It is gloomy and rainy outside, so it is a perfect day to finally get you all caught up on our trip to Germany. You have heard about out travels through Bavaria and down to the castle region in the German Alps. However, our final stop along the way was the most metropolitan city we stayed in over the week.
At the end of our castle tours in Fussen, we hopped a train back up towards Stuttgart. Again, we had to make a few connections, and hoped to make an extended stop in Ulm to view the Gothic Cathedral there, but sadly missed one connection by a minute or so, which pushed us back. However, we did get to see Ulm’s famous tower from the train station. It is known for being the tallest church tower in the world. Even from the station, it was massively impressive, and we could see the spindly details of the Gothic motif climbing up the tower.
Our long travel day ended in central Stuttgart. We were staying with a friend of ours from back home, Sam, and planning to meet up with him late into the evening after he returned from his own travels. So, the plan was to find a restaurant/bar where we could tap into the wi-fi connection and let him know our location and basically wait for him to show up.
Turns out, it is not as easy to find wi-fi in Germany as it is in Helsinki.
We wandered and wandered. Coffee shop or hotel bar or anything would have done it. Nada. We were in an area of endless high end shops and a few nice looking restaurants (which even if they did have wi-fi, should have rejected us weary, disheveled travelers, not that we ever got that far). After a really long -but pleasant -walk through the center, we landed on a bar that claimed they had wi-fi. They didn’t, in the end, but they did have strong tropical beverages and Mexican style food and two open seats at the bar.
As it turns out, Stuttgart is a very international city that brings in a lot of business -particularly in engineering as it is the home of Porsche and Mercedes Benz. The funny drunk next to us was one such guy who was from India, lived basically everywhere from Europe to Atlanta and was currently in Saudi Arabia, but doing business in Germany. He was very enthusiastic about the two of us and, as we left the bar, told us that we were an attractive couple and instructed us to start having children now.
So that was funny.
Long story short, we found Sam, but not without some awkward finagling and me getting rather grumpy. (I am just saying…this was the one part Jimmy had to plan. Do not leave anything to the boys, ladies).
Sam was a really great host. He had gotten into the airport around 10 that night, taken the 20-30 minute ride to his home, showered, and turned back around to come find us. Which took longer than it should have. And then we took the trip back to his home, in a village outside of Stuttgart center.
That night we chatted and got caught up, watched some videos online before I called it and went to pass out. I have no idea how late the boys were up, but I think they played video games. Who knows, really.
The next day, Sam made us a great breakfast, including soft pretzels from the local bakery (I wish I had eaten my weight in those bad boys) before taking us around the area.
First we went to the Ritter Chocolate factory that was just a few minutes away form his place. We elbowed our way through the children and through the exhibit before emptying into the gift shop where I bought way too much chocolate that I then had to hide from myself when we got home (out of sight, out of mind, right?).
The factory is a really interesting piece of modern architecture in a perfectly green pastoral valley surrounded by biking and walking paths and random post-modern art installations. Eclectic, certainly, but surprisingly charming.
Our next stop was the military base, where Sam works (and also why he is living in Germany). It felt very official with the check ins and check outs, but it was nice to see the stars and stripes flying again. He toured us through his primary work place (highlight: Navy Seals working out) and gave us an idea of what happens there and basically how bad ass the military is. We even got to walk around on some really huge boats that they shoot out of airplanes. Don’t ask me any of the names or details -I do not know.
After our fun and comprehensive tour through the base, we made our way downtown to the Mercedes-Benz museum. Which I was dying to see. This is one of the few contemporary buildings that I remember studying in school. Designed by UN Studio, it is praised for the integrated design of both the circulation system and exhibition space, seamlessly weaving program and function. In plan, it is composed of three intersecting circles, while in section, the levels twist in a double-helix. There are no flat floors and no right angles. The tour begins in the beautiful concrete atrium (I am a sucker for beautifully cast concrete) where you take a pod-like elevator to the top, and begin to wind your way down one curated tour, crossing paths with the other every half level. The exterior walls and windows undulate as they wrap around the 3 circles, wrapping the entire building in ribbons of aluminum and glass- the main materials used to build a Mercedes Benz.
|Below, the top of the atrium (remind you of the MB logo?), the elevator pod (retro much?), and an example of the undulating walls.|
Aside from the building, the items on display are stunning and meticulously curated. The tour takes you down chronologically through the development of the automobile -starting with the Diamler engine and the first engined-vehicles- through iconic models and down to the most modern cars on the line. There are separate rooms dedicated to service engines under the Benz name and cars made famous by movies and celebrities from Princess Diana to the Pope-mobile to Jurassic Park.
It was a beautiful museum that was worth the 1+ wait in line. Bonus, however, is that unlike many famous museums (I am looking at you, Louvre) they limit the number of people inside at any given time, so that the experience is not hampered by massive crowds.
|Fun fact: this was a transport car for MB race cars. It was designed to cap out at 105 mph in order to intimidate the other manufacturers. The idea was that if their transport car was that fast, then the race car had to be even better!|
I am not really a car person, just a sucker for beautiful design. And the glamour that Mercedes-Benz has managed to retain over the centuries. That being said, I could not imagine how awesomet hat must have been for a real car lover. I am sure my dad would have been a kid in a candy store.
Museums have a way of really wiping you out. It is a lot of standing and walking. So we recovered with dinner at an awesome beer haus. The name escapes me, but in true German fashion, the beers were cold and the portions huge and not at all on any diet. Being the dainty girl that I am, I ordered pretty much the largest thing on the menu and did my worst.
|Sam’s hunk of meat|
So so good. So good. Enter food coma.
That evening, we went to meet up with some of Sam’s friends for a game night. Some how, I convinced both of the boys to don their lederhosen. I mainly just wanted to see them both in them, but also thought it would be hilarious for them to show up looking like the festive Germans that they are.
Honestly, it did not take much convincing. Before I knew it, they were prancing around in their leather suspenders and plaid shirts.
The next morning, we slept in after a very late night out. Eventually we got up and out the door in search of food. We landed at a really darling cafe behind the village church, where we had brunch before heading into town, where Sam would drop us off for our train into Frankfurt to catch our flight.
It is so much fun having friends out here in Europe for us to drop in and spend time with. Just the familiar face and easy conversation topics like “How are your parents doing” or “Remember that one time…” are a welcome gift that we seldom have any more. It is easy to take these little things for granted until you don’t have them any more. I want to thank Sam for being such a gracious host and opening his home to us and spending time showing us around his world out there! Come see us in Helsinki!