Friday, May 23, 2008

The Karlsruhe Schloss

Yesterday and today are holidays, so instead of going to work, I stayed home in the mornings (mostly either sleeping or in the state between asleep and awake), then went out and inspected Karlsruhe, like a good citizen.

At the first glance, Karlsruhe is hardly impressive: it’s neither old enough (built in the 18th century) to have the picturesque castles, etc. from the older times, and nor it is new enough to have modern and sleek looking architecture. Yesterday it was cloudy and chilly, and since it’s an official holiday, all shops are closed except some eating places and very few people were on the streets – all of these certainly don’t make Karlsruhe any prettier than it can be!

But when I came near the Schloss, the Karlsruhe castle, the scene changed quite dramatically. Karlsruhe’s claim to fame as a tourist city (which it is not, compared to the other more famous cities in Germany) is the Schloss, which is located in the center of the city where some 32 streets meet and extend racially like the sun’s rays (see a map here!), and the Schloss is literally the namesake of the city: Karlsruhe = the rest place of Karl (Karl Wilhelm, Margrav von Baden).

There are some constructions going on, which seems to be the common landscape for many tourist sites, but the Schloss is extraordinary nevertheless – it is certainly beyond my imagination how any family could live in such a magnificent palace. There were quite sizable number of people there, and the museum in the Schloss is open, despite the fact that yesterday was a holiday.

The street in front of the Schloss,Kaiserstra├če, is a major shopping location with variety of shops and the rather annoying Tram (the subway of Karlsruhe, but not underground) in the middle of the street, but both times I was there, the shops were closed – yesterday because of the holiday, today because it was after 8pm. One of the most inconvenient things I found in Karlsruhe is that most shops close at 8pm, with a few exceptions, which are open only for 2 more hours; since it is only starting to get dark at 9pm at this time of the year, the closing time seems quite unreasonable to someone like me who is more energetic during the night than during the day, and I certainly had never been to an American mall where the shops closes at 8pm!

Tonight I stayed out late because I wanted to see the Schloss and the city in the night (…and in the lights). There are still people near the Schloss and the Marktplatz, but as I walked south to where I live, the number of people on the streets was getting fewer and fewer, and the Baltimorean in me started to feel uneasy, even though I have been told that walking on the streets at night alone is not a big no-no as it is in Baltimore and the streets are fairly well-lit. But of course I arrived at my lodging place unscathed.

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