Less than 10 minutes away by train from Karlsruhe Central Station, Ettlingen is a oasis of quietness and historical beauty. I started my journey early in the morning, ready to offer to this relatively unknown part of Baden-Württemberg as much time as possible. It heavily rained the day before and therefore, the early spring air was fresh and crisp with the morning fog slowly descending from the mountains.
From Ettlingen West train station, we walked slowly around 10 minutes direction Rheinstrasse following the directions to the historical center, generously written in German, English and French. It didn't took too long until the modern - and often ugly - 20th century building were out of sight, being replaced by half-timbered houses and cobblestoned streets.
Some of the streets were tailored to accept only one well fit person between the old walls.
Without noticing too much, we arrived at the castle, one of the main attractions and center of cultural activities in Ettlingen. Originally built in the 13th century and added new elements in the next centuries, the castle was renovated in the 1970s, displaying accurately the different historical layers. The dolphin fountain, for instance, was built in the Renaissance, and displays an interesting combination of geometrical game and utility.
The interior yard of the castle offers an even more interesting view: the Baroque facade in trompe oeil is such a surprising sight for the eye, a game of visual illusion and heavy architectural decorations. The castle hosts in summer an open-air theatre festival, one of the cultural highlights in Baden-Württemberg. Inside, the lavisly decorated Asam Hall is not only a favorite location for concerts, but can be also rented for wedding celebrations.
On the other side of the castle yard, the original wall, the first construction of the complex is there as a witness of the times that came and go.
If you don't have time to stop at the Brasserie Pot au Feu - the vicinity with France, as Strasbourg is less than one hour away by train is visible at the level of name restaurants and bars too - you can walk the short alleys on the gardens from the top. Maybe there was not the best time of the year to visit them, but for me, the view worked better from downstairs, as I wasn't particularly impressed by the gardens.
On the streets around the castle, intense preparations for the spring are underway, with the buzz of the machines which are doing the regular tree trimming in full bloom. The colourful and green-covered houses on Sybillastrasse make me miss a bit the Grünewald area in Berlin with its villas and gardens.
The Baroque style of the castle seems to be the predominant style of the old city, with a strong religious symbolism.
We pass near the Rathausthurm - City Hall Tower - formerly the Northern tower gate into the city until the 13th century, with a war memorial added at the end of the 1920s in the memory of the victims of the WWI, by the artist Oskar A. Kiefer.
From one of the bridges over the river Alb, you can watch the sight of the city from the two sides. It can be a very soothing view, especially early in the morning where there is hardly someone around.
Some small yards are hosting arty, some of them very funny corners, like this 'chillzone' discovered on Seminarstrasse, called Hofglück.
The elegant splashes of colours on the facades bring more joy on the white surfaces, and make the visitor intrigued about the residents quietly living behind the wooden doors.
This first visit was a good occasion to better know this corner of Baden-Württemberg, but I bet that every time I will be back, I will not miss the opportunity to come back, because this small little place promise to hide even more interesting secrets.