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Ludwigsburg is a city of storytelling – and the city’s own story is pretty interesting in its own right. This city of about 87,000 people in Swabia, the southwest region of Baden-Wurttemberg Germany, features a delightful city centre and a gorgeous palace.
The Baroque-style palace and its grounds occupy an area virtually the same size as the downtown area of the city itself. The two areas sit adjacent to each other, making up about one square mile in total. This is all very walkable, as the terrain is flat and much of the city center is pedestrianized.
The downtown consists of a grid of about 20 streets, where you can go shopping or sit at an outside table at a cafe. The main focus is the market square (Marktplatz), overshadowed by Baroque churches and with a statue of the city’s founder, Duke Eberhard Ludwig, at its center. True to its name, the Marktplatz hosts weekly markets. In addition, each Christmas it is the venue of a Baroque Christmas market, with more than 100 stalls selling different goods, while in May it hosts one of Germany’s oldest horse fairs.
Lovers of literature will be delighted to discover that within the small city center are the houses where Eduard Mörike and David Friedrich Strauss were born. Mörike (1804-1875) was a famous author of romantic verse and short stories, drawing much material from the folk tales of the region. By contrast, Strauss (1808-1874) challenged conventional stories, provoking outrage in 1835 by publishing an influential biography of Jesus that described the miracles as myths intended to prove that Jesus was the Messiah.
Ludwigsburg owes its existence to the local palace, of which Duke Eberhard Ludwig laid the foundation stone in 1704. He wanted to have a beautiful home base where he could hunt and enjoy time with his mistress, while ruling his duchy of Württemberg. He founded the city itself a few years later, its original inhabitants being the workers who were building the palace. In the course of time, the duke decided to make Ludwigsburg his official capital, replacing Stuttgart. The city’s name means “Ludwig’s castle.”
The huge palace, sometimes called the Swabian Versailles, owes its present superb condition to extensive renovation after World War II. The palace contains three museums. One displays paintings from the Baroque period, another shows the type of clothes worn here between 1750 to 1820, and the third exhibits porcelain. The palace is home to the only porcelain manufacture in southwest Germany.
The palace grounds are at least as impressive as the palace itself – especially on a sunny day. An ongoing garden show, “Blühendes Barock” (blooming Baroque), begun in 1953, features gardening styles of different periods and regions, and stretches over more than 70 acres. There are exotic plants and birds, as well as odd little features such as a fake medieval ruin or a carousel.
Also in the palace grounds is the Märchengarten (fairytale garden), which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2009. This consists of a series of huts where, by pressing a button or shouting a phrase, you activate a recorded narration of a tale and some moving figures acting it out. Pinocchio, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Rapunzel – all their tales are here, along with Rumpelstiltskin gloating that the queen will never guess his name.
Ludwigsburg is about seven miles north of Stuttgart, and can be easily reached from there by riding the suburban train (S-Bahn) or driving up highway B27.