Tuebingen, Germany

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Tuebingen is a small (75.000 inhabitants, among it more than 20.000 students) university city in Baden-Wuerttemberg, South Germany. The town was built around a castle on a steep hill that was guarding the Neckar river in the 11th century. The castle is still there, but nowadays it is used as a part of the university. Inside, among lots of classical artifacts, some of the possibly oldest artworks of humanity are shown, and not only the tiny horse made from mammoth ivory shows that our concept of beauty has not changed very much in recent 30.000 years.

The main feature of Tuebingen, the university, was founded in 1477, during a time when a lot of lords and dukes throughout the Holy Roman Empire were developing an interest in humanism. The university does not have a campus, since its buildings of the are dispersed among the whole city, about which is said: "Tuebingen does not have a university, it is a university." Among the buildings is the baroque old Aula, which was built on the steep banks of the Neckar. It has two floors on the side of the market, whereas it has five floors facing the river. The university buildings are from different architectural periods, and some of the most modern and ugliest buildings are the science departments at the Schnarrenberg (however, there is a beautiful botanical garden (free entry) nearby).

One of the nicest views of the city can be taken from the Neckar Bridge. At one side of the river is a long island with an alley of plane trees, on the other side several layers of old, colourful houses tower over the banks. The nearby yellow tower with the pointed roof used to be the home of the classical poet Friedrich Hoelderlin for the second half of his life. He was considered insane, but it is often believed (and often written in graffiti) that he only was pretending in order to escape life in reactionary Germany (it is sometimes even thought that he planned an attack on the Elector and wanted to escape justice). However, the front of the Neckar with its weeping willows, swans and punts is certainly a nice place to spend oneĀ“s retirement. Today, the tower hosts a little quiet museum, where you can bend over squiggly manuscripts describing the visits co-poets payed to Hoelderlin during his exile from the outer world.

Each June, a punt race takes place on river front , with the local fraternities and sports clubs taking part. The loser of the race has to drink half a litre of cod liver oil, but it is relatively difficult to lose, since some of the fraternities consider training as unhonourable. Among other events is the exciting Swabian carnival, although it is a little more archaic and vivid in the catholic towns to the south or west. Also, Tuebingen offers excitement for car drivers, since the centre was built long before the invention of cars, and for mountain bikers. However, there is a good public transport system.

Outside Tuebingen
Tuebingen is surrounded by forests, with the "blue wall" of the Swabian Jura to the south. On the rim of the mountains there are the castles of Hohenzollern and Lichtenstein, romantically renewed in the 19th century as the local Neuschwansteins. The Jura also offers some interesting geological features, like caves, the deep blue "Blautopf" (i.e. blue pot) spring, and especially in the Danube valley, impressing limestone cliffs. A few km to the north, in the forest, is the beautiful ex-monastery of Bebenhausen. The next big city (and the next airport) is Stuttgart, which is about 50 km to the north and is connected to Tuebingen via rail (running through lots of places ending on -ingen).

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