Heilbronn

With exactly one month to go until my birthday (aarrghh!!), I really need to get a move on with my 30 German Towns Before 30 posts! Here’s one that I visited a few years ago!

Heilbronn is located in north-western Baden-Württemberg on both banks of the River Neckar. It’s best known for its wine-making industry, and the very first time I went there was for that very reason – it was the week of the annual Weindorf (literally Wine Village) festival and some ex-colleagues had arranged to meet up for a tour of the vineyards followed by wine tasting at the Weindorf. I wrote all about that trip to Heilbronn here, but without pictures which is why I’m re-doing Heilbronn for 30 German Towns Before 30.

Heilbronn is about 75-80 km from Karlsruhe, and is quite convenient to get to using public transport – there’s an S-Bahn (suburban train) that goes directly from one town centre to the other… and if you manage to get an Eilzug (express train) it’s even fairly quick, taking just over an hour.

Heilbronn/Karlsruhe Stadtbahn train pulling in...
Heilbronn/Karlsruhe Stadtbahn train pulling into the station outside of Heilbronn Hauptbahnhof (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I mentioned in the post I’ve linked to above, Heilbronn was bombed extensively during the Second World War, with 62% of the city being destroyed, including the old town area. Unfortunately, this means that, today, Heilbronn is nowhere near as pretty as most other towns in the region – admittedly one of the towns it has to compete with is Heidelberg, which makes things a little unfair! Here’s a photo taken from up in the vineyards. Heilbronn is down there somewhere:

Heilbronn from above
Heilbronn from above

And here are some of the grapes in vineyards:

Grapes, waiting to become wine
Grapes, waiting to become wine

After a guided tour of the vineyards, we went down into Heilbronn itseld for some wine tasting at the Weindorf. There were a lot of stalls selling wine down there, but all the ones we tried were from the same producer.

Welcome to the Weindorf!
Welcome to the Weindorf!

My second trip to Heilbronn was with Jan for the Christmas market – we had been to Bad Wimpfen that day and werde disappointed to find the market there closed so we headed to Heilbronn so I could get my Glühwein fix (he was driving). Before hitting the Glühwein stand, we took a walk down to the river where I took my only photos in the town that day. Sorry people of Heilbronn, but concrete and glass shopping centres do nothing for me! Here’s the Götzenturm (Götz Tower), which used to sit at the south-eastern corner of the city wall:

Götzturm, Heilbronn
Götzturm, Heilbronn

Being the middle of November, it started to get really dark soon after I took the photo above, so we went and looked round the Christmas market, failed to find any gifts then I had a Glühwein before we headed home. Here’s a terrible shot of the Christmas market, with a church in the background (all the photos in this post were taken with my old camera, which was even worse than my current one… and my current one isn’t the best!)

Christmassy Heilbronn
Christmassy Heilbronn

All in all, I can’t say Heilbronn is my favourite town in Germany, but if you’re into wine the Weindorf is worth a visit.

Rottweil

After looking around Nagold, we moved on to Rottweil, the oldest town in Baden-Württemberg. How old exactly? Well, it was founded by the Romans in AD 73. The town is famous for its medieval centre and one other thing. Can you guess what that other thing is?

I’ll give you a hint shall I…

Scupture outside the town museum
Scupture outside the town museum

Yes, it’s the Rottweiler breed of dog! It seems this kind of dog first became popular here then spread throughout the world. Rottweiler just means “of Rottweil” (in the same way that Berliner means “of Berlin… remember that speech?). Here are some more Rottweilers:

A Rottweiler and a puppy
A Rottweiler and a puppy

Sadly, I didn’t see a real one. Jan did, but it had disappeared around the corner before I could look.

One of the first things we came across after parking the car was the cathedral, or Minster (I’m not 100% sure of the difference.. if there is one?), so we decided to go in and have a look.

Heilig Kreuz Münster (Holy Cross Minster)
Heilig Kreuz Münster (Holy Cross Minster)

At one end of the cathedral, they had all these… staffs, I guess(?) for the various guilds, which I thought were pretty cool.

Rottweil guild staffs
Rottweil guild staffs

Sorry the photo isn’t the best… they were behind bars and I was afraid I’d drop my camera down the other side if I held it in there for too long!

On leaving the cathedral, we followed the signs for the centre. It turns out Rottweil used to be have an alliance with the Swiss Confederacy, which would explain why we saw a lot of things like this:

I don't know about you, but those wooden shutters just scream "Swiss" to me...
I don’t know about you, but those wooden shutters just scream “Swiss” to me…

Here’s the Schwarzer Tor (Black Gate). It used to serve as the women’s prison.

The Black Gate
The Black Gate

And this is the view you get when you look through it:

Looking through the Black Gate
Looking through the Black Gate

Rottweil is a fairly small town, but it’s beautiful! I don’t think I saw a single building in the town centre that didn’t have something that made it worth photographing… be it cute wooden shutters, a gorgeous display of flowers, an interesting old sign or some kind of decoration/painting. Here are some photos to show you what I mean:

After walking around for a while, we went to the Dominikaner Museum, which is included on our museum cards. They had an interesting exhibition about Roman Rottweil, including a Roman mosaic of the legend of Orpheus.

Orpheus mosiac
Orpheus mosiac

By the time we left the museum, we were hungry so we went in search of food. Jan suggested the Indian restaurant we had passed earlier in the day – Taj Mahal. It turned out to be the worst decision we’ve ever made. The service was slow, despite the restaurant being nearly empty and my curry tasted so sour that I couldn’t finish it, despite having not had lunch. So if you find yourself in Rottweil, don’t bother going to Taj Mahal!!

The town itself is definitely worth a look at though.

DSCN0747

Nagold

I suggested to Jan that we should go to Rottweil as it’s the oldest town in Baden-Württemberg (the German state we live in). He then suggested that, since it takes roughly an hour and a half to drive there, we should stop somewhere else on the way… and that’s how we ended up going to Nagold.

Buildings down by the river

The town of Nagold takes its name from the river that flows through the town. It’s known for its ruined castle, Hohennagold (which we didn’t see) and for the many half-timbered houses in the town centre. Can you guess why I wanted to go there? (Hint: It’s the same reason I love Tübingen…)

If your answer to the question above was buildings like this one, have a gold star!

The day we were in Nagold was right in the middle of their Kermes – a word that I wasn’t even able to find a translation for until I changed the spelling to Kermis, and even then it only took me to a Wikipedia article about the Dutch Kermesse! But, reading through the article, it seems to be the same thing. Basically, it’s a town fête or festival, usually in the form of a funfair although we didn’t see one in Nagold (if there were funfair rides, they wouldn’t have been directly in town). What we did see, were things like this:

Whale game

Judging by the other items that were lying around, the aim of the game was to throw rings into the mouth of this… whale? At least that’s what I think it was meant to be! A killer whale with a surf board…

Nagold is in the district of Calw, and with all the half-timbered houses, the two towns are pretty similar (click here to read about my trip to Calw). Most of our time in Nagold was spent just walking around taking photos. We tried to visit the town museum, but it turned out to be closed on Saturdays… because nobody would ever want to visit a museum on a Saturday. Clearly. Here, have some photos:

 

It had been raining quite heavily while we were in the car, but by the time we stopped in Nagold, it was only cloudy. Not bad considering the forecast was for nothing but rain all day!

After I had taken a photo of every single half-timbered house in the town (well… maybe not quite, but definitely a lot of them. What can I say? They’re just too pretty!), we decided to go for a coffee. We ended up at a place called Il Due, where I drank a Latte Macchiato with vanilla syrup and Jan had a cappucino. We didn’t eat there (although, in retrospect, I think we should have!) but the pizzas that were delivered to the table next to us looked – and smelled – amazing! But time was moving on and we still wanted to go to two places that day, so we paid for our coffees and headed back to the car. Next stop: Rottweil… but that’s a tale for another blog post.

Update from August 2014: I’ve decided to include this post in the Travel edition of the Expats Blog Hop over at Young Germany. Find the other entries here.

Quick Friday letters

I don’t have much time to write this. We’re catching a train up to Jan’s dad’s place soon and I have to wash the dishes before we go. Can’t leave them sitting here growing mould while I’m away… (Not that we’re away for long. I took two days off to go visit Jan’s family, only for him to then reveal that there was no point in going before today… yesterday was a total waste of a day’s holiday!)

English: Postman Pat letterbox! GR postbox on ...
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Dear May. You are definitely my favourite month of the year! Here in Baden-Württemberg, we get four whole public holidays! Random days off work without having to use any of my holiday? WIN!

Dear Ireland. See you in 36 days! Squeeee!

Dear quiz team. Speaking of Ireland, our flights are booked and accommodation is sorted for all but the very last night. This makes me happy… and more than a little excited!

Dear Dandelion & Burdock. I haven’t fogotten you, I’m just waiting for the right moment to treat myself.

Dear self. Cake is NOT a healthy breakfast.

OK, gotta run. Have a great weekend everyone! I’ll be back online on Sunday. 

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Thank you Catholics!

There are quite a lot of public holidays in Germany, certainly more than in Britain, but not all of them are holidays throughout Germany. All the non-religious ones (May Day, which is called Tag der Arbeit – literally Day of Work, i.e. Labour Day, Reunification Day – Germany’s national holiday, etc.) are holidays in the whole country, but for the religious ones it depends on whether the majority of people in your particular Bundesland are Catholic or Protestant. Bavaria, for example, is mostly Catholic and has more Feiertage than any other state in Germany (12). Berlin has the least with 8. And here in Baden-Württemberg, where theCatholic/Protestant ratio is pretty much even, we get 11 – one less than the Bavarians. Which is why I have a lot of lovely short weeks coming up. This Thursday is Christi Himmelfahrt (Ascension Day), one of the few religious holidays that everybody gets, and I’ve taken a bridge day* on Friday so I get a 4 day weekend this week. Fantastic! I then have a full week at work, followed by a three day weekend thanks to Pfingstmontag (Pentecost Monday). Then on Thursday 7 June it’s Fronleichnam (Corpus Christi). That week my colleague gets the bridge day, but I’ve taken the Monday and Tuesday off because I have visitors so I still only have a 2-day working week. Result! The only problem with all these holidays is that you start to miss them when you have to go back to five day working weeks for the three months afterwards (next public holiday after that will be Reunification Day on 3 October). But of course, there are actual holiday (vacation) days to be taken in between. After all, thanks to all the public holidays I’ll still have lots left despite all my three-day weekends! This is one aspect of German life that I will definitely miss if I decide to leave…

Bridge day: A day taken off to bridge the gap when a public holiday falls one day away from a weekend, meaning on a Tuesday or a Thursday. Apparantly this is an official English term – despite that fact that I had never heard of it before moving to Germany. This may have something to do with the fact that Britain sensibly moves most holidays to the Monday immediately after the actual holiday, meaning no arguments about who actually gets to have the bridge day. Everyone gets a long weekend. Some workplaces (only stae-run ones as far as I can tell) actually close on bridge days. My boyfriend’s is one of them but he usually insists on going to work anyway. No, I don’t get that either…

So this is the New Year…

We got back from Italy on Sunday and yesterday I was back at work. A little disconcerting going straight from being on holiday back to real life, but it was ok. And tomorrow I’m off again because it’s Three Wise King’s Day (or Epiphany as we English speakers tend to call it) which is a holiday here in Baden-Württemberg.

I actually have pretty high hopes for 2010. I wasn’t dreading going back to work yesterday (which, as some of you will know, is a definite improvement over this time last year) and I’m quietly optimistic that I’ll still have a job once my probation period is over – unless of course I’ve just jinxed myself by mentioning it on my blog. As for other aspects of my life… well, I have plans, but nothing really concrete to tell you yet so we’ll just have to wait and see. I have a notion that things may be looking up though.

So… resolutions… having utterly failed miserable on all of last year’s I’ve decided it to keep it simple this time. So my resolution for 2010 is just to be better. Less selfish, less self-critical, more emotionally intelligent, a better girlfriend… whatever. Just a better me in some way, however small. Surely even I can cope with something as general as that?

I also plan to complete my dissertation this year, but that’s not so much a resolution as something that has to be done whether I like it or not – and which I’ll probably end up doing all in one weekend right before the due date but let’s not talk about that for now…

A very happy New Year to all of you.

Grapes, glorious grapes

Yesterday I went to Heilbronn with some of my ex colleagues. The southern branches of the company had arranged to meet up and I was invited too. There were 10 of us in all. We had booked a walk through a vineyard, complete with guide, followed by wine tasting at the Weindorf (wine village), an annual wine festival that started in Heilbronn last week.

The tour started with a bus ride up the mountain, during which a female guide told us all about the town and especially about its history of wine growing. It seems Heilbronn was bombed to death in December 1944, which is why it’s now full of not particularly pretty modern buildings. A shame as it could be such a pretty town, located among the mountains as it is.

On the mountain we met with a male guide who we walked back down with, pausing every once in a while for him to explain something to us. We also got to try some of the grapes. That there on the left is a picture I took of some before we plucked and ate them. Close to the bottom of the mountain we were taken to a small winegrower’s residence where we were able to try our first wines, one white and one red. The woman explained what we were supposed to taste but as usual it just tasted like wine to me. Supposedly the white one was meant to have a hint of bell pepper in it(!) but I couldn’t taste anything like that. To be honest I’m quite pleased… pepper flavoured wine really doesn’t sound appealing to me! We then had a tour of their facilities before heading down the mountain, into town and to the Weindorf. At the Weindorf we were given some bread and cheese then had the chance to try six different sorts of wine – two red, one rose (there should be an accent there but I can’t make wordpress do one) and three white. The rose one, called Musketto, was very nice, as were two of the white ones whose names I unfortunately don’t remember. After the wine tasting we headed to Lehners for some food. I ate Käsespätzle, a  speciality from this region consisting of small dumplings with lots of melted cheese. Very nice – if you’re ever in Baden-Württemberg definitely give it a try. And of course we drank wine – what else? It just so happened that the wine we chose was made by the same people we’d just had a tour with! It wasn’t one of the wines they’d given us to sample though.

By the time we’d finished eating it was nearly 10pm, time to head home. I caught a tram back with the other people who had come from Karlsruhe, finally arriving home at about 11:30pm. I had a quick look at my photos to see whether any of them had actually worked (screen on the camera is still broken) then went to bed, where I was thankfully not bitten. I’m still itchy from where the mosquito got me on Friday night!