Sunday, August 31, 2014

Diese Woche in Kürze / Week in a Nutshell

31. August, 2014

This week I...

  • ...wrote letters to my children, who are now both in college. The hand-written kind of letters, sent via snail mail, that take 5-7 days to arrive.

  • ...startled my husband, who was watching TV in the living room, with a shocked gasp when I discovered a typo in a blog post I had just published. I apparently used my "OMG, SPIDER!" noise, because he leapt out of his massage chair to rescue me.

  • ...spent a day in Stuttgart (walking through the Rosensteingarten, a huge park) and Herrenberg (wandering the Altstadt). Forgot to turn off my GPS tracker when I got on the train - AGAIN! - so the data is screwed up and I don't know how to fix it.

  • ...wrote the following memo: "Seriously, Fruit Flies, STOP drowning yourselves in my wine! I'm sick of it! And what is that noxious odor of nastiness you emit when you expire? Knock. It. OFF!" They didn't get the memo.

  • ...linked two of my day trip blog posts in a blog hop on Young Germany. Wondered whether I should be participating; I'd hardly call myself young!

  • ...wished from afar that I could have helped my son move into his college dorm on Thursday. Unlike a lot of parents who lose their minds a little when a kid (especially the youngest) goes off to college, I am nothing but totally excited for him and can't wait to hear about his experiences - the ones he's willing to tell me about.

  • ...learned that a 9-year-old accidentally shot and killed her weapons instructor with the Uzi (a semi-automatic machine gun?) he was teaching her to fire at the Bullets and Burgers gun range in Arizona, USA during a family vacation. Just when I thought I'd heard the most ridiculous of U.S. gun "regulations," I find out that children as of age 8 are allowed to fire semi-automatic weapons in Arizona. Boy, was I cheated out of a childhood. My parents didn't even let me play with matches at that age. All I had were dolls, model horses, and stuffed animals.

  • ...rode the Stuttgart U-Bahn for the first time.

  • ...attempted, with M's help, to bake my first Zwetschgendatschi (Bavarian plum cake) with Zwetschgen the neighbor shared with us from his plum tree. It wasn't bad!

  • ...successfully created and inserted a table on a page of my blog, so now I have a list of German words I commonly use here along with the English translations.

  • ...for the fifth time this summer, did not go to the historical city tour of Horb as I had planned. The first time I got the meeting point wrong. Twice, including today, it was chucking down with rain. Once there was a town festival going on and I couldn't find a place to park. Another time we'd had a big lunch at our favorite restaurant and I crashed on the sofa instead. I've got two more chances in September.

  • ...passed on another opportunity to drive on the Autobahn to Esslingen.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Day Trip 4: Herrenberg

Since Herrenberg is on the train route home to Horb from Stuttgart, it was a logical place to stop after my time in the big city. It has a pretty little Altstadt with lots of Fachwerkhäuser, a history I'm still getting to know, a beautiful church, remnants of the medieval wall that once protected the city, and an outlook platform which provides a nice view of the surrounding countryside and the Swabian Alb.

As always I made my way to the Stadtinfo first, where I picked up brochures and a map along with some tips from the woman behind the counter. Once again I forgot to ask her if she has any information in English! I want the brochures in German anyway, but if I'm going to recommend these towns in a blog that's aimed at English speakers, I should find out if there is information in English available!
Update: There is a brochure about the town and its attractions available at the Stadtinfo on the Market Square! With that and the town map (also available at the Stadtinfo), you will be able to enjoy a self-guided walking tour. See below for business hours.

Let me tell you this: Herrenberg is definitely worth a stop if you want to see and take pictures of beautiful cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered houses, a striking church, and a gorgeous Marktplatz. And once again, there are not many tourists here - the people who show up on your photos will be real Germans, not bus groups. You'll miss some of Herrenberg's charm if you don't know that it's known for narrow passageways and stone stairways linking its streets, squares, and courtyards.

Taking my brochures and map, I chose an outside table at an Eiscafe on the Marktplatz and sat down for a cappuccino.

This is where I learned about the stairways and passageways, which I had not noticed during my first short walk through town last winter. Instead of just walking past them again and ignoring them, I looked for interesting views for my camera.

am Marktplatz (on the Market Square)
The cafe where I had my cappucino is to the left.

Marktbrunnen (Market Fountain), Rathaus to the right,
Stiftskirche rising over the top of the Rathaus.

View of the other side of the Marktplatz
from the stairs leading up toward the Stiftskirche
Herrenberg is said to have one of the most beautiful market squares in Germany. The beautiful buildings were built after 1635, when the second great city fire destroyed nearly all of the Altstadt. The city was founded in 1276, and today the population is about 31,000.

After my cappuccino I went to the Stiftskirche. An organist was practicing for a Bach concert that evening, which created a nice atmosphere in the church. This was the first gothic hall church in Württemberg, and it was built in two phases ending in 1293 and 1328. The Schlossberg, the hill on which the church was built, is not stable and in fact is sliding ever so gradually. The church and the earth beneath it, therefore, are encroaching on the Altstadt (the old part of the town) by a millimeter each year.

I have discovered that I like arches and doorways.
As I was leaving the sanctuary after having taken several photos without flash, a woman who was available for questions and to keep things orderly and quiet approached me. I was expecting to get scolded for something, but she asked me, "Have you been upstairs?" I said no, but I would if I'm allowed. "Oh, you looked so professional, I thought maybe you knew your way around already. But you'll get a really nice view from up in the balcony." I certainly did not look professional in my capris, tanktop cover and backpack, but I had my "big camera" with me, pretending I know how to use it. Had I only brought my point-and-shoot, which I had considered that morning to lighten my load, I never would have seen the view from the balcony, which I surely did appreciate.

There is a Glockenmuseum (bell museum) in the tower of the church, but it's apparently only open on days I'm not in Herrenberg. It must be quite a popular and impressive exhibit, because the woman at the Stadtinfo was quite apologetic that it wasn't open that day. That just gives me another reason to return!

Then I climbed up to the lookout platform atop the former Pulverturm, or powder tower, as in gun powder. It's not at all a difficult walk, and I recommend it for the view and the lovely breeze. The walk up follows the remaining sections of the medieval wall, which are nice for artistic-type photos.
Here you see the baroque "onion top" of the church tower,
which replaced the original two gothic towers in 1749.

The view roughly south with the Swabian Alb in the far background.

Back down in the Altstadt I found some more pretty views, and one of the most unique stairways.

Tübinger Straße
Stuttgarter Straße

This is the Löwenstaffel. Staffel, or even better Stäffle, is Swabian for Treppe, or steps. Löwe means Lion, and the steps were named for the former inn located nearby. These steps were made of sandstone, and through use by people with hard-soled shoes, the steps got worn. The Swabians, as I have written before, have always been a frugal people. Instead of replacing the worn stones, they were flipped over around 1920 and nestled in a bed of mortar which has since eroded away. Over the years the steps became worn again, and now the stairway is blocked off by fences on both sides.

Unless you really want to delve into the history and take a guided tour of Herrenberg, you can probably see and photograph the sights in just a few hours with a stop for coffee and/or ice cream. Take your time. Look for unusual views - and don't forget to stop and look behind you! When you see a narrow passageway, go through it. When you pass a stairway, go up or down it. Therein lies part of Herrenberg's charm.

Stadtinfo Business Hours:
  Mon., Tues., Wed., and Fri.:  8:30 am to 12:00 pm
  Thursday:                               1:30 pm to 5:30 pm                    
  Closed on weekends.

P.S. I may be breaking a "never publish two posts in one day" blog law, but I went to both places the same day, and so this was really just a two-part post.

A Nature Walk in Stuttgart

On a tip from another expat blogger I hopped on the train yesterday to explore a huge park in Stuttgart. I've never found Stuttgart to be very attractive (but good for concerts & musicals, the Christmas Market, and shopping), and that's why I went - I wanted to see a pretty side of the big city!

Travel Tip:
I planned to stop in Herrenberg on the way back to explore its Altstadt, so I bought the MetropolTagesTicket for €20, which is valid on all slow trains and buses as well as the U-Bahn and S-Bahn for a large area surrounding Stuttgart - and includes Horb! It's a better deal with more people - each travel companion up to 4 pays just €4 additional, so adding even just one friend (or mother-in-law) to your day trip cuts your cost down to €12 (€24 for 2 travelers). If you happen to have 4 friends who want to galavant around a large part of Baden-Württemberg with you for a day, you each pay only €7.20!

I went first to the Tourist Info near the Hauptbahnhof on Königsstraße and picked up some brochures and a map. Armed with notes from the blog post about how to get to several parks, I found the U-Bahn (first time for me in the Stuttgart U-Bahn), got on the U14 toward Remseck, and got off at the Wilhelma (Stuttgart's Zoo). In hindsight I wish I had taken the U5 all the way to Killesberg Park even though the timing of this shorter walk worked out well.

It was a beautiful day (the only one this week) for a very nice walk through a gorgeous park. It was not crowded, but there were plenty people enjoying the day as I was - jogging, pushing prams, lying on the grass, sitting on one of the many benches, reading, feeding the water birds (the birds encouraged that behavior, though I don't think wildlife experts do), power-walking on their lunch break, schnuggling with a lover...

Mom and Dad forged a path through the slime for their young 'uns


There is something wonderfully romantic about willow trees.

This Children's Book Exchange Station is located near a pavilion for a children's program and playground. The instructions on the side tell children to first bring and leave a book, and then take one. An early lesson in the honor system AND a promotion of reading books!

Ah...Germany and her rules. On this stretch of grass, you may lie down and strike a sexy pose (or creepy, depending on how you look at it), but you may not let your dog loose or have a ball.

I'm sure there's a good reason for this.

Thus endeth my walk through the Rosensteingarten. I crossed a street and followed a sign to the Schloßgarten, but the only picture I took there was of some men playing chess on a huge chess board with pieces half as tall as they were. I haven't seen one of those in years.

At this point I was back near  the muddy abyss known as Stuttgart 21, and found a walkway leading back to the Bahnhof. Naturally the next train to Herrenberg was leaving three minutes from then and there was no way for me to get to the platform that fast, so I grabbed a sandwich at one of the kiosks and waited 30 minutes for the next S-Bahn.

Travel Tip:
Make at least one of your meals each day a grab-and-go. Get a sandwich from a kiosk and a bottle of whatever you want to drink from a grocery store, and you will save yourself time and money. If you buy your drink at the kiosk you'll pay more, so when you're walking around in the morning and notice a grocery store, pop in and grab a bottle of water. You might even find a bottle of Coke in the refrigerated drinks section of the store. If you get a cheap drink and a sandwich at a kiosk, you can have a filling-enough lunch for €5 or €6. Eat it on a park bench while you people-watch. Later in the afternoon when you need a rest, you can find a cafe and treat yourself to a coffee.

I love a good sit down meal in a nice restaurant, but when the purpose of my day trip is to explore towns and cities, I bring a small bottle of water from home and for lunch grab a sandwich - maybe a Leberkäsweckle, but usually a sub sandwich on good German bread! There are all kinds of options, and that day I went with Tomaten-Mozzarella mit Basilikum, so basically a caprese sandwich. Instead of a sit-down lunch where I would have felt obligated to buy a drink as well, would have tipped the waitress and taken an hour for lunch, I paid €3.60 and ate on the train, saving time.

So then...on to Herrenberg.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back OFF, Laddybuck!

I try really hard not to complain about anything over here, and quite honestly, I have very little to complain about. I'd have to make stuff up.

Other expat bloggers have mentioned the insane stress of being in the checkout line at the grocery store, and although I totally know what they're talking about, I'm pretty good at that. My husband - who is one of those Germans who has a look on his face in the grocery store that makes children, body builders, and old ladies scramble to get out of his way in the dairy aisle - taught me well. Get all your crap onto the conveyor belt, have your money handy, and fling those items back into the empty cart at least as fast as the cashier scans them. The Germans behind you in line would like you to be faster than the cashier, but that just doesn't work. For the love of God, do NOT bag your groceries in the checkout lane. Just throw it all back loose in your cart, pay, get the hell out of the way, and transfer your purchases to the reusable bags you brought with you at your car.

My parents will be happy to know that when I am the person waiting for someone else, I wait patiently, and if the person happens to look my way with an "OMG, this is taking SO long. Sorry!" look on his or her face, I grin in a friendly way. No problem! If the worst thing that happens to me today is that I have to wait a few minutes to pay for my groceries, things will be all right.

So I got the grocery store thing - not a problem. In fact, I find things move a bit too slowly for me in grocery stores in the U.S. by now.

American expats also commonly grumble about something I haven't had much of an issue with either. UNTIL TODAY. Americans need more personal space than Germans (Europeans?), and I'm no exception to that. I have frequently used a line from Dirty Dancing, "Hey, this is MY dance space, that's yours" to tell people - usually students of mine - to take a step back.

Today in the checkout lane I could tell there was a person behind me. He kept making the gesture of putting his three things on the conveyor belt before I had finished unloading mine. At one point I half looked at him, hoping he'd get the vibe. "Dude. The cue for you to start loading up is when I put the little plastic divider thingy on the belt behind my groceries. Wait for it....Wait for it...Wait....Ok, now!"

The person in front of me was not finished yet, all my stuff was on the conveyor belt, and guy behind me had spewed his three items onto the belt as well behind the plastic divider thingy. I dutifully flashed the man in front of me a smile when he glanced nervously in my direction, waited patiently, and felt an all-too-close presence behind me. "Ignore it," I said to myself. I bent over ever so slightly to get my wallet out of my purse, and something hit me in the middle butt seam of my jeans. WTH?!?! I turned more than half way around and gave the lad a piercing glance without looking exactly at him. He seemed young - 14, perhaps, with a vacuous "I don't have the foggiest clue about the world" look on his face. I think I had bumped into the bag he was carrying.

Next I'm up at the counter to pay having flung all my items back into my cart, and I feel the kid right at my elbow. Seriously - my husband doesn't stand that close to me in the store! There are many reasons why I do not want strangers rubbing up against me while I'm trying to pay for my groceries, and I doubt I need to go into any of them today. I did finally turn and look directly into his face with an "Are you kidding me?" expression, and he took a third of a step back. In hindsight I wish I had just backed into him to make him move back, but then he would have bumped against the cart of the woman behind him, which was pushed up against his backside. I didn't want to be responsible for the domino-effect mess that would follow.

Next time I'll try what other Americans have done: stay in front of the cart so that there is at least a cart's distance between the next person and me. This doesn't solve the problem entirely because then that person just bumps against my cart with his or her cart, leading to a whole lot of jostling, bumping, and banging, but at least there won't be any rubbing. I can't abide the rubbing.

Or maybe I'll practice this expression.

Photo credit: Xantheose (

Seriously, folks. BACK OFF!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tagesausflüge / Day trips from Horb

One of the best things about living in Europe is that when you have a free day you can hop on a bus or train and go explore a town just because you've heard it's beautiful. Wisconsin is very nice, and each town and city has its charms, but I don't recall ever saying, "Hey, I've got some time. I'm going to drive to Oostburg and check out what there is to see and learn."

Here I can leave around 9:00 in the morning and return before 17:00 with beautiful photos, more postcards, knowledge about the history and highlights of a new (to me) town, and the itch to go out again tomorrow to see what else I can find and learn.

For a start, let's see what is...

Less than an hour away

The "chocolate side" of Horb

It makes sense to start in Horb, of course, since that's an eight-minute bus ride or one-hour walk from our house. Be ready to walk up and down hills on sloping roads and stone stairways if you want to see everything. From the Bahnhof, which is where I always park and near to where the bus ends its route, head toward the Neckar, where you will be treated with a breathtaking  view of the town with the Stiftskirche Heilig Kreuz and a row of colorful façades. The church is admittedly prettier from the outside than the inside, so don't fuss if the doors are locked. It's still worth the walk up and there's a nice little park behind the church near the Schurkenturm (Rascals' Tower). You can walk up or down the sloping Marktplatz on the way to or from the church. Have a look at the Rathaus and its colorful façade showing the city crest, prominent citizens of the town, and the mottos Liebe (love) and Fleiß (dilligence).

For a special treat and some good exercise, keep going up beyond the Stiftskirche and Burggarten and you'll find the Kreuzweg (Stations of the Cross pathway) leading up to St. Ottilia's Chapel where you will enjoy a nice view of Horb and the Swabian Alb in the distance. And if your eyesight isn't so great anymore, be comforted knowing your trek up here wasn't wasted - St. Ottilia is the patron saint of good eyesight, and things might improve for you after making the effort to climb up here!

There are several lovely little shops in Horb, but in general the town is not known for great shopping. That might change in the next several years if the planned shopping center is built near the Bahnhof - where I always park because it's an open, unmarked lot! I do not do Parkhäuser (parking ramps) yet. In the mean time, though, I save my shopping for day trips elsewhere.

I've written in more detail about Horb here:


The "chocolate side" of Tübingen

Instead of saving the best for last, I'm getting right to it. Tübingen has something for everyone from nature lovers and readers to historians and students. It is a university town with a population of about 85,000 (24,000 of whom are students). Like most towns in Germany, Tübingen is rich with history, there being evidence of hunters and gatherers living in the area back in the Middle Stone Age. The "modern" history of the town begins around 1050 A.D. with the building of the castle. Burg Hohentübingen stands proudly on a hill overlooking the town, and the building is now used by the university (founded in 1477) for archeology and Egyptology classes, among others. There is also a museum there.

There are several museums, many references to poet Friedrich Hölderlin, the town's most well-known former resident who lived out the end of his days here in the home of admirers after his family neglected him, several beautiful churches and fountains, a uniquely and elaborately painted Rathaus, and two botanical gardens. The geographical center of Baden-Württemberg is said to be in Tübingen. After a city tour or during a break, one can relax in one of the many cafés or at my favorite restaurant on the Marktplatz - Raditzky's - to sample one of their many varieties of Flammkuchen.
Raditzky's - the brownish half-timbered building
Tübingen is a very picturesque town in just about every season with the colorful houses along the Neckar, the many Fachwerkhäuser and its old world charm. To fully enjoy the town expect to do a fair bit of walking up and down hills, and I highly recommend a stop in the Stadtinfo to get a guide book. After crossing the Neckar from the Bahnhof you walk uphill to the Stiftskirche and the Marktplatz. The view from the castle is worth a walk up there, which is not long but somewhat steep. To tour the lower town you'll head down again from the Marktplatz which means you come back up the gentle slope to return to the town center and then back to the Bahnhof.


I only recently discovered Herrenberg after passing through it many times on the train on my way to other places. It was established in the 13th century, and for those who love Fachwerkhäuser it's a feast for the eyes. Herrenberg boasts "one of the most beautiful Marktplätze in Germany." One can take a guided tour or stop in the Stadtinfo for a map and brochure to take a self-guided walk. Posted signs give the history of many of the buildings and the town, though they are only in German.

Though it's a mildly strenuous climb for the less-than-fit, a walk up to the ruins of the Schloßberg provides a good view of the surrounding area and the Schwäbisch Alb and is well worth it. On the way up or down you should stop half way at - and hopefully be able to enter - the Stiftskirche, the town's main landmark which also houses the Glockenmuseum, or bell museum.
View from the Schloßberg

There seem to be good shopping opportunities in Herrenberg, which offers plenty of little shops, several bookstores, and unique gift shops.

Burg Hohenzollern
Photo credit: Foto Keidel, Hechingen (postcard)

Burg Hohenzollern was an important fortress of the royal family and princes of Hohenzollern. It sits atop Hohenzollern Mountain at a height of 2805 feet (855 m) above sea level. The carpark and welcome center are part way up the hill, and hearty visitors can walk up to the castle, which we did, though huffing and puffing a bit! There is also a shuttle that runs every 20 minutes or so. The guided tour of the castle takes about 45 minutes and every Saturday, Sunday, and holiday two English tours are offered at 11:30 and 14:00.

My kids went on the English tour while my husband and I went on the German one. Having compared notes afterwards, I would recommend the German tour if you understand the language well enough. The information we heard was more detailed and funny at times, and I suspect the English tour is more about just showing a bunch of tourists a pretty castle. It's still a fine tour, and I recommend this castle if you're in the area.


Freudenstadt is called "das Tor zum Schwarzwald" (the gate to the Black Forest) and boasts the largest Marktplatz in Germany. The Marktplatz is a huge square and the border of the square is a covered walkway of shops, stores, cafés, and restaurants. I've never actually explored Freudenstadt beyond the Marktplatz and a few connecting streets, but I know's there's more there to see.

From Horb we go to Freudenstadt with the bus instead of the train because the train station is not close to the town center. It's a good walk uphill from the Bahnhof to the Marktplatz, but the bus stops right at the Marktplatz. My daughter, a friend of hers, and I went to Freudenstadt for the Weihnachtsmarkt on a bitter cold day in 2012, and that is one of the Christmas markets I would recommend.

Freudenstadt Weihnachtsmarkt
Photo Credit: M. Moss


Die Einkaufsstadt (shopping city) Nagold is a pretty little town a mere 35 minutes from Horb by bus. You'll find lovely little shops here along with some larger clothing and home decorating stores. There is a Baumarkt (home improvement store) and a Media Markt (like Best Buy) if you like that sort of thing. The Landesgartenschau (state garden exhibition) was here just a few years ago and the city is still blooming with attractive flower pots and arrangements, footpaths for walking along the Nagold and Waldach rivers and through the Stadtpark, and places to sit, rest, and people-watch. You can also rent paddleboats to cruise around on the Nagold river, and when you are ready for a rest and a coffee you'll find plenty of lovely street cafés to choose from.

When you're ready for more shopping, you'll find shops for all your needs - shoes, fashion, flowers, gifts, sporting goods, wine, watches, and jewelry. And for a nice view from above, climb up to the castle ruins - Burgruine Hohennagold.

I should point out that when I say a town is good for shopping, I don't mean the touristy kind of shopping. Freudenstadt has several shops with trinkets that appeal to tourists (cuckoo clocks, "Biersteins" [not a German word, by the way], and shot glasses), but for the most part I'm talking about shopping for things that don't scream "I BOUGHT THIS IN GERMANY!" Don't look for those things in Nagold, Herrenberg, Horb, or even Esslingen.

In a future post I will write about great cities and towns to visit that are one to two hours away from Horb.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Diese Woche in Kürze / This Week in a Nutshell

24. August, 2014

This week I...

  • ...finished (assisting with) the translation of texts for a German city's website.

  • ...pondered whether this weekly update is narcissistic and whether anybody really cares what I am up to, settled on yes and no respectively but decided to carry on when one of my favorite readers told me she liked last week's update (in part because it was shorter than my usual posts).

  • ...finished one of the five books I was reading last week. Now I'm still reading four, three of which I'm enjoying. Too stubborn to quit the one I don't like.

  • ...wrapped a baby gift in a "green" way - you've heard of this, right? You box up the gift and wrap the box using a receiving blanket or one of those little hooded baby bath towels for the "wrapping paper." Secure the blanket with ribbon instead of tape (because you would use the ribbon anyway).

  • ...bumped into some fellow Americans in a pick-and-pay flower patch and initiated a conversation with them. This is my first face-to-face contact with Landsleute in the area since moving here in 2012.

  • ...spent a day exploring Nagold, a lovely town not far from here with lots to see including castle ruins on a hill above town. I took 176 pictures! They have little - if any - information about their town in English. Considering contacting them about translating their website and/or city tour brochure.

  • ...shivered. Often. Too often for August.*

  • ...started another novel called Borgia Bride. I'm back to reading five books at once, six if you count the tour guide book about Nagold that I browse through and read bits of every now and then.

  • ...wrote part of this list while my husband mowed the lawn with his new lawn mower.

  • ...gave a spider two days to decide to relocate, then asked my husband to "deal" with her.

  • lots of blog posts by other expat travel bloggers and enjoyed pretty much all of them! I love reading about others' experiences, even though it is showing me that my topics aren't really all that "new and different"!

  • ...wrote to the editor of the local newspaper to tell him I am really enjoying the "Photo Puzzle" they've been doing. Every two days they print a photo of part of a building in Horb with a description of its historical significance, and readers are invited to call in with their guess as to the name of the building. I've known them  all so far! Got a response from the editor, in part asking me what lured me to Horb.

  • ...ordered this as a Vorspeise (appetizer) at our favorite restaurant and made food noises because it was so unbelievably delicious. Gefüllte Mozzarella auf Tomaten mit Rucola: Filled Mozzarella on Tomatoes with Arugula. Filled with what? Heavenly deliciousness. I would not have believed it were possible to make this salad more savory than it already is, but he did it. This man - the chef and owner - is a magician.

  • ...spent Saturday evening asleep on the sofa for nearly three hours after the above dinner.

  • ...took pictures of my husband making Rouladen for a future blog post.

*Update: M just built me a fire in our Kachelofen.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Day Trip 3: Nagold

This post is for readers who are interested in my little bus and train trips to explore small non-touristy towns not far from where we live. This is the best place for me to tell them about my day trip(s) with photos since there are too many for email. I do not like the layout, but until I learn how to make it more attractive, this is the way it has to be.

Today I decided to spend the day in Nagold, a darling little town of 12,895 just 35 minutes away by bus. It's a great town for shopping, but that's not what I went there to do. I had my big camera, a map, and a plan to climb up to the castle ruins (called Hohennagold) above the city.

I first went to the Stadtinfo where I bought a really nice guide book (only available in German, as far as I know) and asked the woman behind the desk how best to get up to the ruins. She pointed me in the right direction, and up I went.

I really wish I were in better shape.
The path was kind of steep, and once again I met no other people on the way up. I did pass a sign about half way up saying, "Zugang zur Burg geschlossen" ("Access to castle closed"), but I decided to ignore it and kept going. The path disappeared into overgrown wilderness, so I backtracked and took the other fork in the road - the one more traveled by. And it did make all the difference.

You may have to click on the photo to see what I'm describing.
<< This was one of the views from the top. To the right you see the viaduct built in the 1930s, one of the landmarks of Nagold. To the left is the Protestant Stadtkirche, which is quite pretty from the outside. Being a Protestant church, it's rather dull on the inside.

But the real fun isn't the view - much better with the naked eye than any photo can show. It's the ruins themselves. I think I've finally accepted the fact that I prefer castle ruins to palaces. There's so much left to the imagination! You see rough stone walls, remnants of dwellings and walls, tall, scary towers...

 ...and cliffs. I took this picture to show one of the places I stood to take views of the town. To my back were the stone wall remnants of the fortress, and in front of me was a cliff. No railing. No sign saying "Danger: stepping past this point may lead to falling off cliff." I think, folks, if you're too stupid to step and move carefully, you probably shouldn't go to places like this.

Remnants of the castle - one of the houses or apartments. Who lived here?? How many people? What did the door look like? Where was the kitchen? What did they sleep on?

Have you seen The Highlander? This open stone stairway reminded me of a setting in that movie. I decided to climb up it to see if the view was even better. There were NO other people around, which was really cool. But when I got to the top I started to freak just a little, grasped the railing in my tight little fist, trying to fight off the mounting dizziness. I realized that if I did plunge to my death, no one would know for a while.

And then I climbed gingerly back down, one hand clutching the railing and the other hanging onto the stone wall.

I took this picture to prove I'd done it.

This huge nook was an oven! You can see the smoke marks.
Ok, so back down the hill to the town. Down is easier. I like going down. Along the way there are boards with information for those who want to learn something. These are great for the way up, actually. When you need a breather, you can stand in front of one of them and pretend you're interested in birds, trees, spiders, or whatever is displayed on the info board.

This board is explaining the difference between a fortress (Burg) and a castle (Schloss).

The question at the bottom right asks, "If this was 'only' a fortress, then why is this hill called "Castle Mountain"?  You can flip up the panel for the answer!
Answer? No one really knows. Uh...Ok. Thanks.
Once back in town I found a nice Straßencafe and had lunch. Puten-Salat (salad with turkey) and a Pinot Grigio. It was quite delicious. While I ate, I read more about Nagold to decide what I wanted to see after lunch.

The Landesgartenschau (state garden festival) was in Nagold in 2012, and there are still beautiful flower arrangements all over town.

I still love Fachwerkhäuser, and Nagold is full of them.

This is das Hotel Post. Duke Carl Eugen of Württemberg stayed here once, as did Napoleon, if the guest book is to be believed. It still has a well-reputed restaurant on the ground floor as well as accommodations. One can even stay in the "Napoleon Room," where the emperor spent a night.

Most of these beautiful buildings have a story and a significance to town life back between the 13th century and now. I absolutely recommend visiting Nagold and learning about them, but I will not bore you here. Just enjoy the views if you like.

After strolling around town I decided to meander out of town to visit "one of the oldest churches in Germany" and its Friedhof. This might sound morbid to some, but most cemeteries in Germany are simply gorgeous. This one took my breath away.

This is the Remigiuskirche. It is the oldest building in Nagold.

That's Hohennagold up on the top of the hill in the background, where I was this morning.

There was a funeral going on in the chapel while I was there. The pastor's gentle words were projected on a loudspeaker from the chapel, so I could hear everything including the hymns. She had a very pleasant voice, and it really added a nice touch even though I didn't know the woman being laid to rest.

Flowers planted for summer at someone's grave.

These uniform gravestones are for soldiers from Nagold who died during World War I. This was clear from the death dates on the stones.

In the background beyond the path the same shaped stones are for soldiers who died during World War II.

I am so glad I went to Nagold today. I am looking forward to reading more about its history and returning with visitors who want to see a beautiful little German town that is not touristy. It's a pity that there isn't much - if any - information about the town in English - perhaps there's a job for me there!