City of the People

When I first visited Stuttgart, the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany, in 2006, I found it as open, vulnerable and focussed as a toddler. It was the quarter final of the Soccer World Cup. The streets of this then 600 000-strong city were almost devoid of cars. A hush had fallen but a roar, muted by distance and walls, rose from apartments, houses and pubs whenever Germany scored a goal. Afterwards, the streets ran thick with jubilation. People crammed into the Schlossplatz (Palace Square) in the centre of the city, united in a single emotion.

On this current trip, in that same venue, I saw a different aspect of the city and its people. The focus had moved from nation to city, from raw emotion to contemplation. Against the backdrop of rising controversy about the fate of the central historical train station, our host, the BB’s sister, took us to another architectural landmark, the Old Castle.

While there is evidence of humans in the area from 10 000 BC, the city began to take shape in the tenth century. Cavalry horses were bred there from 950 AD. The city’s coat of arms is a rearing black horse on a yellow background, reflecting the origins of the city’s name. ‘Stuoten’ meant ‘mare’ and the Old High German ‘garten’, a word which now means ‘garden’, applied to the original stud compound.

Note the shallow sloping steps, indoors and out, which allowed the horses to traverse the buildings safely.

A commanding statue graces the courtyard. Its majesty and detail are fitting for a man admired and respected by so many during his life and since.

Eberhard I, 1445 – 1496, ruled Württemberg after he reunited its two parts, and became the first duke of that land.

In the 16th century the castle was converted into the Renaissance style. In the 18th century its moat was removed. Severely damaged by a fire in 1931 and again by bombs in the Second World War, it was renovated in 1969. Today it houses the main section of the Württemberg State Museum.

The city that was founded on horses, veered towards the automobile and motorcycles in the late 1800s. With a mood of expectancy, a sense of the possible and a spirit of innovation, Daimler, Maybach, Benz and Porsche all set up factories around Stuttgart which, as a result, is sometimes referred to as “the cradle of the automobile”. Automotive parts and magazines are also produced here. The Mercedes-Benz and Porsche museums are joined by the Stuttgart Tram Museum  which features historical vehicles dating back to 1868. No, I did not visit any of the museums. Surely I had already honoured my vehicular duties for this trip.

I found Stuttgart a place enhanced by a second visit. It was in fact, a different place.

For me, the city is the creation and function of the people, literally with stones and mortar over the centuries, but also as their activities, aspirations and attitudes become the warp and weft of the fabric of everyday experience, even for the casual visitor.

Stuttgart is an idea as much as a physical entity.

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