Sometimes dumb luck is our best tour guide. That is certainly how we stumbled upon Wangen im Allgäu. We wanted to get a real feel for small town Germany, so we skipped the big city, Munich, and pulled off the Autobahn in hopes of finding a traditional village. Far from experts, since this was our first visit to Deutschland, we still think it would be hard beat what we found.
Following the signs to the “zentrum,” the center of town, we spotted the Hotel Rössle and pulled in to see if they could put us up for the night. Not only could they, but they furnished us with an excellent guide book to Wangen’s Old Town attractions and a recommendation for the best nearby German grub. With a few hours until feeding time, we headed out to see the sights.
Perhaps the most unique attribute of Wangen is its fountains. There are several well preserved hold-outs from centuries past, but the stars of the show are a series of seven “Figure Fountains” installed in the 1980s and 90s. These are not even slightly traditional, in a conventional European fountain way, instead they are off-beat, whimsical, and in some cases, more than a little sarcastic.
While walking into Old Town, our first watery encounter was St. Anthony’s Fountain. The saint is seen sitting on a bench overseeing a smattering of pigs. Since this was once the site of the town’s Saurmarkt, where swine were bought and sold, there is more than a little touch of irony. At first we didn’t see how this could be called a fountain, but then we noticed a small trickle of water feeding into a little pool that three of the piglets were drinking from and frolicking in. Perhaps the most fun was finding all the little stray piggies hiding around entire square. Very clever.
Our next encounter was even more surprising. Approaching the statue of The Repressed Allgäures, a bronze rendition of six men lying one on top of the other, we were spritzed from out of nowhere by a small stream of water. We were fast learning that these really aren’t ordinary fountains. This one was downright cheeky, one of the men’s mouths spit a stream of water across the street every so often.
In this particular region of Germany, known as Allgäu, the locals, Allgäures, are said to be so uptight that a local saying goes something like: “Stack six Allgäures and the one on the bottom will be just as repressed as the one on the top.” We didn’t find this
to be the case,
but this and several other witticisms are printed on the base of the fountain anyway. Who knows, perhaps the fact that Wangen means “cheek” in German inspired the artist.
As we were walking away, a sneaky young mother walked up planning a big surprise for her little boy, attempting to place him in the line-of-fountain-squirt. Instead she received an unexpected dousing. Cheeky indeed. The boy, who was well out of range due to his diminutive stature, was still somewhat disturbed by the entire affair.
Now on a mission to see all of the fountains, we were lucky they were in close proximity of each other. We found The Red Tape Fountain that takes a poke at the government, The Sparrow Fountain jabbing at religion and The Donkey Fountain that depicts the Aesop fable of the peasant, his son and a donkey walking to town. Down by the river, The Bath House Fountain has a wife struggling to wash her husband’s hair. Last, we came upon The Seeker After Truth.
This thinker is leaning on a pile of books depicting the classics from the likes of Socrates, Homer, Plato and Dante, along with holy books like the Torah, Bible and Koran. Atop the volumes he is contemplating the magical Latin Sator Square, whose meaning has never been fully understood.
We certainly understood one thing though, it was suppertime. Our hotel hosts had highly recommended the Gasthaus Lamm, which happened to be right between the inn and Old Town, so we happily took their advice. This truly was a typical gasthaus, or what might be called a beer hall. Pure Germany, bring us a couple steins of suds please Fraulein.
As soon as we had crossed the border into Germany earlier in the day, David started thinking about Schnitzel and Spätzle, and this looked like just the place to score the real deal. He didn’t order Wiener Schnitzel, because in Germany that will always get you a piece of veal, he went with the schweinefleisch schnitzel. He was not disappointed, a huge slab of pork, smothered in gravy, was served next to a heaping mound of spätzle.
Spätzle literally translates to “little sparrow,” but is actually a soft egg noodle common in most of the Germanic countries. In general, the place on the plate that dumplings always occupied in Bohemia, was filled nicely by spätzle here. These are not menu items for the fainthearted, a meal like that will put down even the hardiest of travelers. Our next stop was bed.
The next day just happened to be market day in Wangen, so we got to combine the rest of our sightseeing with the food, fun and frivolity of a small town market.
Dominating the Marktplatz, the plaza where the market is held, is the Old Town Hall. Originally a part of Wangen’s fortifications, it dates clear back to the 1400s. Its quintessentially Baroque architecture looks straight out of a story book. At the base of the tower, there is an arched gate leading out to the rest of town.
Two other medieval towers survive as landmarks in Wangen as well. The tallest, The St. Martin’s Gate, is adjacent to the church of the same name. The church and tower are among the oldest structures in town.
At the opposite end of the old walled city is The Women’s Gate, or Frauentor, also known as The Ravensburg Gate. While these are all referred to as gates, they could better be described as clock towers with passageways through their bases.
The road that connects all of these gates is Herrenstrasse, literally “Rulers Street,” because this was where most of the town’s movers and shakers lived. It has been the main drag on any given day for some six centuries, but on market day, it was really rockin’. Accordion music filled the air while we browsed through booth after booth of local produce, cheese and especially sausages. This would seem to be a very sausage centric society.
That was fine by David, he gladly ordered up a Bratwurst mit brot for some walking food, and we headed back over to the Saurmarkt to snap a few photos of the little brass pigs at St. Anthony’s fountain. Seemed only fitting, since we were as happy as pigs in slop.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com
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