Well, it's January. The most depressing month of the year no matter where you are. The holidays are over, the kids are already somehow bored of their new presents, the weather is yucky, and the nearest holiday to look forward to is the anxiety-inducing rigamarole of Valentine's Day.
It's not a great time to be an expat in Germany. Travel often grounds to a halt, because who wants to experience a wonderful place during bad weather? And worst of all, there's no holidays or festivals of any interest happening until Fasching (Carnival)! But fear not, we at Stuttgart Steps have some ideas to keep yourself entertained during the bleakest part of the winter.
My tip is to become a local tourist. When you live somewhere, it's easy to put off exploring your own area, with the idea that you'll "do it later." Do it now! Here's some ideas to say goodbye to the winter doldrums:
1. Become a museum nerd
Maybe you think of museums as boring and associate them with dreadful field-trips as a child. Well, you're a grown-up now and it's time to revisit museums. Because they're awesome!. My personal favorite is the Landesmuseum Wurttemberg in the Alte Schloss in Stuttgart. The museum went through a major renovation a couple years ago, and covers the history of human civilization in the Wurttemberg area. Now that might sound dull, but when you're looking at Celtic armor, Roman swords, and jeweled crowns you get a visceral sense history that reading a book can’t convey.
Other museums that are worthwhile in the Stuttgart area
- The Mercedes-Benz Museum: Easily the best car museum in Germany, and that’s saying something!
- The Staatsgallerie: A museum covering nearly 1,000 years of art, but small enough to enjoy without developing "Louvre syndrome" where you become exhausted and everything starts to blend together.
- The Schweinemuseum: Yes, the pig museum. It's weird, it's kitschy, and it's a must-see in Stuttgart. Afterwards, you can eat all the pork you want at the good in-house restaurant.
- Kunstmuseum: Known locally as "The Cube" you've probably admired this beautiful building from 2005, but have you bothered to go inside?
2. Go to the spa
Did you know that Stuttgart sits on the second-largest complex of mineral springs in Europe? The water is supposed to be beneficial for many aliments, but most importantly, it's warm. For families, it's hard to beat Das Leuze not too far from Robinson Barracks. For couples, why not try it like a local and go au naturale at the amazing Schwabenquellen near Kelley Barracks? Or you can wait for one of their monthly bathing-suit days if you're modest. I'll make a post about mineral bath etiquette and tips in my next post so you won't have to feel too intimidated.
3. Cozy up at a Weinstube
Winter is by far the best time to enjoy the pleasures of the too-heavy-for-the-summer local Swabian cuisine. And then there's the wine! Within Stuttgart there are dozens of Weinstube (wine pubs) that focus on local specialities and regional wines, served in the proper "viertele" (quarter, as in, a quarter liter!) glass with a handle. These restaurants are cozy, usually cutely decorated, with good service and excellent food at a good value. On my Stuttgart walking tours I point out my three favorites in the downtown area for you to visit on your own or you can always take one of my food and wine tours, where I take guests to my favorite wine pubs and a great restaurant and explain the local varietals and dishes.
4. Visit a palace
In addition to the fact that Stuttgart has two palaces right next to each other - the previously mentioned Alte Schloss and Neues Schloss - the region doesn't lack for royal residences. If you still haven’t taken a tour of the wonderfully preserved “Swabian Versailles” Ludwigsburg Schloss, now’s a great time! It's one of the most "blinged-out" places imaginable! Then there's also the rebuilt Hohenzollern Schloss, which is even more beautiful in winter. Both are must-sees, but poke around a little bit and you'll find even more castles and palaces in the Stuttgart area.
5. Take a tour
Yes, it’s cold outside. But the Germans have a saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” So put on those layers and get outside! Walking tours help you stick to those New Year’s Resolutions about being more active, and you’ll learn tons of fun facts and secret places in your own city. Stuttgart Steps’ schedule for the rest of the month is online and we’re doing all our regular tours plus a special Food & Wine tour on the upcoming U.S. Federal Holiday on 19 January. There’s only a couple spots left, so reserve today!