Speedy Stuttgart

Speedy Stuttgart

Journeying to the automobile capital of Germany — Stuttgart, Susheela Nair is left astounded by the number of museums, the wine country, and delicacies of this ultra-modern destination.

As we breezed past the main station in Stuttgart, the logo of Mercedes Benz, a gleaming three-pointed star grabbed my attention. We were in the capital of Baden-Wurttemberg in South-West Germany, which is touted as the unofficial capital of Germany’s automobile industry.

The genesis of Stuttgart (Stuttgarten means ‘garden of horses’) can be traced back to 950 AD, when Duke Luidolf used the place for breeding horses on the Nesenbach Stream. What began as a stud farm metamorphosed into a booming trading centre by 1160, and in the early 14th century, it became the royal seat of the family of Wuttermburg. Post World War II, the city’s architectural treasures were painstakingly reconstructed.

But Stuttgart does not only stand out as a car mecca. It is an ideal jumping off point to explore the rich heritage and the Black Forest region. “If you want to feel the adrenaline rush, hire a car and zip down the Neckar River valley through some beautiful wine country.

You’ll discover its verdant greenery, rich culture, awesome architecture, distinctive cuisine, wellness spas, wonderful shops, world famous castles, the city’s world-class museums and galleries, forests and trendy parties, and beer and wine festivals equally appealing. Captivating concerts, fine wines and Swabian specialities are the hallmarks of this delightful destination in South-West Germany,” says Hans Hadbawnik of Stuttgart Tourism. You will find this cosmopolitan city bursting with joie de vivre — a city with many different facets — a thriving centre of commerce and of innovative research.

Museum hopping

Our journey began at the Mercedes Benz Museum. For someone like me, who is unfamiliar with the history of automobiles, this visit was an enlightening experience. The futuristic interior design of the breathtaking building and the exhibits are both eye candy.

The museum documents the fascinating 125-year history of Mercedes Benz. For automobile junkies, it can be overwhelming to watch the legendary brand, with over 160 classic vehicles and more than 1,500 items, on display in nine floors. A bullet-shaped elevator ferried us to the upper floor.

Exiting the elevator, we were transported to the year 1886. We saw the Grandfather Clock or Standuhr’ engine, a unique cylinder engine developed by engineers Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach, and Daimler’s motorised carriage, the world’s first four-wheeled motorised vehicle with a gas engine. Also on display was the Benz Patent Motor car, designed by engineer Carl Benz, known as the world’s first three-wheeled automobile with a combustion engine.

From the first spark to the last exhaust fumes, this museum has it all. It starts with the transition from horses to gas-powered vehicles and ends with the future concept cars. We admired all the originals of all the highlights there: the first motorised car, the sleek Formula One race car and the newest high-tech masterpieces. The collection showcases utility vehicles and special designs ranging from the ‘Papamobil’ that was made for the Pope, to former state limousines. On display are the legendary automobiles of the 1930s and the Silver Arrow series, including the racing cars once driven by world champions Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton.

We lingered near the oldest Mercedes from 1902, the Mercedes Simplex, positioned underneath Swarovski crystal lights. The classical music playing in the background added to our delight. At the Gallery of Celebrities, we had a peek at the vehicles driven by celebrities like Princess Diana and Ringo Starr, or featured in movies like the ML 320 Jeep in Jurassic Park.

Equally interesting and impressive is the Porsche Museum. The museum’s leading edge design reflects Porsche’s high-tech style. The structure featuring bold shapes houses a collection of more than 80 historic and rare cars that have been built with the style and spirit that epitomises Porsche. Armed with auto guides, we raced through the history of Porsche. Some of the highlights include the powerful automobiles ranging from the legendary Porsche 356, to classics such as the 911, or the 917 and famous ‘Pink Pig’ to rare models. I gaped in wonder at the display of the original section of the Porsche 911 body shell and the Porsche Carrera sports convertible.

Stuttgart has a rich collection of museums, including the Viniculture Museum, housed in an old half-timbered building covering the 2,000-year-old history of the local vineyards. We wound up our tour of the museum with a wine tasting session in the museum’s tasting room. There’s even a quirky Pig Museum here, devoted to pigs, which I regretfully could not visit. It’s the world’s biggest Pig Museum with 40,000 exhibits of pigs in 28 thematic rooms. It traces the story of the pig from farm to plate. One will come across pigs in all shapes, sizes, emotions and expressions. Visitors will be enthralled by the postage stamps and postcards, the ‘divine swine’ section and the ancestral gallery, good luck charms, and of course, 2,000 piggy banks in the pig strong room.

After museum-hopping, we headed to the TV Tower, a prominent landmark in Stuttgart. Built with reinforced concrete, it is the first of its kind in the world. After a stroll and a shopping spree, we decided to relax by the 18th century Palace Square, bang in the heart of the city. With its baroque gardens, spouting fountains and imposing buildings such as the New Palace, it is a popular rendezvous of the local populace.

You can’t miss Palace Square, bordered by the Old Palace and the Baroque architecture of the New Palace, the former residence of the kings of Wurttermburg. The new 365-room palace today houses the government ministries. The massive square hosts festivals throughout the year and is always home to a variety of street performers.

German delights

No trip to Stuttgart is complete without a visit to the Market Hall located in the town centre between the Marketplatz and the Karlsplatz. It has 37 stalls selling both regional and international specialities. It was built in 1912 in Art Nouveau style, with magnificent frescoes, making it one of Europe’s finest. We enjoyed a stroll along the market stalls offering vegetables, fruits, cheese, sausages, bread and other delicatessen. We sampled the pretzel, which was invented in Stuttgart. The Flea Market (only on Saturday) near the railway station for antiques, clothes, bags, trinkets, etc., is worth a visit.

When museum-fatigue set in, we stopped by Staffele, a German restaurant, to savour the local delicacies. We tried the Swabian specialities such as kasspatzle (cheesy noodles), maultaschen (filled pasta squares) and schupfnudeln (potato), which goes well with wine.

A trip to this largest wine-growing community is incomplete without trying the popular red Trollinger and the exquisite Lemberger and spirited wines such as Riesling, and Kerner, and also Serrano ham, and the Black Forest trout. But the highlight was the onion soup topped with cheese strings. The taste lingered long after we left Stuttgart.

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