17 March 2012

Gallivanting in Germany: Tübingen

So my travels to Germany took me to Tübingen, where I had a conference presentation in the university there. However, I made it a point to take some time and see the sights, as Tübingen is a wonderful town, with a spectacular Old Town. This post shows the highlights of this town, that is worth walking. Yes, it was quite cold when I was there, but I bundled up, took my camera, and walked the old cobblestoned streets.

In this trip, I decided to do a homestay and rent a private room during my stay. It was quite an interesting experience, and I would be more than willing to do that again. My temporary accommodation was located on the west side of the Old Town, while the university was on the east side of the Old Town, so for the whole duration of the conference, I would walk back and forth from the west to the east, crossing the Old Town. That was a 20-minute walk, and given the scenery, I didn't mind that at all.

I would pass by the old castle, through this winding narrow road. It is technically a two-way street, but it is so narrow that cars usually give way to each other, climbing on to the sidewalk in order for the other car to pass. It is quite a steep road too, so needless to say, I was very careful walking on it when it was snowing and slippery.

A couple more minutes walking to the east from the castle, and sure enough, the Old Town starts to emerge. There are plenty of wood-timbered frame houses here, as you can see. The roads are narrow, and it definitely felt like I was back in the Medieval Era.

The house you see above is the Cotta House. It is famous because of the German propensity to commemorate every little thing about their famous people. In this case, apparently, the Cotta House was the temporary accommodation of Goethe, from September 7 to September 16, 1797. The sign says "Goethe lived here."

The funny thing is that the next door parodies this practice of minute commemoration. A window from a shabby dormitory proclaims a rather funny thought. The sign says "Goethe puked here."

Further exploration of the narrow and winding streets of the Old Town reveals plenty of other wood-timbered houses. I was really struck by how pretty it was, especially at night, when I first ventured out. I was on my way to the supermarket (the one and only supermarket in the Old Town) when I saw these sights, and I couldn't stop myself from looking up.

The Neckar River is close by: in fact, I had to cross this on my way from the train station to my accommodation. See how frozen it is during the winter.

One of the most amazing buildings in this town is the Rathaus, or the Town Hall. Town halls in my head were these stately yet drab buildings. This is totally not the case in Tübingen, where the Rathaus seems to be a huge piece of art.

As I was wandering along, I saw this picture in my head, of a small alley at the back of the castle. Somehow, I think it was quite pretty, and cognitively dissonant to have a modern car in the middle of medieval architecture.

As you can see, there's no shortage of pretty houses here. I thought about it, while I was there, that I can see myself totally living in a town like this, it is small, but everything I could possibly need is there. There is a supermarket, but why would you want to shop at the supermarket if there are trucks selling cheese and sausage and other food items that park at the plaza? When I was there, the only time I had to go to a supermarket was to get bottled water.

Of course, I decided to pay a visit to the castle. It used to be a real castle, now the university now owns it, and so it uses it as a university building. I believe the Department of Archaeology is housed there, and they even run a museum.

In front of the castle entrance is a steep inclined plaza, with hotels and restaurants.

And since the castle is located on a high place, there is a great view of the city from the top.

So yes, this was my first taste of a German medieval town, and a university town nonetheless. I think I like it, and can imagine myself living here. Yes, it's a small town, but it is pretty. And if I want a big city experience, Stuttgart is just an hour away by train.


  1. That was a real interesting post. I have been to Stuttgart years ago and did not know it was so close to Tubingen. When I left Paris for the USA years ago I had a boyfriend from Tubingen who came to see me in Paris often so I was interested in looking at the town – it certainly is very pretty.

  2. Vagabonde,

    Thanks for reading - yes, this town is one of the prettiest I have seen. It would have been better if the weather was great too, but I enjoyed myself in the winter nevertheless.

  3. What do you mean by homestay? Like a bed and breakfast kind of place? In a way, I'd find it interesting culturally-speaking, but doesn't it feel weird to be at some strangers' place?

    Nice set though! Much more colourful than I imagine Germany to be!

  4. Zhu,

    Well, it's what they call a "zimmervermietung", or literally, "room for rent". I was also worried that it was like staying over in some stranger's place, but it didn't feel like that at all. The building had 4 floors, and the family I stayed with owned the 3rd and 4th floors. Each floor had a common staircase, but separate entrances. In other words, the 4th floor can be a separate unit. That's where I was, together with other guests. We had a common bathroom, and each bedroom had a lock. It was more like a hotel, actually, but without the sterile and anonymous environment that comes with it. I'd gladly do it again if I need to.

  5. Such beautiful pictures... I got my MA from Uni of Tübingen and you captured it nicely! Glad you liked it so much :)

    1. Mariella,

      Thanks! It was such a nice small town to visit in the middle of winter, it makes things look magical!