Contributing editors Claudia Fischer and Roger Holliday review Stuttgart, where great cars are assembled and room rates in the best hotels are about level with the down payment on a new Chevy.
Stuttgart is a charming town, clean and bright... It has the additional attraction of containing little that one need to go out of one's way to see: a medium-sized picture gallery, a small museum of antiquities, half a palace, and you are through with the entire thing and can enjoy yourself. Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men on the Bummel, 1900.
What better accolade could any city have; freedom from cultural guilt and the nagging fear that sooner or later someone will utter the dreaded words, 'You mean you were actually there and never saw the famous fuppawhatsit?'
Today, 94 years later - after two world wars, the Depression, the Cold War and everything in between and since - Jerome's observation still holds true. In spite of a history that spans 2,000 years Stuttgart is primarily a functional city where affluent people live and work in a restrained and sophisticated atmosphere. It's all business and high tech, high sport, and high culture with few concessions to the general tourist trade.
That, of course, is an advantage for visitors. Shops and restaurants must compete for the regular patronage of local residents and this is reflected in both price and selection.
Stuttgart's best feature is its remarkable setting in a lovely valley zwischen wald und reben - between woods and vineyards. In the city itself, two-thirds of the land is given over to parks, gardens and woodlands. The surrounding hillsides are lined with working vineyards; in fact, grapes are harvested within 250 yards of the train station.
Stuttgart is host to all sorts of trade fairs and exhibitions - a fact to note when planning a visit. In spite of 7,000 available hotel beds the 70-odd annual events promoting everything from electronics to ice cream and textiles can severely strain the system at times. The best advice: book ahead.
There are many quality hotels in Stuttgart that provide every possible service to business travelers. Two of the best known, the Graf Zeppelin and the Schlossgarten, are located in the busy and well-maintained area directly across from the main railway station, near the famous Königstrasse pedestrian shopping street and an easy walk from the main city sights.
Hotel Graf Zeppelin
This member of the Steigenberger group meets every criterion of a first-class business hotel with conference rooms, banquet facilities and a spacious lobby bar set-up to handle informal business meetings.
The 280 guestrooms are large with important features such as excellent lighting, king-sized beds, extra pillows, big towels, bathrobes and double-glazed windows. All the usual amenities are in place including remote control color TVs, minibars, hairdryers, etc.
For longer stays or just a dose of added luxury there are 40 suites available with comfortable sitting rooms, walk-in closets and multiple sinks, phones and TVs.
Breakfast is not included in the room cost at the Zeppelin but for those undeterred by 30 DM ($18) per person, it's a cut above the average with linen table service, fresh flowers and an elaborate buffet of eggs, bacon, sausage, cereal, juice, yogurt, fruit, coffee and 12 kinds of tea.
The Zeppelin also has a sauna and a swimming pool with a view out over the city's rooftops.
* Hotel Graf Zeppelin, Arnulf-Klett-Platz 7, D-7000 Stuttgart 1, phone 0711/20 48-0, fax 0711/20 48-5 42. Singles 190-295 DM, doubles 295-395 DM ($175-$234). Breakfast not included. Major cards.
* Hotel Graf Zeppelin: II
Of the same genre but with a bit more character is the independently owned Hotel Schlossgarten, named for its location on the edge of the castle gardens. Though only a block from the Zeppelin, the Schlossgarten is in another world, one of birds and trees and flowers. Good use is made of the site; all dining facilities overlook the park as does the lobby's Wintergarden Bar with its enormous indoor plants.
Throughout the hotel are dramatic floral arrangements. Our favorite was a four-foot high extravaganza in deep pink, purple and white with snapdragons, lilacs, daisies, lilies and spirea that graced a third floor corridor.
The 121 rooms are organized into three categories - economy, standard and comfort - depending primarily on the size of the room and the view. The standard double is good sized with twin beds, a sofa, comfortable chair and respectable artwork in addition to the usual amenities of a first-class hotel. Many rooms also have a security safe for storing valuable items and some have balconies. Only comfort class rooms and junior suites are air-conditioned.
Lunch in the Restaurant Schlossgarten was an elegant and dignified affair. We relaxed on the terrace overlooking the park and began with light and dark morel mushrooms in cream, moved on to veal medallions, asparagus with julienne carrots and turnips, crisp pan fried potatoes and finished with melon balls and sorbet, to the accompaniment of a 1991 Robert Bauer Württemberg Riesling.
The meal cost 66 DM ($39) per person, the bottle of wine 69 DM ($41) and from start to finish the entire repast lasted fully 2-1/2 hours, a definite - and extravagant - departure from our usual midday routine but great fun and worth repeating. Ask for table 77.
* Hotel am Schlossgarten, Schillerstrasse 23, 7000 Stuttgart 1, phone 0711/2 02 60, fax 0711/2 02 68 88. Singles 255-298 DM ($133-$176), doubles 385-470 DM ($228-$278). Major cards.
* Hotel Schlossgarten: III
* Restaurant Schlossgarten: PP
The Parkhotel is on the edge of a green space linked to the upper end of the Schlossgarten, you can walk the two miles into town without ever stepping out of the parkland. Villa Berg, the 1853 country residence of the Crown Princes of Württemberg, is nearby as are the Wilhelma Zoo, the Neckar River and the Berg mineral baths.
Though the hotel's rather stark 1950s style lobby makes a somewhat chilly first impression, everything about this 80 room hotel is personal, friendly and very professional - a definite your-wish-is-our-command kind of place - with a regular clientèle that keeps coming back year after year. The front desk is manned by the able Herr Pick and the benevolent, caring presence of owner Hans Karr is always in evidence making sure everyone's happy.
The big, comfortable guest- rooms are attractively decorated and each has a color TV and a mini-bar, some have hairdryers and one even has an exercise bike!
The hotel's Villa Berg restaurant has a good reputation. Daily set menus are available for either 45 DM ($27) or 78 DM ($46). Main dishes run between 33.50 DM and 42 DM ($20-$25).
Less formal meals are served downstairs in the Radio Stüble where specially commissioned stained glass windows by contemporary artist H.G. von Stockhausen create a striking atmosphere. Named for next door neighbor, the South German Broadcasting Corporation, the Radio Stüble is an understandably popular spot with people who work there.
* Parkhotel, Villastrasse 21, 7000 Stuttgart 1, phone 0711/28-01-0, fax 28 43 53. Singles 180-250 DM ($107-$148), doubles 260-350 DM ($154-$207).
* Parkhotel: II G
Hotel Wörtz zur Weinsteige
The Stuttgart stop for cozy charm, authentic Swabian hospitality, great food and a wine cellar to live for, is the family-run Wörtz zur Weinsteige, perched on a hillside a few minutes from downtown. Richard and Renata Scherle have been in charge of the hotel for more than 20 years, taking over from Richard's father who started the business right after the war. The building itself has a long history with 300-400 year-old ceilings and ornately carved wooden doors, beams and benches.
Even the upstairs has not escaped the craftsman's knife: on the first floor all the bedroom doors are carved and named for red grape varieties...the white grapes are one floor up. Some of the 25, soon to be 35, rooms are small and the bedside lighting is weak but there are interesting comfort features like a special circulating air system that's designed to keep everything fresh, cool and quiet. The older bathrooms are nicely done in ceramic tile, the newer ones are more opulent with marble throughout and heated floors or towel bars.
Note: the hotel does not have an elevator.
But the real heart of the Wörtz zur Weinsteige - and Richard Scherle - is downstairs, in the dining room and even deeper in the ancient cellars where 13,000 to 14,000 bottles of wine rest in 10 C temperatures waiting to be called into service...many dust covered from long storage, some unique like an eiswein made solely from grapes picked still frozen from winter vines. Herr Scherle realizes that most Americans know little of good German wines so he conducts his own mini-crusade to rectify the situation. Your questions and comments will be enthusiastically dealt with.
Good wine needs a kitchen to match, of course, and the Scherles don't disappoint.
The house specialty is trout which turns up on every part of the menu except, thankfully, dessert. The Wörtz must be an absolute mecca for trout purists. There are three different kinds on the menu - regensbogenforellen, or rainbow; bachforellen, a European river trout; and bachsaiblinge, from American waterways - each prepared in numerous ways and ranging in price from 24-44 DM ($14-$26). Freshness is guaranteed; the fish swim around in the restaurant's big tanks or in the pretty little pond in the garden out back until the fatal moment.
Besides the trout there are many other options as well as daily set menus at either 42 DM or 76 DM ($25-$45). Reservations recommended.
* Hotel Wörtz zur Weinsteige, Hohenheimer Strasse 30, 7000 Stuttgart 1, phone 0711/236-7001, fax 0711/236-7007. Singles 135-220 DM ($80-$130), doubles 155-280 DM ($92-$166). Major cards.
* Hotel Wörtz zur Weinsteige: III G
* Rest. Wörtz zur Weinsteige: P G
Relaxa Waldhotel Schatten
Twenty minutes from the city center and convenient to the autobahn, the Schatten is a good choice for anyone with a car. Located on the Schatten Curve of the old Solitude racetrack, the hotel is today surrounded by woods full of wildflowers and crisscrossed with walking and jogging paths. Part of the main building is over 215 years old and under the protection of the historical preservationists but everything is up-to-date and well-maintained.
Rooms in the old wing are pleasantly homelike with crisp white molding, striped wallpaper, print draperies and tiled bathrooms.
The new section was added in 1972 with careful consideration given to light and space and the picturesque setting with angled walls to maximize the view. The rooms are large and well-equipped, the marble bathrooms have both scales and swivel mirrors as unexpected extras. The overall decor is soft contemporary but on the fifth floor there are special theme rooms and suites. The latest is the Black Magic Suite -ultra modern in black, white and red.
There are two restaurants, a pub and a bar on the premises.
* Relaxa Waldhotel Schatten, am Solitudering, 7000 Stuttgart 80, phone 0711/68 670, fax 0711/68 67 999. In the U.S. call 800-223-2848. Singles 240-390 DM ($142-$231), doubles 290-390 DM ($172-$231), suites 550-690 DM ($325-$408). Major cards.
* Relaxa Waldhotel Schatten: III
A smaller, less formal and certainly less expensive alternative is the Bellevue, owned and operated by four generations of the family Widman. Its 12 rooms are simply furnished but very clean, comfortable and cozy. One nice touch is a fresh apple by each bed.
But the Bellevue, 10 minutes from the town center and five minutes from the autobahn, is best known for its excellent restaurant which specializes in original Swabian cooking using strictly fresh ingredients. The dining room seats only 60 and its atmosphere of dark wood, tile floors, green plants and cloth table linens is friendly and unpretentious.
Tomato soup, garnished with unsweetened whipped cream, flat parsley and a sliver of carrot was topped up at the table with a generous splash of Beefeaters Gin...delicious and reasonable at 7 DM ($4). Our main dishes - Wiener schnitzel with roast potatoes and venison with kiwi fruit, cranberry sauce and spätzle - cost 24 DM ($14) and 30 DM ($18) respectively and were expertly prepared and served.
Herr Widman, who maintains an extensive cellar of local wines, is a bit of an expert in his own right and recommended Untertürkheim Trollinger Gips. A quarter-liter, served in the handled wine glass called a viertele that is peculiar to the Stuttgart area, cost 8 DM ($5).
* Hotel Bellevue, Schurwaldstrasse 45, 7000 Stuttgart 1 (Ost), phone (0711) 486-406, fax (0711) 487-506. Singles 90-115 DM ($53-$68), doubles 150 DM ($89). Major cards.
* Hotel Bellevue: I
* Rest. Bellevue: P $
Weinstube Stuttgarter Stäffele
For typical Swabian food served in a bustling, rustic atmosphere try the Weinstube Stuttgarter Stäffele tucked away on a tiny street a few blocks south of the train station. A generous portion of homemade maultaschen cost 9.50 DM ($6), a plate of lentils with spätzle, frankfurter sausage and ham is 14.80 DM ($9), roast pork with browned potatoes and vegetables 15.50 DM ($9) and roast beef served with spätzle and sauerkraut 28.50 DM ($17). A quarter liter viertele of wine is between 6.50 DM and 7.50 DM ($4-$4.50).
* Weinstube Stuttgarter Stäffele, Buschlestrasse 2A, 7000 Stuttgart 1, phone (0711) 61 72 76. Inexpensive to moderate. Open from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., closed Sunday.
* Weinstube Stuttgarter Stäffele: P
The Bacchus is on the first and second floor of a building in the popular Calwer Strasse pedestrian shopping area. In the dining room upstairs copper pots hang from low ceilings and a big ceramic stove sits in one corner surrounded by paneled dining alcoves that complete the intimate setting. A tasty bowl of asparagus soup is 7.50 DM ($4.50) and a main dish of grilled veal chops with cheese sauce, noodles and salad is 31.50 DM ($19).
* Weinstube Bacchus, Calwer Strasse 60, 7000 Stuttgart 1, phone (0711) 29 68 75. Moderate. Major cards.
* Weinstube Bacchus: P
Stuttgart's latest beer producer, the Calwer-Eck-Bräu, is a micro-brewery or brewpub. The ambiance of the second floor establishment is sort of upmarket bistro-brasserie with stained glass, marble floors, lots of big plants and a lively crowd of trendy youth dressed in business clothes. The beer itself, which costs 3 DM ($1.80) a glass, is an unfiltered pilsner that we liked very much.
Hot meals are priced at 9.80-18.90 DM ($6-$11).
* Calwer-Eck-Bräu/Stuttgarter Lokalbrauerei, Calwer Strasse 31, 7000 Stuttgart 1, phone (0711) 2 26 11 04. Moderate. Open every day from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
* Calwer-Eck-Bräu: u (good, plain food but not typical of the region!)
Elevation: 804 feet
Approximate distances from:
* Frankfurt 204 km 127 miles
* Hamburg 670 km 419 miles
* Cologne 365 km 228 miles
* Munich 222 km 139 miles
* Berlin 631 km 394 miles
* Strasbourg 156 km 97 miles
* Konstanz 180 km 112 miles
Stuttgart Tourist Office
* Königstrasse 1
* Phone: 2 22 82 40
* Fax: 2 22 82 51
Recommended publications in English at tourist office:
1. Stuttgart City Map for Tourists. Free.
2. Stuttgart 94. Information for tourists. Restaurants, shops, phone numbers, opening hours, etc. Free.
3. Stuttgart-Historic Paths Through the City (Historischer Streifzug Durch die Stadt). 56 page self-guiding walking tour of the city.