Swabia is a region in southwestern Germany that includes much of the state of Baden-Württemberg, including its capital Stuttgart, as well as the rural area known as the Swabian Alps and parts of far western Bavaria. It is a region with an incredibly rich history and was home to influencers Einstein, Miescher, Kepler, Bosch and Daimler.
I had the pleasure to spend five days exploring the region in 2013, listening to the soundscapes (surprisingly quiet for central Europe), learning about the region’s history and sampling lots of good German beer and food.
Our point of entry was Stuttgart, an easy four and a half hour train journey from Paris. The central station, known as Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof, was built between 1914 and 1928 and is currently undergoing a massive re-development project (Stuttgart 21) that will essentially convert the main line terminus station into an underground through station.
Knowing that the original station will soon no longer exist in it’s original form, I took the opportunity to record the soundscape from an interior perspective.
As we headed out of the railway station, we immediately arrived at the northeastern end of the Königstraße, the main pedestrian zone of the city centre. Again, I took the opportunity to record the ambiance whilst standing roughly in the middle of this busy shopping street.
We didn’t stay long in Stuttgart. The main purpose of visiting the region was for a family wedding which took place in Bad Urach, about 50 KM southwest of Stuttgart.
The ceremony was held in a typical country farmhouse and the surrounding gardens were very picturesque, and home to all sorts of birds and animals. We stayed overnight at the farmhouse and the morning after the wedding (whilst slightly hungover) I recorded the birdsong.
A bit further away from the farmhouse, I came across some wood pigeons that were nested in a tree next to a small stream.
We left Bad Urach that morning and headed towards Wäschenbeuren, our home for the next few days. This small farming village, about 50 KM east of Stuttgart, sits on the edge of the virgin forest on the Hohenstaufen. We stayed at the Wäscherschloss Guesthouse which was the perfect location for a quiet, countryside retreat. It was such a pleasure to wake up each morning, open the windows to our bedroom and hear nothing but birdsong.
In the twelfth century, this area was home to a legendary medieval dynasty called the Hohenstaufen, or the Staufer – powerful German monarchs who reigned from 1138 to 1254. At that time in Europe the Staufer were highly respected – three members of the dynasty were crowned Holy Roman Emperors and in 1194, the Hohenstaufens were granted the Kingdom of Sicily.
Many historic remnants of the Staufer dynasty were within walking distance of our guesthouse. So on our second morning, after a delicious German breakfast, we headed out to explore.
We first climbed Hohenstaufen Hill which today holds the ruins of Hohenstaufen, once the family seat of the Staufer. It took about forty minutes to climb up to the top and we passed through thick forest that was teaming with birdlife.
It was so nice to be in an area that has such a rich natural soundscape. On our way back down, I stopped to record the local church bell as it struck twelve o’clock.
Next stop was Wäscherschloss Castle, an excellently preserved castle in the heart of Staufer territory and the actual birthplace of the Staufer Dynasty. Just outside the castle was a field home to five or six young horses. They were quite curious and approached us as we walked by.
We were really enjoying being in the countryside and decided to explore a bit further into the surrounding forests of Wäscherhoff. We walked towards an area called Lorch-Beutental and again, found ourselves in the centre of a thriving bird community.
After having walked for about thirty minutes we came across the Waldolf Cafe. The offer of homemade cidre and cake made the decision to stop a no-brainer. The owners had many farm animals in the gardens surrounding the cafe, including a flock of noisy geese, so I took the opportunity to record the ambiance.
After a few days of exploring various different parts of Swabia, I began to fall in love with the different shades of green the landscape offers. It did rain a lot whilst we were there, which probably helps keep things growing, and we are in the middle of Spring so things should, in theory, be at their greenest. But it was so impressive to be surrounded by lush, green landscape.
From a sonic perspective, one of the things I like in Germany are the musical bells that can often be found in market squares, something I came across whilst walking through the market square of Schwäbisch Gmünd.
For anyone that doesn’t know this part of Germany, I’d highly recommend spending some time there. As I mentioned, the intensely green landscape is very impressive. Equally impressive are the soundscapes that I discovered. I know that I will certainly be returning at some point in the future and would love to head down towards the Black Forest as well as Lake Constance. I would also like to head over in winter, when things should be even quieter.