A Land of enduring traditions and modern fun
From castles and palaces to ancient taverns and half-timbered houses, SouthWest Germany matches anywhere in Europe for heritage. But Germany’s sunniest region is no museum: everyone is welcome to join in the festivals and traditions that date back centuries and are still part of everyday life in cities, towns and villages. Dance in the street; bake a Black Forest gateau; see how the world’s best-loved teddy bear is made; taste award-winning local wines. You can even drive your car round a world-famous motor racing circuit!
Here are a few of our favourite things…in SouthWest Germany
5 HISTORIC TRADITIONS in SouthWest Germany
History is all about people and every community in SouthWest Germany has age-old traditions. But, these are not staged for tourists: these have been handed down from generation to generation and are part of everyday life. Best of all, they are great fun!
The Black Forest: Bollenhut hat
With its eleven bright red pompoms, the traditional Bollenhut hat symbolizes the Black Forest. But these hats are much more than a fashion of long ago. The red pompoms signify that a woman is single; black pompoms indicate that the wearer is married. In fact, the Bollenhut hat is special to just three Black Forest communities (Gutach, Hornberg-Reichenbach and Wolfach-Kirnbach), where they are worn with pride for weddings and festivals.
Fasnacht (February 12-17, 2015)
Fasnacht is the equivalent of ‘carnival’ or Mardi Gras. So, expect elaborate costumes, ghoulish masks, parades, music, a party atmosphere and a last fling of jollity before Lent begins. Wrap up warmly and enjoy the party! Rottweil, for example, is famous for staging three rip-roaring carnival parades. If you miss Fasnacht itself, you can see the masks in museums, such as the Narrenschopf in Bad Dürrheim.
This handsome University City straddles the River Neckar, where students go punting in a Stocherkahn, a long flat boat, propelled only with a pole (as in Oxford or Cambridge). Each year, thousands line the banks and bridges to watch dozens of boats race over 1.5 miles/2.5km. It is a wild and crazy competition, with teams allowed to use fair means and foul to prevent rivals from winning! The first over the line receives a barrel of beer; the losers have to drink a glass of cod liver oil.
45 minutes south of Stuttgart.
Heidelberg: Romantic memories
Heidelberg is rated as one of the world’s most romantic cities for its ruined castle and its picturesque old town, where the Heiliggeistkirche, the Church of the Holy Spirit, is on the Marktplatz. With its serenity and soaring arches, this is the city’s best-loved church. It was built in the 14th century by Ruprecht III, King of Germany, who is buried here, along with his wife. On wedding days, couples often leave flowers on their grave, but visitors, too, are inspired to make similar romantic gestures.
Ulm: Nabada (July 20, 2015)
Ever since 1397, July in the city of Ulm brought a solemn ceremony, where the mayor swears to uphold the town’s constitution. Then the fun begins! A procession of boats and barges makes its way down a 5-mile/7-km stretch of the River Danube. Some are proper vessels, others home-made and silly; live music provides accompaniment. It’s an excuse to mock the politicians … and the day ends with free concerts throughout the city.
An hour southeast of Stuttgart.
5 TRADITIONAL WAYS TO QUENCH YOUR THIRST in SouthWest Germany!
Sunny SouthWest Germany boasts 2,000 years of wine making and beer brewing. Enjoy a village wine festival; chat to award-winning wine makers; join beer fans at Stuttgart’s annual Cannstatter Volksfest in September 25 – October 11, 2015, Germany’s second-largest and most authentic beer festival.
Wine: A tradition since Roman times
SouthWest Germany has two major wine-making regions; both offer lovely countryside and wines worth discovering. The Baden vineyards lie on the eastern bank of the River Rhine. Follow the 100-mile-long (160-km) Baden Wine Road from Baden-Baden to Weil am Rhein. Württemberg, to the north and south of Stuttgart, is the only German region where red wine is the speciality. Drive all or part of the 318-mile-long (511 km) Württemberg Wine Road from Weikersheim to Heilbronn, Stuttgart and Metzingen. Throughout SouthWest Germany, try award-winning wines: Tauberfranken Müller-Thurgau, Lake Constance Pinot Noir, Hohenlohe Trollinger and Rems Riesling.
For variety and quality, SouthWest Germany is a beer lover’s paradise. From thirst-quenching Pils to refreshing wheat beer and strong export beer, some 1,000 different beers are brewed in the region. Countless small, family-owned breweries still use centuries-old traditional methods. Check out “Brauer mit Leib und Seele”, an association of 10 family-owned and run breweries; visit Ehingen, the Beer Culture City, whose 8,000 residents can choose from four breweries, brewing 43 different beers.
With its sunny climate, orchard fruits and berries, SouthWest Germany has a long tradition of distilling. A glass of Schnapps, like a fruit brandy, is usually offered at the end of a meal, to aid digestion. Favourites include Williamsbirne (pear) and Kirsch (cherry). In the Black Forest alone, there are some 14,000 approved distilleries, including Schladerer, founded in 1844, and now run by the 6th generation of the family. Take a tour; taste their classic Black Forest Kirsch, Raspberry Brandy and Williams Pear Schnapps.
In Staufen, 30 min south of Freiburg.
Drink like a local: Traditional wine taverns
Nowhere is more typical than a Besen, a small family-run tavern/restaurant. For centuries, a broom (Besen in German) was hung outside a house to show that it was open for business. In some areas, this wine tavern is called a Strausswirtschaft. These specially licensed pop-up taverns are only allowed to serve their own wine and food, have no more than 40 seats and are open just 100 days or so a year. Where are they? Which are the best? Ask a local!
www.tourism-bw.com/Wine-DineGrafenhausen-Rothaus: Baden State Brewery
There are brewery tours everywhere. One of the most fascinating is in Grafenhausen-Rothaus in the Black Forest. In the past 200 years, what was a small monastery brewery has grown into the Badische Staatsbrauerei Rothaus. The German Beer Purity Law of 1516 dictates that beer is made with water, malt, hops and yeast. And nothing else. Go behind the scenes on a 90-minute brewery tour that includes an entertaining multimedia show and ends with one of Germany’s favourite brews, Tannenzäpfle. Two hours southwest of Stuttgart.
5 GREAT MOTORING TRADITIONS in SouthWest Germany
Who swept the board in Formula One motor racing in 2014? Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes AMG Team. And where is Mercedes from? SouthWest Germany! When it comes to cars, this is where it all began: Carl Benz patented the automobile here in 1886…and the rest is history! Not surprisingly, you are never far from a great motoring connection.
Hockenheim: Germany’s historic circuit
The 80-year-old Hockenheim Race Track (Hockenheimring) has long hosted the world-famous Formula One Grand Prix, as well as weekend after weekend of high-speed, high-quality races. Even if you miss those, you can always tour the museum, with its racing cars, motorbikes, and engines. You can even drive your own car around the circuit, or sit alongside a professional driver in a high-performance sports car, nicknamed a Race Taxi.
90 minutes northwest of Stuttgart.
www.hockenheimring.de/en Stuttgart: Mercedes-Benz Museum and Porsche Museum
In the futuristic Mercedes-Benz Museum, the nine levels of exhibition space trace the history of the world-famous brand, including a 1902 model, the oldest original Mercedes in existence. At the Porsche Museum, among the 80 vehicles on display are classics such as the 356, 911 and 917 models. The museum also has its own workshop with a big glass window, allowing visitors to watch expert engineers at work on classic Porsche cars
www.porsche.com/museum/en/Bertha Benz Memorial Route: Drive through history
Even though Dr Carl Benz patented the automobile in Mannheim in 1886, nobody wanted to buy one. His wife, Bertha Benz, changed all that. By driving from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back, she proved that her husband’s invention was useful and practical. Follow her original 120-mile/194-km route through fields and vineyards. See Heidelberg, Pforzheim, Schwetzingen and Hockenheim. Stops along the way include small motoring museums.
The world’s oldest car, the 1888 Model III Motorwagen, is the star attraction at this museum, once a small Benz factory. Other historic vehicles are also immaculately-maintained, including many that take part in Veteran Car Runs all over the world. The contribution of Bertha Benz is acknowledged, with her wedding dress, as well as examples of the hat pins and garters she used to unblock fuel lines and insulate wiring on her historic first journey.
Ladenburg is 90 minutes northwest of Stuttgart.
Sinsheim: The Auto & Technik Museum
Between Mannheim and Heilbronn, this vast private collection has some 3,000 exhibits, from the largest permanent Formula One collection in Europe to 1950s American Dream Cars, plus the Blue Flame, the world land speed record holder from 1970 to 1983. Visitors are greeted by two supersonic aircraft, ready for boarding: a Concorde and a Russian Tupolev Tu-144. Inside are 200 motorcycles, 40 racing cars, 60 airplanes, 20 locomotives and much more. Sinsheim is one hour northwest of Stuttgart.
5 WORLD-FAMOUS TRADITIONAL GIFTS made in SouthWest Germany
SouthWest Germany has a long tradition of arts and crafts, of skill and invention…from toys and jewellery to clocks and trains. The best and most genuine souvenirs!!!
Steiff: The Original Teddy Bear
The cuddly teddy bear was created in SouthWest Germany. The story goes that in 1902, the Steiff toy makers decided to name their teddy bears after United States President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. Antique Steiff bears are highly-collectible; then as now, they are identified by the trademark button in the ear. See the Steiff Museum at the company’s headquarters and watch Steiff animals being made by hand. There is even a Steiff Factory outlet. In Giengen an der Brenz, 80 minutes east of Stuttgart.
www.steiff.com/site/en/das-museum/besucherinformationen/ Cuckoo clocks: On the hour, every hour
The Black Forest is one of Europe’s most beautiful destinations. Some 250 years ago, during the long, hard winters, locals started making cuckoo clocks – now they are famous around the world. Find out more at the cuckoo clock museum in Furtwangen, near Freiburg. And the tradition of hand-carving continues at Rombach & Haas, where Ingolf and Conny Haas are the fourth generation in a family that has produced clocks since 1894.
Pforzheim: World-class jewellery and watches
An international centre for watch-making and jewellery for 250 years, Pforzheim has long been known as the Golden City (Goldstadt). The two main attractions reflect this special tradition. The Jewellery Museum houses one of the world’s great collections, with some 2,000 pieces of historic, modern and ethnic jewellery covering 5,000 years. Nearby, the Worlds of Jewellery is an indoor shopping complex, where you can learn about precious and semi-precious stones, watch craftsmen make jewellery and buy their work.
Pforzheim is 45 minutes northwest of Stuttgart.
Black Forest Glassware: Hand blown
Another traditional Black Forest art is glass blowing. In Wolfach, you can watch artisans and artists blow, hand-finish and engrave beautiful glass at the Dorotheenhütte. Drinking glasses, vases, carafes and works of art in lead crystal are made the old-fashioned way. Visitors can even try blowing glass themselves – with help from an expert.
One hour northeast of Freiburg.
Märklin Trains: The ultimate model railway
Ever since 1859, the word “Märklin” has been synonymous with model trains. At the headquarters in Göppingen, the Märklin Erlebniswelt is a lively hands-on museum. As well as historic train sets, there are current models, including state-of-the-art digitally-operated model railways. Enthusiasts of all ages can get spares and have precious heirlooms repaired in the workshop. 35 minutes east of Stuttgart.
With markets full of seasonal, and often organic produce, eating out is a delight in SouthWest Germany. Among the 60 or so Michelin-starred establishments (more than any other region of Germany), the village of Baiersbronn is unique. It has three restaurants, whose chefs boast 8 Michelin stars between them (www.baiersbronn.de/text/236/en/gourmet-cuisine.html)! But there are also many delicious traditional foods, often labelled “Swabian”, from hams and pastas to cakes and freshly-baked breads, such as Kürbiskernbrot (pumpkin seed bread).
Black Forest: Gateau and ham
Black Forest Gateau (Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte) is famous around the world, but is best enjoyed in the Black Forest. The authentic version has fresh thick cream, seriously dark chocolate and locally-picked cherries. You can even learn how to make the real thing (www.blackforest-tourism.com/Inhaltsbox-Thema-Spezialitaeten/The-Black-Forest-gateau).The Black Forest is also known world-wide for its delicate ham, air-dried or smoked for at least three months to give it a unique flavour.
The familiar RITTER SPORT chocolate bar looks modern, but it recently celebrated its 100th birthday! The idea of a pocket-friendly square shape was suggested by Clara, Alfred Ritter’s wife. Ritter is still a family firm in Waldenbuch. Tour the RITTER SPORT SCHOKOLADEN (chocolate exhibition; chocolate workshop for children; chocolate shop). Go next door to the RITTER MUSEUM, home to a world-class collection of abstract art, all based on squares, of course.
Waldenbuch is 30 minutes south of Stuttgart. www.rittersport.co.uk/#/en_GB/locations Maultaschen, Spätzle and Kässpätzle
Centuries ago, the idea of pasta was introduced to SouthWest Germany by monks. Going from strength to culinary strength, it developed into what are now classic Swabian dishes, such as Spätzle, delicate egg noodles, and Kässpätzle, a hearty cheesy pasta. Most famous is Maultaschen, a Swabian version of ravioli, stuffed with minced meat, onions and spinach. Find them on traditional menus everywhere.
Asparagus: Feast on the world’s best
From mid-April to June 24 (precisely!), white asparagus features in every restaurant, tavern, inn and home. Connoisseurs discuss the best ways of eating it: perhaps with veal (Schnitzel) or pancakes - or simply steamed and served plain with butter. Stop by one of the asparagus festivals along the Baden Asparagus Route (Badische Spargelstrasse). Drive or cycle the 85-mile/136-km route that starts in Schwetzingen, the world capital of asparagus, and follows the L599 road through Reilingen to Bruchsal, Karlsruhe, Rastatt and Scherzheim.
Look out for classic Swabian dishes on menus. Rostbraten is a hearty plate of steak and onions, with a red wine sauce; Fellchen, a lake fish that is fresh, delicate and white, is found around Lake Constance. To round off a good meal, order Ofenschlupfer, a typical apple pie. At wine tastings, the perfect accompaniment is a slice of Zwiebelkuchen/Flammkuchen, a quiche-like onion and bacon tart.
5 PLACES WHERE THE PAST COMES TO LIFE in SouthWest Germany
Travel back in time – a century or 5,000 years – at living history museums. Informative and great fun for families, couples or friends.
Unteruhldingen: Lake Dwelling Museum
In 2011, 100 pile-dwelling archaeological sites in and around the Alps received UNESCO World Heritage Site status. One of the best is the open-air Pfahlbau Museum, with its living history village. On Lake Constance, this reconstructed community recreates life in the Stone and Bronze Ages (4,000 BC to 850 BC). Wooden huts linked by walkways stand above the water, all supported by wooden piles set into the bed of Lake Constance. The near-Mediterranean micro-climate was a natural place for Neolithic hunter-gatherers to establish the first permanent human settlements.
30 minutes west of Friedrichshafen.
Gutach: Black Forest Farmhouse
Centred on a 400-year-old barn, the Freilichtmuseum Vogtsbauernhof is all about everyday rural life in days gone by. Watch brush makers, basket weavers and wood carvers demonstrate their skills. See how kitchens, sitting rooms and small bedrooms were furnished. Deceptively simple, the water-powered mill shows medieval technical skills. There are cows, pigs, chickens, sheep and geese, as well as a vegetable garden, herb garden and orchard with rare old fruit trees. There is even a Bollenhutmacherin, a specialist in the art of making traditional Black Forest pompom hats.
Gutach is one hour northeast of Freiburg (http://en.vogtsbauernhof.de/).
Beuren: Open Air Museum(Freilichtmuseum)
At this museum, which focuses on life in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, children love to see how people lived before flush toilets, computers, microwave ovens and mobile phones. They buy sweets from the authentic corner shop and pet the chickens, rabbits, sheep and goats. In 20 historic buildings, specially re-constructed here, you can watch carpenters, bakers, washerwomen and farmers, all hard at work.
Beuren is an hour southeast of Stuttgart.
www.freilichtmuseum-beuren.de Friedrichshafen: Zeppelin Museum
On the shores of Lake Constance, Friedrichshafen is the home of the Zeppelin airship. It was invented here – and airships are still built here! Learn more at the excellent museum, where you can take a trip back to the 1930s, when “blimps” were all the rage. Step aboard a reproduction of part of the Hindenburg; see the restaurant, with its luxurious seating. For a real treat, fly over the lake and the Alps in a modern airship. www.zeppelin-museum.de/home_en.html
Stuttgart: Wine Museum
Housed in an historic building and recently revamped, the Viniculture Museum (Weinbaumuseum) covers the history of the noble grape in Germany. First brought here by the Romans, vines have been a feature of the area for 2,000 years; there are even a few vineyards visible from the heart of the city. Exhibits include presses, barrels, goblets and glasses. Afterwards, local wines can be sampled in the museum's own tavern, the Weinstüble.
A digital version of this press release - as well as more detailed information on SouthWest Germany - is available on our website www.tourism-bw.com