Our first, and only, full day in Karlsruhe, we start with Laugenwek for breakfast. These are a special treat for my husband as they are not something that can be found in the US–well, at least not a version that is worth buying. Laugenwek are like pretzel rolls only really, really good. We’ve tried “pretzel rolls” in the US many times and have always been horribly disappointed. Dry and tough, the US version always leaves us wondering why anyone would even sell such rot. In any case, today we are in Karlsruhe and deliciously fresh Laugenwek are readily available. We slice them in half and spread them with butter from Irish cows–smooth, creamy, and sweet. They are amazingly delicious. Unfortunately, the only sit down table at the bakery is occupied by a lone man. There are two stand-up tables–one with a woman standing at it eating breakfast and the other with a cup of coffee on it. We try to stand at the latter in such a way that we’re using the table to rest the things we can’t hold, but not actually standing at the table. However, by the time our Lugenwek is ready, we’ve seen no sign of any person belonging to the cup of coffee. It’s as if the person went to get sugar or cream and got called away so suddenly that they forgot they were in the middle of having coffee. After a while, we give up on “borrowing” the table and simply take it over. The owner of the coffee never appears.
On the way back to the hotel after breakfast, we pass the street that Pat’s grandmother lived on. At the corner one block away, a man on crutches stands at a car parked in front of a dentist’s office. Renate (my mother-in-law) calls out to him and waves. It turns out that he was Renate’s neighbor growing up and and she has known him virtually all of her life. We stand and talk (well, Renate, Pat, and the man talk) for several minutes, catching up. Renate hasn’t seen the man in some time. I wonder how many people live in this village who still know Renate–the village has grown into a regular town and there is new construction of townhomes on many of the streets we pass.
We continue to the hotel and say our goodbyes for the day. We will meet up again at dinner, but Pat and I are going to spend the day in Karlsruhe on our own. When Pat and I head for the closest S-bahn stop a few minutes later, the train is already sitting there. We walk to the next stop and manage to make it on foot faster than the train makes it through the lights between the two stops. The ride to downtown takes only a few minutes–we are not far and Karlsruhe is not a large town. As we approach our stop, we pass a pyramid sculpture. I forget to ask why there is a pyramid in Karlsruhe, but Pat probably doesn’t know either.
We walk towards the castle. Or, at least we try to walk to the castle. First we have to get around construction that has multiple sidewalks closed. We have to reroute three times before we find a way to the plaza that surrounds the Karlsruhe castle. When we get to the plaza, we are both thirsty and need to use a restroom. Feeling funny just ordering water in the cafe, we decide to sit and have coffee. I go to the ladies room and return to find Pat sitting at our table with a Pilsner. I look at my watch and discover it is already 11AM, which I guess is not horribly early for a first beer if one is German and on vacation. Not being German myself, I stick to coffee.
We re-enter the bright sunlight–it’s a beautiful morning–and walk over to the castle, which is now a museum. We stop on the grounds to snap off some quick shots and then follow a group of teenagers we can only assume are on a field trip inside the building where we buy tickets. Walking through the museum is not exactly exciting for me. I am more excited by castles that have been preserved in their original state than in looking at displays of the contents that once inhabited them. Plus, there are no signs in English, so I have a hard time understanding, for example, why there is a large exhibit from Turkey in the middle of one floor. Even Pat cannot figure this out from the German signs he attempts to read. On top of the lack of available information, no photos are allowed inside, which pretty much makes going to museums pointless to me. Just as I am about to suggest we head back out to the park outside and walk around among the trees, a museum employee standing on the floor looking at my camera asks if we have gone up the tower yet. Pat tells her we have not and she explains that there are great views from up there and that pictures are allowed. We find the tower entrance and walk up the many, many stairs to get to the top. A door opens to the balcony so that we can walk around the complete circle outside with no glass between my lens and the view. It’s fabulous. I am suddenly ecstatic that we came. What’s also cool is that it allows us to see the layout of the city. We saw maps inside that show that Karl had built Karlsruhe with all the main roads radiating out from the castle at the center. Seeing this from the tower after seeing it in drawings and a model makes it real. I’m not sure why all the roads need to radiate from the castle, but it does look really cool.
After climbing back down to the interior of the museum, we try to work our way towards the restrooms. However, it’s like a maze with only one path that leads out and that path takes us through every exhibit in the museum. After winding our way through two more floors containing Egypt, a 19th century general store, and more of Turkey, we finally ask someone for the most direct route to the restroom. She points us towards the elevator to the first floor, but we still have to go through 3 more exhibits to get to the elevator. Finally, we make it to the first floor and find the restrooms. We decide to forego anymore exhibits this trip and to head back outside. Pat is hungry and he wants to have cake. We are now on a quest to find cakes that can stand up to Pat’s childhood memories.
We walk through Karlsruhe looking for a bakery. We pass what seems like dozens, but none of them are serving the type of cake Pat is looking for. We end up walking through a part of town that attracts seedy looking individuals–the storefronts are mostly casinos and strip clubs. At the end of this strip, however, sits a huge cathedral that I want to see, so we walk on. When we get to the cathedral and walk inside, we are disappointed to discover that there is a glass wall between the entry foyer and the rest of the church. We are unable to walk through it, but I do get one shot of the interior through the glass wall. A man sits in a pew inside praying. We wonder if there is a hidden entrance for parishioners.
Heading back through the seedy part of Karlsruhe, we pass a brewery and hope that maybe we can take a tour. However, there is no sign of life in the windows and the doors that we can see look bolted shut and have no signs that imply they are ever open to the public. At this point, feeling uncomfortable with the surroundings and starting to run out of time, I suggest we take the S-bahn back to where we started to get cake. We hop on the next train a ride the mile or so that we’ve walked back to the pyramid in mid-town. I get out Google maps and look up the department store Pat remembers having really good cakes. We walk down the street and I put the iPhone away when we get close. But we can’t find it. I get the iPhone out again and we find the address. When we get there, the department store is now a sporting goods store and they don’t carry cake. Pat is crushed.
We return to looking around and finally ask some elderly ladies outside a bakery across the street. They suggest another department store, but when we go up to their restaurant, Pat isn’t satisfied with their offerings. We wander around until we decide we must eat. We stop at a restaurant in the plaza by the pyramid and sit down. We eat real food instead of cakes. It’s 3:00 by the time we sit and we are supposed to meet Pat’s family at the hotel at 4:30. The server is busy and it takes a long time to get food. As we sit and watch, we notice that all of the people eating at the tables on restaurant down are having huge desserts. After we finish eating, we ask the server if they have desserts; he tells us to go next door. We move over about 10 tables and pick up a menu. It’s all ice cream. Pat asks a server if they have cakes and the server tells him to go inside. I sit at the table while Pat goes inside to select cakes. When he comes out, he is thrilled. This is the place he remembered all along and they offer an enormous assortment of cakes to choose from. When the server brings out the cakes he’s selected, we indulge in one filled with a nut cream and one filled with lemon cream. We both like the lemon cream better, but the cakes are delicious. It’s after 4 by the time we finish and we must pay and rush back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.