Monday, March 17, 2008

4 November: Katharina Kapelle and Finally, the Fernsehturm

Even though it was a rather dreary day, I insisted that we do something because we are rapidly running out of weekends. We decided to drive out to the Katharina Kapelle above Untertürkheim, the memorial that King Wilhelm I built for his beloved Russian wife, who died at the tender age of 30. The chapel was completed in 1824 on a hill known historically as the Rotenberg. This site, set strategically above the vineyards of the Neckar Valley, was once home to the ancestral fortress of the Württemberg royal family, dating back to the 11th century. The family seat was moved to Stuttgart’s Altes Schloß at the beginning of the 14th century, but the fortress remained, rebuilt again and again over the ensuing centuries. King Wilhelm broke with this tradition by razing the fortress and replacing it with the classical chapel that stands today.

We made our way up a winding road to a small village set at the foot of the Rotenberg and braved the hordes of Sunday walkers to squeeze into a parking space on a narrow residential street. Despite the poor weather, hundreds of people seemed to be swarming around the chapel on their requisite Sunday stroll. We walked up a long paved path through the vineyards to a grassy clearing at the top of the hill. To our dismay, the chapel had closed to the public on October 31st – yesterday – and would not reopen until spring. But the view from the top was worth the trip – vine-covered slopes fell away on all sides, displaying a rainbow of fall colors, from yellow to red to deep purple. A nearby hillside was covered with quaint garden plots – the kind that city residents with no yards rent so that they can spend their weekend afternoons outside. We could see all the way across the Neckar Valley and the big “Daimler” banner was clearly visible on one of the office buildings in the enormous Untertürkheim complex, along with the Mercedes Museum and Gottlieb-Daimler stadium.

We decided to continue our tour of Stuttgart vantage points and finally made it to the Fernsehturm (TV tower) near Degerloch. Completed in 1957, the tower is one of Stuttgart’s claims to fame, as it was the first concrete television tower in the world and the model for similar towers around the globe. At a height of 217 meters, it offers unsurpassed views of downtown Stuttgart, the Neckar Valley, the Schwäbische Alb, the Schwarzwald, and, on a clear day, the Austrian and Swiss Alps. While it still functions as a transmission tower for TV and radio broadcasts, it has also become a major tourist attraction. John actually made it up here on a Stuttgart bus tour when he came out to interview at Mercedes in the fall of 2004 and he kept telling me that it was worth the trip, but we never seemed to find the right time to do it until now – when time for such outings is quickly running out.

It cost 3 Euro each to take the 36-second elevator to the observation platform. The view of downtown Stuttgart was terrific – even better than I expected. We could clearly see the Neues and Altes Schlößer, the Stiftskirche, and Schlossplatz. Despite low-lying clouds, it was actually quite clear and we could just about make out the pointy hill of Burg Hohenzollern and the distinctive profile of the Schwäbische Alb. We could see our own neighborhood in Botnang and could just barely make out the Birkenkopf and even our street. It was bitterly cold and windy up there so we didn’t linger very long. Back on solid ground, I found some great Stuttgart magnets in the gift shop – including one that says Stuttgart: Hauptstadt der Schwaben (“Stuttgart – Capital of Swabia”).

More photos from today:

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