Text Gerlind Hector, Photos Nikolaus Grünwald
Conservative, stubborn, strivers – the clichés Germans have for the people of Stuttgart might bear a slight truth, but they are definitely outdated. Above all, the city on the banks of the River Neckar stands out for its contrasting inhabitants who live here in peaceful coexistence: fashion victims and nature lovers can be found rubbing shoulders next to skater kids and demonstrating protesters. All against a backdrop of beautiful green countryside.
Stuttgart, the city that is affectionately referred to as ‘Schduegerd’ by its locals, probably won’t be at the top of the list for anyone planning a cool city trip. That might have something to do with the local Swabian dialect, which, unlike in many other metropolises, is truly cultivated. A simple trip to the bakery in the morning can be enough to make non-locals break out in a sweat. Any attempt to order in ‘proper’ German or – heaven forbid – English, may well be greeted with a wall of silence. And the words ‘Breddzl’, ‘Weggle’ or ‘Bräschdlengsderdle’ (which are actually terms for baked goods) don’t exactly roll off the tongue either.
But don’t let that put you off. The inhabitants of Germany’s sixth largest city have a reputation of being perhaps somewhat peculiar in their own way, but are also very goodhearted. And in times of globalisation and international conformity, a healthy dose of stubbornness and sense of tradition can be a good thing. Stuttgarters like to figure things out for themselves and don’t like being told what to do. The term ‘Wutbürger’ (irate citizen), voted German ‘Word of the Year’ in 2010, was coined here on the Neckar and became a symbol for the basically law-abiding folks who nevertheless refuse to be messed around by authority. In this particular case, their issue was the controversial rebuilding of the Stuttgart railway terminus into a subterranean through-station to speed up long-distance train lines or, as it became known, Stuttgart 21.
Wild experiments – culinary as well as culturally – are always welcome here.
Outsiders may like to assume that the city of Stuttgart is not very high up on the cool stakes, but that is more than disproven by its lively gastro, music and shopping scenes. Why else, of all places, do Germany’s most famous rappers, such as Fanta4, Max Herre and Cro, all come from Stuttgart? Wild experiments – culinary as well as culturally – are always welcome here. Swabian delicacies are combined with Far Eastern specialities; expensive luxury labels hang next to avant-garde newcomers. But everything here is always incredibly well thought-out! There is no shortage of solid concepts in the city of Mercedes and Porsche, something which is reflected in Stuttgart’s prosperous economic situation and low unemployment rate.
The city’s famous Breuninger department store on Marktstrasse, one of the largest in Germany, stocks an impressive choice of international luxury brands on a sales floor covering 35,000 m2.
At the end of the day, only unique ideas make the cut; boring mainstream monotony isn’t really Stuttgart’s thing, and if necessary the inhabitants of the city, which is located in a valley basin, will take matters into their own hands. And that’s exactly what happened in the autumn of 2014 when 16 retailers joined forces to create the alternative shopping mile Fluxus in the middle of the Calwer Passage, with the addition of ‘Temporary Concept Mall’ to its name.
Without too much pathos the retailers simply wanted to set an impressive counterpoint to the large shopping malls with their predictable selection of chain stores by offering fashion, interiors, food and design that go beyond the mainstream. In this respect, the famous industrious ethos of the Stuttgarters certainly has its advantages and may be officially sniggered at by the rest of Germany, but in reality, it is also accompanied by a touch of envy. Instead of sitting around complaining, Stuttgarters are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in. The creative young team of retailers has meanwhile secured an extension of their lease for Fluxus until the end of 2015. So make sure you head that way soon and be prepared for the local greeting: ‘Griaß Goddle midanandr!’