Cutting-edge technology, coupled with an old world charm, plenty of history, exhibitions and great shopping options make Karlsruhe in south-west Germany an offbeat summer destination. And surprisingly, not many are aware that this city's fan-shaped plan inspired the layout of Washington DC.
Once there, check into one of the efficient hotels right outside the railway station - the Hotel Residenz Ringhotel is a good bet. Of course, the best way to explore the city is to walk (at 14 degrees, it is quite a pleasant experience).
One of the impressive architectural marvels of Karlsruhe is the StÃ¤ndehaus - the building that paved the way for democracy in Germany and once acted as Germany's first seat of parliament. During the Second World War the StÃ¤ndehaus was severely damaged by air strikes. The building now houses the city library.
A walk through the winter garden is a must as the place still maintains all the grandeur for which it was the favourite haunt of the dukes and duchesses of yore. A hundred-year-old yew tree stands witness to many historic events and is surrounded by a deep blue carpet of flowers. Fountains, sculptures and artefacts make this place a charming abode and no sooner you walk to the other end of the garden, you are greeted with the magnificent view of the Karlsruhe Palace.
The grand structure built in the neoclassical style stands at the heart of the 'fan' that forms Karlsruhe's famous city layout. Margrave Karl Wilhelm of Baden-Durlach founded the city. According to legend, the nobleman woke from a dream one day while hunting. In his dream he had founded a new city - thus the name Karlsruhe, which literally means 'Charles' repose'. Thirty-two streets that now house the administrative buildings and the marketplatz (market square) form the fingers of the fan. A steep climb of 158 steps to the top of the palace enables one to have a panoramic view of the fan shape.
As you walk out of the Palace grounds into the city square, you see a small pyramid in the middle. Under the pyramid is the tomb of Karl Wilhelm who was buried here in 1807. Initially there was a church on the same site, but it had to be removed when the square was renovated and so the pyramid was built over the tomb.
On the border of Karlsruhe is the charming city of Durlach, often referred to as the mother of Karlsruhe. Margrave Charles William first settled in Durlach before moving his court to Karlsruhe in 1718. In the middle of Durlach stands Karlsburg castle. stands Karlsburg castle. A little single-car funicular takes you up a cliff. The view from the top is amazing and on a clear day you can see the Rhine river. Durlach being on the edge of the Black Forest there are plenty of woods to walk in.
What to eat and drink
Non-alcoholic beer is now gaining popularity during lunch. Try Flammkuchen - thin base with a variety of toppings or Spatzle (tiny noodles or dumplings) in various combinations - KÃ¤sespÃ¤tzle has cheese and fried onion. Schnitzel is a meat cutlet that's breaded and fried) served with French fries. Of course, being in this country you must end your meal with Black Forest Cake!
How to get there
Many airlines have regular flights to Frankfurt. Karlsruhe is just an hour's journey on the superfast Inter-city Express (ICE) train from Frankfurt, that touches speeds of 300kmph.
For moving around in Germany, the German Rail Pass (which can be bought in Mumbai) is a huge boon for those who want to do cross country destinations without the bother of negotiating the ticket machines. Not to mention, the huge savings that the pass accrues compared to single tickets for each journey.