26 October 2023

Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt

 A Walk in the Black Forest

I will admit that I didn't know that Horst Jankowski had died. Yes, shit happens. In fact, he struck his last chord on June 29th 1998, pegging out with lung cancer at the age of 62. A fact I missed, and now mourn, as the irritating ear-worm of A Walk in the Black Forest wriggles round my brain..... 

{And for those who don't know, Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt, became a hit in 1965, reaching Number 1 on the US easy-listening chart and Number 3 on the UK Singles Chart. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. [The track also became a signature song for Plymouth Argyle F.C.....  And why not?] }

So, here I sit, basking in the Black Forest sun, wondering whether my tattoos will ever fade.......

And wondering just why my paunch is so prominent.....

I tried other forms of transport, but they caged my car:

My train ran out of steam:

All the barouches were booked:

I couldn't catch this chestnut mare.....

And I missed the last tram:

So, Shank's P it were.... Having had my fill of city life in Stuttgart, I took refuge in Karl's Retreat (Karlsruhe originated in 1715 when Karl Wilhelm, Margrave of Baden-Durlach, built a castle near his hunting lodge).....

Though not without first genuflecting in the peace of Kloster Maulbronn (one of Europe’s most complete and best preserved Medieval monastery complexes) in whose Evangelical Protestant boarding School Herman Hesse, 1877–1962 (writer, painter and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, whose novels include Steppenwolf, Siddhartha and The Glass Bead Game) was once a pupil.....

Karlsruhe is the seat of KIT, the first Technical University in Germany (founded in 1825) and is also home to the Institute for Transuranium Elements (built as a collaborative effort with the European Atomic Energy Community, which aims to protect Europeans against the dangers posed by highly radioactive elements - Oh!  The Benefits of Brexit Sovereignty!)

Add to that the ZKM (Zentrum für Kunst und Medien). Founded in 1989, since 1997, ZKM has been housed in a former listed industrial building, the so-called Hallenbau A, which was one of the most architecturally advanced in Germany at the time it was built (1915-1918). It houses all media and genres, both spatial arts such as painting, photography and sculpture and time-based arts such as film, video, media art, music, dance, theatre and performance. It currently also is home to the highlights from the Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, which is closed for extensive renovation work.

But I digress..... A short distance from here I find myself in Baden Baden, once the summer capital of Europe during the Belle Époque, but still a pleasant place for a bath.....

Kein Trinkwasser in Baden Baden

If you don't object to divesting yourself of your worldly togs, that is!  A strikingly Aryan woman in the Tourist Information Office, swirls her blonde hair and smiles her glistening teeth, when I express some nervousness at the news that the historic (opened in 1877) Roman-Irish (?) Friedrichsbad is textile free..... We are all the same!  she laughs.  Speak for yourself, I think, as I slope off to the more demure Caracalla Spa Thermal bath where one can preserve one's differences under wraps....

Or so, in my innocence, I presume. Alack! I opt for a ticket which includes the Spa. Only to find that the seven indoor and outdoor saunas and steam bath are only accessible without bathing clothes (textile-free)!

All I can tell you, as a strictly scientific observation, is that circumcision is not particularly fashionable in the Black Forest, and that we are NOT all the same, Mrs Aryan Tourist Advisor Lady. (OK, there are some similarities - but enough of that.)

Anyway, I am here for forest bathing (with clothes on!)

And there are definitely some beauty spots (Stoppit!) Like the Triberger Wasserfälle:

Triberg also has a Greifvogel- und Eulenpark, which houses twenty-four birds of prey, several of which are brought out to admire the curious array of humans who stop to sit and stare:

Not far from here, the 11th century Abbey of Alpirsbach, nestling in a wooded valley, 

And surrounded by half-timbered dwellings,

Brews great beer (and, incidentally, has a fine church....)

Last stop on this Schwarzwaldfahrt is Freiburg im Breisgau, a busy university town high on the list of places that Grauniad readers like to think no-one else knows about.

And speaking of high, the Münster has a 116 metre high tower, climbing which is not for the faint- (or weak-) hearted....

One of Freiburg's claims to fame is that it was bombed by both the Luftwaffe (accidentally, in May 1940) and the RAF (not accidentally, in Operation Tigerfish (?) on 27th November 1944). After the war it was occupied by the French, who stayed on until 1991, possibly because the wine is particularly good round here.

By the way, Bruno Alfred Döblin was born here in 1878. His 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz was rated (in 2002) as one of the top 100 novels of all time.....

Anyway, that notwithstanding, I say goodbye to the Black Forest with a feast of grilled sausage, sauerkraut and potatoes, swilled down with excellent beer at the Hausbrauerei Feierling.

And that, dear reader, is about all I remember of the Black Forest, except for this sign in the gents' toilet of the Marktküche Karlsruhe, after a few glasses of Grauburgunder, Q.b.A. trocken......

(Which sign, I regret to say, I initially misread, having been brung up proper.....)

In Memoriam 
Horst Jankowski
1936 - 1998

21 October 2023


Willkommen in Stuttgart!

Mutter und Kind (Wallaby/Donkey and Wild Boar, Goat) by Thomas Grünfeld

Stuttgart is something of a hybrid. Though the name derives from Stud Farm (founded in the year 950) it became the seat of the Württemberg family in 1311. Napoleon then made Württemberg a kingdom in 1805 and Stuttgart became its capital.  Then Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz converged and in 1902 the Mercedes was born. 30 years later Ferdinand Porsche started making racing cars, though this was interrupted by Hitler's insistence that he made Volkswagen.....

So there are two big, sleek motoring museums here.  But there is also The Schweinenmuseum, which is all about Kunst, Kultur und Kitsch, founded by Erika Wilhelmer in the 1980s after she received a model pig for her birthday....

Oh, and Friedrich Schiller studied here.....

Das Leben ist Nur ein Moment, der Tod ist auch nur einer! 
(Life is but a moment. Death is but a moment, too.)

But I am not here for any of these.....


I am here for the beer!

Though first, to work up a thirst, a little art.......

The Staatsgalerie contains a fine collection of seven centuries of European art:

Though sometimes the attention wanders:

Here, for example, is Max Beckmann's Self-portrait with red scarf (1917)

And here is a detail from his Resurrection (1916):

And here is Otto Dix's The Match Seller (1920):

While over in the ultra modern Kunstmuseum:

There are some characterful faces:

And some that are quite alarming:

While there is line dancing in the Schlossplatz:

And in the renovated Stiftskirche there is the dance of the Württemberg dukes:

Yes, there's art:

And there's life:


But perhaps it's at its raucous best at the Wasen in Bad Cannstaat, where the 176th Cannstatter Volksfest (aka the Stuttgart Beer Festival)  attracted 4.3 million visitors over its 17 days this year. Here it's all lederhosen and dirndls, wursts and steins and beers from Stuttgarter Hofbräu, Dinkelacker, Schwaben Bräu and Fürstenberg.....

There's music and dancing:

Eating and drinking:

And one of the biggest funfairs in Europe:

(If you can call it fun - best to do this before you have five litres of special brew!)



In Himmel!

Let's have another beer.....

And leave it at that......

I must admit, I didn't know quite what to expect, and, not having quite run in my lederhosen, I felt almost out of place to start with....  But the atmosphere was wonderful: despite the quantities of beer, there was no obvious drunkenness, no arguments, no violence.  Everyone, even in the long queues for the loos, was having a good time, and, when my leather shorts have softened up, I look forward to returning.....

The 177th Cannstatt Folk Festival will take place from 27 September to 13 October 2024. It is the second biggest beer festival in Europe, but is less well known and less touristy than the Munich Oktoberfest (which starts a week earlier). Admission to the Festival is free of charge at all times, but entry to the various tents will be refused once capacity has been reached, so making a reservation in the tent of your choice guarantees you entry.

See you there!