Southwest Germany: Where History Comes to Life

Bruchsal Palace is home to one of the biggest collections of tapestries in Europe (Picture copyright of Achim Mende)

Romantic palaces and grand gardens, ruined castles and atmospheric monasteries, SouthWest Germany boasts an array of cultural landmarks that are fun to explore. In the German Federal State of Baden-Württemberg, the Staatliche Schlösser & Gärten heritage organisation looks after an impressive number of monuments, bringing them back to life and offering delightful days out.

But visits offer so much more than looking at old buildings. How about sipping wine in Maulbronn – the lovingly-preserved monastery that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site? Then there are the atmospheric ruins of Heidelberg Castle, long one of the world’s most romantic spots.

In summertime, SouthWest Germany’s formal gardens are a delightful surprise for horticultural enthusiasts, combining culture and history with unusual designs. This summer, there is so much to enjoy in palaces, monasteries, castles and gardens. Take a guided tour, go to a concert or special exhibition; have fun at numerous special events and festivals.

Bruchsal Palace and its Bel Etage

Top of the list of ‘must-sees’ for 2017 has to be Bruchsal Palace. This Bishop’s Palace, built in 1732 and 45 miles northwest of Stuttgart, has been painstakingly restored to the way it looked in the 18th century. The highlight is the Bel Etage, the grand main floor upstairs with its reception rooms and bedrooms. When it reopened in April, a lost chapter from Bruchsal’s history came back to life.

Back in the 18th century, this palace was one of Europe’s cultural and artistic ‘hotspots’.. More than 350 priceless items that have been in storage for seven decades are home again: antique furniture, fine paintings and intricate tapestries. And this grand floor, all of 10,000 square feet, has been restored using the original architect’s plan.

Old inventory lists and photographs have provided precise insights into where each piece originally belonged. Scientists and craftspeople have been working hand in hand to reconstruct the grandeur of the past. Over recent years, several items that were thought to have been lost, have been successfully purchased from art dealers and private individuals. It is no exaggeration to say that the collection of valuable tapestries in Bruchsal Palace is unique. Altogether, there are 38 of them, one of the biggest collections in Europe.

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Record 20 Million Visitors Travelled to Houston in 2016

An estimated 20.5 million domestic and international visitors came to Houston during the 12-month period in 2016 according to figures compiled by research group TNS Global and the State of Texas. The overall figure reflects an estimated 17.3 million domestic business and leisure travellers and 3.2 million international travellers.

Mayor Sylvester Turner lauded the figures as a testament to Houston’s increasing reputation as a fun, affordable destination. “You’ve heard me say it before, ours is the most diverse and welcoming city in the country, one a growing number of people want to visit to experience our food, our culture and our people,” Turner said. “Travel is a vital part of our Houston economy. The industry supports more than 140,000 jobs in our region and contributes US $16.5 billion to the local economy. These new tourism figures indicate we are headed in the right direction.”

Houston, Texas is attracting major growth in tourism, both national and international

In April 2015, Houston First announced a new initiative to grow leisure tourism through a multi-pronged effort that included the creation of an online travel packaging system and a grant program to encourage collaboration among hospitality businesses. One of the primary goals was to grow visitation from 14.8 million people in 2014 to 20 million by the end of 2018.

The 2016 totals achieve just that two years ahead of schedule. Meanwhile, annual room nights booked for future conventions increased 34% over the last two years to 765,401 and traffic to the network of websites grew 60% to more than 7.4 million.

“We are excited to see our efforts translate to such achievements for our city,” said Dawn Ullrich, president and CEO of Houston First. “With our tourism initiative, we wanted to focus attention on the experiences that make Houston an attractive place to visit.”

Of the 17.3 million domestic travelers who came to the city in 2016, 77% were overnight visitors and 23% came for day trips, according to data from TNS. Roughly 75% of the domestic total came to Houston for leisure activities, while 13% were there for business and 12% characterized their trip outside of these two categories. Houston has recently received a number of accolades as a destination. Late last year TripAdvisor ranked the city No. 6 on its list of top trending travel spots to book in 2017. Forbes Travel also ranked Houston a top place to visit this year while U.S. News & World Report ranked the city No. 7 on its list of ‘best foodie destinations’.

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