Monday, 22 August 2011

Postcards from Germany: Stuttgart & Frankfurt

Andy Warhol artwork in the Mercedes-Benz Museum. They commissioned a series to celebrate 100 years of the automobile but the series never got completed due to Warhol's death.

A personalised bus from somewhere or other. I got whisked out of my audio zone before I could find out. Nice though, huh?

A selection of racing cars all going 'vrrrm' and stuff.

Top: The real Frankfurt. Bottom: Legoland Frankfurt.

Love locks on the Eiserner Steg bridge in Frankfurt.

I know, I know, you would have thought I would have been done with this summer holiday by now. But alas, no. Stick with it dear readers, this episode contains some pertinent information for all new travelers in Germany.

I was left to decide the route of our journey on our way back to Berlin. I'm not much cop at route planning really, and my criteria for where to stop off for the night was based on what places looked nice in miniature at Legoland Deutschland, where do I know people off of the internet, and is there somewhere in Germany that all Stevie's German work colleagues will think is very odd when he tells them it's a holiday destination. And with that as the criteria, you will of course then know instantly that we went to Frankfurt, Wiesbaden, & Stuttgart - though in the opposite order.

"Stuttgart? Why on earth would you want to go to Stuttgart?" - said Stevie's work colleagues and um...most of the people we know. Stuttgart, it turns out, had the living daylights bombed out of it, and thus doesn't have the same sort of appeal in terms of architectural beauty as many of the other places we visited. Unless you are into that whole 'post-war everything looks like it's made of concrete and the whole city centre could well be any town centre in the UK' look. Which really, is utterly perfect for British expats feeling a bit homesick. If that's you, then I would highly recommend a short visit to Stuttgart. A friend who lived in Karlsruhe for many years described it as "the Leicester of Germany", and Stuttgart is quite possibly the "Derby of Germany".

Nonetheless, I chose to go to Stuttgart and for very good reason. For it hosts the extraordinarily fine Mercedes-Benz Museum. And if you turn up at the wrong gate, like we did, you'll get an even stronger feeling that you're in Derby, because it's sprawling Mercedes works take up an awful lot of land and give you the impression that you've slipped back to the Rolls-Royce works, except that in Derby Rolls-Royce haven't built a quite stunning football stadium next to the factory and don't have a rather gorgeous museum building with a completely excellent museum inside.

If there's one reason to go to Stuttgart, it's to visit this museum. It's great. I personally loved the building and could really have enjoyed the audio guide had I not had little hands dragging me out of the audio zones all the time. For me, it was also a special treat to see lots of Andy Warhol paintings and screen prints that Mercedes-Benz had commissioned that I hadn't seen before.

If there are two reasons to visit Stuttgart well there's also the Porsche Museum, but we didn't have time to go there.

And if there are three reasons to visit Stuttgart (and you have kids), well, they have the best outdoor kids swimming pool that I have ever seen or been to. It was completely excellent, and we've been to quite a few and this topped the lot! Lots of pools for kids of different ages, slides and flumes for the bigger teenagers, great playarea for the little ones, little slides and lots of space for the babies and toddlers.

So there you go, Stuttgart's not that bad after all. Really. No honestly, we had a good time. And so we left Stuttgart rather cheerfully really because we were on our way to Wiesbaden. To our untimely deaths (if you listen to my mother, which you don't, which is lucky, because you'd find your phone bills would go up quite significantly). Because, of course, we were on our way to meet Frau Dietz. And I can categorically say that she is not a 50 year old man pretending to be a rather good cook and expat interviewer. She's very lovely and has one of those proper German toilets where you can look at your jobby sitting there looking back at you, and you can analyse it in a very German way and say 'hello there!' to it before you flush it (in a more Scottish way). We were barely through the door before my two lovely children spotted this and made full use of the facilities with a little bit of German analysis and Scottish friendliness thrown in. AND even after that, she took us for ice-cream which pretty much makes her a friend for life. Sadly our visit was all too brief as we had to race to Frankfurt for 5pm to meet the man with the keys to an apartment we were staying in overnight.

So Frankfurt... Frankfurt's another place that German work colleagues think is an odd destination for a holiday. But, honestly, both times I went to Legoland Deutschland I looked at it and thought it was really lovely and mentally marked it as a place I would really like to see while living in Germany. The Altstadt (old town) in Legoland looks so pretty, and though I could have picked somewhere that was a more even distance between Wiesbaden and our final stop, Berlin, well, I didn't, cause it was my route plan and I wanted to see a handful of old buildings even if it did mean the kids had to sit in the car for five torturous hours the following day.

And that's the rub. For Frankfurt's Aldstadt is not that much bigger than the one in Legoland. And let that be a lesson to you: Don't use Legoland as a substitute for a travel agency or a guide book, because it's not that reliable. The Altstadt does in fact appear to be just a few old buildings clustered together - there's not much to it. You won't get tired walking round it. In fact, you probably wouldn't get too tired hopping around it.

But still, I won't hear a bad word against Frankfurt. It has a lovely cluster of skyscrapers, which individually aren't that attractive, and it was very nice down by the river where we stayed, and I really loved the 'love locks' on the bridge. That's the first time I've ever seen those, but I think it's a lovely idea. Here's what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:

Love padlocks (also known as Love Locks) are a custom by which sweethearts affix padlocks to a fence or similar public fixture to symbolize their everlasting love. They are most commonly placed on the railings of bridges.[citation needed] It is suggested that the custom of "locking a padlock and throwing away the key" probably originated in China. The custom of love padlocks has become internationally popular.

And that was our holiday. I know I said at the beginning that there was going to be some important information for those of you new to travelling around Germany, but it's going to have to wait until the next post because my 2 typing fingers are very tired.


  1. Glad to know Stuttgart isn't all bad! I wonder how much the people at Legoland get paid for making things out of Lego, seems like a brilliant job!!

    I was thinking how lovely the locks were and fantasising that perhaps Uwe and I could padlock something meaningful and at that exact moment my MSN bleep and he sent me this link **sigh** boys!

  2. Ah, he's such a romantic... (Stevie is more of a 'waste of a good lock' kind of guy).

    Anyway, the kids enjoyed that link - though I had to quickly skip past a few of the clips!

  3. ...six weeks later... THANK YOU FOR COMING TO VISIT ME!! :)

  4. Ah, 'hello there!'. We thank you for the use of your jobby-analysis toilet.

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