Baden-Württemberg, Germany’s third largest state, would require more than a few days to explore in its entirety. Nevertheless, staying close to base it is quite easy to plan day trips to neighbouring cities to allow for wide-ranging, albeit superficial impressions of the state. When an area grabs me, I take note of it so I can plan return trips and future in- depth explorations of architecture, history and tradition, both cultural and religious.
Baden-Württemberg has a population of 10.79+ million people, a little more than Canada’s second largest province of Quebec with its 8 million+ inhabitants according to 2012 stats. Consider Germany’s total population of 81.8 million versus Canada’s 34.48 million (2011 stats) and you get an idea.
Each city, town and village has its unique cachet. Let me walk you through two cities and a couple of villages I wandered through during the last month.
With a population of 374,000, this predominantly Protestant city is located in the north-eastern part of Baden-Württemberg. Schwäbisch Hall’s medieval beginnings are unclear. Around 1280 it was declared free from any authority to a local lord and came henceforth directly under Imperial authority (Roman Holy Empire, although there is still debate about this among historians as it was rather difficult to understand what this Empire entailed). There are fifth century BC vestiges of Celtic salt works, shutdown in 1924, although the town still celebrates a “Salt Day” in July and October.
Fires destroyed many of the wooden structures of the city.
Today we can see the Baroque-style city hall. In the market place there is a shaming post and the Romanesque St. Michael’s church with its impressive staircase, consecrated by the Bishop of Würzburg in 1186.
Much of the old town survived the WWII bombings, which were mostly concentrated in an area outside the town, in the neighbourhood of a small concentration camp.
During Kristallnacht (9-10 November 1938), the Synagogue was burnt down and the oratory in the Herngasse was laid to waste.
A commemorative tile with the star of David can be seen on the pavement of the market place. Many commemorative plaques honouring Jewish families can be found throughout the downtown area. Unfortunately the unseasonably cold and rainy weather weren’t exactly conducive to extensive walks to the various plaques and mementoes.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s paternal ancestors hailed from Schwäbisch Hall. Originally from the Netherlands, they settled here in the 17-18th Century. They were an influential academic family belonging to the town’s elite.
Unfortunately some pictures pertaining to the last two points were taken with my cell phone which disappeared that same day…
With its population of around 613,400 (2o11 Statistics) this sixth largest city of Germany, it is the capital of Baden-Württemberg.
I must admit that I wasn’t impressed… we made the trip as a courtesy to fellow-travellers and in the end it proved to be a waste of time. The city’s historical centre is largely non-existent but bearing in mind that it suffered much destruction under the bombings of WWII, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there isn’t much left of the old town.
The palace and fountain are
remarkable and today houses
One church was rebuilt and renovated; the outside maintained the original look while the inside was dressed in a modern look – an interesting combination.
Remains of the Stiftschurch after the bombings.
I suspect that to really enjoy noteworthy sights and appreciate the city, it would be helpful to be guided by a local citizen.
(Burg)Weihungszell and Sießen im Wald
Is a small predominantly Catholic hamlet of about 300 people, tucked away between the hills and about 2.5 kms from my village. The Burg no longer exists. Because of its location the hamlet is not readily accessible and therefore well hidden. I would probably choose to live here were I to move from my present location…
As small as it is, Weihungszell has a lovely home for the elderly idyllically located near the edge of a forest. Riding my bicycle through the hamlet towards the wood, I met one of the home’s elderly resident on her daily walk regimen. “It’s so serene here” she commented, “one is truly renewed and refreshed from the chaotic bustle of the world. I love it here, it’s so quiet that one can hear the silence and bask in the natural tranquility.”
Apparently this village died out after the Thirty-year war but slowly people started arriving from Tirol and resettled in the area. I the early 1800s it belonged to the state of Bavaria and later on, around 1830s, was joined, together with the city of Ulm, to Baden-Württemberg. So, Weihungszell may be small and hidden but rich in its history!
Sießen im Wald, inked to Weihungszell and nearby villages, is perched on a hill 546 m high (1791 ft). Although largely Protestant, its claim to fame is the Catholic church Saint Mary Magdalene, which can be seen from a distance regardless from which direction one travels. Building started in 1907 by reusing the existing 1709 structure as chancel and completing the church in the original Baroque-Rococo styles. From its height, the church beckons the faithful reminding them not to neglect their spiritual well-being, and that in the everyday business and stress of life they can find rest and renewal. Sießen im Wald became part of the community of Schwedi in 1972.
First mentioned in 1259, this predominantly Protestant village of about 1,550 inhabitants it is located 10 kms from my village. Home to a small, privately owned castle, it boasts several old farms.
One cattle farmer has received several prizes for his healthy and high quality livestock,
which is proudly displayed on one of the stable door.
As in other towns, Wain has its village fountain in front of the Rathaus
and strolling through the streets and park, we were impressed with the peacefulness of the place, despite two fairly busy roads that link to the city of Memmingen, Wain is said to
have the most beautiful Protestant church in Upper Swabia, with its unique bronze door and structure by world-renowned sculptor Ulrich Henn: http://www.ulrichhenn.de/bioEng.html
For its size, this village as an excellent infrastructure. superior to my village (pop. 2,000+). You can find most amenities in Wain, and sports and civic life are very prominent. The village’s external calm belies a bustling centre of activities!
In a future post I’ll take you through some Bavaria wanderings and the castles, of course!
Before calling on my Canadian branch of the family in July, I hope to finally post my impressions on the visit to Flossenburg’s concentration camp.
Until then, warm and summery greetings from Regglisweiler.