THE ‘BADENERLAND‘ – MY MOTHERLAND
(Posted 12th February 2018)
(The main gate of the ancient ‘Steinsburg‘ which early origin dates back to 1109 AD)
Part 2 will narrate visits to the City of Lahr – in 2018 home and host of the state garden show, an outing to the ancient Steinsberg Castle which dates back to 1109 AD and in Part 3 finally will come my impressions of the City of Bruchsal’s Palace, the musical instrument museum which is found inside, besides the natural history museum of the city and a visual guided tour walkabout with sights from the farmers’ market and finally from a weekend food market to round it up.
That is how Part 1 of this three part series ended and I want to move straight into my narrative so that I can be sure to complete the series while I am still in the old country and before leaving for other shores again.
What is Lahr, where is Lahr, why Lahr some of my readers may of course ask. For one, there is a family connection with one of my late great aunt’s living there well into her 90’s – prompting visits on holidays and for celebrations like birthdays – and the other that one of my senior high school class mates is now serving his third term as Lord Mayor of the City of Lahr.
My sister and her husband had tickets for a Rock concert, Bryan Adams performed live on stage, in the nearby city of Offenburg one Friday night and it was a perfect opportunity to get a ride to Lahr, where my old buddy and namesake Wolfgang Mueller then picked me from an agreed meeting point.
(The view from our table across a typical farmland area. The ‘Hochsitz or Perch’ is a regular sight in this part of Germany too where deer, wild boar and hares, besides game birds are hunted)
He clearly took pride to show me ‘his‘ city during an extensive drive around before heading into the hills above Lahr for the customary beer session, enjoying the ‘Eiche’s‘ outdoor sitting on a warm summer evening with almost all tables and chairs taken, but being the Lord Mayor did help to secure a seat with a view.
(Dark beers are a speciality of this part of Germany / https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g661497-d963057-r509184573-Eiche-Lahr_Baden_Wurttemberg.html#REVIEWS)
We took a long walk down memory lane, having corresponded very regularly but not seen each other for ages and time flew by like the sand runs through the hour glass while digging deep in our memories and bringing back events long passed to temporary life, remembering those of our closer friends who are no longer with us and raising our glasses for them
My namesake told me how the region reaps huge benefits from tourism, in summer for hiking and biking – not to forget the nearby German answer to Disneyland called ‘Europa Park‘ (www.europapark.de) in the adjoining town of Rust, which is the largest of its kind in Germany and a crowd puller par excellence.
Active vacations rank high in this section of the Black Forest, including Wellness and Spa holidays and a number of adventure trails and a range of council and privately owned facilities exist – we visited the one owned and operated by the city of Lahr – where in particular youths can spend part of their summer break at very affordable rates.
In winter is the Black Forest of course the destination of choice for many sports enthusiasts, practicing both downhill skiing and cross country skiing – many trails are available and maintained in this part of the the state – but also just fun outings with kids using sleds under the watchful eyes of either coaches or parents.
Without tourism, and this is better well remembered back home in East Africa, would the region not be what it is today, not in economic terms and not in social terms either.
The region is also well known – and has an excellent reputation of course – for its food and of course also the locally grown wines and locally brewed beers.
It was almost a given that I was invited one of Lahr’s popular restaurants, serving – you might have guessed – Spaetzle dishes and I settled for one with local mushrooms in a cream sauce accompanied by a salad which was big enough to feed a weight watcher – something I am positively not.
The ‘Storchenturm‘ provided both the setting with a medieval tower and sections of the old town wall – well restored and maintained needless to say – but also the culinary finesse in the restaurant of the same name.
(City Hall in Lahr, a building of historic importance as the plaque displayed in the entrance hall shows)
Much of the city centre is a pedestrian zone and after dinner – in summer daylight extends well into the evening – we took a walk to City Hall, along sculptures and arty creations. My host did tell me that Lahr took pride to host artists and their creations every year and that top ranked pieces were put on public display.
(City Hall gardens where art pieces are on display)
It was at my friend’s office that he broke some other interesting news to me when he showed me the flag of the State Garden Show which Lahr was going to host in 2018, at no little cost to the city he went on to explain BUT, absolutely worth it given the magnetic pull such an event has for tourists, not just the local crowds from within the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg but from across the country and beyond. My instant good wish for him was a splendid summer for the duration so that visitors would flock in their tens of thousands to Lahr, benefiting the local economy and thus justify the expense to create and host such a prestigious event.
For my planned visit in late summer this is absolutely on my agenda, definitely not missing it nor missing a return visit with my name sake Wolfgang Mueller, Ugandan tea and coffee of course in tow to celebrate over a cuppa.
Next on my itinerary was a day outing to the old castle of Steinsburg, a location twice visited during my school days and several times since.
Located some 30 odd kilometres from Bruchsal did we opt to go by car though public transport by rail and bus is available and allows for a day outing with plenty of opportunity to walk, both up the hill to the castle and of course along the well marked trails around it.
I have lasting memories of those school trips, regardless of the decades which have passed since and my sister, as well as her husband, too enjoyed those trips, on different dates from different schools but the castle in those days was a destination of sorts for what was then called ‘Wandertage‘ or hiking days.
It was the picnics, the schoolboy pranks we played along the way, no doubt driving our teachers to the edge of sanity, but mostly do I remember the scenic setting and, on sunny clear days, the views across the ‘Kraichgau‘ into the distant hills.
This part of the state still is a heartland of agriculture and vineyards are omnipresent as are fruit tree plantations where apples and pears are after the harvest turned into cider while the plums often end up as ‘Schnaps‘ if not turned into jam.
Right across the state are hiking and biking trails evident, most leading through the farmlands, through woodlots and forests but all very well marked and part of an extensive network criss crossing the South of Germany.
Anyone keen on such active vacations can plan for visits to castles, landmarks, viewpoints and other historic sites like medieval buildings which to this day are occupied – and while looking the same as hundreds of years ago on the outside are modern living marvels inside. Every village, every small town, offers overnight accommodation, often combined with local inns or restaurants, where, after a long day on the bike, a cold beer, a hot shower and a nourishing meal can be had for comparably very affordable prices.
(Like at many other locations across the ‘Kraichgau‘ is the history always well documented and the walls, fortifications and gates well maintained)
The outing ended at the castle’s restaurant, befittingly named ‘Burgschenke‘ or Castle Pub, where homemade fruit pies were served, of course with some extra whipped cream. The restaurant does serve lunch and dinner and special meal events, like the famous ‘Rittermahl‘ or Dinner for the Knights, bring in groups from near and far and need to be prebooked or else visits have to be timed when such events are scheduled and a table must be reserved to be sure of space.
(Summer is peak season at the Steinsburg though visitors come throughout the year and enjoy home cooking, cold beers and local wines and spirits)
For more information visit http://www.burg-steinsberg.de/ or buy one of the travel guides to the Kraichgau via Amazon or other delivery services
Still to come is Part 3 which narrates my impressions of the City of Bruchsal’s Palace, the musical instrument museum which is found inside alongside the natural history museum of the city and my experience with a guided tour walkabout. Also in Part 3 come the sights from the weekly farmers’ market and finally my impressions from a weekend food fair under the summer sun to round it up.