I have found that in Germany, there are a lot of hidden gems which you will get to know about if you talk with the locals and tell them beforehand that you have already been to the bigger cities like Berlin, Munich etc. I have had some really nice recommendations from my colleagues here. These places won’t be found in the itineraries of international tour and travel service providers but probably that’s the best part about them – no bus loads of tourists!
So today I ran my finger on the map and it stopped on a place called Ludwigsburg. Alright it was a google search for the places I was told about but which I could reach in a less time but running a finger on the map sounds better – doesn’t it!
I took the Baden-Wuertemberg ticket for the day, which gives you the flexibility to go anywhere within the state on local transport (trains, buses, trams) from morning till 3 AM of the next day! There is also a Schoenes Wochenende ticket which costs more but allows you the same flexibility across Germany (i.e. not limited to one state).
Now about Ludwigsburg – it is a relatively new city – having founded in 1704 by the Duke of Wuerttemberg – Eberhard Ludwig Louis. It was an important hunting area so there was a hunting lodge also built for the “Order of the hunters of the Golden Eagle”. Today the palace is one of the largest Baroque style palaces in Europe which are still there in the original condition.
You will see a lot of marble walls in the residential palace but surprise surprise – it is fake marble! It’s made out of stucco, could be made into all possible colors and was better at retaining heat than the real one – and hence it was more expensive than real one!
The palace has 450 rooms and it used to house 2000 people out of which there were 1800 servants to serve 200 members of the royal family!
The height of the ceilings defined the status of the owners (probably spending more on heating which would be needed if you had higher ceilings, was also a sign of affluence). The contrast between rich and poor can be seen inside the palace itself – when you go from the king’s room to the servant’s room! The ceiling is lower, cast iron pillar kind of thing for heating and the information that 15 servants stayed in the room waiting for the ringing of the bell that beckoned them for the chores. For sleeping, they had straw laid out on the floor of a room with no furniture. The payment was only for skilled labor like the scribes and so on, but the others had to be satisfied with a roof above their heads and food that they received three times a day. May be some clothes were also given – but they usually had one set of clothes only.
Back to rich people now. The other status symbols of that period were the mirrors and the oil paintings. The more you had, the more rich you were! In fact, mirrors were more expensive than even Gold! It is as astounding as the fact that Aluminium was once so precious that rich people (Napoleon too) had Aluminium dinner sets! Back to mirrors – they were manufactured in Italy and transported in containers of butter (there was no bubble wrap then), hence the origin of the saying “alles im butter” which means all is fine. As for oil paintings, the subject didn’t matter. You just had to have lots and lots of them to impress your guests and make them know that you were rich!
Frescoes inside the palaces were another important feature. Optical illusions denoted the expertise of the painter. Pietro Scotti was the painter commissioned with the job and he did a good one. Skillfully hidden optical illusions in the ceiling – which come to notice when the guide tells you to observe!
Cabinet rooms were special places and it was an honor to be invited there.
There are also four museums inside the palace – mode (fashion), keramik (ceramic), theater and lodgings of Duke Carl Eugen.
There are two churches also inside the palace, one of which was converted later to meeting place after the hunt. Coat of arms of all members of the hunting order are there. Today you can have a wedding there if you like!
In the end, I wonder if the kings ever thought that their homes would be walked into by the commoners – would have been quite a shocking thought! How times change :)!