Ulmer Spatzeninvasion - Invasion of the Sparrows
Favorite thing: You see sparrow sculptures all over the place in Ulm, on squares, in front of shops, above doors, in the water, just everywhere. Look around, above and beside you, and you might spot one. They are all unique.
The invasion started in May 2001. Artists designed blank sparrow sculptures, 270 in total. Ulm, and also Neu-Ulm, were invaded by those colourful sparrows. They were auctioned in November 2001, and all the money that was made went into the restoration of the Cathedral’s South Tower.
You will not find all 270 sparrows today even if you try hard. But many business people bought sparrows and have kept them in front of their shops, or over their entrance doors, attached to the building.
There are absolutely lovely examples where the sparrow’s design matches the location perfectly.
Just looking over a website with a lot of those sparrows… I have to say, sooo many have gone. But still, there are still enough in the city to make me smile every time I see one :-)))
The Hotel-Spatz stands in front of the hotel “Ulmer Spatz” south of the Cathedral. As a VTer you have to see the Traveller Spatz (part two of the photo collection on the following websites), of course.
I think they are just brilliant – and many of them even more brilliant if you understand German and the double meaning of some words. For example a Spatzenkönig is not just a “King of Sparrows”, even less so. A Spatzenkönig also is a far too thick Spätzle, our fresh Swabian pasta. Or take the “Käs-Spätzle” – that is the Spätzle pasta with cheese, butter and onion. Try it in one of the great local restaurants!
A more complete photo selection (but with smaller pictures) can be found here:
Also see my travelogues with a selection of the sparrows of the Spatzeninvasion.
- Arts and Culture
Favorite thing: The old Fischerviertel (fishermen's quarter) is the most picturesque district in Ulm.
It situated on the River Blau and is famous with its half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets, and picturesque footbridges.
Interesting sights here are the Schiefes Haus(crooked house), a 16th-century house today used as a hotel, and the Alte Münz (Old Mint), a medieval building extended in the 16th and 17th centuries in Renaissance style.
You can watch my high resolution photo of Ulm on the Google Earth according to the following coordinates 48° 23' 47.78" N 9° 59' 13.63" E or on my Google Earth Panoramio Fischerviertel 1, Fischerviertel 2,
Fischerviertel 3 ,
- Historical Travel
Favorite thing: Ulm situated on the River Danube. This great European river seems to be rather small even smaller than the Moscow River. It was difficult to realize, that this river could turn to an awful stream during flooding as it happened in 2002.
Later in 2003 and in 2005 and 2009 Danube was quiet and peaceful!
Ulm lies at the point where the rivers Blau and Iller join the Danube. Most parts of the city, including the old town, are situated on the left bank of the Danube; only the districts of Wiblingen, Gögglingen, Donaustetten and Unterweiler lie on the right bank. Across from the old town, on the other side of the river, lies the twin city of Neu-Ulm in the state of Bavaria, smaller than Ulm.
You can watch my high resolution photo of Ulm on the Google Earth according to the following coordinates 48° 23' 42.96" N 9° 59' 30.66" E or on my Google Earth Panoramio Danube.
Ulm Historic background
Favorite thing: Ulm was founded around 850 and has rich history and traditions as a former Free Imperial City.
Ulm is primarily known for having the church with the tallest steeple in the world, the Gothic Minster and as the birthplace of Albert Einstein.
After all the bombings in December of 1944 over 80% of the medieval city centre lay in ruins. Now the city is restored and renovated and looks beautiful.
You can watch my 4 min 59 sec HD Video Ulm panorama in 2009 HD out of my Youtube channel.
You can watch my high resolution photo of Ulm on the Google Earth according to the following coordinates 48° 23' 55.71" N 9° 59' 28.65" E or on my Google Earth Panoramio Ulm panorama from Munster 1 .
- Historical Travel
The Ülmster vs. The Beer
Favorite thing: Okay, even a confirmed beer-hunter like myself has to admit that the Ulmer Münster is the town's main draw and I admit that I was very pleasantly surprised at just how stunning it was. I kind of wish they'd give it a cooler name though and I don't know how they've blown the opportunity to call it The Ülmster. Now, that just might pack the tourists in and certainly give it an edge on Cologne's Cathedral! That said, I loved both small breweries on either edge of town and I doubt I'd ever return to the city just for The Ülmster but something tells me I will return to the breweries. Of course, I'll drop in the Ülmster too, probably with my tripod this time.
Fondest memory: Books are funny things. They can lead you to places you'd never thought of going. In 1997, I happened upon a beer guide about Bavaria put out by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), a British grass roots beer group bent on saving the country's then disappearing real ale. The group was so successful they saved a beer style that might have gone by the wayside otherwise, and thus saved a part of tradition in the process. Most of their guides are about England but of course there is great beer elsewhere and they have done guides to all the beer Meccas. The book on Bavaria was very well written by an English chap living in Munich. I thank him to this day for leading me to Franconia, one of my favorite places for beer-hunting. As great as that guide was though, it could not possibly tackle all 650 breweries in Bavaria, let alone the other 600 scattered around Germany. One such missing place was Ulm, right across the Bavarian border in Baden-Württemberg. As chance would have it, I found another guide by CAMRA years later and it tried to at least name and give some inkling of information about all the brewery's in a country obviously chock full of them. Unfortunately, it lacked the detail and humor of the earlier guide in its attempt to hem in so much information. It did however make an attempt to add this to some of the brewery's mentioned and suddenly Ulm was on my horizon. According to the authors, Ulm's brewery had one of the very best bock beers brewed in Germany and just across the river in the city's Bavarian counterpart of Neu-Ulm, there appeared to be one of the very best old brewpubs in the country as well. Obviously, I just had to go. (continued below in Fondest Memory)
- Road Trip
- Beer Tasting
beery paradise regrets
Fondest memory: It was certainly a cute old town and the Ulmer Münster was every inch as big as advertised. Size isn't everything but it was quite beautiful as well and its interior was stunning as well. As with most tourists to Ulm, we spent most of our sightseeing time in and around the considerable church. Unlike most tourists, we had not only one brewery to check out in town and soon enough, it was time to trek out to our second. We walked along the river Donau even though it lengthened our efforts and were rewarded with great views of the old town and church. It took longer than we had imagined but we were rewarded with not only a great old brewpub but one with a leafy biergarten to enjoy a well-deserved beer. It was so nice in fact that we nearly didn't go in to enjoy the pubs atmospheric old interior.
Their Märzen beer was quite special as was their Maibock but the Zwickl was not despite the authors of my new guide heralding it as one of Germany's “best pale beers.” I re-checked the pub's interior when I used the restroom and decided their proclamation of it also being one of the country's top old pubs was more accurate. So, we went in for a meal rather than eat in the biergarten as the weather would have normally warranted. Again, the food was excellent and armed with what beers were best from our own earlier trials, there were no disappointments. Well, except the walk back to the train station. It was, after all, only a day trip. My day pack was full of beery bounty. You never know when you'll get back to even a beery paradise but I did regret it when running to catch our departing train. Completely satiated and a bit out of breath, I slumped in my seat for the ride back to Munich.
- Beer Tasting
- Budget Travel
on making age old retro
Fondest memory: It took about a year of living in Munich before I managed to make it enough of a priority to pull off the easy day trip. My wife was a willing if doubting accomplice. I had to pull out the tallest church in the world to make it more enticing. It's a good thing Ulm is noted for more than just beer. Two hours later and we were waiting for a tram to our first brewery of the day. The architecture, no matter how famous, would have to wait till after lunch. The tram took us through parts of Ulm no one would ever see. Of course, that is, unless they were going to a brewery on the far edge of town. It wasn't particularly scenic but I like seeing where people live in a town too. The pub was certainly convenient, nearly right on the tracks and though promising from the outside, its interior was a bit 70s retro rather than the age-old pub I had envisioned. It was after all, the oldest restaurant in a pretty old town and I could be forgiven for expecting ancient timbered ceilings. At any rate, the beer and at this point just as importantly, the food were both excellent and for me at least, the trip was entirely justified. We took the tram back into town and proceeded to the sights. (completed below in Fondest Memory)
- Beer Tasting
- Road Trip
Bundesfestung Ulm, once Germany’s biggest Fortress
Favorite thing: If you look around the inner city you will notice a lot of bastions and brick walls all over the place. They are part of the Bundesfestung Ulm which was Germany’s biggest fortress when it was finished in 1859 after 17 years of building works.
The major architects of this fortress were the Prussian major Moritz von Prittwitz und Gaffron on Württemberg’s side of the river and major Theodor von Hildebrandt on the Bavarian side. Prittwitz used ideas by Albrecht Dürer and Marc René de Montalembert. The main features were long straight walls and ramparts and huge multi-storey casemates. Adjusting the walls to the topography, the fortress had no strict ground plan.
This topography was somehow ideal for defence purposes: The city is bordered by hills in the west, north and north-east (Kuhberg, Eselsberg, Michelsberg, Safranberg), so this was perfect for the outer fortification. In the flat, the rivers Danube and Blau offered the natural qualities for moats. The bastions are the connecting points of the long and straight walls. The fortification continued on the other side of the Danube. So there were several walled fortifications, which in total had six gates conncecting the fortress with the outside roads, and five well secured railway passages. The circumference was 9 kilometres.
In 1848 about 8000 people worked on the construction. 14 outer forts were built, and two more added in the 1880’s.
A Past as a Garrison Town
When the fortress was finished, Ulm became a garrison town. In times of peace 5000 soldiers were garrisoned in the barracks, and for the case of war 18,000 to 20,000 troops should be there. Had they continued building the fortress would have housed about 100,000 troops. Imagine this! It is not too long ago that this was the number of inhabitants Ulm had, now the number is at about 120,000.
The crazy thing about the fortress was that it was already outdated when it was finished. In the meantime they had invented developed canons with a triple shooting range, so the walls were not far enough from the city centre anymore. Lucky Ulm, the city was never involved in such military actions. In 1938 Ulm lost its status as Bundesfestung.
Parts of the fortress are still in use today, and by far not all for military purposes but also as club rooms and office space by businesses.
Wilhelmsburg-Kaserne (barracks), however, still houses 2000 soldiers and civil employees, the biggest part is a kind of officers’ training school. Also the military music corps, a telecommication and medic unit are part of the staff. After the war the barracks had been used for housing homeless people.
The complex is hugely impressive, and Wilhelmsburg, located on a hill named Michelsberg, is the citadel of the fortress: It covers an area of 24,125 square metres, with a patio of 1.3 hectares. The four-wing complex has more than 800 rooms.
Big parts of the fortress are relatively well preserved, as it was never involved in acts of war and far enough from the German borders to be touched by the Treaty of Versailles after World War I.
A former Concentration Camp
Fort Oberer Kuhberg was renovated until 5 July 2009, right in time for the 150 year anniversary. This is hugely impressive with its 54 casemates. This fort which is the only one where you can go on a guided tour once a month, was used as a concentration camp during the Third Reich (from November 1933 to July 1935). One of the 600 prisoners was Kurt Schumacher, who re-founded the Social Democrat Party (SPD). In those early years no-one was killed or gassed at Fort Oberer Kuhberg. A club of volunteers is running a KZ documentation centre in the historic city centre north of the Münster, in Büchengasse 13 (KZ-Gedenkstätte - http://dzokulm.telebus.de/index1.html). Office hours are Mon – Thu 8am – 12.30pm. You can use the archive and library on Tue and Thu (3pm – 6pm).
Renovation and restoration is a big problem, as the complex is so huge, and some forts have been used for the wrong purposes over the years. In some of the bastions you get aware of this mouldy smell of humid buildings, and they are ice-cold.
Probably a good solution is to incorporate parts of the fortification into new projects, as they have done with the Obere Donaubastion which BTW has been excavated. This will be part of a new Academy of Communication.
At Valckenburg-Schule near the Donau (between Herdbrücke and Donaustadion) you can see the former Untere Donaubastion. Further down the river, right behind the sports grounds of SSV Ulm 1846, is another good fort (Friedrichsau). A bastion you will almost certainly pass at some point is located at Blaubeurer Tor, a roundabout you pass if you come to the city from Autobahn exit Ulm-West or when driving from the city to Blaubeuren. Part of B10 to Neu-Ulm are along a long stretch of the fortification walls (Hindenburgring).
Equally impressive is the fortification in Neu-Ulm. At Glacispark you can get very good insight into the concept.
I already mentioned the 150 year anniversary. In this special year 2009 they have many special tours and events. You find them on the:
Free Guided Tours
In less special years there are guided tours at Fort Oberer Kuhberg on every first Sunday of the month at 2pm. (No bookings required but wear sturdy shoes, bring warm clothes and a torch.)
Visits to other parts of the fortress are for groups only and have to be booked. Tours are free but donations are most welcome.
A fundraising group (Förderkreis Bundesfestung Ulm/Friends of the Bundesfestung) is heavily involved in the organisation of everything concerning the anniversary and tours.
More info and contact details on their website:
Matthias Burger, phone (0731) 159 8779
Electonic mail here
Addresses of the biggest forts:
Fort Oberer Kuhberg: Am Hochsträß (Directions: Drive towards Blaubeuren. Outside Ulm turn left at a traffic light, direction: Wiblingen (Kurt-Schumacher-Ring), left into Egginger Weg, direction Söflingen/Harthausen, left into “Am Hochsträß”.)
Photos 2 and 3 show Obere Donaubastion and neighbouring Oberer Donauturm, the latter also called Weißer Turm (White Tower).
Photo 4 displays a map/plan of the entire fortification.
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
Hirschstraße - main pedestrian and shopping Street
Favorite thing: This street is Ulm’s longest pedestrian street and main shopping street. It links the Railway Station (Hauptbahnhof) and Münsterplatz (Cathedral Square). So if you arrive by train you just have to walk straight out of the station, get into the underpass under the tramway line, and just walk straight ahead, and you will automatically end up in front of the Cathedral.
If you are very attentive you will even note that Hirschstraße does not start as Hirschstraße at the railway station but as Bahnhofstraße. After about 250 or 300 metres it becomes Hirschstraße (at Wengengasse). But no Ulmer would say he goes to Bahnhofstraße. If a Ulmer says he goes to Hirschstraße it includes all and means that he will go shopping.
There are several big department stores (Galeria Kaufhof, Müller), expensive and cheap clothes stores and chains, shoe shops, bakeries, Ulm’s biggest pharmacy (Hirschapotheke), but also several cafés, fastfood outlets and stalls. On a nice day it is quite pleasant to sit in the outdoor seating area of one of the cafés, have a meal or snack, or just a coffee, and watch people.
However, Hirschstraße is one of those examples of typical German pedestrian zones where they have totally neglected to create living space and atmosphere. They only are alive during daytime when the shops and cafés are open. In the evenings they are more or less dead and absolutely no lively area. Hirschstraße is no exception.
- Food and Dining
- Hiking and Walking
Luggage Storage and Internet Cafés
Favorite thing: -
If you just have some hours in Ulm there are plenty of luggage lockers at the Railway Station (Hauptbahnhof).
A big number are on platform 1 (Gleis 1), if you walk to the platform from the main entrance it is to your right.
The lockers come in two sizes. The big ones cost 4 Euro per 24 hours, the small ones 2 Euro. Maximum hire time is 72 hours.
What travellers also want to know is if and where there are internet cafés. For a start, they are a lot less frequent in such medium sized cities than, for example, a country as focussed on tourism as New Zealand. But there are some where you can also buy telephone cards. These are mostly used by foreigners who live and work in Germany.
Some internet cafés in Ulm:
PC Reparatur- Werkstatt/ Internetcafe/ Callshop/ Telefon-Karten
Zeitblomstraße 25 (north of Olgastraße/tramway line)
Phone (0731) 37 95 224
Frauenstraße 35 (east of the Cathedral, just walk through Hafengasse to Frauenstraße)
Phone (0731) 60 26 327
Gideon-Bacher-Str. 11 (spelled wrong on their website; from Frauenstraße walk east through Radgasse or Bockgasse)
Phone (0731) 965 370
- Budget Travel
- Business Travel
The Legend of the Ulmer Spatz (Ulm's Sparrow)
Favorite thing: ULMER SPATZEN
The sparrow is Ulm’s symbol, and lots and lots of things from Ulm have the name “Spatz” (plural: Spatzen), or the word “Spatz” or “Spatzen” incorporated in the name.
So for a start, people of Ulm are Spatzen. Ulmer Spatzen.
The major football team (SSV Ulm 1846) are called “die Spatzen”.
The famous boys’ choir is called “Spatzenchor”.
A hotel is named “Ulmer Spatz”.
And everything started with a “Spatzenhirn” (sparrow’s brain) which is the German/Swabian expression for people with no brains at all.
So it is a very brave move of the people of Ulm to stand by a nickname which points out that Ulmers are idiots. Or at least: were idiots. But as most people think of the harmless bird and not of its brain only when they hear that Ulmers are “Spatzen”, their first thought is that Ulmers must be a bunch of lovable chaps. Somehow cute. People in Germany use the word “Spatz” instead of “Schatz” which means: treasure and darling. In Schwäbisch we add the diminuative ending –le, so: “Spätzle”, which makes it even cuter. Little darling.
That is why we have chocolate Spatzen, and wooden Spatzen, Spatzen statues all over the place. And I love them all, although I have to say that I prefer some chocolate Spatzen – those of Café Tröglen – to others. They have been selling them since about 1860! Being no real Ulmer (I only lived there for nearly 24 years), I do not even have the problem of having to explain how my forefathers could be so stupid :-)
The legend goes as follows:
When Ulmers built their cathedral, the Ulmer Münster, they transported long timber logs into the city. They had loaded the logs across the wagon, so they could not get through the narrow city gate. They had lenghty discussions about how to solve the problem and were already willing to demolish the gate to get the timber to the cathedral, when suddenly a sparrow arrived with a long straw in its beak. The sparrow flew to an eave where he built his nest, and turned the straw lengthwise to push it into the narrow space. Instantly the coin dropped. After this enlightenment the craftsmen piled the wood lengthwise onto the wagon and passed the gate without a problem. In their gratitude they placed a memorial for the sparrow at the top of the Münster roof.
Spatzologists and Parrots
And well, as there really is this bird on the roof, whatever it originally was... It is a copper sparrow with a straw in its beak. In 1889, this copper sparrow BTW replaced a sandstone sparrow that had been on site from 1858 but was badly damaged by pollution. That one had replaced the original sparrow which has been demounted four years earlier and in fact was no sparrow, just a bird which looked more like a parrot… Sparrow investigators – so called “Spatzologists” – say it could have been an eagle or a pigeon, and was only there to mark the centre of the city. Others say the story is not even unique to Ulm, instead wide-travelled chatterboxes told it after trips to the north, and only in the early 1800’s. Read more about this hugely interesting issue – in German only – on this website:
The legend in a poem, found on a gift box with a wooden sparrow inside:
„Die Ulmer standen einst ratlos davor,
sie kamen mit dem queren Balken nicht durchs Tor.
Da stellten sie bei einem Spatzen fest,
er zieht den Halm einfach längs ins Nest.
Ein Spatz nicht dumm,
dreht den Stohhalm einfach um.“
So purist-Spatzologists say that the cathedral (foundation stone laid on 30 June 1377) was built long before the legend came up. But who cares? Only in 1890 Ulm had the highest church spire in the world, and at some point in between they might have had the transportation problem…
My end of the story:
As the Ulmers call themselves Spatzen you could even think the name does not symbolise their early stupidity but their intelligence to learn from, well… a small sparrow ;-)
On photo 2 you see (with eagle's eyes...) the sparrow sculpture on the roof of the Cathedral, the sparrow with a straw in its beak. I took the photo when climbing up the spire.
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Friedrichsau, Ulm’s largest Park
Favorite thing: This is Ulm’s largest park, beautifully located along the Danube, roughly from Donaustadion to the fairgrounds (Volksfestplatz). It is about 2 kilometres long. You can stroll along under mature trees, past little lakes, an animal park (no real zoo), a greenhouse with tropical plants, through a glasstunnel in the Donau-Aquarium, and kids can play on various playgrounds.
Friedrichsau is also great for jogging and cycling. You can cross over to the Neu-Ulm side of the Danube on a footbridge named Offenhauser Steg, and from there carry on to a weir and power station. This is about 6 kilometres from the football ground. I know it because it was one of my standard jogging tracks ;-) If you carry on a little further you get to a quarry pond named Thalfinger See, this is great for swimming and sunbathing.
In Friedrichsau there are some great places to have a drink or meal. Those restaurants have fantastic beer gardens, the names are: Hundskomödie, Teutonia and Liederkranz.
From May to July the so-called “Ulmer Zelt” (Ulm’s Tent) takes place there. This is a festival with music and theatre under canvas.
In July it is the site of the “Ulmer Volksfest”, a mixture of festival, fun fair and carnival with roundabouts, merry-go-rounds, lottery booths, shooting galleries, a lot of unhealthy food and beer. A kind of mini Oktoberfest. The peak and also the end is Schwörmontag on the third Monday of July, Ulm’s festival day of the year. Then the whole park is filled with stalls, lanterns, colourful light chains and laughter. Really the best party of the year.
Near the football ground is a stop for little cruises on the Danube. The most common starting point, however, is along the City Wall near Fischerviertel.
King Frederick visited Ulm in May 1811, a year after Ulm had become part of the Kingdom of Württemberg, and donated 2000 Gulden (Florins), so Ulm could establish a park for recreation. For a long time is was the place to go for walks, relaxation and singing, but the people got less and less interested in it. So a big action was needed to revive it, and the state of Baden-Württemberg's Garden Show (Landesgartenschau) in 1980 was the trigger for a huge restoration and beautification.
On the fringe of Friedrichsau you find Donauhalle (used for concerts and other cultural events) and Ulm's fairgrounds (Messegelände) with year-round displays of model homes. The biggest fairs, hugely loved by Ulmers, are the "Leben - Wohnen - Freizeit" in spring and a slightly smaller version named "Herbstschau" in autumn. Even if you do not need advice for house renovations or do not want to buy any kitchen tools and non-stick pans (as I did every year while living in Ulm...) it is great to go there for the many food stalls... ;-) Also an indoor sports stadium is located there.
- Hiking and Walking
More than the Donau: Ulm is a Three River City
Favorite thing: -
Everybody, well, nearly everybody… knows that Ulm is on the Danube (Donau). Less people know that the Danube is the border between the states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria. And a lot less people know that Ulm is not only on the Danube but also on the rivers Iller and Blau. This mass of water creates the infamous fogs that often hang over the region. Many people have respiratory problems due to this weather phenonemon. If you approach Ulm from the west (Stuttgart) the fog mostly starts somewhere around Merklingen, so take care, there are fog warning signs along the Autobahn. From the east you certainly dive into the fog near Günzburg.
Both other rivers, Iller and Blau, flow into the Danube in or near Ulm. The Danube is a small river up to the confluence with the Iller south-west of Ulm. In fact the Iller carries most of the water that makes up the Danube you see in Ulm.
The Iller has its spring near Oberstdorf in the Allgäu region and is fed by the alpine streams of Breitach, Trettach and Stillach. The main towns on the Iller are Kempten im Allgäu and Memmingen. After 147 kilometres it flows into the Danube. There is a bicycle track along the whole length of the river. Kayaking is very nice on the first stretch, as it has moderate white water, but north of Kempten it is difficult due to many weirs and power stations. South of Ulm it is quite nice again and so smooth that it is suitable for beginners. The area of the Illerbrücke (bridge) near the suburb of Wiblingen is a popular swimming spot.
On the Iller Canal near Ulm they have created a white water paddle course.
The Blau is just a little stream with its spring at the Blautopf – an amazingly blue and green shimmering pond in the town of Blaubeuren – only 14.5 kilometres west of Ulm.
There is also a nice cycling track along the Blau between Blaubeuren and Ulm.
If you want to paddle on the Blau, you need a permit of the Conservation Department (Naturschutzbehörde Ulm) for the period from 1 March to 30 June.
Of course, the Danube is not just just water but also a source of entertainment. The rowing club URCD (Ulmer Ruderclub Donau) do all their training there, and also paddling is very popular. There are even two clubs, Ulmer Kanufahrer (UKF) and Ulmer Paddler. All clubs have their club rooms (and the rowing club quite a nice public restaurant) on the Neu-Ulm side of the Danube.
There are cruise boats operating on the river, and once a year the major part of Ulm’s city festival (Schwörmontag/extra tip soon), the so called Nabada (extra tip soon), takes place on the river.
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
The Place I once called Home
Favorite thing: I worked in Ulm more than 23 years, from June 1980 to November 2003. Until 1992 I lived in Blaustein, a town made up of several small towns. So a suburb of Blaustein does not exist, it is just a name for the community. I lived in the suburb of Klingenstein, on a hill overlooking the valley of the Blau river (which flows into the Danube in Ulm’s historic centre).
In 1992 I bought an apartment on the second floor of this the award-winning building you see on this photo, located in the Ulm suburb of Wiblingen, 10 kilometres south of the city centre. It did not take me much longer than 10 minutes to commute to work there, as I did not have to travel during peak traffic hours.
I called the house Toblerone House, due to its triangular shape. This makes it look like the famous Swiss chocolate. It it made of thick concrete with fantastic insulation qualities. Although the whole eastern front was made of glass panels, full height windows and doors, you did not have to heat a lot in winter. The lounge had a roof-shaped ceiling of an impressive height of about four metres.
My apartment had two terraces, one of which was huge. It was partly under the roof of the terrace above and sheltered from rain and snow. At the edges there were huge flower beds where I planted shrubs, dahlia, lilies, delphiniums and lots of herbs, really like a small garden. I had climbing plants in big containers, they covered the walls. There was plenty of space for outdoor furniture and a cupboard with garden tools, potting mix, just everything you need for gardening. The kitchen benchtop was like a bar between the kitchen and the terrace, so you never had to walk around with plates and glasses if you had breakfast or dinner outside, you just passed everything into the kitchen through the open window.
Although you had to drive through a not very flash street with several cheapisch highrise buildings, home to many immigrants from Russia, the location of “my” house was fantastic. It was just some metres from a big forest (Gögglinger Wald) where you could go jogging and cycling, and behind the house were nice one- and two-storey row houses. It was not far from the river Iller, and not really far from the Danube either. You could easily cycle to the city on several cycling tracks, and of course, go on big cycling tours just from the door step.
It was a quiet location at the time, and I had wonderful neighbours in my house. When we fixed leaks in our house in New Zealand, and try to stop all the airdroughts, and when I freeze in winter due to the lack of central heating or think how primitive it is to only heat the room where we are in, I often think about my wonderful apartment in Wiblingen.
Wiblingen itself is, as said, a southern suburb of Ulm. Coming from the city centre, you cross parts of Neu-Ulm and therefore Bavaria to get there. The Iller river also is a border.
Wiblingen has a rich history, with a splendid monastery church and an even more fantastic Baroque library as the highlights in the historic part of the town which was about a kilometre or two from my house.
On photo 2 you have a fontal view of my apartment.
Ulmensien: Ulm-specific Things and Terms
Favorite thing: Ulmensien are items from Ulm, mostly souvenirs, but also things and figures typical for Ulm. A bit like what we call Kiwiana for things typical for New Zealand.
The city’s flag is half white and half black, the stripes length-wise. The football team of SSV Ulm 1846 also wears black and white – but like any other team in the world, not always. But the club’s colours are black and white. The club’s black sign is round at the bottom, the U of Ulm shaped around the lower edge, the cathedral symbol sitting in the U, and above that you can read SSV 1846 (in two lines). Also see here: http://www.ssvulm1846.de/
(I think the layout of the homepage is dreadful, with the sign so tiny that you nearly miss it.)
As a free imperial city Ulm used the imperial eagle on its seals. The arms have been changed several times since 1351. The eagle became smaller and smaller and was finally removed in 1803.
In Ulm, um Ulm und um Ulm herum.
With this tongue twister you can test your German language skills ;-))) Say it several times and be not surprised if you end up saying something like: Immulm – Ummulm – Ummummulm herum...
The Sparrow – as you can find out in a separate tip (General Tip), as well as the story behind it.
Ulm’s big Day:
Schwörmontag is THE day in Ulm’s calendar. It is celebrated every year on the third Monday in July, with more festivals on the weekend leading up to that day. See extra tip about it (Local Customs – coming up soon). The date (first Monday in July) given in the Lonely Planet Germany guide (edition 2000) is wrong.
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