Sunday, November 20, 2016


I've just returned from a ten-day business trip for a couple of conferences in Germany. The first was TCWorld Stuttgart 2016, a conference hosted by Tekom, a European technical communications conference and "fair" (what we typically call here an exhibit). This was my first long-awaited trip to Germany.

I landed in Frankfort and took the ICE Train to Stuttgart, then took a taxi to the hotel location (a business park way out by the airport). I had a bit of a snafu with the taxi driver, who was perhaps the only taxi driver in Germany who did not have a credit-card reader (first I've encountered for at least seven years). I had no cash, so we were even. There were no ATMs in the area, no post offices (which exchange cash), and nowhere to go to withdrawal cash except for the airport. After a bit of back and forth, the hotel receptionist charged me for the fare and paid the taxi driver in cash. It all worked out in the end. (As it turned out, there was a U station within walking distance of the hotel. I could have saved myself the trouble of the taxi. That's what I did for the rest of my stay.)

Having studied German in school some 29 years, ago, I was excited to give it a shot in the real world. At least my attempts in the hotel restaurant went well. Here's my first meal in Germany.

Veal medallions with mushrooms, some kind of cream sauce, and some kind of potato fritter. It was some kind of excellent. One thing I learned quickly is that the Germans like their sauces.

The conference began the next day. I didn't take any pictures of the Messe Stuttgart, but the conference was huge. There were some ten seventeen tracks of sessions, one of which was in English and seemed to mostly cover DITA and related technologies. (If you're not an XML geek or a technical writer, you'd find it rather boring stuff, I'm sure.) There were two exhibit halls, and most of the exhibitors were CCMS companies, localization companies, or a few other service agencies and tool vendors for tech comm. I had registered on the first evening for a side tour of Esslingen. By the time 6:00 PM rolled around, the last thing I wanted to do was drive around on a bus in the dark, waiting for dinner. So I bailed on the tour and went back to the hotel.

For the first three days, almost all I saw of Germany was the hotel and the convention center. Finally, on day four, with the conference over, I was able to take the U into the city and see a bit of it. It was a drizzly day, so for me, a perfect day for sight seeing.

My first goal was to see the village I had missed on the second day, Esslingen. The train station was pretty uninteresting, and I had to find a WC first thing. After a bit of walking, I found the historic part of the city. What I always find interesting about old cities is how they use some of the older construction—for example, this tower:

That's just a little bakery in what was once a gate of some kind. I continued until I can to the historical center. Here's the first church I encountered, Stadtkirche St. Dionys. I thought the two towers looked pretty cool.

I wasn't sure exactly what kind of church it was (should've guessed Protestant since I was in Baden-Württemberg). However, there was a crucifix over the main altar.

Over the high altar past the choir was this beautiful painting of the crucifixion.

I figured crucifixes were a sure sign of a Catholic church. About that time, a docent came up and invited me to go past the main altar into the choir to look around. I asked where the tabernacle was, and she explained that this was not a Catholic church and that they did not reserve the remaining bread from their celebrations. She did point out to me the towering receptacle that once housed the tabernacle, so the church was pre-Reformation. Hence the crucifixes. So was it Lutheran? Reformed?

No. Unitarian. I've never seen a crucifix in a Unitarian church in the U.S. Apparently, Unitarianism varies considerably around the world. I'd heard something to that effect a long time ago, but this experience drove the point home.

Here's the ambo, and you can see the docent off to the left, where she was setting up for a bible study. A table with chairs in the middle of the sanctuary should probably have tipped me off as well.

And of course, there was beautiful woodwork and an enormous organ. I would've loved to have heard it.

I left and walked around the church to the platz, which had some of the characteristic German architecture you'd expect.

Aside from the Stadtkirche, there were two other churches visible from the platz, so I crossed and went to the first, which was the smallest of the three. This time, it was a Catholic church, St. Paul's—the oldest remaining mendicant church in Germany.

La Pieta with stained glass depiction of the passion...

A baptistery with statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Evangelists...

And... wait, what?

Figures made out or razor wire. Apparently an art work of some kind to represent the plight of refugees. And there were signs warning not to touch the razor wire. Apparently this was not a children's exhibit.

I like the twin spiral staircases going up to the choir loft in the image below.

This looked vaguely like something Han Solo experienced.

Unfortunately, the parish web site doesn't seem to have much about it. Or about this, which I think is St. Martin of Tours.

As Catholic churches go, it was a tad austere. The altar was a nondescript concrete block, sort of the the baptismal font in style.

I tried to cross the street and see the Frauenkirche, the Lutheran church. Despite the sign that said it was open daily for prayer, it was locked up tight.

I was looking for a place to grab something to eat, but it was close to 2:00, about when all the restaurants close for the afternoon, and I wasn't feeling in the mood for pastry and coffee. I passed one more time through the platz. Here's a panoramic shot of the platz looking east.

With that, it was time to head back to Stuttgart. By then, the drizzle had turned into a steady rain. Being the church geek that I am, I tried to find one of the few Catholic church's close to the Hauptbahnhoff. I managed to walk right by it. That should tell you something about the exterior. However, there was also a distraction in the form of something I thought had been gone for years:


That's right, a hurdy gurdy player. He didn't want me filming him for some reason, so I stopped.

Next, as I was trying to determine where I could go next, I found this statue of Herzog Christoph von Württemberg on the corner of Schlossplatz.

I circled around the streets around the platz to find the alter schloss. I came across this square next to the alter schloss.

Another statue, no plaque.

And this was on the opposite side.

The alter schloss is also the Museum of Baden-Württemberg. I spent an hour and a half there. Very interesting exhibits, mostly of the archaeological finds in the region.

 Altes schloss oben, neues schloss unter...

That shot is straight across the Schlossplatz from the gazebo on the west side. I did finally find that church, Domkirche Eberhardt.

Okay, that's somewhat church like. I'm not used to them being mixed in directly with commercial property. But then the interior...

A nice Madonna and child...

But the altar looked a little like the monolith from 2001: Space Odyssey.

A closer shot of that... thing on the wall. I'm just so not a modernist.

And the tabernacle...

And the cathedra...

The organ appears to have been designed by the same firm that helped Kal-El design his ice palace.

I didn't find the Catholic churches very inspired, and from what I understand, there is a dramatic difference in the northern and southern (Bavarian) expressions of the faith. However, I enjoyed the time I had to wander about. That's the best part of traveling—time to wander. I hopped the U and headed back to my hotel to prepare for my trip to Munich in the morning. 
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