Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Traveling Stuttgart: Pigs, Cars & History

The best way to travel, for me, is to give only passing attention to an area’s tourist attractions. They’re almost always disappointing after the build-up they get.

I will certainly go to see them , but the best times I have are spent with locals. Drive down the neighborhood streets. Notice schools and churches, eat at the local diner or pub. See those things that are the daily lives of the people who live where you are only passing by.

Our recent trip to Germany took us to half a dozen towns, villages and cities, where we accomplished just that. Lynda and I stayed with family on a US Army facility in Stuttgart, and used that as home base for traveling out to other towns within a few hours' drive.

This trip was a first for me—I’ve been to Canada and Mexico a couple of time each, but never to Europe. (Lynda has lived in Germany twice. Since our return, she’s remarked several times on how much fun it was for her to see it through my eyes.)

 While we left the city a few times to see other locations—Heidelberg, Rothenberg and Trier, along with Lynda’s high school hometown Zweibrucken—Stuttgart itself has a lot to offer. These were a few of the highlights I enjoyed:

The Schweinemuseum (Pig Museum): This was our very first stop as tourists in Germany, selected nearly at random after a quick Google search, and without doubt it was the most bizarre. The Pig Museum features statues, figurines, paintings and other paraphernalia all about pigs. It even has a small exhibition of pig-based erotica (no joke.) I was expecting something much more on the agricultural side rather than the bizarre, and ended up enjoying it more than I had expected to.

I sent a few of the odder pictures to an American friend whose husband is German, asking her to ask him why Germany would devote an entire museum to the subject. His response: “We like pigs.” What more can you say, I guess?

This continues to be one of the more memorable stops we made and should you find yourself in Stuttgart with a couple hours to kill, I recommend it!  The attached restaurant is a great place to stop for lunch - they specialize in, you guessed it, pork.

Porsche Museum: Stuttgart is the world headquarters of Porsche, and the exhibits in this museum track the company’s history from the late 19th Century forward. The cars on display here cover the company’s presence in motorsports, military applications and consumer sports cars. It includes a piece of the world’s first electric car, developed by Ferdinand Porsche in 1898. Even our granddaughters, who are not into cars at all, were entertained walking through the museum.

The Pink Pig - they really do like pigs.
Birkenkopf (Rubble Mountain): According to Wikipedia, most major cities in Germany have at least one of these hills made from World War II debris. At 130 feet above surface level, Birkenkopf is a mid-sized one.

My son-in-law Danny and I climbed it (“climbed” is a bit of an exaggeration, really—it’s a paved and easy walking path at about a 45-degree angle that spirals up the hill.) Most of the rubble is buried under soil, but at the top there are piles of stone with recognizable features as pieces of buildings that were destroyed by Allied bombs.

The weight of history is heavy up there if you pause to let it be.

Fernsehturm: Fernsehturm Stuttgart claims to be the world’s oldest TV tower, and truly is a Stuttgart landmark (you can read about Jackie's visits to it here). It rises 217 meters above Stuttgart, and features an observation deck and a café with spectacular views of the surrounding area. It was rainy the first time we tried to visit, but the second try found perfect viewing weather and the whole family took the elevator up.

From the observation deck, you can see the entire city, and the land for miles around. The deck is encircled with a rail marking compass points and degrees, so you can know which direction you’re looking with some precision. Other than the city itself, I didn’t really know what I was looking at, but it was breathtaking all the same.

We ended the visit with a pleasant dinner at the restaurant just as the sun was setting, bathing the room in rosy late-day light.

Individual points of interest aside, I felt a curious mix of discovery and familiarity in Stuttgart.

Aspects of it were foreign to me, reminding me I was on a different continent, in a different country than home. And yet, other than language, in many ways it didn’t feel that much different. American culture has some of its deepest roots in Europe, and over the centuries, as cultures diverged, America has returned to influence Europe. Subway sandwiches and Domino’s pizza are common in Stuttgart, competing with local restaurants serving traditional fare—which no doubt seems exotic to the locals.

My biggest takeaway is that I definitely plan to see to it that we visit again as soon as we can, armed with a little more knowledge about how to get around and enjoy the sites while taking life easy.  Coming soon, I'll share some of what I learned on this trip, provide some practical tips for the first-time European visitor, and give one serious warning I wish I'd known. Watch for it!


  1. Micheal - what a fun trip and places you visited in Germany with your family. We are neighbors over at #FridayFrivolity today.

    PS.. if you are looking for another place to link to on Thursday's I would love if you would consider joining my linkup #TuneInThursday - it opens Thursday 3am PST and runs through Sunday night. you can find it at (Please feel free to delete the link if you think it inappropriate).

  2. I love visiting and driving through the rural areas when we vacation. It's how you really get a feel for their way of living! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  3. I love to visit Germany, but we have never ventured to Stuttgart. That is good to know the Porsche headquarters and museum is there, that is definitely a German city my car-loving boys will want to go next time! Thanks for sharing your travels with us at the #HomeMattersParty this week.

  4. We didn't get to it, but the Mercedes museum is there, too! Definitely a must-visit for luxury car lovers!

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