I’ve lost my heart years ago. It was on a cold day in late October 1998, as the sun was sprinkling through the yellow, orange, red and brown leaves in the trees while I rode my bike back home. But this home was new. I had just moved there several days ago and so it was bound to happen – I got lost. I walked through the narrow streets, passed colorful medieval houses, watched hot guys riding a gondola-like boat on a river and ate a Nutella crêpe while sitting on a wall in front of an old castle enjoying a breathtaking view over the city. And that was it – that was the moment I fell in love with Tübingen. As I’m writing this my heart skips a beat and I can’t help but feeling homesick. Although I like to tell everybody that Berlin is the only city I want to live in, Tübingen will be forever in my heart. If romance was a city, Tübingen would be its name.
Like many others I moved to Tübingen to study. After all, 20.000 of the of the university town’s 110.000 inhabitants are students. It lies in the South of Germany, tucked in between Stuttgart and Lake Constance. Some might say that the medieval downtown centre of the town is the only reason to visit… but proving them wrong, here are five more…
As cozy as Tuebingen is it’s also a party place deluxe.Well at least you’ll always get a beer. My favourite place to hang out during summer is the market place next to the town hall. As soon as it’s warm enough to sit outside everyone comes here for the last hours of the day, buys a beer in one of the bars and just sits around the fountain, on the sidewalks and sometimes, when it’s really crowded, even on the street.
The market place and the town hall in 1936 – picture credit: akpool.de
There aren’t that many clubs but if you want to dance the night away you’ll find a place. I liked to party at “Blauer Turm”. There are a lot of student parties happening as Tübingen is also the home of many fraternities who all have their own house and at least once a year every single fraternity opens their doors for a big night of party and mayhem.
2. Stocherkahnrennen (punt race)
Every year on one day in June (mostly the Thursday of the second week) everyone is out on the street and IN the water. It’s all about the Stocherkahnrennen. You have to know that the punt boat (Stocherkahn) has an old tradition in Tuebingen. It looks a little bit like a gondola and during the year you will see on the river Neckar a lot of punts with people sitting in there, enjoying the sun and the river, some may have a BBQ on the boat and there is even a guy you can rent and he will sail you up and down the river in the punt and sing for you. Romantic, isn’t it?
But this all changes on this said day in June. Because then it’s all about honor and winning. At the Stocherkahnrennen (punt race) you don’t have friends anymore, every punt manning has just one goal: to reach the finish as soon as possible, fighting their heart out. The most interesting (and funniest for the spectators) part is when they have to turn an eight at the Nadelöhr (bottleneck) under the bridge.
The winner takes it all? Kind of, the winner gets a beer barrel. And the loser punt? They have to swallow the bitter taste of losing. Literally. Every single person in the loser punt has to drink half a litre of cod-liver oil. Yikes. Yes.
3. The Romance
Besides the obvious picturesque (and romantic) side of Tübingen with its narrow streets and medieval buildings there’s one place to top this all. Between the river Neckar and the old town there’s a small lane closed on one side with a wall. And here you’ll find one of the most romantic places for a first date. Imagine moonlight, flickering candle light, the soft sound of the river and a picnic on the wall for you and your honey.
And why should you lock your love in Paris with thousands of others when you can lock your love in Tübingen where it’s still something special…
4. Famous people
The Eberhard Karls University, founded in 1477, is one of the oldest universities in Central Europe. Hardly surprising that a lot of famous people lived, studied and worked here. Pope Benedict XVI held a chair in dogmatic theology here from 1966 until 1969. Former president of Germany Hans Köhler and former German chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger studied and lived here and so did many famous German poets and thinkers like Eduard Mörike, Friedrich Hölderlin, Johannes Kepler and my favourite German author Herman Hesse. I even lived several years in the birth-house of German poet Ludwig Uhland. History is all around in Tübingen. Even Johann Wolfgang von Goethe must have had some fun nights out during his visit in 1797. According to the sign in the picture below this was the window he puked from.
Also neurologist Alois Alzheimer, from whom Alzheimer’s disease takes its name, studied here and nowadays students commemorate him in a special way.
5. The Swabians
The who? Tübingen is located in the South of Germany in Baden-Württemberg, the home of the Swabians. I am also Swabian and I can tell you one thing: we are the cool gang in Germany. We invented the car, the newspaper, bras, we have Mercedes, Porsche and Spätzle, Albert Einstein was Swabian and we do speak Swabian, a German dialect, which even most other Germans don’t understand. Last time I went to Tübingen I walked into a shop, bought something and the lovely Swabian lady at the cash desk asked me if I do need a bag. But she didn’t say: “Brauchen Sie eine Tüte” which would be standard German, she said “Brouchet se a Tütle” which immediately made me feel at home. So don’t worry if you’re failing with practicing your German in Tübingen, they just don’t speak German. At least if they don’t have to. But they are lovely and heartfelt and if you spend some time here it’s likely people will soon recognize and greet you and that waitress at your favourite bar will always know what drink you’re getting.
Have you been to Tübingen? We would love to hear your favorite places there.