Home of Automobiles and Piglets
By Corinna Lothar
birthplace of the automobile, is a city of contrasts, a combination
of the old and new. It's an industrial city with a rich cultural heritage.
Badly bombed during World War II, the city still has some of its old
buildings intact, or restored, and while it has neither the graceful
charm of Munich
nor the vibrant energy of Berlin,
it is nevertheless a city of verdant hills, parks and a wealth of tourist
attractions. Where else will you find a museum honoring the noble pig?
19th century building
It is also a convenient place to stop for a few days
while traveling through Germany by train, as Stuttgart is a hub. Travelers
to the Bavarian cities of Munich and Augsburg,
for example, must change trains at Stuttgart. Trains run from here in
all directions, not only in Germany but also to Vienna,
and Milan, among others. The railroad station, currently being renovated,
is in the center of town, with excellent public transportation.
Stuttgart lies in the center of a bowl, surrounded by
the green of hills and gardens, and even a vineyard with its typical
vintners huts. Villas dot the hillsides. Nearby are castles and other
attractions. An on-and-off bus tour gives visitors an excellent overview
of the town, the zoo and botanical garden, the municipal vineyard, museums
and important buildings.
The number-one tourist attraction is the spectacular,
gleaming Mercedes-Benz Museum, which offers visitors a tour of the 126
years of the automobile, invented in Stuttgart (apologies to Henry Ford
and Detroit) by Karl Benz and Nikolaus Otto, who independently developed
the gasoline internal combustion engine in the late 1870s. By 1901,
Germany was producing 900 automobiles every year.
The Mercedes Benz Museum
The museum is reminiscent of the Guggenheim Museum in
New York City in that visitors walk down a circular ramp from floor
to floor. The eighth floor has the earliest automobiles, engines and
machines built by Mercedes' forerunner company; the bottom floor shows
the latest models. In between are collections of racing cars, town cars,
and vintage models. Drawings of designs, photographs and the history
of the automobile line the walls of the ramp.
One of the earliest cars at the Mercedes Benz Museum
The Mercedes-Benz Arena nearby, built in 1933 during
the Nazi time, now hosts international soccer games. Porsche is the
second automobile factory in Stuttgart. The Porsche Museum opened in
2009 and offers views through glass walls of engineers at work on new
But Stuttgart's museums are not just about cars. There's
a wealth of contemporary and classic paintings and sculpture, ethnological
exhibits, musical instruments, natural history and viniculture.
Alexander Calder sculpture
in front of the Modern
A tall, elegant Alexander Calder mobile graces the square
in front of Stuttgarts new modern museum. The museum displays
the work of many contemporary German painters and sculptors, as well
as works by Otto Dix and a fine selection of paintings by Dieter Roth,
who taught at the Rhode Island School of Design. One curiosity is a
small chamber made entirely of beeswax. Theres an excellent restaurant
on its top floor.
Located across the street from the State Theater and
Opera House, is the State Gallery, housing art from the 14th to the
21st centuries. The museum is connected to the New State Gallery, designed
by British architect Sir James Stirling, and opened in 1984, where the
museums collection of 20th and 21st century art is exhibited.
The collection includes such artists as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Joseph
Beuys and Francis Bacon.
The city's most unexpected museum is the Pig Museum,
located in a former slaughterhouse. Twenty-nine rooms on three floors
exhibit 40,000 pigs small pigs, big pigs, piglets, toy pigs,
pigs dressed as glamor girls, gamblers, and cowboys, piggy banks and
antique pigs. There is even a skeleton of a pig. Everything but the
squeal. "Kitsch" doesnt begin to describe these bizarre
exhibits. The museums brochure quotes Sir Winston Churchill: "I
like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as
equals." And why not? There's a family-style restaurant and a large
beer garden with a menu of traditional dishes, including grilled pork,
crisp pork knuckles, and, of course, sausages.
Pigs in front of the Pig Museum
Stuttgarts architecture is notable. A housing
center with the theme "Form Without Ornament" was built on
one of the hills surrounding the city center in 1927. This architectural
project, called the Weissenhof Estate, of 33 houses, was designed by
Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius, among others. Each
architect designed his own house, with each conforming to certain specifications.
The Le Corbusier house, which was recently designated as a UNESCO World
Heritage Site, is now a museum. Half of the museum reflects the history
of the estate, the other half is furnished and decorated as it was in
Castle Square (Schlossplatz) is the heart of the city,
where some of the old buildings survived American and British bombers.
The Opera House stands nearby, home of the famous Stuttgart ballet.
A wonderful art nouveau market hall, built between 1911
and 1914, destroyed during World War II, but rebuilt after the war,
features foodstuff from all over the world. There are many open-air
farmers' markets, too. A culinary specialty of the region is the "maultasche,"
a large ravioli-like pasta square filled with chopped meat, onions,
spinach, breadcrumbs and herbs, and served in broth. It's hearty and
delicious, like the local sausages.
Ducks at the outdoor Farmers' Market
In the summer, Stuttgart hosts a wine festival and a
music festival. Autumn brings the annual beer festival, a celebration
that goes back some 200 years. In winter, theres an enchanting
All Stuttgarts inventions are not technological.
A man named Alfred Ritter owned a chocolate factory here, and in 1932
his wife Clara suggested that the company make smaller, square chocolate
bars that would fit into a jacket pocket. He took his wifes suggestion
and the Ritter Sport changed munching history.
Ritter Sport chocolate bar
Chocolate and pigs without the squeal. Stuttgart has
If You Go:
Stuttgart Citytour buses (hop-on-hop-off) run every
forty minutes and take 1 1/2 hours with nine stops. Tickets are available
at the Tourist Information Center near the railroad station, or on the
StuttCard offers free admission to all museum and reductions
to theaters, shops and restaurants.
Train tickets can be purchased in advance from RailEurope
the Route of Bertha Benz; The
Great Cities of Germany; Enjoy
Them All in Offbeat Germany!; Big
City Germany: A Tale of Four Cities