all sorts of cheerless things. People say that Germany, with her damp stone houses, is the home of rheumatism. If that is so, Providence must have foreseen that it would be so, and therefore filled the land with the healing baths. Perhaps no other country is so generously supplied with medicinal springs as Germany. Some of these baths are good for one ailment, some for another; and again, peculiar ailments are conquered by combining the individual virtues of several different baths. For instance, for some forms of disease, the patient drinks the native hot water of Baden-Baden, with a spoonful of salt from the Carlsbad springs dissolved in it. That is not a dose to be forgotten right away. (...)
It is an inane town, filled with sham, and petty fraud, and snobbery, but the baths are good. I spoke with many people, and they were all agreed in that. I had the twinges of rheumatism unceasingly during three years, but the last one departed after a fortnight's bathing there, and I have never had one since. I fully believe I left my rheumatism in Baden-Baden. Baden-Baden is welcome to it. It was little, but it was all I had to give. I would have preferred to leave something that was catching, but it was not in my power.
There are several hot springs there, and during two thousand years they have poured forth a never-diminishing abundance of the healing water. This water is conducted in pipe to the numerous bath-houses, and is reduced to an endurable temperature by the addition of cold water. The new Friederichsbad is a very large and beautiful building, and in it one may have any sort of bath that has ever been invented, and with all the additions of herbs and drugs that his ailment may need or that the physician of the establishment may consider a useful thing to put into the water.“
(Mark Twain: A Tramp Abroad, Chapter XXI)

Things To Do For Free In Baden-Baden

Baden-Baden is a posh spa and thus well known for being ... not cheap. Budget travelers, check prices carefully.
There are, however, enough things that can be done for free to keep you busy for a day, for example:

3916892-A_Walk_In_The_Old_Town.jpg

~ Walking through the Kurpark
~ The afternoon concerts in the 'concert shell' in front of the Kurhaus
~ People-watching and window-shopping in Kurhauskolonnaden and the old town
~ Drinking the healing waters in the Trinkhalle or at Fettquelle next to Friedrichsbad (bring an empty bottle or a cup)
~ A walk along Lichtentaler Allee to see the beautiful parks and gardens, hotels and villas
~ Gönneranlage gardens
~ All the churches
~ Courtyard and church of Lichtenthal monastery
~ Strolling through the old town up to the terrace at the New Palace for the view
~ Hike up to castle Hohenbaden, visiting the ruin is also free
~ Lots of hiking trails in the surrounding forests

Warning: Do Not Walk From The Train Station Into Town. Take the Bus.

502866344890560-Do_Not_Walk_.._Into_Town.jpg
438788814020808-Buses_From_T.._Into_Town.jpg
468291883952972-Buses_From_T.._Into_Town.jpg
Leopoldsplatz, the heart of town
4022869-Microbrewery_and_cafe_Baden_Baden.jpg

All this said: The one thing that even shoestring travellers should not be skint about is a bus ticket. Don’t try to walk from the railway station into town. Baden-Baden's train station is situated far out of the town centre in the suburb of Oos. From there to the city centre it's some 5 kms.
The way is not dangerous at all but looooooong. You'll be on your feet for at least an hour along a boring street and be tired already before you even reach anything that reminds you of what you have seen in your guidebook.

Take the bus instead. Buses depart every couple of minutes in front of the train station. Baden-Baden is part of the KVV network, so if you come from Karlsruhe or anywhere else in the area and have a KVV ticket to Baden-Baden, it includes the bus anyway.

Several lines go into town from the train station. The easiest is Bus 201 (direction: Lichtenthal) which runs every 10 minutes and stops right at the station. The line begins here, so there is almost always a bus waiting. Don't leave the station through the station building but keep right and walk round it. Then stumble into the open doors of the bus that's standing right there.

A faster but less frequent option is the express bus („Schnellbus“) 205 which departs from the next bus stop further right, in front of the 201.
The ride takes, depending on traffic conditions, some 15-20 minutes. Get off at „Leopoldsplatz“ and you'll be in the heart of town. The old town is on your left, the Kurpark and Kurhaus and the beginning of Lichtenthaler Allee just round the corner to the right. Another central stop is “Augustaplatz”.

The single ticket is 2.40 € (2017). In case you plan to use the bus at least 3 times, a day ticket makes sense. All further details can be found on www.kvv.de

large_IMG_19995.jpg

Baden-Baden’s Healing Waters

3952199-Trinkhalle_in_the_Kurpark_Baden_Baden.jpg
3952200-Detail_of_the_frescoes_Baden_Baden.jpg
3952197-Trinkhalle_the_loggia_Baden_Baden.jpg

Trinkhalle (drinking hall) hosts the tourist information office and one of Baden-Baden's thermal springs, the Friedrichsquelle. Hot spring water is constantly running from the tap and may be taken for free. Bring a bottle or a cup, or get a plastic cup for 20 cents there.

It is recommended not to drink more than 400 ml of this water per day. Well, I assume you won't want more. The taste is strange, rather salty. Give it a try, though - this is one of the things one simply HAS to do when in Baden-Baden...

The 19th century hall was built as a shady refuge where people could walk up and down, talk, watch and be watched while sipping their water. The paintings on the walls show scenes from old regional legends and fairy tales.

4164170-Relief_above_the_entrance_Baden_Baden.jpg

The relief in the gable above the main entrance shows the healing powers of Baden-Baden's springs. From left to right, sick and old people are brought to the spring, which is impersonated by the nymph in the centre who is giving water to a little child and his mother. On the right side, healthy and happy young people are dancing and playing with their children.

4160624-Fettquelle_More_Free_Water_Tasting.jpg
4160623-Fettquelle_More_Free_Water_Tasting.jpg
Fettquelle
3916915-Friedrichsbad.jpg
Friedrichsbad
4020847-Ruins_Of_The_Roman_Baths.jpg
4020846-Ruins_Of_The_Roman_Baths.jpg
Exhibitions around the Roman Baths

Fettquelle („fat spring“) is one of the hot springs on the slope of the Florentinerberg - the only one that's accessible outdoors. The spring is situated between Friedrichsbad and the church of the Monastery of the Holy Sepulchre (Heilig-Grab-Kloster) in the back wall underneath the staircase.

Water may be taken for free. Its healing powers are proven. I once heard from a local that, as children, they were told by their parents to pass the spring each day on the way to school and drink a cup of the water, in order to prevent colds, and they hardly ever got sick.

Warning: Do not try to drink straight from the fountain. Bring and use a cup or a bottle, or you’ll burn your mouth severely. The water has a temperature of about 60 °C (Celsius!!), which translates to 140 °F.

Two large public spas invite to soaking and relaxing in the thermal waters, and several hotels also have their own spa facilities. The two public spas as well as the Roman ruins are administered by the same company. All further details, opening hours, ticket prices etc. etc. can be found on their website: http://www.carasana.de/

Friedrichsbad is the most beautiful spa, situated in a beautiful 19th century neo-renaissance building. Following the example of the ancient Romans, the bath has a fixed curriculum which takes about 2-3 hours. Guests do not need to bring towels or anything, everything is provided. Friedrichsbad is entirely nude. Sexes are separated except in the big pool at the end. If you mind, better go to Caracallatherme instead. (Since I do mind, I have never been inside Friedrichsbad.)

4020845-Ruins_Of_The_Roman_Baths.jpg
Ruins of the Roman Baths

Underneath Friedrichsbad, remnants of the ancient Roman spa have been excavated. The archaeological site can be seen at the entrance to the parking garage. The opening hours are limited to one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon, sadly. The entrance fee includes an audioguide which is helpful to understand what you see, there are no written explanations in the excavations. The audioguide is available in several languages. Strictly no photography inside (*whispers* but when the thing is closed no one can keep you from taking photos through the window).

251386234153739-Friedrichsto..Underworld.jpg
Friedrichstollen

A small door in the steep hill slope behind Friedrichsbad is the entrance to a system of 19th century tunnels, 160 m long, that lead to four hot springs in the Florentinerberg hill. The temperature range of these natural springs is 64 to 67.5 degrees Celsius.

The tunnels, known as Friedrichstollen, are not accessible for visitors. The name of the spa and the tunnels, by the way, refer to Grandduke Friedrich I, who ruled Baden for more than 50 years in the 19th and early 20th century.

large_IMG_20282.jpg

IMG_20285.jpg

Caracallatherme is a modern building. It contains several indoor and outdoor pools with hot thermal water of different temperatures, sauna, massages etc. A great way to relax after a day of sightseeing. The pool area requires swimwear. The strictly separated sauna part is nude like all saunas in this country. The decision is up to the visitors, though: you can buy tickets for the pool area only, for the sauna only, or for the entire spa with both. The pools are equipped with water jets and other bubbling and splashing toys. The outdoor pool is particularly pleasant on chilly days.

The little church next to Caracallatherme is a memento of health treatment during the middle ages. Spitalkirche was part of the medieval hospital, which was established by the hot springs. The church is now used by the Old Catholic community. Note the 16th century tombstones along the walls and the Mount of Olives behind the choir.

large_P1270466.jpg

The Old Town

461336143952006-Romantic_Spo..aden_Baden.jpg323887343952009-Romantic_Spo..aden_Baden.jpg709250863952008-Romantic_Spo..aden_Baden.jpg

The old town centre on the slopes of Florentinerberg hill has narrow streets, shops, restaurants and cafes (most of which can't be called cheap). There are many picturesque streetviews and romantic angles, worth a stroll and a look.

3916893-A_Walk_In_The_Old_Town.jpg156687423952003-Romantic_Spo..aden_Baden.jpg84620353952002-Romantic_Spo..aden_Baden.jpg

885030544164166-Ancient_Roma..iant_Rider.jpg
4164043-Baldreit_Former_Bath_And_Guest_House.jpg

Some hidden reassures from Baden’s past can be found in the alleys and backyards. For example the „Giant Rider“, an ancient Roman sculpture, made in the 1st or 2nd century A.D., that was found near Haueneberstein in 1911. The one in the street is a copy, the original is now in the Stadtmuseum. A narrow passage through the house next to the ice-cream shop in Lange Straße leads to a hidden courtyard where the sculpture is put up.

From here, a stairway leads up the hill to the house called Baldreit. The Baldreit was first mentioned as a bath and guest house in the 15th century.

After the destruction in the 17th century wars it was rebuilt, its current appearance derives from the 18th and 19th century.

The romantic courtyard is well hidden in the old town. The easiest acess wil be from the upper corner of Marktplatz opposite the steeple of the Stiftskirche; follow the sign down the stairs.

The building is used by the Stadtmuseum (town museum) as offices and storage; the museum's exhibitions are in a different building in Lichtentaler Allee.

4164040-Baldreit_Former_Bath_And_Guest_House.jpg4164042-Baldreit_Former_Bath_And_Guest_House.jpg4164039-Baldreit_Former_Bath_And_Guest_House.jpg4164041-Baldreit_Former_Bath_And_Guest_House.jpg

large_IMG_20066.jpg

3953012-Neues_Schloss_New_Palace.jpg

The former residence of the Margraves of Baden-Baden on top of Florentinerberg was first built in the 16th century and later extended. It is known as Neues Schloss (New Palace) to distinguish it from the old castle Hohenbaden. In 1700 Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm decided to move to Rastatt where he had his new baroque palace and town erected. The palace in Baden-Baden served only for occasional visits from then on.

The building remained property of the Margraves of Baden even after 1918. In 1995 the Margraves, who were close to bankruptcy then, sold the palace and all its interior in an auction. An investor bought the building and planned to turn it into a hotel. But for many years nothing happened, probably due to financial problems. The decay of the building continued.

Neues Schloss has been in the headlines every now and then over the years, when there were rumours that a new investor had been found and new plans had been made. „With utmost care“ (whatever that is supposed to mean) the palace will be turned into a luxury hotel. A new building is planned in the park. The hotel was to open in 2013, currently the date mentioned is 2018 – let’s see.

large_IMG_27285.jpg

The palace itself is closed to visitors. If the main gate is open, at least a (forbidden) peep into the courtyard is possible. The terrace below is accessible and offers a fine view of the town and the valley, with Stiftskirche front and center.

large_P1060129.jpg

3955323-Stiftskirche_Catholic_Church.jpg

The catholic parish church of the city is standing above the remnants of the Roman baths. The 13th century church was enlarged and changed in the late 15th century, then burnt down in the French war of 1689 and rebuilt afterwards. The choir contains several graves of Margraves of Baden(-Baden), among them Ludwig Wilhelm, Türkenlouis, the founder of the new residence at Rastatt and famous commander of the Empire's troops against the Turks around 1700.

large_IMG_1701.jpg

4164143-Convent_Of_The_Holy_Sepulchre.jpg

Another religious institution used to be its next-door neighbour. The Kloster zum Heiligen Grab (Convent of the Holy Sepulchre) was founded by Margrave Leopold Wilhelm in the late 17th century. The baroque church of St Joseph got a new facade in neo-baroque style in 1895. Some 20 or 25 years ago the convent was closed down, the last nuns moved to an old people's home. The furniture and everything was sold in an auction and is gone for good. The school the nunnery ran is still in operation. The convent buildings are empty.

large_IMG_12391.jpg

Kurhaus – Casino: How to get rid of all your money

4024247-Want_To_Visit_The_Casino_Dress_Code.jpg
3916828-The_restaurant_Baden_Baden.jpg
3916829-Baroque_interior_Baden_Baden.jpg

The centre of any spa town is the Kurhaus where the guests meet for entertainment, food and drink, to watch and be watched. The Kurhaus contains halls for concerts, dancing and other events, a restaurant and cafe, and of course Baden-Baden's famous casino with its extravagant, impressive interior.

The casino is open for gambling after 2 p.m. They are doing roulette, poker, black jack and all those games I have no idea of. Minimum age is 21. Passport or ID card have to be shown (driver's licence is not accepted) - because they check if your name is on the list of banned gambling addicts, that's all.

If you want to watch or join the gambling, take into consideration that the Casino has a strict dress code. For men this means shirt, jacket and tie. (Shirt and tie without jacket are not considered formal dress in Germany.) Women should dress 'appropriate'. No need to panic, if you don't have these items with you. In case of need a tie and a jacket can be borrowed from the Casino reception.

This applies, however, only for the part with the roulette and poker tables and only after 2 p.m. when the gambling starts.

For the guided tours in the morning and to visit the part with the slot machines there is no dress code at all, normal casual wear is all right.

large_IMG_12418.jpg

In the mornings the fancy rooms can be visited with guided tours (no dress code). The guides will explain the different rooms, the games and so on. The lush interiors are worth seeing even when there is no gambling going on.

Kurhauskolonnaden: Where to Shop after Winning a Fortune at the Casino?

4020787-Where_To_Shop_After_Winning.jpg
3955335-Where_To_Shop_After_Winning.jpg
3955336-Where_To_Shop_After_Winning.jpg

Ever felt the need for a silver holder (€ 38,-) to put your ketchup or soy sauce bottle in, or similar souvenirs?

Baden-Baden's poshest shops are to be found in the Colonnades in front of the Kurhaus: fashion, jewelry, and stuff like that. Prices are, well, what you'd expect them to be.

If you want to spend a lot of money this is where to go.

If you don't want to spend money, this is the perfect area for people-watching...

Some people are seriously interested in all that expensive kitsch and nonsense in these shops. Amazing!

What to buy: Jewelry, fashion, accessoires, if someone else pays or you have just won a lot of money.
Otherwise, nothing.

What to pay: A lot…

large_IMG_24349.jpg

Festspielhaus: Concerts, Opera, Theater At Highest Stage

4153679-Festspielhaus.jpg
4153681-Festspielhaus.jpg

Concerts, opera, ballet, musical ... Want to hear and see the world stars of classical music and theatre? They all come here sooner or later.
Even though it has been opened only in 1998, the Festspielhaus in Baden-Baden has become one of the leading opera and concert halls in Germany. Expect ticket prices to be just as upscale. Book tickets well in advance: http://www.festspielhaus.de/

And dress up. Men: jacket and tie, better suit and tie. Women accordingly. You cannot be overdressed here. For a performance of classical music or opera, a long evening dress is certainly not out of place.

The main building in the back with audience and stage was designed by the architect Wilhelm Holzbauer in postmodern style. The front part, however, is 100 years older.

The entrance hall is actually the old train station of Baden-Baden. After the railway from the main station in Baden-Oos into town had been closed down and substituted by city buses, the neo-classicist station building was transformed into vestibule and box office for the new theater.

The counter that once sold train tickets now serves as box office underneath the original sign saying „Fahrkarten“ (train tickets).

4153682-Festspielhaus.jpg4153680-Festspielhaus.jpg59049214153650-Concerts_Ope..hest_Stage.jpg

NB: More about the walk along Lichtentaler Allee and about Hohenbaden castle will follow in separate entries!

Posted by Kathrin_E 00:43 Archived in Germany Tagged baden-baden Comments (2)

Baden-Baden: A Hike to Hohenbaden Castle

large_IMG_20099.jpg

IMG_20125.jpg
Forest trail in spring

The impressive ruin of Hohenbaden Castle above Baden-Baden is visible from far away and catches the eye even from the Kurpark and town centre. The hike up, starting from Neues Schloss (New Palace), is a mere 3 kms, but rather steep uphill. The walk took me about 45 minutes. The reward is, apart from the castle itself, an amazing view.

It was a sunny day in late March. The trees were still bare, but there was spring in the air. Little wildflowers were blooming everywhere: violets, wood anemones, and oxalis. Plants at the bottom of the forest have to take their chance to catch as much sunlight as possible before the big trees are sprouting their leaves and taking all the light.

IMG_20224.jpgIMG_20113.jpgIMG_20107.jpg

IMG_20127.jpg

Halfway up the trail passes the modern chapel and the fountain dedicated to the local saint, St Bernhard of Baden.

large_IMG_20136.jpg

Trails are well signposted, but the direction was clear anyway. Early spring is a great season for hiking. In a deciduous forest like this one, which as mostly beech trees, the view goes much further than in summer when it’s a mass of green leaves. After a while the silhouette of the castle appeared behind the curtain of tree trunks like a phantom. This scenery could work as stage setting for some Wagner opera.

IMG_20142.jpg IMG_20219.jpg

IMG_20150.jpg
Hermannsbau

The path then leads round the eastern and southern side of the castle to the entrance.

Castle Hohenbaden, also named the Old Palace (Altes Schloss), was the first castle of the Margraves, after which they named themselves „von Baden“.

It consists of two parts. The upper castle, the so-called Hermannsbau, with the castle keep was begun around 1100 under Margrave Hermann II. Since 1112 the name “von Baden” has been in use. The 19th century has done a lot of repair and reconstruction i n particular on these buildings because of their significance as the starting point of Baden's history as a dynasty and territory.

large_IMG_20194.jpg

The lower castle was added around 1400. Under Margrave Bernhard I. the Bernhardsbau was built. His successor Jakob I. extended the castle even further. However, already a few decades later the New Palace in town became the main residence. The old castle was then abandoned and fell to ruins. According to its historical importance, however, it has been saved and partly reconstructed in the 19th century.

IMG_20146.jpgIMG_20148.jpgIMG_20161.jpg

IMG_20165.jpg

Admission to the ruins is free, there are neither guards nor guides. Visitors can explore the ruins on their own to their liking.

There are some boards with explanations but in German only, and scarce.

Stairs and galleries are secured, a bit of caution not to stumble is nevertheless advisable.

IMG_20157.jpgIMG_20167.jpgIMG_20184.jpg
Landscape views through the window holes

IMG_20218.jpgIMG_20171.jpgIMG_20213.jpg

IMG_20163.jpgIMG_20197.jpg
Wind harp and castle keep

In Bernhardsbau, a strange musical sound fills the air. It is caused by a wind harp which has been installed in one of the window holes. The wind makes the strings vibrate and thus creates the sound.

The highest point is the castle keep, which can be climbed. The top offers a wide view in all directions over Baden-Baden, the Northern Black Forest, and, weather permitting, across the Rhine plain to the hill chains of Vosges and Palatine Forest on the horizon.

large_IMG_20202.jpg
View of the Rhine plain

large_IMG_20180.jpg
Baden-Baden and the snow-covered peaks of the Northern Black Forest

Posted by Kathrin_E 21:22 Archived in Germany Tagged baden-baden baden-württemberg Comments (0)

Bouxwiller: Alsace off the Beaten Path

large_DSC01684.jpg

DSC01681.jpg
90_DSC01682.jpg
90_DSC01579.jpg
DSC01555.jpg
90_DSC01552.jpg
DSC01685.jpg
Upper Church

Bouxwiller is the centre of the so-called Hanauerland in Alsace,a picturesque small town of about 4,000 inhabitants in Northern (Lower) Alsace, département Bas-Rhin. The centre consists mostly of half-timbered houses, walls painted in the typical ochre and reddish colours, and narrow lanes. This quaint little town would deserve more attention, but it is rather unnoticed by most visitors because it is located too far away from the tourist areas on the wine route. Its history is closely connected with the German County of Hanau, which is the reason why the area is known as Hanauerland.

Hanau? Isn’t that somewhere near Frankfurt?

Indeed, it is. At some point in the late middle ages, due to the last daughter from the noble house of Lichtenberg, the area became property of the Counts of Hanau to form the County of Hanau-Lichtenberg. Its history is quite complicated, in particular after King Louis XIV of France annexed Alsace. From 1680 onwards, the territory was under French suzerainty. Contracts, in particular the Westphalian Peace Treaty, guaranteed the rights of the Count of Hanau, including religion – the country had introduced the Reformation and followed the Lutheran faith. However, Louis XIV intended to return the Roman-Catholic faith to these areas. French soldiers and civil servants and new settlers who moved in were French-speaking and catholic. Conversions were encouraged, the Lutherans found themselves under tight pressure. Nevertheless the Lutheran faith remained.

CE53AC39AF386D12EFFBEDBEBA45A7AA.jpg
The village of Kirrwiller with its two churches:
Catholic (left) and Lutheran (right)

The King’s measures to protect and promote Catholicism included the rule that, as soon as seven families lived in a village or town, the local parish church had to be opened to them. Most churches became simultaneous churches, which means that the Catholics used the choir for their mass, while the Protestants used the nave for their services – not at the same time, of course. In some places this arrangement has remained to this very day, while in others one of the two confessions was later able to build a church of their own like, as depicted above, in nearby Kirrwiller.

Only in Buchsweiler (I am using the German name here as it was in use at that time) the problem did not occur: The town had two churches. The Upper Church on the hillside, unused since the Reformation, was given to the Catholic parish community while the Lutheran Protestants kept the Lower Church in the centre of the town.

DSC01572a.jpgDSC01559a.jpg
Niederkirche

This church plays a certain role in my dissertation and a couple of other publications, hence my particular interest in it – and the need for new digital photos.

Bouxwiller is tricky to reach by public transport, though. There is no railway line, and bus connections are not too frequent. Hence I grabbed the chance when an excursion by coach was offered, and quickly signed up. This excursion was organized by an association of church music supporters and focused on the organs. It involved seeing the churches in Bouxwiller and Wissembourg, lunch and a guided tour of the town in Wissembourg (unfortunately not in Bouxwiller!) and, first of all, private concerts for the group with a top-class organist who also explained the instruments. I love music so this was a welcome plus.

large_DSC01587a.jpg
Interior of the Lutheran Niederkirche with the Silbermann organ

90_DSC01547.jpg
DSC01556a.jpg
DSC01598.jpg
90_DSC01568.jpg

Niederkirche, the “lower church”, dates from the early 17th century, 1613–1614 to be precise. It is classified as the first new protestant church that was built in the whole of Alsace. Since then it has undergone some refurbishments and changes, though.

The baroque spire on top of the steeple is an addition of 1728. The steeple appears rather oversized when looking up from nearby. However, since it is standing at the lowest point of the “bowl” the town is located in, it has to be this high in order to be visible over the rooftops. In particular since the Roman Catholics had the Upper Church on the hillside which overlooks the whole town.

DSC01647.jpg

In the interior, for example, it is not clear whether, and since when, the altar had not been standing in the east but in front of the pulpit. The large organ and the Prince’s box below are additions from 1778. The instrument was created by a famous master organ builder, Johann Andreas Silbermann. Trust me, its sound is fabulous.

While everyone else took their seats on the pegs down in the nave, I was up on the gallery to take photos when the concert started, so I sat down up there all by myself. It felt like having a concert played for me alone…

large_DSC01532.jpg
Autumn colours along a country road in Hanauerland

Posted by Kathrin_E 03:26 Archived in France Tagged alsace Comments (2)

Biking the Kraichgau for the First (and Probably Last) Time

large_DSC01987.jpg

DSC01969.jpg

DSC01971.jpg

DSC01973.jpg

DSC01982.jpg

DSC01985.jpg

DSC01989.jpg

DSC01997.jpg

90_DSC02004.jpg

DSC02015.jpg

The Kraichgau is hilly. Very very hilly. And not really suitable for bicycles unless the rider is a trained sportsman/woman.This was no news to me. Nevertheless I had to learn this truth the hard way…

I attended a conference in Bretten at the Melanchthon Academy. Since Bretten is so close, I commuted from home every day. On the last day, the conference was scheduled to end at lunchtime. The weather forecast promised us the most fabulous Golden October. So, how to make use of this glorious weather? Go on a bike tour.

In the morning I took my bike with me on the S-Bahn, packed some picknick supplies and enough water. After the conference ended, I boarded my bike and headed towards Karlsruhe. The plan was following the marked bike trails parallel to the S-Bahn line and bike as far as I’d enjoy it, and board the S-Bahn at the nearest stop if I’d get too tired. In the back of my mind I had the ambitious plan, though, to cycle all the way home… which would sum up to more than 30 kilometres.

Using a map for cyclists with marked tours, I found my trail. Leaving Bretten, I already had to climb the first long ascent. The Kraichgau lived up to its reputation as a landscape of rolling hills: up and down, up and down...

DSC01979.jpg

Those hills almost killed me. I was trembling all over. A rest on a bench and the first half of the picknick helped, as well as the decision not to tackle the ascents by force but to get off the bike and push it (that’s why they call it “pushbike”?) as soon as the ascent got harder.

The landscape was bathing in sunshine and autumn colours. The leaves are currently turning colour, the most beautiful phase of autumn is setting in. Some are still green but many are already golden.

DSC01996.jpg

Reaching the village of Wössingen, I had to make a decision: Either to board the tram there, continue along the track via Jöhlingen on the longer route which had nasty ascents marked on the map, or take the direct route through the forest over the ridge named Hohberg, which aslo had ascents marked on the map. I picked my courage and energy, and opted for the Hohberg route. Since my general direction was down towards the Pfinz valley, I hoped there would be a short ascent and a much longer descent. And so it was. It was a relatively short stretch to push uphill.
This route took me straight to Berghausen in the Pfinz valley. I had covered half the distance to home because I live on the opposite side of Karlsruhe, but the worst part was over. From there onwards the trail would be flat except for a few bridges.

I am very proud of myself: I made it home on my bike. For an unsporty fattie like me, a bike tour of 30 kilometres is something to be as proud of as of a marathon run. Since the whole ride took me, including two breaks, three and a half hours, it somehow equals a marathon…

But the next bike tour will take place in the Rhine plain or on a valley bottom. Certainly not in the Kraichgau!

large_DSC02018.jpg

Posted by Kathrin_E 15:00 Archived in Germany Tagged kraichgau Comments (2)

Flehingen: 2 Villages, 3 Churches, 2 minus 1 Castles

large_P1310350.jpg

The village in the Kraichgau hills that is now named „Flehingen“ actually consists of two separate villages: Flehingen and Sickingen. In the 1930s they were united and Sickingen lost its name. Each of the two was owned by a noble family with the same name, both with the status of Imperial Knights, thus rulers of a territory within the Holy Roman Empire. Each of the families had a castle in their village which was later refurbished into a palace. Flehingen castle now serves as a centre for seminars and conventions. Sickingen castle, though, is demolished and gone.

5109248-Pictures_of_the_Village_Flehingen.jpg5109249-Pictures_of_the_Village_Flehingen.jpg5109251-Pictures_of_the_Village_Flehingen.jpg
5109253-Pictures_of_the_Village_Flehingen.jpg5109254-Pictures_of_the_Village_Flehingen.jpg5109250-Pictures_of_the_Village_Flehingen.jpg

Flehingen

large_P1310367.jpg

762768684938347-Schloss_Fleh.._Flehingen.jpg4938346-Schloss_Flehingen_Flehingen.jpg

Schloss Flehingen substituted an older water castle that was burnt down in 1504. It was rebuilt in the 1560s and then refurbished several times. The crest above the portal shows the date 1722. It belonged to the local noble family von Flehingen, later Wolff-Metternich zu Gracht.

The palace consists of four wings around what used to be an inner courtyard, and four towers at the corners. It used to be surrounded by a moat with water, as the bridge to the main portal still indicates.

760781514938348-Schloss_Fleh.._Flehingen.jpg

The interior of the palace cannot be visited. There is no need to grieve because of that, though, because there is absolutely nothing inside that would be worth visiting. In the 19th century the noble owners sold it to the municipality. The building then served for several purposes and was in the end converted into a home for difficult boys. In recent years the interior underwent more changes, the courtyard was covered with a glass roof and the rooms were turned into guest apartments: Schloss Flehingen nowadays serves as a centre for seminars and conventions. A side building, erected in the early 20th century, contains the dining hall and kitchen. Then there is a modern building with seminar rooms and other side buildings with more accommodation.

large_P1310490.jpg

4938363-Flehingen_Protestant_Church_Flehingen.jpg

The protestant church of Flehingen was built in 1825. It substituted an older predecessor which was in bad shape and too small for the growing community, or better communities: Since the late 17th century both Protestants and Catholics used the church. The old governors, the Knights of Flehingen, had introduced the reformation in Flehingen around 1530 but their heirs, the von Wolff-Metternich, were Roman Catholic and enforced their faith. Both communities alternated in the use of the church until the Catholics built their new parish church on the opposite hill in 1910. The main altar still shows the case of the former tabernacle at the foot of the cross.

4938361-Flehingen_Protestant_Church_Flehingen.jpg

The church contains a number of 16th and 17th century tombstones of Knights and Ladies of Flehingen that originate from the burial vault underneath the old church.

The church is closed except for services, an appointment with the parish is needed to see it. Since the parson is not living here but in Zaisenhausen the average visitor will not want to take the effort. In case you have special interest in the church, contact the protestant parish in Zaisenhausen.

large_P1310491.jpg

4938386-Former_imperial_post_office_Flehingen.jpg

Along the street that leads to the train station, a post office was installed around 1900. The building has long ceased to be a post office, it is a residential house. However, the facade still bears the (renewed) crest of the German Empire and the inscription „Kaiserliches Postamt“ (Imperial Post Office).

A few years later the Catholic parish community built their kindergarten, new church and parsonage next to it. The Catholic community of Flehingen finally fulfilled their dream of having a church of their own shortly before World War I after having shared a church with the Protestants for more than 200 years. They bought some real estate on the hill opposite the centre of the village and the Protestant church and first built a kindergarten and housing for the nuns who run it in 1905. A few years later they started the church. The architect was Johannes Schroth, a renowned architect from Karlsruhe. He designed the church and the adjacent parsonage in a mix of neo-Romanesque and art nouveau style. The three buildings form an impressive group that overlooks the village.

4938381-Flehingen_Catholic_Church_Flehingen.jpg646280654938383-Flehingen_Ca.._Flehingen.jpg64293544938385-Ceiling_fres.._Flehingen.jpg

large_P1210370.jpg

168693664938384-Flehingen_Ca.._Flehingen.jpg

The Catholic Church of St Martin was consecrated in 1911. The interior shows almost byzantine forms. World War I and the following economic crisis inhibited the completion of the decorum. Only in 1932/33 the vaults could be painted. The frescoes by Franz Schilling are still pre-Nazi but the spirit of those times can already be anticipated.

The church is the main catholic parish church and can be expected to be open in the daytime, but if you want to make sure better contact the parish in advance, address and everything are on their website: http://kath-se-sickingen.de/html/pfarramt597.html?& They are in charge of both catholic churches in Flehingen and Sickingen as well as three other villages.

Sickingen

large_P1210470.jpg

4938404-Stone_with_Sickingen_crest_Flehingen.jpg
Border stobne with
Sickingen coat of arms

Sickingen used to be a village of its own with a castle of its own, home to the noble family von Sickingen. The family had to sell their property in the 19th century and finally died out. The castle, later a water palace, fell in ruins and was finally demolished. There is nothing left of Sickingen Palace. It was located in the valley by the creek where the modern festival hall has been built. Only the village church remained.

In 1936 Sickingen lost its independence and was united with neighbouring Flehingen. Worse than that, Sickingen even lost its name and became part of Flehingen. Painful for the Sickinger inhabitants because these two villages have always been rivals. It's only small comfort that in the meantime the same has also happened to Flehingen in the 1970s when the united village became part of Oberderdingen.

689204954938402-What_used_to.._Flehingen.jpg

The memory is kept alive. Information boards, actually in German and English, have been placed by the stair to the church. The inhabitants are proud of the history of their village and its knightly family. The Knights of Sickingen had the status of imperial knights and then barons and ruled a territory with property not only here but also West of the Rhine around the Nahe valley and in the Palatinate Hills. They were related to the neighbours von Flehingen and used the same crest. The most famous representant of the family was Franz von Sickingen, imperial office, robber-knight and supporter of the reformation, a colourful figure who died a dramatic death in 1523 after his campaign against the mighty Archbishop of Trier failed.

The Catholic Church of St Maria Magdalena in Sickingen is the oldest of the three churches in the double village. Its construction took place in the earliest era of the reformation. Rumours have it that this church was the first ever protestant church building but... there is a „but“.

218339134938923-Choir_with_q.._Flehingen.jpg

Several Imperial Knights in the Kraichgau region were among the followers of Luther and among the first territorial rulers who introduced the Protestant lore in their villages and churches. The construction of the church dates from 1523 (date in the vault of the choir). One member of the Sickingen family, the (in)famous Franz von Sickingen, is known as an ardent supporter of the reformation. However, the village of Sickingen did not belong to him but to his uncle Konrad who wisely stayed away from his relative's military adventures. Thus, although Franz had Lutheran church services celebrated in his realm already in 1522, the church of Sickingen must be considered a catholic church. However, the village turned protestant soon after.

Details are not known, there is a lot of confusion about the history of Sickingen, both the family and the village. Even genealogy is not clear, every researcher published a different version of the family tree. The archive is lost so this will remain unknown. Next-door Flehingen got its first Lutheran preacher in 1530.

The church in Sickingen stayed Lutheran-protestant until the early 17th century - again, the excact date is unknown resp. the dates given are contradictory - when the Sickingen family converted to the Roman Catholic confession. Since then the church has been Roman Catholic.

831582444938924-Sickingen_ca.._Flehingen.jpg88308514938926-Sickingen_cr.._Flehingen.jpg714200054938405-Voiew_toward.._Flehingen.jpg

252336564938925-Tombstone_of.._Flehingen.jpg
Lucia von Andlau (+ 1547)

As usual at residences of noble families, the church contains their tombs. The Sickingen tombs in the choir, however, are elaborate art works high above the usual level. These are the church's greatest treasures with their exquisite stone carved figures. The defunct are presented almost life-size, the men dressed in armour, the women in festive clothing according to the Spanish court fashion. To be noted:

- tomb of Lucia von Andlau, died 1547, wife of Franz Konrad von Sickingen
- tomb of Hans von Sickingen, elder brother of Franz Konrad, died 1547
- the 7 metres high quadruple monument of Franz the Younger von Sickingen and his wife Anna Maria von Venningen and, above, their son Schweickard with his wife Maria Magdalena von Kronberg, created around 1610

Posted by Kathrin_E 03:25 Archived in Germany Tagged churches kraichgau Comments (1)

(Entries 36 - 40 of 51) « Page .. 3 4 5 6 7 [8] 9 10 11 »