Tag: Deutschland

Excursion to the Bauhaus

BauhausBauhaus

Bauhaus

Bauhaus

On Saturday, May 9, my last day in Germany, I traveled from Berlin to Dessau to see the Bauhaus. I did not preplanned this side trip, but had one day left on my DB rail pass and felt I had seen enough of Berlin. The Bauhaus is located in a quiet, mostly residential area a few blocks west of the train station. The more commercial city center of Dessau is located to the east of the station. The approach to the Bauhaus is along Bauhaustraße lined with several sleek, contemporary buildings, for which I found an interesting description from another visitor here. I assume the placement of these buildings were intentional, a preparation of sorts for reaching the Bauhaus itself, while presenting an intriguing first impression of the town.

The Bauhaus itself was of course neat to see and explore its many areas. There were several other Bauhaus buildings in Dessau – a few blocks north were the Masters Houses, built around 1930, to provide dwellings for Walter Gropius and other Bauhaus masters/teachers, including painter Wassily Kandinsky. The Gropius House was singular while the other six were paired into duplexes. The Gropius House and one of the dwellings in the house adjacent were destroyed in air raids in 1945. A more traditional home was built over the remaining Gropius foundation, while the other dwelling was never rebuilt. Those remaining have undergone renovations to restore the houses to their original condition. For a small entrance fee, it was fun looking through the different houses.

I continued my walk further northward, along the edge of town to see the Bahaus-style Kornhaus Restaurant on the banks of the Elbe River. The walk back toward the center of town was through a less dense, mostly residential neighborhood. Before leaving Dessau I took a ride on the minimal tram system. I was surprised to find rail transit in such a small city – even in Germany, but the service headways were quite long (at least for Saturday afternoon). On my ride I saw much of the more commercial area of Dessau east of the train station. Further out it seemed to get more sparse and less attractive. Afterwards I stopped in the Rathaus Center – a shopping mall in the heart of the modernized city center – to grab a few pretzels for a snack. The mall was quite busy with people compared to relatively light foot traffic outside. I’m not sure what to make of the “newer” part of Dessau, but the seeing the Bauhaus was definitely a good way to spend my last day in Germany.

On the way to and from Dessau I had to switch trains in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, the town where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Catholic church in 1517. The station was not near the Marktplatz so did not see the church, but did venture through a few blocks of a different area in the time I had to wait. On the way back to Berlin, I accidentally got off one station too soon, which was actually closer to the old center of town. At first I was a bit concerned, but ended up having plenty of time as my connecting train was running late. Simply by chance, a bicycle race was passing by right as I exited the train. A camera car followed the swarm of cyclists so it was evidently something significant enough to be on TV. To get back to the next station I took a nice walking path that followed the tracks most of the way. Small cottages with plentiful gardens lined the path so it was a nice walk. The small, unintended visits to small towns were some of my most memorable.

See all my photos of Dessau and the Bauhaus here.

Zugspitze: Top of Germany

View from Zugspitzplatt

On Tuesday, May 4, the fourth day of my travels, I took a train from Munich to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in southern Bavaria to connect with the Zugspitzbahn to ascend the highest mountain peak in Germany. The Zugspitzbahn is a cogwheel railway to climb the steep slope of the Zugspitze mountain. The station is adjacent to the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Bahnhof. The scenery was memorable on the way up, passing mountain homes, high pastures, and dramatic mountainsides. The train itself was modern, bright and comfortable.

The ride up takes about an hour, with the last portion through a tunnel, terminating at Zugspitzplatt, still 350m from the peak. From there a suspended cable car takes visitors the rest of the way to the top. I stopped at Zugspitzplatt to take in the view from there – which was the best view I had. It was very cloudy, but I could see some nearby peaks. It was spectacular – everything very bright and white with snow and fog. A minor hike up a hill from the rail/cable car station sits Maria Heimsuchung Church, the highest church in Germany.

I continued to the top, which took a bit of waiting as the cable car did not run very frequently. As we ascended fog quickly consumed everything in sight with nothing but bright whiteness until we reached the top. I immediately went to the top to the observation level and was the first one out there. It was incredible and bizarre. Visibility now was maybe 50-100 feet, so there was no view but whiteness. It was erie to look over the edge and see nothing. The unchanging bright whiteness began messing with my eyes. The temperature was probably below freezing – icicles and frost hanging off railings.

Half of the peak is actually in Austria, however the section was closed off. I knew the border was very near but did not realize it split the peak. So I never went to Austria, but I was very, very close. Nothing at the peak was really open (gift shop, etc.) so I took the cable car back down soon, and then had to wait a while for the next train.

After returning to town I spent an hour or so exploring on foot before the next train to Munich departed. Understandably, it reminded me of resort towns in the mountains of Colorado, but more legitimate. There were businesses, community and infrastructure not dominated by tourism alone. A characteristic of Garmisch-Partenkirchen were the numerous buildings decorated in ornate exterior frescos. Near the train station is the stadium from the 1936 Winter Olympic Games. Hitler had forced the two individual towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen to merge in anticipation for the games. They remain unified today.

See all my photos from the Zugspitze and G-P here.

Munich: Capital of Bavaria

_DSC0068.JPG

During my post-semester travels to Germany, I stayed in Munich from Sunday, May 2, through Thursday the 6th, when I went on to Berlin. Despite cloudy and sometimes rainy weather it was enjoyable. The capital city of Bavaria was much more modern than I had been excepting and its “historic” center is actually quite small. I realized quickly I was not as familiar as I thought I was. Like in Stuttgart the Hauptbahnhof was located just on the edge of the center, but was of course much larger. It was rebuilt in the late 1950s after sustaining severe damage in WWII as the rest of the city did, so its exterior appearance is not very pronounced, nor particularly attractive. The train shed is not the grand space of Frankfurt’s main station, but elegant in its own means.

_DSC0047.JPGMy friend who was also doing some post-semester travel happened to be in Munich on Sunday and Monday so I met up with him and hung out with a number of people staying at his hostel. Monday morning we went on a three hour “free tour” (paid by tips) of central Munich. It actually didn’t cover much area but was extremely informative and gave everyone a really good insight into Munich’s history and culture. It turns out nearly all of the historic center of Munich was ruined beyond repair in the war, but it was completely rebuilt to appear the same as before. This was both hugely disappointing and intriguing at the same time. The central public space in Munich is Marienplatz, which draws crowds daily at 11am for the Rathaus Glockenspiel. Just around a corner is a big market space with a number of different vendors (photo at top) as well as a large beer garden.

Following the tour we ended up going to a beer hall with our guide and several others on the tour. Later on we went to Hofbrauhaus with two guys from the UK that we had met on the tour. For dinner we went to Augustiner beer hall just north of the Hauptbahnhof. This was where I had my first real German meal – wiener schnitzel. It wasn’t exactly the most productive day, but it was cold and gloomy out again, and was interesting getting to know a few other world travelers.

On Tuesday, I spent all of the day going to the Zugspitze, the tallest mountain peak in Germany, which I’ll talk about in the next post. Wednesday, my last full day in Munich, I visited the Deutsches Museum Verkehrszentrum (transportation museum) in the morning and the main Deutsches Museum in the afternoon with more exploring on foot in between. I, of course, enjoyed the transportation museum, which had a number of historic and contemporary German rail and transit vehicles on display, as well as several cars, bikes, etc. The Deutsches Museum, the largest museum of science and technology in the world, is located on an island in the river to the east of the historic middle. It was indeed large – I went through pretty quickly in maybe two hours, hoping to see more of the city before it got dark or started to rain.

After the museum I took the U-Bahn (urban subway) out to see the 1972 Olympics stadium complex. Neat to see, but it was quite a walk and it had began misting. That evening I strolled around the city center for my last night in Munich. Munich was an interesting city to visit – a modern and influential city with pleasing urban scale, terrific transit, and a rich cultural identity.

See all my photos from Munich here.

Karlsruhe

_DSC0139.JPG

I stopped in Karlsruhe, a city of about 300,000, for about two hours while traveling between Kandel and Munich on Sunday, May 2. About 20 km southeast of Kandel, the city originates at Karlsruhe Palace, which was built in 1715, with the city developing around it. I walked from the Hauptbahnhof on the south edge of the city center, north to the palace and gardens bounding the northern edge. Right across the street from the train station is the Zoo and Stadtgarten (city garden). I walked along the zoo edge until I reached a pedestrian bridge Tiergartenweg (“Animal Garden Way”) that spanned the width of the park, lending a delightful view of blooming tulip beds, a meandering water channel, and even a glimpse of a few animals. I continued my walk past a large building complex with extensive flowerbeds of tulips and other varieties.

The Karlsruhe Palace grounds were nice to see with several people enjoying the day in the large green behind it. There was a pond and a miniature railroad. Next to the palace grounds sits the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany – I recognized the contemporary building.

_DSC0152.JPG     _DSC0172.JPG

From what I saw, Karlsruhe is a nicely scaled city with a nice variety of new of old buildings. It is very pedestrian and transit appeared to be extensive for the city’s size, however I was only in the city center dominated by businesses and public buildings. The scale and aesthetic was similar to Stuttgart, but secondary and noticeably smaller. It was nice to see a smaller German city with a population similar to Cedar Rapids-Iowa City.

See all photos of Karlsruhe here.

Kandel, Germany

_DSC0117.JPG

On day two of my journey in Germany, the first of May, I took a train from Stuttgart to Kandel (see on map), via Karlsruhe to visit the small town I have ancestry tracked back to the 18th century. Thanks to research by my Great Uncle Edgar who put together an extensive family tree book a few years ago, I knew my Great Great Great Great Grandpa George Lindemann was born in Kandel in 1780. The Lindemann family is actually the ancestry of my mom’s father’s mother, but it’s the most in depth family history I’m aware of and technically just as much a part of me as my paternal lineage. Explained visually below.

lindemann-dorman.jpg

I arrived at Kandel Bahnhof, a minimal two track station, around 11:30am and walked a few blocks north to the center of town where my hotel was. My first impression was nice; it was small and quaint, just what I had expected. Since it was near my hotel, I first went to the one large cemetery in town, located on near the northern edge next to the contemporay (mid 20th century) Catholic church, though not directly affiliated.

The cemetery (photo below left) was compact but dignified. Unlike the typical small town cemetery in America, it was not grassy; rather a grid of paths and individual plot landscapes. However it was more familiar with similar gravestones and modest markers than the cemetery I explored in Rome. I browsed around for a little while, looking for any Lindemanns to see if I could find anyone new. I didn’t spot any and the cemetery was not that old, most burials within the last hundred years and only two or three plots with birhts in the late 1700s. This was a bit disappointing – I even went back later in the day and checked every row, no Lindemanns and no other cemeteries in Kandel.

_DSC0007.JPG     _DSC0031.JPG

After skimming the north edge of town I walked to St. Georgskirche (St. George’s Church), the landmark church in Kandel, parts of which date back to 1468. The largest Gothic church in the region, it has been largely rebuilt more than one time. For about a hundred years the church was home to both the Protestant and Catholic congregations until 1957, when a new Catholic church was built in Kandel and St. George’s reverted back to purely Protest. I was hoping there would be an older cemetery of some sort by the church. Instead it was surrounded by a small parking lot – but a very attractive one, neatly paved in cobblestone that could very well function as a public plaza.

I continued on walked a few blocks of Hauptstraße, the main street running through town lined with real timber frame homes and businesses stretching from city end to end. I noticed there was very little activity today – I would walked blocks without seeing anyone. I later realized it was May 1 – May Day, which evidently is a national holiday in Germany. A bustling main street scene would’ve been nice – or at least open businesses – but oh well.

I made my way to the southeast corn of town and than down south along Lauterburger Straße, what I’ll call the “South Duff of Kandel” (Ames reference) because it was lined on the east side with the town’s “big box” stores and businesses. These included an Aldi, a Netto discount market, a small car dealership – not exactly Target, Walmart, and Best Buy, but they’ll do.

_DSC0059.JPG     _DSC0085.JPG

I made my way back west as I was making a huge clockwise loop around the town. I came upon a nice community park with a decorative pond and playground that were under renovation. Adjacent was a soccer field and two school buildings – one that I assumed to be the equivalent of a high school had a very neat new addition. The southwest corner bordered a large nature park forest dissected by several linear paths. I decided to walk down one for about 2 km, where I came upon a restaurant building and small beer garden in the middle of the forest (photo above right). There was a big crowd today – the most people I had seen all day. I then headed back northward along a road, eventually making it back to Hauptstraße at its very western extent of being built up around.

Walking along Haupstraße from the western edge all the way to the east end took a while, but allowed me to see pretty much every corner and end of Kandel. The entire stretch is characterized by small one to two-story, traditional timber-frame structures. Except for the middle that is dominated by businesses, they are pretty much all single family houses. The northeastern corner of town is newer with lower profile homes and a few small, bland apartment houses. Heading back toward the hotel I passed the Kandel hospital and culture center.

It was really unfortunate I visited when everything was closed and no one was around. Considering my success at the cemetery, I was unable to find any other Lindemann traces, so the visit was a lot less personal thank I had expected, inevitably just a random small town I chose to see. I had a hard time finding any German food for dinner that night. Every restaurant I came upon that was open was, believe it or not, Italian! There were a few fast food kabab/pizza place on the main street, but I eventually found “Candle’s Lounge” in a small beer garden complex. It was awkward and boring eating alone, but it was dinner.

Due to the gloomy weather and lack of pretty much any livelihood I initially felt a bit disappointed in my Kandel visit, but appreciate the experience as I look back. Sunday morning I was considering attending church at St. Georg’s even though it’d be in German. I ended up sleeping in instead, which I now really kind of regret. It would have been neat to experience – and finally see some people! I did end up going by on my way to the train station around 11am, thinking I could at least see the inside after the service (which began at 10). I got there just in time – when I went inside a few people were picking up and readying to leave. I’m curious if they would’ve had any records or displays that I could’ve learned more about the history and potentially my ancestors, but I wasn’t able to look around as they were closing. I’m glad I did get to see inside though; it was a good last impression of Kandel.

IMG_2229.JPG     _DSC0032.JPG

Aside from my own experience of literally just walking around all day long, Kandel was a really interesting visit to see a German small town and how they differ immensely from similar sized cities in the U.S. Although it appeared like a dead town when I was there, it actually seemed like an incredibly vibrant city. [I’m surmising] by resisting the over reign of chain restaurants, stores, and other businesses, a lot more of the economy is maintained locally, in addition to a remarkable national rail transportation system, small towns can stay viable and flourish. The quality and maintenance of public infrastructure is also very impressive. Kandel had a large stock of historic German timber frame buildings, which was also delightful to see.

See all my photos from Kandel here.

Stuttgart

IMG_2121.JPG

Stuttgart is Germany’s sixth largest city and the capital of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. Besides a short stop in Frankfurt to change from a bus to a train, Stuttgart was the first place I visited in Germany and it left a pretty good first impression. I arrived there afternoon on Friday, April 30, after a day of travel via plane, bus, and train from my spring semester home in Rome. My entry was through Stuttgart’s Hauptbahnhof (main train station), located of course near the old city center and next to expansive Schloßgarten, a 600 year old palace garden now containing several cultural facilities like the State Theatre and Art Gallery. The garden is bordered on the west side by Königstraße, the” main street” of Stuttgart that is a bustling pedestrian zone dominated by retail.

IMG_2153.JPG     IMG_2164.JPG

Central Stuttgart has a wonderful sense of place with mostly calm, pedestrian-scaled streets and a wealth of public spaces. Despite some light rain, it was pretty active this late Friday afternoon, especially on Königstraße. The city center is a good size and nice mix of old and new. Marktplatz is a large, but intimate space tucked away in the old streets of the inner city, surrounded by mostly contemporary buildings (it was damaged heavily during WWII) including the rebuilt and recently renovated Rathaus (city hall). The general public is able to go freely inside the Rathaus where there were exhibits on city redevelopment proposals and a small art gallery on the ground floor. A block away from Marktplatz is the Markthalle, a large enclosed market building. Originally completed in 1914, it was heavily damaged in WWII and rebuilt in 1953. It is very bright and clean inside with around 50 stalls.

IMG_2123.JPG     IMG_2127.JPG

I mostly just walked around that evening (and checked out the Straßenbahn), but also enjoyed some live music. After having supper at a small, casual burger place I went back to a basement jazz club I had passed earlier. The “Oldtime Jazz Quintett” was playing that night at the Traditonal Jazz Hall. The place was not very busy with mostly groups of older couples (they also served German fare so I regretted not just going here for dinner). Instead I just had a German beer with my jazz. The group played several numbers I recognized including one of my favorites, “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck. It was a fun evening and good start to trip.

IMG_2175.JPG     Traditional Jazz Hall in Stuttgart

This was the extent of my visit to Stuttgart, but I was really impressed with what I saw. The city scale is appealing with a distinctive city center that despite modernization and reconstruction after WWII maintains its charm and sense of significance. Compared to my aesthetic perception of American cities of similar [population] sizes, Stuttgart really didn’t feel like such a large city because it lacked many of the negative aspects we usually associate with big cities in the United States – like traffic, ailing inner city neighborhoods, tall skyscrapers, and (in most cases) a physical and psychological disconnect between the urban core and surrounding areas. By maintaining its compact, human-scaled inner city (like most European cities) Stuttgart manages to accommodate the same kind of commerce, business, and industry without compromising good urban form and spaces that promote vibrancy, accessibility, and actual sense of community. The qualities of Stuttgart are things American cities aspire for, but (for most) are limited by existing urban form, political and individual will and of course the history that determined the structure and direction of urban growth and (re)development.

See all my photos from Stuttgart here. Next posts about Kandel, Munich, Berlin and more coming soon.

© 2019 URBAN THINKING

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑