Karlsruhe days two and three
30.11.2019 - 01.12.2019
Unusually for me I slept in this morning so was a little late meeting up for breakfast with Sonja. But we had plenty of time as we weren’t due to meet the rest of the group at the station until midday.
We left the hotel at 11.00 and as it was a lovely bright crisp morning decided to walk to the station. On the way we passed an attractive fountain by the former spa, the Hygieia Fountain, named for the Greek goddess of health.
The Hygieia Fountain
Trailer parked outside the spa
Tower on the spa building, and in the Stadtgarten
South of the spa we turned off the main road to walk through a pleasant park, the Stadtgarten, crossing a bridge by the Asian elephant enclosure at the zoo, where elderly elephants go to retire - a sort of elephant care home I guess.
When the others joined us at the station we caught the train to Bruchsal, about twenty minutes away.
On the train to Bruchsal ~ Christine, Sonja and Berndt
On the train to Bruchsal ~ Chris, Natalie, Sue and Phil
There we visited the palace, which has its own small railway station. Schloss Bruchsal was constructed in 1720 as a residence for the Prince-Bishops of Speyer. The then Prince-Bishop, Damian Hugo von Schönborn, was an avid art collector and played an important role in planning the complex. The palace suffered badly during the Allied bombing of this region in World War Two and was re-built in 1954.
Schloss Bruchsal from the entrance
We approached along an avenue lined with stone sculptures in a classical style. We thought they might be Greek or Roman gods but learned later that they depict the four seasons and the four elements.
Stone sculptures, Schloss Bruchsal
The fountains were unfortunately turned off (for the winter, I assume) but the sandstone building still looked impressive, and as we walked around it to the entrance on the far side I found some lovely details to photograph, the gold gleaming in the sun.
Detail of the gate, and Sonja taking photos
Here we divided. A few of the group stayed outside as they are keen geo-cachers, while the rest of us opted to go into the house, where there is a lot to see – the palace itself, two museums (one of local history and one devoted to mechanical music devices) and temporary exhibitions. Today the latter was all about Lego, so we decided to skip that and just visit the house and museums.
At the heart of the palace is its stunning staircase, designed by Balthasar Neumann in 1728 and considered unique in Baroque architecture. Its twin flights ascend on either side of an oval space, with an ornately painted dome above. This depicts scenes from the history of the Prince-Bishops of Speyer, beginning with Jesse, the first bishop, in the 4th century.
Climbing the staircase, and the painted dome above it
On the first floor is a series of staterooms, all richly decorated. The first one we went into, the Marble Hall, is particularly magnificent. It gets its name from the combination of real stone and stucco marble, and is an excellent example of the Rococo style at its best.
The Marble Hall
A young couple were having wedding photos taken in another of the main rooms, the Royal Hall. One docent said we could take photos, which I did, until another docent got quite angry with us for doing so!
The smaller rooms are furnished according to their intended use, with beds, cabinets etc. I especially liked a pair of cabinets inlaid with mother of pearl in one of these rooms.
Detail of tapestry
Through the windows
On the floor above is the history museum. I confess I merely skimmed much of it, especially the prehistoric and geological exhibits. More interesting was the material on the local prison, one of the highest security gaols in Germany to this day, and a collection of photos showing the scale of the destruction of Bruchsal during WW2 and the huge reconstruction effort at the palace in its aftermath. There were also some lovely old religious statues, including one of the Virgin Mary from the 15th century.
15th century statue of Mary, and organ that should have been on the Titanic!
Our final visit in the palace was to the Mechanical Music Museum, where many of the exhibits are still in working order and can be ‘played’.
We were all fascinated by a mechanical organ which was built for the Titanic – the only reason it isn't on the bottom of the sea is that the manufacturers didn't get it finished in time!
The mechanical organ in action
After visiting the museum we rejoined those who had stayed outside in the park, geo-caching, and walked into the town to the small Christmas market. There we split up, some to eat at the market and others, including me, to have a light lunch in a Brauhaus nearby, with a particularly good Schwarzbier.
Schwarzbier und Wurstsalat in the Braushaus
There was time for a quick look around the market and a snack of chocolate dipped strawberries before heading to the main station to catch a train back to Karlsruhe.
At the Christmas market in Bruchsal
Karlsruhe’s Christmas Market
After a break back at the hotel I met up with the others at the Stadtkirche, the Evangelical church in the Marktplatz, I arrived early, as I usually do, and my eye was caught by a poster advertising an Advent exposition of the Karlsruhe Angel, so I went inside for a look. A broken figure of an angel (torso, head and wings) sat in front of the altar, surrounded by burning candles, but I couldn’t find any explanation of the figure in either German or English. When our local friends arrived I asked them about it and Andrea told me that this is a plaster replica of a statue of an angel destroyed by the bombing in WW2. The original was found in this damaged state by some teenagers, and is now hidden away for safe-keeping, hence the plaster copy.
We walked to the nearby Christmas Market, the main thing that had brought us together here for the weekend. We enjoyed a Glühwein together before splitting up for 30 minutes or so to browse the stalls - it was far too crowded to explore as a group. I used the time to buy some marzipan chocolates as a small gift for Chris and to take some photos of the beautifully decorated stalls - much more elaborate than at the German markets we get in the U.K., I thought.
Stalls at the Christmas Market
At the Christmas Market
At one point I heard an announcement that Father Christmas would be arriving so I stopped my browsing and looked up to see his sleigh flying in on wires from the roof of a nearby shopping centre.
Father Christmas arrives!
From the market we walked to the restaurant where we had a dinner reservation, Salmen. We had a table in a quiet back room, perfect for conversation, and great service from our young waiter. I really enjoyed my Schnitzel and glass of Riesling, as well as the excellent company.
After dinner my local friends pointed out which tram I could take back to the Marktplatz. It was only two stops but we had walked a lot and besides, the trams were all free today as part of a city initiative to encourage people to visit the markets. What a super day!
Time to go home
I slept somewhat less soundly on my second night at the Hotel am Markt, finding the room a little warm and the bed a little soft. But at least it meant there was no chance of oversleeping and I was prompt in joining Sonja at breakfast.
After a leisurely meal we checked out. Although the skies were cloudy, with none of yesterday’s cheerful sunshine, it was dry, so we decided to walk to the station rather than take the tram. We arrived in time for me to grab a quick drink in the Costa coffee shop before I had to catch my train to Frankfurt Airport. Our friends Natalie and Chris arrived before I had to leave so I was able to say goodbye to all three before heading to the platform.
Karlsruhe Hbf - time to go home
My train left more or less on time and despite a delay in Mannheim was only a couple of minutes late arriving at the airport. With lots of time before my flight I enjoyed a leisurely lunch of frankfurters (it seemed appropriate!), potato salad (my favourite German dish) and another Schwarzbier at the Goethe café.
Lunch at Frankfurt Airport
The plane took off on time, ascending rather bumpily through the clouds. There was quite a bit of turbulence during the flight but no delays. I refused the sandwich offered as a snack, still too full of frankfurter and potatoes!
Coming in to land at Heathrow
With no baggage to collect at Heathrow and a very short queue at immigration, I was on the Tube very soon after landing and home within the hour after an excellent little break. This ‘Glühwein meet’ is an annual event and I will surely try to go again!