Lately, I've been getting really itchy feet to get the hell out of Stuttgart and see some new places, so Friday night, I proposed we catch a train to Karlsruhe.
Less than an hour by train from Stuttgart, Karlsruhe is a city smaller than Stuttgart, but laid out along a radial plan. Thomas Jefferson apparently came here at the suggestion of DC planner Charles L'Enfant and actually this year the city is celebrating its 300th birthday. (We're discounting the fact the fact the city was heavily bombed in WWII).
Actually, I was really curious to see the city organization, and also to check out a large new pavilion constructed specificity for the birthday festivities. And to try the local beer, naturlich.
We ended up leaving home late since we were both exhausted from a really long week and late nights. Fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast (it really does make you feel like you should be getting super powers), along with eggs and zucchini bread and strong black coffee.
Baden-Württemburg ticket for two, less than $15 for a statewide ticket, and we were there in 53 minutes.
The train station is actually located beyond the edge of the old city center. It's about a 20 minute walk or a five minute ride to the marktplatz. This actually didn't bother me since it frees up the city center for its own purposes, and because one enters the city in a lovely and tree lined residential borough with the peaceful and not too big city zoo right in front of you. Actually the zoo is so small there is a pedestrian bridge which cuts across it, so you look down on flamingos, elephants, and people on small pleasure boats flattering through the zoo steam route.
Actually it was such an appealing scene we went in and bought tickets directly off the bridge.
The tiny boats run on an underwater track of some sort. We were imagining that it was drawn by harnessed turtles. It was lovely, a warm and sleepy sunny day, slowly floating along tree covered streams and ponds, attracting the persistent attention of ducks and unnerving carp with gaping mouths. It was nice to simply float for 40 minutes, slowed to the moment.
We saw big cats and polar bears and squeaky dwarf otters and sea lion feeding. We were worried about not making it more than a quarter mile from the train station so before it got too late, we jumped out to the city and shortly found a house hanging from a crane in the market plaza, and the palace and large circular garden in the city center.
It's quite all quite leafy and stately, really puts Stuttgart to shame in terms of the city environment. Everything feels a little nicer. In some ways it reminded both of us of Boston.
We walked around the Schloss to the pavilion, which is a big skewed rectangular lattice of giant wood beams. I enjoyed climbing up and exploring its little socializing decks more than its main aspect as a bandshell.
From there we walked to a large brewery restaurant called Badisch Brauhaus. Badish is a reference to the region, Baden, but apparently also forms its own dialect also spoken in parts of southern Alsace. The beer was good, although the biker club drinking by the entrance gave me a moment's pause.
It was a huge place actually, a warren of biergartens, covered courtyards, brewery basements, and upstairs lounges. It was strange and super kitschy. LED lighting, rustic beer barrel seats, Dali wall murals, bronzed glass, and whimsical Hundertwasser-esque housing above with mosaic onion domes and strangely shaped balconies and windows. We ordered two weisens and a banana beer. Banana beer is oddly appealing. It's so sweet and super banana-y, but intriguing. Not sure I'd want to drink an entire half liter, but interesting.
Later, we strolled through town, getting totally sidetracked by a sale at a sports store and the unexpected discovery of a TJ Maxx (which, inexplicably, is TK Maxx in Europe), so we missed the fastest, most convenient train home. So we ended up killing an hour or so near the train station and then took a slow regional train back to Stuttgart.
This particular branch should have been called Zenos Line because we stopped at a city halfway to Stuttgart, then 3/4 of the way there, then 7/8th the way there, until we were basically making stops at every bus stop along the route.
All in all, a good day though.