Though it’s the birthplace of Germany’s automobile industry, Stuttgart is far from being the staid, efficiency-obsessed place that this might suggest. Half the fun of coming here is discovering just how eccentric, creative and delightfully contradictory the city can be.
Author Hannah Stuart-Leach Photography Andrea Wyner
DAY THREE | Today begins with a spot of self-indulgence. First, there are the multiple helpings of Le Méridien’s impressive breakfast spread. You especially enjoy prying globs of honey from your personal slab of honeycomb, then swiping them onto salty pretzels. Those bears, you think, would like it here.
Next, you’re off to the Steigenberger Graf Zeppelin, where you’re booked for a session at the swanky hotel’s day spa. Doffing your clothes, you enter the spa’s cedar sauna but—feeling a touch reserved—keep legs and arms crossed protectively. Less intimidating is the Thai-inspired treatment room, where you’re treated to a wonderful massage and a slathering of exotic lotions.
In a happy daze, you take the subway to Südheimer Platz, where you’re hoping to find Waldfriedhof (Forest Cemetery). Exiting the station, you take in the Hansel-and-Gretel houses—and a rare splash of graffiti, which screams, “RUMPELSTILTSKIN!”—before joining two kitted-out hikers on the Standseilbahn, the 84-year-old funicular railway that trundles up to the hillside cemetery. The sun slants through the trees, the birds are singing, the neatly tended graves are adorned with ferns—not a bad place to spend eternity, or even a quiet morning.
Having worked up an appetite, you head back into the city. Lunch today is at the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart, the cube-shaped modern-art museum, at the top of which is a popular upscale restaurant. You dine on sausage and sauerkraut as you enjoy the view of Schlossplatz, and are pleased to discover that, even in a trendy place like this, you still get served five sausages.
Outside, a young busker performs a folky lullaby on Königstrasse, along which the locals stroll in tailored wool coats and neatly angled scarves. Every now and again, you spot a chap for whom Movember seems to be a lifelong undertaking, but the handlebar mustache looks refined in this setting. Soon you happen upon the 1,000-year-old Stiftskirche (Collegiate Church), a Gothic structure that looks like a cuckoo clock. As you wander in behind a stooped old lady, you are taken aback by the pink-and-red stained glass windows, the gleaming organ and the steel girders, all of which were installed during a controversial renovation a decade or so ago. Religion, meet Wallpaper magazine.
Your mind and spirit might be nourished, but your body is not. So you take the opportunity to feast on yet more hearty German grub at Zeppelin-Stüble, a typical Swabian restaurant. It has a warm, lighthearted atmosphere, and as you tuck into your leberkäse, a meat loaf topped with an egg and roasted onions, you decide that you’re quite fond of Stuttgart.
It doesn’t seem right to end your stay without visiting a proper German pub, so you stroll down a cobbled street to check out Weinstube Kachelofen. As a big collie lolls on the threadbare rug, a woman with a towering auburn bouffant and penciled-on eyebrows reels off the bar’s wide selection of local beers in a weary monotone. Eventually, she brings over a fragrant Sanwald Hefeweizen. You linger here for a long time, sipping beer and devising film plots for the oddball characters around you.
It’s late now, and you’re tired. As you walk back along the Königstrasse, a full moon is rising over the New Palace—but the rotating three-pointed Mercedes star on the station clock tower shines even brighter, and it guides you home.
Since returning from Stuttgart, Hemispheres contributor HANNAH STUART-LEACH has been busy working off all the sausage weight.