By Robert Lidster
Germany is made up of 16 states and the third largest of these in both area (13,800 square miles) and population (10.7 million) is Baden Wurttemberg. Situated in the south western part of Germany to the east of the Upper Rhine, many of the states major cities are built on or near to the Neckar river.
On this particular trip I was visiting the state capital Stuttgart as well as Herrenberg which is situated some 30 kilometres south of Stuttgart. I have visited both places and the surrounding area on many occasions and have always found the area to be of immense beauty and interest.
My first stop was in Herrenberg which is the fourth largest town in the district of Boblingen, originally formed from the hamlets of Muhlhausen and Raistingen in the 13th century. In 1972, following the incorporation of formally independent municipalities, the number of inhabitants exceeded 20,000 for the first time, the population today is in excess of 31,000.
I travelled to Herrenberg by car with three family members, having crossed the channel from Dover to Calais and then driving through France, a total of 479 miles. We had broken up the journey with an overnight stay in France in order that we arrived in Herrenberg early afternoon, having stopped en-route for lunch.
Our hotel for our three night stay was the four star Gasthof Hasen which is a member of the Ringhotels group. It is a family run hotel, run by the Nolly family and it is the hotel that I have used on almost all of my visits to the area.
The hotel has 68 guest rooms, ranging from single rooms and double rooms to suites which are ideal for families with children. The facilities at the hotel include a restaurant seating 85 guests, a “Tessiner Grotto” which is a small restaurant/bar seating 50 guests, a terrace and beer garden, a sauna, smoking room and library. There is also a conference room for up to 120 people, and new since my last visit, a bar and seating area near to reception. The hotel also provides ample free car parking spaces.
Our main reason for this trip was to visit family who live in the area so most of our time would be spent in the company of family in their homes, however, we did do some sight seeing and have done much more in our previous visits. The main places of interest in Herrenberg have to be the market place with the beautiful old timber framed buildings and the church which stands majestically on the hill overlooking the town. There is also the remains of a 13th century castle which sits right on the top of the hill and entails a good walk to get to it from the town. I visited the castle twice on this visit, the first time was on a pre-breakfast walk on my own when I used the steps opposite our hotel to climb the hill, all 366 of them. The second visit was with other members of my family and so we took an easier route which takes you past the church and through the woods.
The market square is one of my favourite places in Herrenberg as I love the style of the buildings, so typically German, it is also the place to buy your fresh fruit, vegetables and meat on market days. The market also hosts the annual town festival every July where some 25,000 people will come out to celebrate, eat, drink and listen to the music.
Of course if you are staying in this area then a visit to Stuttgart the state capital of Baden Wurttemberg is a must. Stuttgart is the 6th largest city in Germany with a population of around 600,000. The city is spread across a variety of hills, valleys and parks and is ranked number 30 in Mercer’s 2010 liveability rankings (7th in Germany).
The first settlement in the area was at the end of the 1st century with the establishment of a Roman fort and Stuttgart was founded around 950 AD. The main train station was opened in 1846 and is now the subject of demonstrations as locals voice their disapproval at the vast amount of money being spent on updating the station and track. The Schlossgarten is now home to many of the demonstrators in their makeshift camps.
Places of interest in Stuttgart include the aforementioned Schlossgarten as well as the Schlossplatz, two castles, zoo, TV tower, museums and an art gallery. There is also a very good shopping area. One of the highlights of the Stuttgart year has to be the beer festival which comes second only to that of Munich, they also hold a very good wine festival with some excellent locally produced wines.
Local transport is very good and inexpensive. For our trip into the city centre we left our car at a family members house and caught the bus into the centre as it is so much easier than driving and then having to try and find somewhere to park. Another place of interest that comes to mind is that of Hundertwasserhaus in Plochingen. Although I didn’t get to visit it on this occasion, I have in the past and I found it fascinating.
Born Friedrich Stowasser in Vienna in 1928 (he later changed his name to Hundertwasser), Hundertwasser was a Jewish Austrian painter and architect with buildings designed by him in many locations around the world, including Plochingen, a short drive east from Stuttgart. The building is a brightly painted and eccentric building which can be easily spotted from the main road as you head towards Ulm and Munich.
The Black Forest is within easy travelling distance of Stuttgart and even Munich and Bodensee are within two or three hours drive. Bodensee is a large lake which is on the borders of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, it makes for an interesting and enjoyable drive to completely encircle the lake, driving through all three countries.