STUTTGART – Eating local food and drinking local beers and wines are all vital ingredients for a memorable holiday. In SouthWest Germany, the German federal state of Baden-Württemberg, you can go further. You can travel back in time by dining on dishes that were once enjoyed by kings and dukes. And you can do that in some of Europe’s most impressive castles, stately palaces, old monasteries and grand parks. It’s almost like being in your very own fairy-tale! Visit monastery vineyards and cellars; chat to nobility over coffee and cake; sip an aperitif in an elegant garden.
Maulbronn Monastery: World Heritage and wine
A Cistercian monk at Maulbronn Monastery is credited with creating SouthWest Germany’s favourite comfort food: Maultaschen, like ravioli. But the medieval monks also liked their wine, planting vineyards 800 years ago and creating a unique landscape that shaped the region economically and culturally. In the Maulbronn Monastery refectory, carvings on the stone pillars reflect the monks' love of wine. Today, vines have been planted once again on the Closterweinberg, the Monastery Vineyard on a nearby hillside. Best of all, you can taste those wines and learn about the monastery’s rich history on special tours (in English on request). What is regarded as the best-preserved medieval Cistercian monastery north of the Alp is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One hour northwest of Stuttgart.
Alpirsbach Abbey: Benedictines and Beer
“Cervisiam bibat! - Drink beer!” That was the advice of the nun, Saint Hildegard von Bingen, 900 years ago. Brewing beer was always an important skill in monasteries and convents. And in Alpirsbach, high in the Black Forest, that tradition continues today. To find out more about the history and techniques of brewing in ancient times, join the “Beer Brewing in the Middle Ages” tour, all about the Brewing Art of the Monks (in English on request). And, of course, you can also taste and drink the beer at the end of the tour. In the “Cellarium”, the monastery cellar, you can fortify yourself with locally-baked bread, spread with lard, and washed down with a naturally-cloudy unfiltered Alpirsbach beer. Ninety minutes southwest of Stuttgart.
Aulendorf Palace: Coffee and cake with a countess
A Kaffeeklatsch is a typical German excuse for friends to get together for coffee, cake and a chat. But, when Countess Paula zu Königsegg-Aulendorf invites you to join her at Aulendorf Palace, stand by for juicy gossip about the nobility back in 1881. As the chief lady-in-waiting to the Empress of Austria she has all the spicy stories; even less discrete is her maid, Rosalie. Once a month, they take you through the grand palace halls and rooms, and finish by inviting you to join them for freshly-baked pastries and coffee, all served in style with silver cutlery and fine china. Aulendorf is 2 hours southeast of Stuttgart.
Weikersheim Palace and Garden: Picnic under the lemon and orange trees
Built in 1708, Weikersheim Palace is famous for its formal Baroque Garden, romantic Rose Garden and the Orangery. But what makes visitors of all ages often laugh out loud when they see them are the stone statues, known as the “Dwarves’ Gallery”, a group that has preserved for posterity members of the court back in the 18th century. But on a summer’s day, nothing is nicer than a “Palace and Picnic” tour that is both a feast for the eyes and for the palate. After a personal tour of the palace, relax with taste treats in the orchard, with its historic fruit trees. In inclement weather, the picnic moves into the palace itself. Two hours northeast of Stuttgart.
Gamburg Castle: anyone for a cocktail?
Set on a hill, Gamburg Castle is home to Hans-Georg and Nicole von Mallinckrodt. Solid walls studded with turrets defend this impressive old fort. Inside, the grand Knight's Hall is famous for its 800-year-old frescoes, detailing the exploits of Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. Outside is a Baroque park, lovingly restored with statues, wells and fountains, even palm trees. In summer, enjoy the café in the Mediterranean-like castle courtyard, with its lemon, fig and olive trees. For a special treat, join the owners on a stroll through the gardens for an evening “L‘Apéritif au Jardin”. Enjoy a glass of wine; listen to musicians providing a gentle backdrop; take a seat and relax. Werbach-Gamburg is 90 minutes northeast of Stuttgart.