The state of Baden-Württemberg can lay claim to three great university cities, but probably only two are familiar to anyone outside Germany. Heidelberg, of course, is very well known because of its castle. Freiburg im Breisgau is also very well known. But there is a third one, sharing the Neckar River Valley with Heidelberg, that is also a university city with distinction. Located about a twenty-minute drive south of Stuttgart is the fabulous city of Tübingen, a city that I had the distinct pleasure of visiting during a Brazilian-themed festival. Now, mix a university town and its youthful energy with a Brazilian anything and you are guaranteed to catch that town at its liveliest!
But first, about the city. Tübingen cradles the Neckar much closer than any of the towns along the Neckartal toward Heidelberg, as the first photo suggests. This was the first view I had of the inner city, which straddles a steep ridge line between the Neckar and Ammer Rivers. It was taken from the Eberhardsbruecke, the old bridge. The small yellow tower in the far distance is the Hölderinturm, and beneath it were a number of wooden longboats -- twenty-passenger boats that one could hire. Most of the boats were still there when I took this shot at noonish, but by mid-afternoon, mostly of them were on the river.
Tübingen's pedestrian zone is elevated on the ridge right above this bridge, connecting together three marketsquares. The second photograph shows the Holzmarkt that surrounds the Stiftskirche, the city's main church. This was where I find found myself among the Brazilian festival, the predominance of yellow and soft green T-shirts and decor were clear. Live samba music was filling the air, not from paid performers (or I don't think they were paid), but from very, very good street bands with nothing more than a few conga drums and a deep love of music. The tents were serving up combinations of Brazilian and German fare, and Brazilian brands of beer were on tap served by -- I'm guessing -- Brazilian university students dressed in extremely skimpy and form-fitting/form-enhancing outfits. Good thing it was a hot day.
Going away from me was Kirchgasse, the main street running from the Holzmarkt to the Am Markt, the main marketplace. Kirchgasse was a windy road, completely crowded with young people, lined with modern stores. It was also lined with a combination of old half-timber buildings and modern renovated plain ones. The half-timber buildings had all sorts of color combinations. Only a couple buildings had really wild decor, the best one was Neckargasse 2, just below the Holzmarkt.
The third photograph shows the Am Markt, with Tübingen's second-best known structure, its Rathaus (town hall) at left. This Rathaus is wildly decorated with Roman-style figures painted on amidst portraits of former dignitaries, and an astronomic clock at the top of the facade. Unfortunately, the rest of the marketsquare was obscured by a massive stage that was being set up for a music and dance performance by a Brazilian troupe later that evening, otherwise I would have gotten some more great pics of beautiful half-timber buildings.
From the Rathaus, I ventured up the hill along Kronensteige (past the really big half-timbered Gasthaus Lichtenstein) to the Castle Hohentübingen, whose outer wall and entrance gate is shown in the fourth photograph. This Castle, quite frankly, wasn't all that interesting compared to others in the region (see Castle Hohenzollern, only fifteen minutes away). Its interior was a basic square, and there wasn't much to see inside save for the Schloss Museum. The views of the city from there were ok, but you couldn't really see the river.
I spent the next couple hours going further into town, and that's where I found a charming and less-visited market square. I went back to the Holzmarkt, then followed Langgasse to the Ammer Kanal, a yard-wide artificial canal that runs through the center of town (along the high part of the ridgeline, so it's clearly pumped in). Following the Ammer Kanal is Metzgergasse, which is a peaceful flower-lined stretch of cafés and shops. The avenue is marked by the Nonnenhaus, a historical landmark and really old-looking half-timber house.
The Ammer Kanal zone also extended a long ways back the other direction, along Kornhausstrasse (another pedestrian street along the Canal) and Ammerstrasse. The stretch on Ammerstrasse reminded me of a number of main streets on the German Wine Road, where a canal followed the street, separated by flower-colored railing. The end of Ammerstrasse is shown in the fifth photograph in a zone called "Krumme Bruecke" (Krumme Bridge) on my tourist map. This was a parking lot area that had been converted for use as another stage for Brazilian musicians. I stood and listened to them for some thirty minutes while eating some much needed ice cream (temperatures were nearing 100 that day). Great stuff.
Next, I decided I would take a stroll through the University zone. This was much easier said than done. The "fraternity zone" is east of the downtown, on another very high hill overlooking the Neckar on Stauffenbergstrasse and Schwabstrasse. The student villas were all named after German provinces and/or former kingdoms and many of them were old manors or plantation houses that were really impressive. And, they had intruder alarms and huge fences and gates just like plantation houses. But don't fear, I saw lots of beer bottles laying around, too. Good to know that it's a normal university.
I ended my tour of Tübingen on the parks along the Neckar River. Just west of the Eberhardsbruecke, the Neckar widens with a very long island in the middle. This island is a park, full of trees and monuments to former mayors or dignitaries. It was during this time that I saw a lot of those wooden longboats in use by hordes of people wanted to get out of the hot cobblestone roads downtown and into the cooler, breezier river valley.
Tübingen was one of the more enjoyable day trips I've taken. Going there on a day when the sun was shining brightly amidst the rhythms of happy samba music made it magical. But I'm sure I'd have recommended it without the Brazilian fest. After all, it was recommended to me by several Stuttgarter colleagues.
Trip taken 19 July 2003 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin