My visit to Germany in August 2012 included an afternoon spent in Esslingen, a beautiful and historic town south-east of Stuttgart. The settlement dates back to some 1,000 B.C. and was a warehouse town during the Roman Empire years of occupation. For those interested in how the town evolved, the Middle Ages are when it sprouted up and become a population centre.
Esslingen was first mentioned in 777 as Ezelinga in the last will of Abbot Fulrad from Saint-Denis (near Paris), the chaplain of Pippin and Charlemagne. He bequeathed the church sixth cell upon the river Neckar to his monastery, Saint-Denis. He also brought the bones of Saint Vitalis to Esslingen, which made it a destination for pilgrims and led to its growth.
Around 800 Esslingen became a market town, its market rights being certified in 866. In 949–953 it was a possession of Liudolf, Duke of Swabia. Esslingen received city rights in 1229 under Emperor Frederick II. During the same period the still extant Neckar bridge was built, making Esslingen a major centre for trade on the route between Italy, Switzerland, and northern Germany. Taxes provided by the bridge and market led to further growth of the town, as did the export of the highly regarded wines from the region.
The period between the 13th century and 16th century saw many conflicts between the Free Imperial City and the Counts of Württemberg (later Duchy of Württemberg). About half the population lost their lives in the Thirty Years War between 1618 and 1648 through famine or epidemics. Esslingen lost its independence as an Imperial city in 1803, becoming part of the Duchy of Württemberg.
The town itself is very quaint and having been largely untouched by the ravages of the Allied bombing during the Second World War, is intact with many period buildings.
Entering the town from one of the satellite parking areas, one encounters the strange site of a tower with an art installation looming over the river. This tower seems to hold a small cafe on the ground floor with happy diners spilling forth onto the square below.
The town skyline is dominated by two churches – the one we found to be of interest is the Stadtkirche St. Dionys (Church of St. Dionysius).
Dating back to the early 13th century, this church had some structural issues identified within a century of completion and there were originally two connected bridges between the towers constructed between 1643 and 1650. One was removed in 1859 and in 1900, the remaining bridge reconstructed to halt the leaning tendencies of the towers.
As viewed from the town, the towers peek from behind a traditional structure with the canal system winding between houses.
The church doors are impressive however I have been unable for find a date for them – certainly relatively modern. Impressive door handle though.
For me, this look is what attracts me to the region – the ancient stone churches and the “modern” late middle-ages wooden structures that feature in many side streets and town squares.
Untouched by the Second World War perhaps, but the region suffered many casualties during the 1870s Franco-Prussian war, often referred to in France as the War of 1870 (19 July 1870 – 10 May 1871). This was a conflict between the Second French Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia. Prussia was aided by the North German Confederation, of which it was a member, and the South German states of Baden, Württemberg and Bavaria.
The complete Prussian and German victory brought about the final unification of Germany under King Wilhelm I of Prussia. It also marked the downfall of Napoleon III and the end of the Second French Empire, which was replaced by the French Third Republic. As part of the settlement, the territory of Alsace and part of Lorraine was taken by Prussia to become a part of Germany, and it remained so until the end of World War I when it was returned to France in the Treaty of Versailles.
Seen in one of the many town squares, an aging Trabant was still functional. A hold over from the era of superior Soviet engineering perhaps.
According to what little information I could find, Kielmeyer were soap makers (Seifenfabrikation) and sold Kolonialwaren (general goods). The building is a fabulous example of a Fachwerkhaus (timber framed building) although I suspect the building has other uses now.
The town hall (Rathaus) has a new look with the modern structure replacing the old one in function, but not in form.
The square around the original Rathaus is beautiful.
Following a very nice walk around the town, our stomachs (well, mine) needed food. In the hunt for something suitable, Carmen found herself balancing on this odd bar.
We found ourselves eating at a nice restaurant offering good local food in a quiet square. I took this photo because it has a dog in it.
Whilst we waited for our food, Carmen and I took photos of each other. Then when the food arrived, we took photos of that too.
As you can see, we enjoyed ourselves. My schnitzel was good, but paled in comparison to the one from Onkel Otto the night before.
Here we see Carmen’s dumplings (the ones that should be served in a bra) and Lea’s meal (not sure what it was – looked good though).
I have to say I am somewhat unsure what Lea was doing here. I was the one who had the beer….
No dinner would be complete without napkin-art…
Finally, and probably to the relief of the locals, we left and went up to the castle that overlooks the town.
The castle is presently undergoing significant renovations so some parts are not open. However it was a very interesting place to visit.
It also offered great view points to take photos of the town from.
Of course, this being a meeting of flickr.com friends, photos were taken.