Revisiting Some Friends

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September 10th 2009
Published: September 20th 2009
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 Video Playlist:

1: Creating Your Own Fun 60 secs
2: Creating Your Own Fun 2 60 secs

And Some Fresh Air Too

Arriving in Frankfurt, you can see how this is one of the main hubs for Europe. The airport is huge!!! I can’t help but keep thinking that Perth has a lot of work to do to make it’s airport world class because after seeing the likes of Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Heathrow and now Frankfurt there’s a definite distinction between what real international airports are and our excuse for one.

Straight on to a train and down to the South of Germany, I was headed to Stuttgart to visit a friend I had met back in Marseille. Getting in in the late afternoon, I managed to make contact with Katy and tee up a few drinks for the following night.

With the night organised it left me the whole day to have a look around Stuttgart and get my first real taste of a German city. Extensively bombed during World War II due to the proximity with the major car manufacturers who were producing everything from trucks to plane motors for the Third Reich, a lot of what is seen in the city now is new. There are still some treasures dotted through though if you know where to look. Most obvious is the New Palace situated on Schlossplatz in the centre of town. Built in stages between 1746 and 1807, the facades were restored after the Second World War to bring it back to it’s former glory. Around the New Palace are numerous parks, gardens and lakes all containing fountains and monuments, as well as most of the cultural centres such as the Staatstheatre and Staatsgalerie (opera/ballet theatre and art gallery respectively). One thing I have to say is that the Germans know parkland even better than the British and I could have quite easily spent my time whiling away the day on the grass under the trees.

On the other side of Schlossplatz is Schillerplatz, the plaza that contains the Old Chancellery, Prince’s Building, Fruchtkasten, Stiftskirche and the Old Palace, all relics from the time that Stuttgart was the capital of the Kingdom of Wurttemberg. The Stiftskirche (or Collegiate Church) is particularly striking with it’s spires and is used as a point of reference by tourists and locals alike. The Old Palace dates back to the 10th Century when the Duke of the area had a rampart built to protect his stud farm and was increased to include a castle and moat over the next 600 years as Stuttgart grew around it. The plaza directly behind the Old Palace, Karlsplatz has a statue as testimony to King William I (not the English one).

Wandering through the streets of Stuttgart, the view can change dramatically from modern to old country feel in seconds, one of the best examples being Calwer Strasse. A trendy alley of cafes and pubs, the facades of the buildings have been lovingly kept and give a postcard image of German life.

The main thing that Stuttgart is still known for today are the two main car manufacturers that still make up the main industry in the area, Mercedes-Benz and Porche. The Mercedes-Benz Museum was my destination for the afternoon and provided a great insight into the history of the automobile. Going up the lift to the seventh floor is like going back in time with the sounds of a present day city slowly fading into the rhythmic beat of horses hooves pounding the cobblestones of yester year. From the top, you work your way down through the floors, starting at the first two motorised cars ever to be invented, one by Dalmer the other by Benz. There are both authentic and recreated versions of the original trucks, buses, boats and flying contraptions that were experimented with, all while walking past a timeline of world events marking the milestones at their time of creation. Importantly, it details how the Dalmer vehicles were sold to a French distributor who used to race them and renamed them Mercedes after his daughter, as well as how the two companies merged in the 1920’s to stay alive due to the recession and hyperinflation that was happening at the time. By the last floor you reach the Evolution of Mercedes-Benz in motor racing, covering nearly every format from Le Mans, truck racing, European Touring Cars to Formula One. It also details the evolution of the Silver Bullet, the first real race car that spurred the development the industry forward, and all the different types of them over the years.

The next day, my plans changed yet again and due to money constraints I gave the idea of heading to Venice a miss (it’s a long way to go not to mention an expensive train trip and city to stay in) and instead stuck to Germany and the Bavarian city of Munich. The countryside from the train window in this part of the world is spectacular!! Lush forests surround the tracks, broken by intermittent patches of farm crops. A beautiful stretch of land if I ever saw one.

Although still two weeks before the start of Octoberfest, don’t let it be said that that stops the people from Munich having a cold one at any time of the day or night. With beer halls a institution here, revelry is a national pastime. Walking through the city, the best place to start is from the main square surrounded by the Town Hall. At 11am (and 5pm between April and October) the town clock rings and plays a little scene lasting about ten minutes which brings traffic and pedestrians to a standstill. There are palaces and museums, art galleries and monuments spread out around the city centre, but what really caught my eye is the ability for the citizens to make their own fun. In one of the most beautiful parks that I’ve seen, right in the centre of town, a river flows through and is narrowed under a bridge in the park. Making a sudden fast point with a distinct wave on the down river side, there were a group of guys out in wetsuits and surfboards making the most of a sunny afternoon. Ingenuity at it’s best I say!!

What’s next on the cards??? Tomorrow I leave Germany for Austria’s Capital, Vienna, then it’s in to Eastern Europe.

"Not bound to swear allegiance to any master, Wherever the wind takes me I travel as a visitor. Drop the question what tomorrow may bring, and count as profit every day that Fate allows you." - Horace

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