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Stuttgart


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Stuttgart (in the heart of the region of Germany informally called Schwabia) was our home for four years, so naturally it holds a special place in our hearts and our memories.

From the Britannica98 CD-ROM:

Stuttgart is the capital of Baden-Württemberg Land (state), in southwestern Germany, astride the Neckar River, in a forested vineyard-and-orchard setting in historic Swabia. It lies between the Black Forest on the west and the Swabian Jura to the south. There were prehistoric settlements and a Roman fort in the area of Bad Cannstatt (a suburb of Stuttgart), but Stuttgart itself originated as a Stuotgarten, a Gestüt, or stud farm, set up c. 950. A wine industry developed, and Stuttgart received civic rights after passing to the counts of Württemberg in the 13th century. It became the principal residence of the counts c. 1320 and after 1482 was successively the capital of the Württemberg county, duchy, kingdom, and Land. Prosperity in the 16th century was followed by a decline during the Thirty Years' War (1618-48) and the French invasions of Louis XIV (1681-84), from which it did not recover until the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century caused rapid expansion. The city centre was almost completely destroyed during World War II.

Historic buildings in the city, most of them rebuilt since 1945, include the old castle (13th century; rebuilt 1553-78), housing the Landesmuseum; the new palace (1746-1807); the Rosenstein Palace (1824-29), now the natural history museum; the Gothic St. Leonard's Church (1463-74), of the hall type; and the Stiftskirche (collegiate church), a 12th-century Romanesque basilica completed in the Gothic style (1436-95). Outside the city centre are Solitude Palace (Schlöss Solitude - 1763-67) to the west, and Hohenheim Palace (1768-85) to the south, now occupied by the College of Agriculture. Examples of modern architecture include the Weissenhof Estate (1927), the town hall (1954-56), the 633-ft (193-m) television tower (1955), and Stuttgarter Liederhall (concert and congress hall, built in 1954-56).

There is a technological college and academies for art, music, and architecture. Stuttgart is the site of the state art gallery, archives, library, observatory, opera, ballet, and the Wilhelma Botanical and Zoological Gardens. Stuttgart University was founded in 1829. The Daimler-Benz, Mercedes-Benz automobile factory (one of the world's oldest) and museum are in the suburb of Untertürkheim. The suburbs of Bad Cannstatt and Berg are health centres with many mineral springs, from which are exported bottled mineral water, and the famous Cannstatter Folk Festival is held in the Cannstatter Wasen (Cannstatt Meadows) every autumn.

An important rail junction on the natural route connecting the Danube with northern Germany and the Rhine, Stuttgart has a port (opened in 1958) and an international airport. It is the centre of the largest industrial zone in southwestern Germany and holds various trade fairs and congresses. Electrical engineering and motor vehicle and machine construction are of primary importance, and textiles, clothing, precision instruments (cameras, optical equipment), beer, luxury wooden and leather goods, shoes, musical instruments, chemicals, and paper are manufactured. Stuttgart is well known as a book centre and has numerous printing works and more than 200 publishing houses. One of the largest wine-producing communes (groups of growers who bring their grapes to a central location for processing and distribution) in Germany, it has an extensive wine and fruit trade. Pop. (1989 est.) 562,658.

 

Our migration to Europe was an interesting process. I was doing work for the folks from the Stuttgart MITRE office for a year or more, and had taken a few trips over to Stuttgart and Naples in support of that. The manager over there had asked if I wanted to transfer over, but I assumed that it would be a non-starter with Lynn, so I never even raised the subject with her. Then one day it came up in conversation and Lynn was really... really excited about it (surprised the heck out of me), so we started down that road.....

We arrived blindly (in more ways than one) in September 1991. We had heard rumors that housing was difficult to find, and that some families had lived in hotels for months while they looked for housing, so when the office manager called to say that she had found an apartment that seemed to fit our needs (3 or more bedrooms, close to the school the girls would be attending, close to public transportation, etc.), we jumped at the chance and signed the lease via fax sight unseen, even before we left the US. We figured that even if it was a dump, we could move in a year if we didn't like it. But we did like it, and we stayed there for our entire four years - we even had to fight the landlord to stay (more on that later).

Click here to see a map of the area where we lived...

Our house was what we call a townhouse in the States (in Germany it was referred to as a row-house); basement, ground floor, 1st floor, loft, in a row of five identical townhouses, all attached. We lived in a southern suburb of Stuttgart called Möhringen, on Balingerstraße. The basement was rough concrete walls and ceiling, and sticky carpet over the concrete floor. A bit spartan, but it made a great playroom for the kids, and a corner of it was reserved for an office for me. We also had a cool-room down there (where we kept the beer and wine), and the utility room where the furnace, hot water heater, and washer-dryer were.

The ground floor had the kitchen (very small - room for one person to work), a half-bathroom, and a large combination living-room / dining-room, with a patio out the back that led to a tiny back yard. The first floor (in Europe the "first" floor is the first floor above the ground floor - what we would call the 2nd floor) had three small bedrooms, one with a balcony overlooking the tiny back yard, and a full bathroom. The loft was in the attic, and it was another bedroom - this one large - with skylights. Also up there was a storage space under the front eaves.

All in all it was a great little townhouse, heated by natural gas (forced hot water). Construction over in Germany is almost exclusively concrete, so it was a solid, dense place, and almost impossible to hear anything from the neighbors (except when the next-door neighbor was playing his drums or saxophone). The only thing we struggled with were the German appliances and the kitchen. For all their technical know-how, Germans don't know how to build appliances. We had a "full-sized" German refrigerator, which to us was little more than a dorm-sized toy. Most German fridge's are meant to be built into a cabinet up high, so you can reach them, but ours was free-standing on the floor, so I had to get down on my hands and knees to get stuff out of the lower shelves. The top of the fridge was at my waist. We put the microwave on top of it and used it as a countertop extension. The oven was also quite small by our standards (not enough room to cook a decent 16-lb. turkey), as were the washer-dryer. The washer could handle maybe five shirts at a time, and the cycle took well over an hour.

We lived in a great neighborhood. The school that the girls attended (the International School of Stuttgart - ISS) was about 4 blocks from the house. We had all sorts of shops and restaurants within a short walk, and two subway/streetcar stops (called the "U-Bahn"). Every morning I would walk to the U-Bahn stop and ride the train to the next town (Vaihingen), where I would hop off the train and hop on a bus for a short ride to the gates of the US military base where I worked. In the evening I would reverse the process. Very convenient. It also meant that Lynn could have the American mini-van we brought over with us and we didn't have the expense of a second car. There was a getranktmarkt (literally, the drink market - a place to buy beer, juice, and other drinks) across the street, and a vegetable market, and the Saturday morning open-air market was two blocks away. I would walk down on Saturday morning and buy Bretzeln (soft German pretzels) - sometimes giant ones a foot across.

We had a dozen restaurants within walking distance of our house - all spectacular. They ranged from the German equivalent of a 99 restaurant called Wienerwald (literally, The Vienna Woods) which was a chain owned by the same company that used to own Lums restaurants over here, all the way to a Michelin 4-star gourmet restaurant that we could only afford to eat lunch in, with everything in between. There were Italian restaurants, and southern German style restaurants, and trout restaurants, and others, all within walking distance. We even had a Gyro fast-food with great Greek sandwiches.

We spent our first six months in Germany trying to get to know our neighbors better. They seemed a bit stand-offish and aloof - not unpleasant, but also not overly welcoming and friendly. It turns out that the Schwabian German custom is the exact opposite to the American "Welcome Wagon" way of greeting new neighbors. In Schwabia, the new neighbors are supposed to reach out first and introduce themselves. Nobody told us this, but we stumbled on the secret by accident. After six or more months of getting little or no reaction to our eye contact and verbal greetings on the street, we took the bull by the horns and invited all our neighbors to an American 4th of July barbecue, with hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken, and American beer (Bud long-necks) for comic relief (offering American beer to a German is like offering a Ferrari owner a ride on your motor scooter). It was a b-i-g hit. They're probably still talking about that party! We finally got to meet all our neighbors, and became friends with most of them - and life-long best friends with some. And the hit of the party? The twist-off caps on the Bud long-necks! German beer does not come in twist-off bottles. All the beer got opened that day. Not all the beer got consumed, but all the twist-offs were twisted off!

Stuttgart was a great place to live. There was always something going on, and there was something for everyone. From the world-famous Christmas Market (die Weihnachtsmarkt) in the center of town, to the Cannstatter Volksfest - Schwabia's answer to the Oktoberfest, and everything imaginable in between.... Kraut fests, onion fests, wine fests, fish fests, and on and on.

A Fest Tent At the Volksfest
The International Garden Show
Carnival Rides at the Frühlingsfest
Look What Parked In Front Of Our House!

 

September - October 1999

Everyone in the world has heard of the Oktoberfest in Munich (München), but fewer people know that the 2nd largest beer festival in the world happens just two hours north-west of Munich, in Stuttgart - at about the same time! The Cannstatter Volksfest is a combination harvest festival, beer festival, and monster carnival, all rolled into one. In addition to the three main beer tents (one for each major brewery in Stuttgart; Dinkelacker, Schwabian Braü, and Stuttgarter Hofbraü), there are 6-8 smaller beer tents. The big tents hold upwards to 10,000 people (as do the tents at Oktoberfest in Munich) and have 8-20-piece bands playing all the time. The smaller tents have smaller bands, and seat from 500-3000 people. The carnival rides are incredible, and there are so many of them. There are lots of what I call puke-bucket rides; rides that spin you around and around and upside down and such that your stomach does a walk-out protest out of self-preservation! They also have the largest mobile ferris wheel in the world.

I went down to the fest on Sunday (the day before I flew home) for a few hours, had a maas (a big liter mug) of Dinkelacker festbier and a couple of Münchener Weißwursts (white sausages). It had rained previously, and the clouds were threatening all the time, but it never really rained while I was there. Here are some pictures from my walkabout...


This is inside the Dinkelacker fest tent, where I had my beer and wursts. The green decorations hanging from everything are hops plants - how appropriate!


Outside the big tents, each brewery had a fest wagon on display with horses and everything. This was the Dinkelacker one.....


One of the many scary fun-houses at the fest. Remember as you look at these - this is all temporary and only lasts for 3 weeks. Once its over all these rides and beer tents get torn down and the place is back to an empty field...... until the Frühlings (Spring) Fest!!


The Space Roller - one of the many puke-bucket rides I mentioned. The dangly things are people's legs being swirled around......


Fish on a stick! Roasted over charcoal. Yum!!

 

 

January 2000

I returned again to Stuttgart for a few days on business (9-12 January). This time I stayed at the Copthorne Hotel at the Stuttgart International (SI) plaza in Möhringen. Nice hotel, but a tad on the expensive side, and they charge extra for everything (parking, breakfast, etc.). I visited one evening with our old neighbors Gerhard and Ursula, and worked every day. Not much else. A quick trip with no photos to show for it - it was raining shlushy snow the whole time. Yuck.

 

April 2000

Lynn and I returned to Stuttgart together for a week's vacation that was part of a business trip for me. We spent one week visiting old friends and old sights, and then Lynn flew home and I spent another week working. 

We arrived in Germany on the 30th, and spent the afternoon settling into the hotel (the Romerhof in Vaihingen). That evening we visited with our former neighbors, Gerhard and Ursula, in Möhringen. It was an early night because we had been up most of the previous night flying.

Friday, I went into the office to work, and Lynn spent the day visiting with her friend from the Kelley Theater, Jennifer. For the last two years we lived in Möhringen, Lynn was the costume mistress for the Kelley Theater Group, and Jennifer worked with her. Now Jennifer is the Costume Mistress! That evening, we attended a performance of Neil Simon's Rumors at the Kelley Theater......

The Marquee outside the theater on Kelley Barracks in Mohringen
Panorama of the stage set for Rumors
The Kelley Theater Group's Trophy Case!
Lynn's last show as Costume Mistress was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.... and guess who we found in the trophy case!

We also spent two days trekking around with Gerhard and Ursula, to the Black Forest and to various towns in the Schwabian Alps.

 

 

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