I have visited Ludwigsburg twice. The first time was an afterthought -- taking place on a snowy February after seeing a reference to it in some postcards at Stuttgart when other travel plans fell apart. But after seeing this city's incredible display of palaces, gardens, and market squares (all frozen over at the time), I marked this place high on my list of places to return... in the summer. And so I have, and can tell you it's worth the trip... in the summer.
Ludwigsburg seemed to be kept as a local secret. One of my tour books talked about only one palace, while another didn't mention it at all. Please allow me to make up for that (after all, that's why I'm here)!
Ludwigsburg is home to three distinct palaces and palace grounds, each with its own character and following. The first two photos come from the Schloss Ludwigsburg (Ludwigsburg Palace), referred to lovingly as the "Versailles of Swabia" (though the resemblance to the real Versailles is perhaps more sentimental than actual). The palace exterior is enough to capture your attention, especially the inner balcony where you can see the immense and elaborate facade of the Western Gallery.
The Schloss has four distinct exterior gardens. The first photo was taken from the Southern Garden that parallels the secondary road that separates the Schloss from downtown. Dominated by the park fountain, the grounds are covered with sculpted hedges and flower beds shaped in curlicue fashion. The Northern Garden takes the sculpted plant theme to a new level. It is a huge square garden very elaborated decorated with tiny roses and other flowers. Next to it is the Maerchengarten ("Fairy Tale Garden"), a mostly grass and trees decorated with huge flower circles scattered about in seemingly random pattern. It's paths, however, are marked with famous fairy tale creatures, some of whom have a recorded voice running continuously to tell its story.
To me, the best of the gardens is the East Garden, that sits high on a rocky plateau overlooking the Northern Garden. Sitting on a ten-yard tall sheer cliff is the Emichsburg Castle, which is actually little more than a tower, and nowadays does nothing more than serve as a stairwell between the East Garden and the North Garden below. Behind the castle are several small gardens and a pond, shown in the second photo. Included are a cascading fruit garden, a Japanese garden, a set of artificial Roman aquaduct ruins, several gazebos containing 19th century rides, a covered botanical garden, bird sanctuary, sheep park, and a couple restaurants.
The theme for the Schloss Ludwidgsburg was definitely "art". The Schloss is a huge art gallery and frequent hoster of arts festivals. The day I went was on the final day of an annual Art Market where fine artisans and craftsmen so their work in the main balcony.
The second palace on my tour was the Schloss Favorite. Yes, you read that right. "Favorite" as in favorite. The palace (third photo) faces the Schloss Ludwigsburg from across another secondary road and can be accessed via a walking bridge. This palace was the "favorite" hunting lodge of some past royal, which is appropriate now as it sits at one end of a huge deer park.
The third photo shows a crowd in front of the Schloss Favorite. As I would learn, during the summer months the palace hosts Protestant services on some Sundays. I just so happened to pass by when the congregation was gathering and the accompanying orchestra was setting up. Quite a pleasant and peaceful setting to celebrate God's work, no?
Naturally, hunting was the theme of the palace and its environs. The Park Favorite is indeed largely a deer park, and there are a lot of domesticated deer that roam the forest. Most of them lurch near the main foot path and show little fear of humans. However, I would learn that they do fear cameras, and they tended to react whenever I pulled mine out! Scattered around the park were other smaller hunting lodges.
At the far end of the park, I followed a 1.5km (1 mile) footpath to the third and final palace on my journey, that of the Schloss Montrepos (fourth photo). Architecturally, Montrepos was the least interesting of the three, being basically a simple lightly-decorated summer residence. But Montrepos had one thing the others didn't... water. The palace fronts a good size artificial lake with two massive islands on it (one holding an old chapel).
As the fourth photo suggests, paddle boating on this lake was popular. Indeed, when I got there, I counted fifteen paddle boats or rowboats out in the lake already and fifteen more were awaiting for customers. It was a very popular place for families, and the kids seemed to love doing laps around the heavily forested islands.
I walked back to the downtown, and encountered the town's spring festival taking place in the town square (fifth photo). This particular photo shows the city's Protestant Church on the west side. The Catholic Church sits directly across the square on the east side, with the fountain of Ludwig directly in between. This square is definitely the center of activity for the city, with three weekly open markets (most cities only do one per week), and some fine restaurants awaiting visitors in the surrounding squares.
Ludwigsburg was simply a darn fabulous place... a great feast for the eyes! A day of Ludwigsburg will give you enough Baroque architecture to last a whole year! Easily one of most memorable day trips I've had.
Trip taken 1 June 2003 -- Page last updated 13 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin