"One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Germany on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878." Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad


International American Wive's Club goes to Darmstadt

Allow me to introduce you to the founding members--oh, and the only current members--of the International American Wive's Club--IAWC for short. (I apologize for the millions of snowflakes obscuring their cute faces, but we were in the middle of a snowstorm at the moment of the picture-taking.)

Stephanie, Cheryl, Beth, and Me (the one holding the camera)

You see, all of us gals were brought to Heidelberg, Germany for a year or more because of our (dear) husbands. While our husbands toil away at their work, we women decided it was only right to have some fun of our own. And so began the IAWC. Usually this involves getting together for coffee or tea at a Heidelberg cafe, but last week we decided to stretch ourselves and travel to Darmstadt. Truth be told, the real reason we chose Darmstadt was because the discount store T.K. Maxx (British version of T.J. Maxx) had just opened there--and who doesn't enjoy a bit of discount shopping? But to make it our first official IAWC trip, we decided to throw a bit of German culture in the trip's itinerary.

Cultural Stop #1: The Residenzchloss (that's German-speak for Castle Residence) of the Grand Dukes of Hesse and Rhine

The castle gardens (after some encouragement from the camera woman to pretend like they're having a good time freezing snow)

Penelope emerges from her plastic snow cover

Cultural Stop #2: Mathildenhoehe
The reason most people visit Darmstadt is to view the Jugendstil, the German version of Art Nouveau (and you thought it was to visit T.K. Maxx). Queen Victoria's grandson, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig, was a great patron of the arts, and because of him the artist colony Mathildenhoehe was established here in 1899.

A grove of plane trees, the Platanenhain, stands at the entrance. (In the middle of a snowstorm in January there is not much to look at, but I'm sure they're nice in the summer.)

Close by is the very tall Hochzeitsturm (Wedding Tower), the city's wedding present to the Grand Duke in 1908.

Side view of the Hochzeitsturm (if you squint hard I guess it looks like a cake?)

The tiny but ornate Russische Kappelle (Russian Chapel), built for Ernst Ludwig's relatives, the Russian royal family.

Stephanie at the front entrance of the Chapel (unfortunately closed on account of the snowstorm).

There are several other large buildings in the colony that now mostly house museums of the artists' work. We went to the Museum Kuenstlerkolonie. It wasn't incredibly impressive, but it did feature the work of the the main Jugendstil artists and give a little history (in English!). Besides architectural design, much of their work was in the form of furniture, dishes, and common household objects, like a letterbox or teapot. The point was to make art a part of every day life.

Armoir featured at the museum

Cheryl, Me and Beth--very serious museum-goers. Penelope preferred to sleep.

Stephanie took a picture of this chair, thinking it was part of the Jugendstil items on display. It was in fact just a chair to sit in. (No wonder the museum guard looked at her funny.)

Many of the Jugendstil artists (Peter Behrens, Otto Eckmann, Joseph Maria Olbrich, to name a few) built and lived in homes within the Matildenhoehe artist colony. Here's one of the houses that sits just below the museum. Due to the snowstorm (did I mention we went to Darmstadt during a snowstorm?), the picture isn't so great.

And that concludes our Darmstadt photo tour.

After wandering around a bit in the blowing, freezing snow, we finally found our way to T.K. Maxx. After taking a moment to rejoice in the low (for Germany anyways) prices, we explored the store and made a few purchases.

And now to plan our next IAWC adventure. (I think we'll check the weather channel this time.)

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