There's a group of countries that're known as the "-stans". The list is mostly made up of the former Soviet republics like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan but it also includes places like Pakistan and Afghanistan. They're pretty far off the normal "tourist" path so most people don't know much about them, me included. I would like to add a few to the to-do list. Any ideas?
About two weeks ago, Diana and I went to visit Esslingen, which I recently found out is one of the "-gens". Similar to their distant "-stan" cousins, but much easier to visit, the "-gens" is a group of small towns and villages located in the area surrounding Stuttgart. This past weekend we decided to visit Tübingen, which is another one of the "-gens".
Just like Stuttgart and Esslingen, Tübingen is located on the Neckar river. It's about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Stuttgart and is a well preserved medieval-style town with lots of classic architecture:
In some ways, Tübingen has a similar feel to other medieval towns that I've been to like Carcasonne, Mont Saint Michel, or Toledo (Spain) with their city walls, tight winding cobblestone streets, castles, and impressive churches. As I've done more and more traveling around Europe, I have seen other similarities and overlap such as this statue of Saint George slaying the dragon (just outside the main church):
There were some more paintings and sculptures of Saint George inside the church as well. An unusual feature inside the church was this mausoleum area behind the main altar where several past VIPs seem to be buried:
To see the mausoleum, we had to pay one euro to enter but the "donation" included getting to climb a couple of hundred stairs to a platform outside the church's bell tower. This is the view of the Tübingen castle (upper left corner), the Tübingen city hall (brown roof center right), and some of the city:
Tübingen's been around for quite a while but really started to grow in importance with the founding in the 1400s of the Eberhard Karls University. The town definitely has a university feel to it and, today, students make up about 25,000 of the town's 90,000 residents.
The Tübingen Marktplatz and Rathaus (city hall):
One of the things that Diana does very well is find random, good restaurants. She managed to help me GAIN weight while we were in China two years ago by always picking great spots. While we were walking down a random street in Tübingen, she stopped at one door that didn't even appear to be a restaurant, took a look at a couple of pictures they had up, and told me that "this is a good place to eat". How could I say no, right? It turns out that it was a Serbian restaurant that also served traditional German food. Neither of us had ever had Serbian food so we ordered one Serbian dish and one trad German one. We also ordered a couple of glasses of Bosnian wine, which ended up being interesting and good. Oh, and the restaurant was in the basement of an older house and looked sort of like a cave:
The restaurant's food was delicious and priced reasonably. It was different and interesting enough that I'd go back if given the chance.
A cool Tübingen house that's right across the street from the restaurant:
Because of,the university, many famous people have spent some time in Tübingen including Alois Altzeimer (who is credited with identifying Altzeimer's disease), Friedrich Meischer (who first discovered DNA), and the current pope, Benedict XVI (who was on the university faculty). Meischer's DNA discovery took place in the kitchen/laboratory of the HohenTübingen castle:
The view towards the center of town and the church (light-colored tower on the right) from the castle:
Another in the series of self-portraits. This one in front of the Neckar river, Neckarmauer (river wall), Neckarfront (the row of houses facing the river), and the main church (tower):
Tübingen is a nice little town. Actually, I'm finding out that, at least with all the "-gens" I've visited so far, that they might make a nice place to live! Now, off to find some more "-gens"!