Having, in my own way, taken the pulse of the city, I retired to a café, where I had a really disappointingly bad pretzel, like white bread in a pretzel shape, along with some not-at-all disappointing hot chocolate. It wasn’t that I needed the snack so much, but getting it bought me a table in the café for as long as I wanted it, and I was looking for a place to sit and read, so it seemed like a reasonable deal. The book I was reading, The Ridiculous Race, chronicles the attempt by two TV writers to race each other around the world without using airplanes. The irony of reading a book about traveling while traveling, and doing it instead of any actual travel-related activities is duly noted.
Not long after I sat down, I was joined on the bench next to me by what I believe was an old lady, but may have been a man in an old lady costume, based on the voice and bad wig. She (possibly he) ordered some tea and proceeded to read the paper semi-aloud, in a whispery voice, to herself. The waitress, with whom I communicated primarily with hand signals, said “Have a nice day” when I left.
Interesting fact: Cafes in Germany that have outdoor seating do not eliminate the option in November. But they do set out fleece blankets on the chairs.
At noon, Cameron and I met up again, determined that he had more people to talk to and a free lunch to eat, and I was once again set loose on the city. This time, however, I had found a map, and determined that there were not one, but two castles just a few blocks away, including one that I believe I saw described somewhere as “the largest German baroque palace in the country.” This, of course, I had to see.
It was indeed large. If I was going to direct someone to the Residentialshloss in Ludwigsburg, Germany, large is definitely one of the words I would choose. I might also say baroque, but between you and me, I’m not entirely sure what that refers to. If it has to do with the presence of lots of kind of Greek/Roman-looking statues in the vicinity, then yes, definitely Baroque.
I started by wandering around the formal gardens in front of the castle, which you could access by walking through the open gate, just like the locals who seemed to use it as a kind of crosstown shortcut. I don’t think you can expect much from gardens in Germany in November, but I was pleasantly surprised by the roses. It must take a fairly hearty variety to bloom under these conditions, but there they were, blooming away, with top marks going to something called the “Elmshorn.” I recommend it for all your Northern European, late fall, rose-growing needs.
I had expected that was all I was going to get to see of the castle, but as I was making my way along past it I found there was another entrance, also free, that allowed me to go in and explore the huge central courtyard and peer in through the windows at the locked-up palace around it. Also, there was a gift shop, where I was able to purchase that travel essential, the cheesy tourist tchotcka to put on the shelf over my desk. (An mini ceramic beer stein, with the Ludwigsburg castle illustrated on the front and Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin given somewhat shorter shrift on the side.) As I left the castle through the other side, I happened across a small aviary, displaying various Birds of Asia, plus a couple of mourning doves. I hope they had somewhere warm to hide.
Whew! Lots still to cover, and I’m not even to lunch yet. Looks like this is going to be a three-parter, folks.