Last Sunday was mostly sunny and dry, although not as warm as I had hoped after a very mild Saturday. My Mum and I went for a walk which at first I thought was simply going to lead us to familiar places, but ended with me exploring an area I never thought I would be able to see close-up.
Our intention was mainly to have a look at the palace grounds, the beautiful park you've seen featuring on my blog many times before. We wanted to check what - if any - spring flowers were already out. Compare the following pictures with these from April 2014 to get an idea of what it is going to look like soon again:
What we saw were mainly snowdrops and the little yellow flowers called "Winterling" in German (I know I "know" the English name, but it escapes me at the moment), but there also was a small patch of bright pink cyclamen.
My Mum then suggested we go across the road from the palace grounds, where one of six remaining gate houses is situated. Ludwigsburg, although a relatively new town that was founded only in 1704, once used to have a city wall, and there were houses at each gate for the watch posts. Six of these houses are still there; they were renovated in 2004 and now house various exhibitions and institutions. Not that long ago, a fellow blogger from my region posted about the six gate houses. His post is in German, but you can have a look at the pictures he took here.
The one we went to is the one with the green shutters (4th picture from top), the one that sticks out as being of a very different build than the other five.
A civic society has use of the rooms. On the ground floor, they run a little café, and the top floor shows changing exhibitions throughout the year. It is all run by volunteers who are very friendly and enthusiastic about their work. We had a drink there and looked at the current exhibition (soldiers and other toys made of tin, set up in beautiful dioramas, as well as explanations about how tin figures are made, and their history).
I'd not been inside the building before, so that was already something new for me to explore. But the best was yet to come!
When I was a little girl (and also much later when I was not so little anymore), every time we drove along a certain road, I tried to catch as much of a beautiful villa set back from the road in a small park: the "Marienwahl" (literally, "Marie's choice"). Back then, it was a private residence, and since I did not know the people who lived there, there was no way I was ever getting closer to the villa than what I could glimpse from the car.
After nobody lived there anymore from 1988 onwards, the villa fell into a kind of sleep - the way you'd imagine Sleeping Beauty's castle, covered in thorns, hidden behind hedges and trees that would grow higher year after year.
The owners lived elsewhere, and various plans were made for the site, such as erecting flats for senior citizens in the grounds, but nothing really came about. Eventually, a big effort was made and both villa and park were largely restored until 2006.
Somehow, I completely missed the fact that the park now has a public foot path running through it; I was delighted when my Mum showed me the gate and I was able to walk there for the very first - but cetainly not the last! - time in my life!
The building itself is rented out to a company, so I still haven't been inside, but I've had a good look around.
Here is the main building:
Sorry about the ugly covering of the fountain - it is winter...
There are two identical buildings left and right at the park wall to flank the villa. They, too, were beautifully restored:
When the last King of Wuerttemberg's family still lived here, extensive stables were part of the grounds. Especially Pauline, the King's daughter, was a "horse woman". She was born in the villa in 1877 and returned to the place of her childhood when she became a widow. King Wilhelm II. loved the villa so much that he made sure his funeral procession went through the grounds and past the building.
The stables were left in their ruined state but made secure enough for people to walk there. You know by now how much neglected, ruined places attract me, and these stables are no exception:
The floor here is not paved in cobbles, but in hardwood parquet - no luxury was spared to give the king's horses suitable quarters!
Unfortunately (although it is probably better in the long run), access to this mysterious staircase is blocked by iron bars. You know I would have climbed down there otherwise!
Princess Pauline, the horse woman, died in 1965. She wanted her last resting place to be near her beloved horses and is buried in the grounds.
Like I said before, this was a "first" for me - and I am already looking forward to going back and see the changes throughout the seasons. Thank you, Mum, for showing me this!