Friday, May 10, 2013


One of the great things about living abroad for 6 months is having the chance to visit places off the tourist path. Last weekend, J, J's colleague Bill visiting from Utah, and I took a day trip to Karlsruhe, a city in northwestern Baden-Württemberg, near the French border. My Uncle Jim was stationed in Karlsruhe in the 1950s (the U.S. Army finally left in the 1990s).

The day began with a crowded and noisy train ride filled with high-school kids and twenty-somethings having their first festive beers as they traveled to Stuttgart's Frühlingsfest. The first time we had seen train-goers in lederhosen and bar maiden gear, we had assumed they were going to work at the beer festival -- after all, J used to live in Colonial Williamsburg, so we have the notion that only the employees wear the terribly clichéd historical costumes. But, in fact, Germans of all ages do like to wear folk garb at beer festivals.

When we arrived in Karlsruhe we got a little lost and ended up the cinema multiplex. I wanted to eat here (as I'd never seen a wall of fries before) but was out-voted.

The design museum, our main destination, is part of an architecturally rich three-museum complex, the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie. Just close your eyes and imagine "German modern art museum." The space was vast.

And the gardens were nice.

We quickly ran through the city art museum. Germans drink more coffee than any other beverage -- yes, even that one -- even if they trail the Finns in per capita consumption -- and it shows in their art.

One painter had my last name. My ancestors hail from these parts, but my genealogy research team hasn't found the connection. Nice painting, though, and sort of reminds me of grandma's art.

The design museum offers a series of interactive computer exhibits. I don't think most people consider it a history museum, but touring it with two computer scientists who research virtual reality turned it into one. We had fun with cameras and computers and screens. 

They had lots of old video games and computers, too.

We spent five minutes in the third (modern art) museum, suffering the indignity of the greeter's comment (especially given that our German lessons [now a group class] have resumed): "If you speak no German, I can speak English." Then we walked to Karlsruhe's main Kunsthalle. J was not particularly enamored of the German "masters" and their proclivity for painting gory religious images, but the Dutch collection is solid. Sure, it may not include a Bruegel, but any old depiction of the frozen Dutch canals in good with me.

On the clock now, we raced to the Schloss, built by an absolutist, tulip-loving, and philandering Margraviate of Baden-Durlach (as you know, a Margraviate was a principality in the Holy Roman Empire that did not enjoy elector status).

Germany has a lot of castles, so they've gotten creative about raising funds. 

I don't think "just married" is the real German phrase, but I can tell you that "Partyservice" is.

Karlsruhe ended on a high note. In an otherwise forgettable Italian restaurant, with a pizza only OK by my new inflated standards, and yet another forgettable Pils, this one a Stauder from Essen, I discovered an actual German, top-fermented, copper-brown ale! [Bloggers's note: I later learned, drinking the bottle I bought in the train station, that the local Pils in Karlsruhe -- Hoepfer -- is quite good, one of the "hoppiest" you can find over here.] Like using the line over a vowel to denote a long sound, writing thank you notes, keeping score at baseball games, and supporting rigorous environmental regulation, Altbiers are relics, in this case of the bygone era before the triumph of lager yeast in the nineteenth century. Altbiers have all of 1% of the market share in Germany, despite being dominant in Dusseldorf. My Diebels Alt from Issum, northwest of Dusseldorf, wasn't as hoppy as I like my ales (no surprise there) but was excellent nonetheless. One of J's favorite breweries actually makes the stuff, so anyone reading this in Windsor please take note.

The excursion as a whole ended on a low note. The Frühlingsfest kids were subdued on the train ride home, having imbibed all day. But the drunk and drinking and singing and worst of all clapping fans of VfB Stuttgart were incredibly obnoxious, not even shutting up when an elderly couple asked them to -- this despite the fact that Stuttgart lost 2-0 that day to the LAST place team in the Bundesliga, SpVgg Greuther Fürth (Fürth is a small city next to Nuremberg). I'm sorry to be a spoilsport, folks, but when grandma is forced to move in a very crowded train, something is wrong. Most of us have been drunk and loud on occasion but also able to cease and desist when publicly chastised. At the moment I'm not sorry we haven't made it to a Bundesliga game.

No comments:

Post a Comment