Monday, 3 September 2012

castle week: baden-württemberg

Writing a little bit on these themes has not only illustrated to me how difficult it must be to pick a representative landmark from such a diverse lot, despite whatever common-thread may connect them, but also shows what I’ve yet to experience first-hand and the sites and associated stories that I’ve only had the chance to touch upon just once and years prior and many places are definitely worth the trip to see again and anew.
The diverse land of Baden-Württemberg with Swabia, the Black Forest, Lake Constance (Bodensee) has a wealth of sites to offer, not the least being the paperweights of politics and trade of its ancient houses. Stuttgart was sometimes seat of the kings of Würrtemberg with its old and new castles located in the city centre and featured spectacles to impress, extravagance and decadence of courtly legend to help forge alliances.
To my mind, the partially restored castle of Heidelberg never constituted a ruin—though it was already regarded and esteemed as such, and a worthy attraction for hundreds of years prior—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Victor Hugo and Mark Twain and others mentioning it in their travel logs. There are actual two ruins—the upper fortification has mostly succumb to the heavily wooded hillside and was destroyed by lightning in 1537 and the lower structures by battles waged in the 30 Years’ War, a conflict with roots in the protestant reformation and the question of succession in France and the Holy Roman Empire (the tensions which courtiers in Stuttgart tried to placate), and another errant lightning bolt.
Surely, there is a lot of romanticism connected with ruins, like the shipwrecks of empire and ambition, and somehow what’s left untouched and in disrepair allows the stories to be more intact. It seems at least that more people had more to say about their impressions of Heidelberg castle than many others. The other sometimes royal residence of Würrtemberg’s rulers was located in the expansive Baroque palace in the Stuttgart suburb of Ludwigsburg, commissioned with the style and proximity to the urban capital as the Palace of Versailles has to Paris. Two other palatial estates are located on the palace grounds but the surrounding parks and gardens are so huge, noble neighbours would never disturb one another.