Tuesday, August 11, 2009


It rained on our first trip to Karlsruhe, so we didn't really take any pictures worth showing. We went with friends from work, and ended up shopping, wandering through European malls gawking at all the American Eagle on the shelves. Really? How many torn jeans and stone-washed t-shirts does Europe need?

Our second trip felt a little more European and a little less imported-American. We spent an entire day exploring the palace in Karlsruhe.

This isn't the palace, but it's right at the edge of the palace lawn, and it has very pretty arches:

And here's a panoramic taken on the palace lawn:

Click and drag to have a look around.

There was some violence going on out on the pavilion.

I'm not sure who the guy with the club is, but it's clear that he's not fond of the dragon. He had a friend with similar objections to a lion.

There was also a very elite group of gods and goddesses, including Pan with his flute, Diana with her bow and arrow, and many others. I am not well-educated enough in classical mythology to identify them all, but the lawn was practically a god convention.

And the ones not on the lawn were parading across the palace roof. I guess that's allowed, if you're a god.

We went inside intending to look at the palace itself, but there was a special exhibit on Art Nouveau going on, and a very nice older couple offered to translate the guided tour for us. We weren't allowed to take pictures, so I have nothing to show you from that exhibit, but it covered the entire Art Nouveau movement, where artists sought to find design inspiration in nature. There were lots of curves and floral motifs, and a distinct focus on art in practical items. Some of our favorite pieces were chairs with very detailed floral designs made out of inlaid wood. It is also the period where wallpaper became common; bringing floral patterns inside the home. To be really fashionable, all of your d├ęcor had to reflect the same general pattern; the wallpaper should match the china, which should also coordinate with the furniture and the artwork on the walls. Better make sure you really love that pattern before buying!

The tour was very well done, and we got a lot out of it, thanks to our newfound friends who translated for the entire hour and a half. They live in Bruchsal, another small town in the area that we're hoping to visit soon visited last weekend and that I will write about when the pictures are ready.

This is the second time that complete strangers have gone out of their way to help us get the most out of our visit (Peter and Paul was the first). I would like to think that they would receive the same hospitality in the states, but I'm not so sure. I don't know that I've ever seen an American offer to translate an entire museum tour for a non-native speaker. It's certainly something worth emulating, though.

We had about an hour before the tour started, and so took a quick look at the palace itself. We went up a lot of stairs.

And enjoyed the beautiful view from the tower. (Click and drag to look around)

We saw jewel-encrusted crowns and swords.

And I think it's safe to assume that those are real jewels, and real gold. Hard to imagine wearing such a thing.

We also saw a photo of the palace as it looked after the bombing in WWII.

Scroll back up to the top and compare this with the building that you see today.

As Americans, we're not used to confronting the cultural losses of war face on, but here it's a normal part of life. Heidelberg is unique in that its cultural centers were not destroyed during the war (apparently, the damage to their castles was done by the French in smaller skirmishes…). Everywhere else, the great palaces, churches, and museums have all had to be rebuilt, and much was lost that cannot be replaced. It's a sobering thing to stand in these beautiful historical places and realize just how much destruction and rebirth has occurred on these grounds in the past century alone, and just how thoroughly wars shatter the cultural history of the countries that serve as the battleground. Suddenly the idea of "rebuilding" after a war takes on a whole new meaning.

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