The stretch of Autobahn 5 between Darmstadt and Baden-Baden connects together several of Germany's most colorful and engaging palaces. From the huge palace and gardens of tiny Schwetzingen to the grand yellow palace in the circular city of Karlsruhe, this region is filled with Baroque splendor. 'Rating' them is a hard thing to do since every one supplements the character of their town in their own way, and some cities offer a lot more outside the palace than others. But with respect to the palace itself, my number one vote goes to the most elaborate and colorful of them all -- the wildly decorated Schloss in the small city of Bruchsal, midway between Karlsruhe and Heidelberg.
The first two photographs give a indication of why, it's not the size of the palace -- in fact, compared with the others I mentioned, it's of moderate size -- but the rich colors. In the first photograph, you see the red sandstone exterior covered with yellow and white, with much of the facade gilded. A closer look at the palace in the second photograph shows the incredibly rich details painted on the wings and its two flanking orangeries, its greens and oranges symbolizing the buildings' purpose. These murals give the exterior an impressive three-dimensional look.
What was unique about the orangeries was the style of artwork used. The pictures don't show it, but the green and orange regions were not solid colors, they are pixelated like the paintings of 19th century impressionists. Maybe I haven't seen enough Baroque palaces in my lifetime, but this was a first.
The interior of the palace, which I cannot show here, was fabulous. I did not tour all of it due to time, but the ceiling fresco of the Treppenhaus (the massive circular entrance foyer) was incredibly detailed with people and events from the times of the nobility.
One of the things I learned while there was just how much this palace had been restored from the war, and some parts were only restored on the outside. Virtually the entire complex was levelled to the ground in 1945, and the main restoration effort was only completed in 1975. One example of a structure whose interior was changed was the Hofkirche, which comprised the right wing as one faced the front of the palace. Formerly a typical Baroque church with lots of murals, it now sports a modern white interior with simple wood decoration and furniture common to Protestant town churches I've seen around.
Other structures were rebuilt in shape but with completely different materials -- I presumed. Examples of this are shown in the third photograph, the Torwachtgebäude and Kanzeleibau. These structure have the Baroque shape, but were rebuilt in straight unpainted red brick, as was the Damientor which is the complex's huge side gate. A one-way road now separates the buildings (it passes through the Damientor), and the Kanzeleibau is a now a city government office. The white umbrella at far right marks the Schloss' cafe that occupies what was once a customs office.
Bruchsal's palace garden is smallish, but it was difficult to tell whether or not it was once much bigger. A main train line runs directly outside the current front gate, but I discovered that the pathway extended straight out into a modern sports complex, the end of which is marked with a very old sandstone wall with a gated entrance (the gate is no longer there). The surrounding terrain is now occupied with industrial buildings and residences that suggest the palace grounds were once very large but were taken over at some point.
I wandered around the rest of the city, which was very nice, but it too showed signs of heavy post-war renovation and is pretty much modernized. The bridge in the fourth photograph was at the end of the market street, unfrotauntely the photo doesn't show just how heavily flowered the scene was. That was similarly true with the city church that this road led me to. That church also housed the city cemetary. Some small remnants of the original city wall remained, such as a ivy-covered stone gatehouse here on a bridge or a section that's now part of a house there.
Bruchsal is easy to miss because it's not nearly as well known as its grander cousins surrounding it. But those of you who have been-there, done-that with Heidelberg and Schwetzingen and are hungry to see a different palace, Bruchsal fits the bill.
Trip taken 30 August 2003 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2003 Tom Galvin