While on the Autobahn…
on the way home from our trip in Stuttgart I noticed one of the many signs you will often see on the Autobahn here in Germany. It is a large brown sign with a picture of a landmark on it that lets you know there is a point of interest at the next exit. It was rather early in the day still and I was in a mood for adventure, so I pulled off and we found ourselves in the city of Ludwigsburg. To say I was not expecting what we would see is a vast understatement because the “Point of Interest” in Ludwigsburg is one of the most incredible palaces I have ever seen.
The Ludwigsburg residence was built originally in the very early 1700’s as a hunting palace. This was a common practice for nobility as hunting was a popular hobby among the higher class at the time. At some point during the construction, Duke Eberhard, the duke of Wuertemberg decided that he wanted to make this place his primary place of residence rather than stay at the palace in Stuttgart. Therefore, the palace was expanded via the building of a much larger and grander New palace about 300 meters away from the Old one. The project continued to grow as it was decided that the outbuildings that stood between the two buildings would all be joined into continuous wings in order to connect the two palaces and by 1733 you had the enormous, 4 winged palace that you can see today.
At a glance from the street, there are several incredible things you will notice about this residence. Firstly, the royal gardens have been completely kept as they were before the turn of the 20th century, the outside is incredibly well maintained, the original low wall and gates still stand letting you know you are entering a place of incredible importance. This palace has some features that make it unique and also had the fortune of not being destroyed during the second world war like so many of the stately palaces in Germany. A couple of the things that stand out about this place is the private theatre inside with all the gadgets and effects contraptions of the 18th century still intact and functioning and the two large chapels built into the outer structure +which were incredibly extravagant for being originally built as protestant.
We decided to take a full tour of the structure and were we ever surprised at just how extensive the tour would be. The tour began on the new side at one of the two incredible grand entry staircases which led to the two respective sides of the palace, the King’s apartments, and the Queen’s apartments. after entering a room they called the Knight’s chamber, where in former times you would be checked for weapons and prepared to meet the King or Queen, we were taken into the Long Hall. The Long Hall is a typical large ballroom with incredible fresoes and plaster marble adornment that make the room look like it belongs in a temple. The room was used both as a ballroom and a dining chamber for official meals. after the Long hall we were taken to the Queen’s apartments where the original interior and furnishings gave us a true impression of how the upper crust of society lived during the 18th and 19th centuries. The particularly amazing thing about these apartments is that the bed chamber actually had in it the original bed. For those of you wondering why this is a big deal, it is because in almost no palace that I have ever been to are the original beds still there on display, or even still in existence. Most palaces use the bedchambers to display other period furniture as a filler piece in the absence of the original furnishings but here at Ludwigsburg the furniture is 100% original. once the tour has guided you through the remarkable rooms of the Queen we were lead down a hallway to a dor at the end of a roughly 200 meter long hall which served as a gallery of the ancestry of the family. These kinds of rooms are common in palaces like this because they would demonstrate the important lineage of the family, which would legitimize them for titles and positions above their station. Nearly every major family at the time had a gallery like this but most are not so grand as this one. the hall was covered by polished plaster marble work and every portrait was a part of the wall and labeled with prominent plaques detailing who each picture portrayed. after such an incredible tour, we thought we had nearly reached the end, we were wrong.
At the end of the gallery hall was a door leading to the private theatre/opera house of the King. Here the King (who had a love for the theatre) would watch and sometimes even act in plays put on by the best composers and acting companies that money could buy. The theatre is very typical of other opera houses of the era, a large stage with multiple tiers of back drops and a viewing gallery with balconies all around the walls made of wood. The stage and all the multiple gadgets of 18th century special effects are still present and, most incredibly, in working condition! Our tour guide was kind enough (Since we had a small group) to take us up on the stage where you could see the trap doors which brought characters up from seemingly no where, the rails on which the multiple giant painted sets would roll on and off the stage, the ropes and pulleys and machinery that made this all possible. remarkable. After showing us the stag, our tour guide upped the ante even further when he offered to take us below the stage to see all of the working man driven machinery that made all of this possible. I have never been so impressed and in awe of a building and tour as I was this day. We were even able to turn the wheels of machines which made sound effects for the plays. As an interesting side note, our guide told us that Cassanova had attended plays here and was amazed by the visual and audio effects.
To conclude our tour, we entered one of the two chapels and got to see them from the perspective of where the King would have sat during service, really cool. Finally we were lead into the old palace which is much smaller and not so overtly grand as the new one, but still unique and beautiful. Out the back of the old palace another palace was visible. It was explained to us that the King still wanted a hunting lodge, so another one was built only a short walk from the main residence for that purpose. Looks like we have another reason to return to Ludwigsburg.
If you like history, if you enjoy seeing masterfully crafted buildings that take you back to another time, this is one of the best places to do that. Luise and I were both amazed at the expansive nature of the place and the remarkable manner in which it has been preserved for tourists. I would highly recommend that if you find yourself on A81 through Baden Wuertemberg, seek this place out and do yourself the favor of taking a tour.
Till next Time,