Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Off the beaten path: Karlsruhe, Germany

Karlsruhe is known to Europeans for being the base of The Federal Supreme Court of Justice, it is almost always left out from travel itineraries of people who undertake trips to Germany. However, in recent years it has gained some popularity due to the fact that it was elected to be the host town of Virtual Tourist’s Euromeet 2008. More than that, the idea of VT, one of the first travel-oriented sites and communities on the web, was actually conceived in Karlsruhe.

This town is worth visiting for anyone interested in off the beaten path travel, mingling with locals for a bit and forgetting crowded tourist spots for a while.

The most famous places in town are Schloss, Marktplatz and

Rathaus, the former and the latter two are located within 3 walking minutes from one another.

Schloss Karlsruhe was built in 1715 by Karl Wilhelm in the middle of nowhere (more precisely: forest) as his summer cottage of sorts and later became his residence and the political hotspot of the state of Baden. Initially, all streets led to and from the Schloss, so if you reach the top of the tower, you’ll see them going off in different directions like rays from the sun. Nowadays the palace is home to Badisches Landesmuseum surrounded by a huge botanical garden with a pond and lots of nice places for lunch or rest.

Marktplatz is home to Karlsruhe's most famous landmark, the Pyramid (right across from the Townhall) that was built over the tomb of Margrave Karl Wilhelm. Rather small and boring, it’s worth maybe for taking a single picture of it and walking on.

The street separating Marktplatz and the territory adjacent to Schloss Karlsruhe is Kaiserstrasse which is the main shopping strip in Karlsruhe featuring some very nice buildings, only to be contrasted by dozens and dozens of stores, from Karstadt to H&M, Pimkie and the like (another place worth visiting for charging your card – EKZ located at Ettlinger Tor).

Karlsruhe has one of the best independent movie theaters I ever had the pleasure to visit – Schauburg, located not far from the Badisches Staatstheater (which I would not necessarily recommend visiting, maybe only to get an idea that balet, for instance, is better in other destinations). The program is very diverse and almost everyone will be able to find something suiting their cinematic taste. Every once in a while they’ll have a Sunday brunch with a Q&A with German film directors. The interior is very nice as well. Ten meters away from Schauburg there’s a fantastic Italian restaurant where you’ll have quite possibly the best pizza in town.

Best way to experience Karlsruhe: walk around, sit down for a drink or meal, walk some more, have dinner, have a stroll before going to bed. You might also consider visiting the zoo, located directly across from the main train station. Anyone interested in modern art and technologies should stop by ZKM.

And before I forget:

centrally located Bierakademie is a hit with locals

Baden Baden is just a 40-minute tram/train ride away

Strasbourg is an hour-drive away

the nearby town of Ettlingen (10 minutes away by S1 or S11) has a fascinating little old town, it’s a nice place for a leisure afternoon

also you might want to check out Durlach, one of Karlsruhe’s boroughs and climb 600 stairs to the top of a hill to check out a splendid view of the town

best time to visit, according to my personal experience, seems to be September-October, the day might start off with as low as 6C, but it'll be a sunny 25C before you know it.


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