Karlsruhe Things to Do Tips by Nemorino Top 5 Page for this destination
Karlsruhe Things to Do: 263 reviews and 569 photos
A baroque statue in front of the Palace
Three quarters of the way up the tower you come to one of the rooms where the Tulip Girls used to live. Here you are greeted by a sign saying you have already climbed up 121 steps and have only 37 more to get to the top.
Originally there were 24 rooms for the Tulip Girls, who were young women from Karlsruhe and vicinity. The Margrave had about sixty of them on the payroll every year between 1717 and 1733. This is documented in the payroll records kept by the palace administration during that period.
The Margrave's horticultural, musical and amorous interests were all dealt with by the Tulip Girls, who were charged with caring for his collection of tulips imported at great expense from Holland. A tulip bulb at that time could cost as much as 40 Gulden, which was twice as much as a washerwoman could expect to earn in an entire year. The Margrave once journeyed to Holland himself to buy bulbs, and he also employed painters to paint pictures of the best tulips that bloomed in the palace gardens in the spring.
When the Tulip Girls weren't tending tulips, they were expected to sing in the many concerts and operas that the Margrave put on in the palace for himself and his courtiers.
Inevitably there were rumors that the Tulip Girls also had certain other duties in the palace, and in fact some of them had illegitimate children named Carl or Carlina who were cared for in the palace at the Margrave's expense.
Not everyone was amused by the Margrave and his Tulip Girls. His wife complained in a private letter about "Carl's ridiculous harem", and several German dramatists of the 18th century, such as Lessing and Schiller, wrote bourgois tragedies about upright young women who were driven to suicide by the lust of the local rulers -- though they seem to have had other, worse, potentates in mind than the Margrave of Baden-Durlach.
Second photo: One of the rooms in the tower where the Tulip Girls used to live.
Third photo: My copy of the novel Sylvia das Tulpenmädchen (Sylvia the Tulip Girl) by Toni Peter Kleinhans (1912-1996). This entertaining and no doubt somewhat idealized novel tells the story of one of the Tulip Girls who was employed in the palace in the year 1729.
The author was a Karlsruhe journalist and screenplay writer who was taken prisoner by the French at the end of the Second World War. He wrote his novel about the Tulip Girls to pass the time while he was a prisoner of war, but it was not published until many years later when it appeared in thirty installments in a local newspaper, the Badischen Neusten Nachrichten, prior to being published as a book in 1991.
The one anecdote I have found about the author Toni Peter Kleinhans concerns his brief imprisonment by the Gestapo in the 1930s, before the beginning of the Second World War. At the time he was a young man writing screenplays for a film production company in Munich. Repeatedly the company received instructions from the Nazis’ Reichsfilmkammer detailing all the things that were forbidden to be shown or said in German films. One day Kleinhans made the mistake of saying that to save paper and postage it would be simpler just to take a postage stamp and write on the back of it the things that were allowed. For this utterance, which in normal times would have been regarded merely as a lame joke, he was arrested by the Gestapo and spent five days in prison.
1. The Margrave's Palace in Karlsruhe
The graffito on the base of the statue says "Recht auf Freiraum", which means "Right to Free Space" -- or to Freedom, Tolerance or Scope for Development. Why the anonymous graffiti-writer wrote that here I don't know, since it would seem the Margrave left lots of free space in the gardens all around the palace. But I expect he or she had some reason.
Second photo: Here's a closer look at that statue, which shows a large muscular man wrestling with a lion. Actually he has already subdued the lion and is holding its mouth open with his hands. So any of you lions that might get loose in Karlsruhe, beware! They don't mess around.
Third photo: Bicycles parked in front of the palace at sunset.
Fourth photo: VT member Madschick (third from left) playing boules in front of the palace at dusk.
1. Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe
The Baden State Theater is the main venue in Karlsruhe for opera, drama and ballet.
The current building was opened in 1975. The acoustics are fine. You can see and hear perfectly well from any seat in the place.
The only thing that takes a bit of getting used to is the fact that the inside walls are made of undisguised concrete, painted but otherwise not covered up in any way, so you can see the pattern of the wooden boards that the concrete was poured into. I found this rather crude at first, like being in a construction site or somebody's basement, but once you get accustomed to it it's all right.
The large hall seats just over 1000 people (as opposed to 1300 and some in Frankfurt).
An interesting feature of the Karlsruhe stage is that they have a revolving stage surrounded by three concentric rings that can also revolve independently in the same or the opposite direction. This arrangement is used to good effect in their new production of Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele, which has a large curved bookshelf on the revolving stage and another on the first concentric ring, so you get nice visual effects and rapid changes of scene as soon as they both start turning.
See my travelogue "Behind the scenes in Karlsruhe" for more information on this interesting theater.
Second photo: The theater with flowers.
Third photo: Inside the theater.
Fourth photo: Stage entrance, with bicycles.
Fifth photo: This horse sculpture in front of the theater is called Musengaul (Muse's Nag), by Jürgen Goertz. If it looks vaguely familiar, perhaps you have seen the similar, but bigger, "S-Printing Horse" by the same artist, on my Heídelberg page.
Address: Baumeisterstr. 11, Karlsruhe
Directions: Near Ettlinger Tor, which is also the name of the streetcar stop. (Ettlinger Tor/Staatstheater).
Location of the theater on Google Maps.
Phone: 07 21 / 93 33 33
Museum am Markt
Actually I was on my way to the Castle to see the big exhibition on the ancient Romans, but it so happened that Karlsruhe was in the throes of a torrential rain, sleet, hail and you-name-it storm which had turned the stately castle grounds into one huge puddle.
To get out of the rain I ducked into a colonnade which turned out to be the entrance to the Museum at the Market Square (Museum beim Markt), a museum devoted to "the applied arts since 1900."
The ground floor was closed for renovation when I was there, but on the first floor (one flight up, that would be the second floor in the U.S.) there was an interesting exhibition on the Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) and Bauhaus movements, among other things.
Since I had just been to Dessau a few weeks earlier, I was particularly interested in the Bauhaus section, showing how they tried to optimize, humanize, standardize and beautify all sorts of everyday objects for the brave new modern world of the 1920s.
Also for the first time (even though I have been living in Frankfurt for thirty-five years) I saw a partially preserved example of the then-revolutionary "Frankfurt Kitchen", which was intended to rationalize the working class housewives' daily grind and give them more time for self-fulfillment. What I hadn't realized was that the Frankfurt Kitchens were TINY and that they had the unwanted side effect of isolating the slaving housewife from any contact with her family or visitors while she was in the kitchen. Also it would have been very hard for a second person to help with the cooking or washing up, since the kitchen was so small and optimized for one person. Some 10,000 Frankfurt Kitchens were built in the 1920s and early 30s, but none have been completely preserved in their original form, not even this one.
You can see the Frankfurt Kitchen in the third, fourth and fifth photos. Visible through the kitchen window is a photograph of some awful-looking apartment buildings that Walter Gropius built in Frankfurt in 1930. (These no longer exist.)
Address: Karl-Friedrich-Str. 6
GPS 49° 0'36.34" North; 8°24'14.00" East
Phone: 07 21 - 9 26 65 78
1. Square of Basic Rights
Since Karlsruhe is the seat of the German Supreme Court, there is great interest here in the judiciary system.
From 2002 to 2005 an artist named Jochen Gerz was commissioned by the city of Karlsruhe to collect statements from all sorts of people about justice and the judiciary, and to have them printed on signs and set up at various places around the city. Some of these were discussed at public meetings before the final selection was made.
Twenty-four of these signs have been set up here at this central location on the way to the castle, and another twenty-four are at other places in Karlsruhe such as the State Theater, the main station and the site of the former synagogue in the Kronenstraße.
At first I thought these were just going to be vaguely uplifting statements, which some of them are, but others are quite specific (often awkwardly worded, which adds to their authenticity) and sometimes critical of the judiciary system, including a couple of protests by people who feel they have been wrongly dealt with by the courts.
Second photo: This sign near the theater says: If someone has a Jew hidden in his basement, and the Gestapo comes to the door, would that person be allowed to lie? Kant would have said NO. Today we fortunately say that the rights we publicly support can in some cases – in the Nazi period for example – justify suspending the rule against lying. In this case one must lie, or should do it.
Third photo: This sign says: I am from here, I speak Croatian. My child is German and my husband is French. We are all Europeans. I would rather go to court here than in Croatia, because here I know the laws. Everything which is foreign is so in part because I know less about it. Knowing the law is a part of one's identity. Here I can defend myself.
Concert House in Karlsruhe
While I was riding around Karlsruhe late at night on a CallBike I came across this attractive classical Concert House, which I had somehow overlooked on previous visits.
It turns out to be part of the Karlsruhe Convention and Exhibition Center (KKA), where it is used for concerts, lectures and conferences, as well as theater, ballet and musical performances.
The Concert House was originally built from 1913 to 1915, but soon after completion it was taken over for use as a military hospital during the First World War. Later it was used for a while as a movie theater, among other things. It was damaged by bombs during the Second World War.
After many years of makeshift repairs, the Concert House was finally closed for two years starting in 1992 for a total refurbishment and modernization.
Address: Festplatz 9, 76137 Karlsruhe
Directions: 49° 0'10.39" North; 8°23'59.79" East
Phone: (07 21) 37 20-0
1. ZKM – Center for Art and Media
The ZKM opened in 1997 in the center of this former factory building, which also houses art museums in its northern and southern sections.
ZKM stands for Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, which they have shortened to Center for Art and Media in their English name.
Aside from being a mind-blowing media museum, the ZKM includes an Institute for Visual Media, an Institute for Music und Acoustics, an Institute for Media, Education, and Economics and a Film Institute, which means that the whole place is full of creative-looking young people (some with babies on their arms, some without), who in large parts of the building are very obviously creating things. In short, it's a great place to loiter around and try to figure out what is going on.
Second photo: A look at one of the inner courtyards of the ZKM.
Third photo: Looking down at one of the dozens (or hundreds?) of interactive video or whatever-media projections.
Fourth photo: Tucked off in an obscure corner of the ZKM is the world's oldest still-functioning vacuum tube computer, a Zuse Z22 with the serial number 13, meaning it was the thirteenth of fifty-five such computers that Konrad Zuse's company built starting in 1957. For more on the inventor Konrad Zuse, please see my Bad Hersfeld, Berlin and Munich pages.
Fifth photo: Look ma, no transistors! It's all done with vacuum tubes, 415 of them to be exact.
Address: Lorenzstraße 19, D-76135 Karlsruhe
Directions: Tram number 2. Get off at "ZKM".
The Mint (Die Münze)
This building was built in 1826 for the purpose of minting coins. Today it is one of five mints in Germany where coins are produced, the others being in Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart and Hamburg.
It is possible to take a tour of the mint, but only if you are a group of ten to twenty people and have registered in advance.
Coins minted in Karlsruhe all have a tiny G on them, supposedly. (But the ones in my pocket right now were all made in Berlin or Munich, evidently.) A is for Berlin, D for Munich, F for Stuttgart, G for Karlsruhe and J for Hamburg.
Address: Stephanienstrasse 28 a
Directions: Tram number 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, S1, S2, S5 or S11 to "Europaplatz". Then walk two blocks north on Karlstrasse.
Phone: +49 (0) 721 9174 - 0
1. Städtische Galerie Karlsruhe (City Gallery)
This large art museum is at the northern end of the factory building which also houses the ZKM, but the inner doors are locked so you have to go out and walk around to get from one to the other.
When I was there they were showing an exhibition of over 400 art works from all periods and styles, all having to do with cats. I'm sure my grandmother would have been fascinated if only she had lived to see this. (She'd be 129 years old if she were still alive.)
Second photo: Group with cat.
Third photo: Nude with cats.
Address: Lorenzstraße 27, D-76135 Karlsruhe
Directions: Tram number 2. Get off at "ZKM". There is a large cinema at the corner, and the museum is just behind the cinema.
Phone: (0721) 133-4401 or -4444
1. ZKM – Museum of New Art
At the northern end of the factory building there is a large Museum of New Art which says it is dedicated to showing the development of European and American Art from 1960 to the present.
When I was there, though, I didn't see any of that old Euro-American 20th century stuff. It was all squarely 21st century, and all Chinese -- masses of modern artworks about the development of big Chinese cities in the last few years.
Second photo: Courtyard of the ZKM.
Third photo: One of the hanging staircases that cuts through the Museum of New Art at odd angles.
Address: Lorenzstraße 19, D-76135 Karlsruhe
Directions: Tram number 2. Get off at "ZKM".
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