06 May 2013

Stutt-garten of eden

we gave ourselves a full day (and a bit more on either side) in stuttgart just to see what we could see. so glad we did. it was a nice mini family vacation and it turned out to be an amazingly good time.

so, stuttgart. i didnt know anything about it. its the 6th largest german city (~5.3 million people in the metro area). its the home of porsche and mercedes-benz, so yeah, it has a bit of an industrial history, however, its nestled in between forests, hills, and vineyards. so beautiful. its also fairly famous for its mineral hot springs.

saturday (5/4):
we finally arrived, via an incorrect train connection somewhere between tübingen and stuttgart and had to take a subway ride to our hotel (so 3 separate trains when we were only supposed to do 2). im a little bummed by the terrible signage/ticketage of german local trains. the tickets and stations seemed to assume you were totally familiar with each trains stops and track numbering set-up and whatnot. i guess it was a little bit like that in france, though i havent felt like that in helsinki.

apparently too the 3 week long spring beer fest (frühlingsfest) was going on in stuttgart. held at cannstatter wasen (two metro stops from us), we saw an inordinate amount of bavarian bar maiden outfits and males in lederhosen (i actually thought the few women we saw in lederhosen looked adorable, and far less like they were trying too hard, like the massive amount of slutty bavarian girls we saw) and there were just droves of people arriving for the festivities, clogging public transit, but they were mostly orderly, thankfully (at least at the hours we were out).

anyway, we finally got to our hotel (brita) in SE stuttgart. the vineyards were right down the block from us, going up the hill. we settled in and went to nearby grocery store(s) before they closed because the next day was sunday and southern germany is fairly old school traditional in that most places arent open on sundays.

for dinner, we went to an italian place around the corner. it was just an okay dinner but we had great 0.90€ strawberry sorbet at the cafe across from our hotel.

sunday (5/5):
X slept in and we then did the hotel breakfast (not even bakeries were open); dave loves his bircher muesli. then we walked to the tram (light rail actually) and took 2 trams to the wilhelma zoological botanical gardens. this place is not to be missed. come far, come wide. i suspect the spring is a most glorious time of year to be here too. its a historic rolling hill park functioning originally as a botanical garden, now overlaid with a zoo. what could be finer. there are so many nooks and crannies in this place its astonishing. beauty was EVERYwhere. we hadnt meant to attempt seeing the bulk of the zoo (i figured it was too sprawling to be managed in one visit) but we ended up spending 4 hours there just wandering (we chuckled at the mini redwood forest where people were taking their picture trying to get their arms around the behemoths). we had packed a lunch, so we stopped along the way for that. we made two popsicle stops (best popsicles of my life, basically frozen orange juice) and lots of water breaks. we bought a new sun hat for the kid upon entering the zoo, and it was the perfect temperature and weather (sunny with a few clouds, not warm enough to drench me in sweat, not cool enough to chill me when the wind blew. aka ideal), so we were good to be there for so long and not feel burnt out. we even randomly caught the sea lion feeding at 3p that was super cool. i love when an unstructured day pays off big time.

    
(a yellow tram ride to start the day; flower gardens in the entrance of the zoo; walking toward the sea lions)
  
(all of us near a circular fountain pool; admiring pufferfish in the aquarium area. the aquarium/terrarium building alone was worth an entry fee, the whole place was incredible)

after the zoo, we took the U14 tram down to the zacke tram line (the only line like this in the city, one of only 4 tram lines like this in germany) that climbs the hills of stuttgart at a grade of 18% (the rack/grooved track fits the trams wheels that have teeth to help it climb the steep grade). the view of stuttgart from the tram is lovely, such a pretty area. then we made our way back to the central train station. turns out there was some sort of car fair on the pedestrian walkway leading from the train station over to the citys schlossplatz, which was teeming with people. again it was the perfect setting for a lovely time. the weather was still ideal for lounging on the grass in the last of the days warmth and sunshine. i love springtime. we had bratwurst from a stand for dinner and dave had curry wurst with beer. we took the train home and had sorbet again and wound down. the kid ran around all day, smiling, laughing, hardly ever slowing down. we all had a remarkably wonderful time in stuttgart. happy memories. :)

  
(riding a rocking horse on the pedestrian walkway; fountain in the plaza)
  
(the plaza; digging in the dirt after dinner)

monday (5/6):
we were up early and caught two trains to the stuttgart airport. i'll say its not my favorite airport for organization or ease of use. oh well, cant win em all. to me, german airports havent been that impressive in design/thoughtfulness/organization in general, and i really i dont care for being bussed out to my airplane. im also neutral about the copenhagen airport. i love terminal A for all its serene design elements and calm beauty, but the other terminals arent as great, the kids area has no elevator up to it and no bathroom anywhere near it(?). the staff at the food places werent particularly helpful and the options for lactose-free were nothing like finland. i do like the danish stores Tiger and Noa Noa though, which you could browse at the airport (denmark is also home to Lego, also represented by a store in the airport).

when we got back to finland, we quickly and comfortably sank into the joys of quiet public transit, more considerate smokers, the more child-friendly set-up of society, the ease of use of english, and being able to easily deal with the dietary needs of X. finland lacks a few small things but has so much else to offer. it was bursting with sun when we landed and we didnt need a jacket! now all we need are leaves on these trees!

germany summary:
-i was reminded how very outdoor-sy the people are (as are the finns, but it just seemed different somehow)
-the germans love ice cream (possibly more than the finns)
-i had to actually learn some key german words [danka, ist das laktosefrei?; as well as to remember german numbers 1-10, as taught to me in middle school] because an unexpected amount of people didnt speak english (tübingen was better for english speakers than stuttgart surprisingly)
-young couples certainly displayed more PDA than in finland
-the german smokers were less considerate than finland
-the public transit is noisier than finland (though, i think few places are so quiet)
-i was most struck by how the men in germany were not invisible. im not sure if i noted this about finnish men before, but, and i cant put my finger on how or why, finnish men seem invisible in the city. i guess that means they arent attractive or stylish or something, which i dont think is accurate, i just cant figure out what it is. in germany i just suddenly felt like i was swimming in a pool of men. weird.
-however, i did feel that german women were either edgy or frumpy. i think i remember that from previous experience too.

**to view the more complete photo album of stuttgart click here.**

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