It’s a real treat to catch up with a long-time friend AND, travel aboard to visit her. A couple of weeks back I headed to Stuttgart, Germany to catch up with Michelle and little family. Back in the day Michelle and I used to model together when we both still lived in Brisbane, Australia. I think our finest moment was when we were both booked for the leather shows at the Brisbane Exhibition, LOL. I can assure you, if you were a Brissy girl at the time, that was a big deal.
Stuttgart is super easy to get to from London. There are regular flight services from all of the airlines including low-cost carriers, and the flight time is only 1 hour 40 minutes. The easiest way to get from the airport downtown is on the SBahn. It will cost you €4.20 and it is the cheapest and quickest route into Stuttgart, getting you there in about 20-25 minutes.
After dropping my bag off at Michelle’s flat, we headed into the city to grab a bit to eat. I was chatting to Mich about what life is like as an ex-pat in a country where you don’t speak the language. She told me that it had initially been a really tough gig. The language obviously created obstacles, and even the simplest of tasks like ordering a soy latte could sometimes create the biggest challenge. But she’s taken it all in her stride and attends German classes three days a week, and has joined an ex-part group, the International Women’s Club of Stuttgart (IWCS), to expand her local circle of friends. I found it really interesting to observe how resilient to change Mich’s five-year-old daughter Lola, has been with the move abroad, and was super impressed at her fluency in German. It was amusing to watch her correct her parent’s German from time to time.
We headed over to Cube Restaurant for lunch. Located on the top floor of the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, the restaurant has beautiful panoramic views through the floor to ceiling glass windows of the Neue Schloss. The staff were really friendly and welcoming, and very accommodating at my inability to speak a word of German. We were joined by Michelle’s friend Alicia, a really sweet American lady from Arizona she had met through the IWCS. Seated by the window, we ordered a bottle of the Reserve Kessler to get started. Catching up with an old mate should be a celebration after all! All of the food was delicious. I would recommend the Rotes Gemüsecurry.
That evening we had a chilled one at the flat and were joined by another of Michelle’s husband Jeromy, and another of her friends that she had meet through the IWCS; Theresa an Irish lady with a great sense of humour. When you become a 30-something regardless of having children or not, I find you appreciate and become a little more creative with those evenings spent it. We put my duty-free champagne supplies and some more Kessler to good use. Mich introduced me to Friday night karaoke. Lola knew all of the words to the songs and the moves to the dances from the film clips, which supplied endless hours of entertainment. As the evening wore on, we played games (namely my new favourite one, What do you Meme), and had lots of giggles.
The next day we set off from Stuttgart for Esslingen. Michelle and Jeromy were keen to show me what a traditional German village looked like. Esslingen isn’t far at all from Stuttgart – it is only about a 20-minute drive. It is a beautiful little village set on the Neckar River, and is exactly as you would expect with German gingerbread style houses, cobbled stone streets and an open-air market filled with enticing fresh produced supplied by local farmers.
Esslingen is home to Kessler, a yummy sparkling wine that is produced locally. Mich tells me that apparently Mr. Georg Christian von Kessler went to work for Madame Veuve Clicquot as a clerk in 1807. Madame Clicquot took a real liking to him, describing him as “intelligent but ambitious and cunning”, and by 1815 he had become partner leading the Champagne house to its greatest prosperity in its history. After Kessler’s wife passed away during childbirth, he returned to Germany with his young daughter and produced sparkling wine of his own. Priding myself on being quite the “champagne connoisseur”, I can honestly say that this is an excellent sparkling that wholly embodies champagne, and I would even go as far as to say it is a much nicer drop than Veuve Clicquot!
I obviously had to sample some of the delectable honeydew coloured nectar, during our visit. Kessler is located just off the market square by the church. We purchased three glasses of fizz at only €4.50 each and stood outside in the warm sunshine with the locals enjoying the friendly village atmosphere.
I was keen to get some footage of the beautiful vineyards surrounding Esslingen. And Jeromy had very kindly been on the lookout for where to shoot the best angels from. So, after our bevvies, we went on a gentle hike up the small hillside that overlooked the town. I don’t know why, but I was surprised to see how beautiful and green Germany was. It was such a pretty site preached on top of the Esslingen Burg, overlooking the rooftops of the village with Cherry Blossoms in full bloom on one side, and the leafy vines on the sloping hill overlooking the village on the other side.
It was time to head back to Michelle’s to get ready for the IWCS’ annual charity fundraiser. The IWCS is a women’s ex-pat group for women of all nationalities and ages. It is a great way for newcomers to town to make new friends, and to get involved in Stuttgart life. Each year they hold a fundraiser to help Frauen helfen Frauen e.V., who support survivors of domestic violence. The organising committee did an outstanding job; the event was set in Villa Humboldt, a grand old house with panoramic views of the city, once owned by a politician and his 12 children. They chose a really fun theme inspired by La La Land. The décor and entertainment were reminiscent of Hollywood glamour, and guests were treated to a flash mob performance and after dinner, a burlesque show.
Michelle and Jeromy wanted to take me somewhere special for my last day with them, so we headed to the infamous Black Forest. I was super excited about this and conjured up visions of Brothers Grimm fairy tales, cuckoo clocks, and Black Forest cake of course. We made our way along the autobahn (a hair-raising experience in itself), out into the countryside. As we speed along the winding roads along the forests edge, we finally arrived in Triberg, which is about 1 hour 40 minutes from Stuttgart. The Black Forest is famous for being the home of the cuckoo clock, where they were first made in the 17th century, and in Triberg you will find one of the largest clock shops in region.
We wandered into House of 1000 Clocks, a rather large store that had obviously welcomed many tourists over the years. The clock emporium’s walls were covered in the cuckoo-ing clocks from floor to ceiling. There were all types: traditional, modern, small, big; the choice was overwhelming. The clocks came at a hefty price, but you are paying for handmade craftsmanship so it is well worth it. I came across a modern royal blue clock adorned with a silver stag head. I thought it was the perfect travel memento to remind me of my trip, to take home with me.
We then climbed back into the car and set off for the Black Forest Open Air Museum Vogtsbauernhof. located in Gutach. The museum centres around a Vogtsbauernhof farmhouse dating from 1612, which was built on the site. Other buildings from the Black Forest have been transported to the museum and reassembled to give guests a flavour of what the village would have looked like in the 17th century. We have similar style museums in Australia. I remember being a kid and going on school camp to Roma one year and wandering around the historical village, imagining myself as a pioneer in one of the first colonies who reached Australia during colonial times. Which is pretty much what I found myself doing in Gutach; wandering around and imagining what life must have been like in Germany in during the 1600’s.
After a hard day’s work sightseeing, we rewarded ourselves with a giant slice of Black Forest cake. I’ll admit it was my first slice ever, so I don’t really have anything to compare it to, but it was super yummy as far as I was concerned. The sponge was light and fluffy, and the cream was thick, over a bed of divine cherries drunk on Krischwasser. It was actually the size of my head, so despite giving it a good go I was defeated in the end.
And so, my little trip to Germany had come to an end. I said my goodbyes and jumped on the plane London bound. I had the most amazing weekend and I would urge anyone who has not considered Germany for a holiday to take some time out to explore this truly beautiful country. I know I will be returning again, just as soon as I can.
Until next time, safe travels.
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***This post is dedicated to Michelle and Jeromy, for showing me such an incredible time in Stuttgart – thanks so much guys!!