Europe For The Senses

Author/Photographer Vicki Liston blogs on her book and some interesting places she's traveled. "Europe for the Senses - A Photographic Journal" was published under the name 'Vicki Landes'.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Solitude Palace - Stuttgart's Silent Pleasure

On the outskirts of Stuttgart lies an ironic little palace. Designed for Duke Carl Eugen, Solitude Palace is a wonderful display of showy Baroque architecture yet its location, its purpose, and even its name suggest a more reclusive nature. Nicknamed ‘The Pleasure Palace’, Solitude is a wonderful hidden treasure.

Duke Carl Eugen ruled from nearby Ludwigsburg Castle in the 16th century. Meant as a quiet retreat from the pressures of politics, the castle’s construction began in 1764 and only took about five years to complete. During its heyday, the grounds were quite expansive – unattached wings of the palace, pavilions, meticulously manicured flower gardens, a shrub labyrinth, theater, orangery garden, stables and much more – anything to keep the duke’s mind off of everyday life. Today, only the palace itself remains but it’s a breathtaking site regardless. Since the building sits atop a hill and overlooks the Wuerttemberg lowlands, the only backdrop is the brilliant blue sky. Paired with its delicate eggshell exterior, the castle and sky contrast perfectly. A broad, elegant double staircase leads up to the central and largest room, White Hall. With high ceilings and a substantial oval shape, this room was meant for parties.

The castle only has a total of ten rooms, including White Hall. Each has its own special personality and drips of intricate ornamentation, breathtaking artwork, and exotic inlay wood designs worthy of only the finest Baroque building. The Red Cabinet once held 34 different oil paintings of Italy, giving it a Mediterranean feel. The Music Room was full of mirrors to reflect the little bit of natural light that made it into the one exterior wall’s windows. The Assembly Room is an odd square shape and colored a stately bright blue. The Anteroom is decorated in cool, relaxing green hues, boasts a French floor plan, and was a sort of waiting room/passage room to the living rooms in the palace. Next, the Marble Hall offered an extreme contrast to the Anteroom with its warm, wood inlay details and the fake marble (fake marble cost more at that time so having the fake stuff was better than having the real thing – it showed you were truly wealthy.) The Palm Room is stunning. Decorated with palm branch and flower accents and having an abundance of windows to let in the sunshine, the Palm Room is a touch of nature amid the flamboyant Baroque style. The Bedroom, which supposedly was never used by the duke as he preferred a more simple room in one of the unattached wings, was more of a statement and used for ceremonies. The miniature Writing Chamber was located next to the bedroom and held telescopes, trophies, and measuring equipment. Finally, the bean-shaped library was just large enough to house some books and a cozy place to sit and enjoy them.

Solitude Palace also has an air of secrecy. A patron of the arts, Duke Carl Eugen also had the reputation for being a ladies man (it is rumored that he had over 100 illegitimate children). The palace sits due south of the Ludwigsburg Palace with a straight 13 kilometer road that connects the two. Many a tour guide has pointed out that Carl could have seen his wife coming from Ludwigsburg a great distance off, giving him ample time to send his current mistress out the back door unseen.

Despite its small size and seemingly unsociable character, Solitude Palace is both impressive and majestically friendly. Together with an unsurpassed view of the surrounding area, the little castle has the best seat in the area and continues to pleasantly surprise those that stumble upon its isolated location.


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