Germany is Filled with Fashion and Art; How the Past Inspires the Modern Culture of Southern Germany
One of the greatest reasons for someone to travel is to experience fresh, new ideas on fashion, art, and culture. It’s only when you are able to visit places far from home where you can really gain different perspectives on the world that help provide a fresh new visual on life.
Centuries back, it was normal for nobility to send their children to court in different cities around the world for short stays so the important members of noble families would learn different cultures and experience education around the world. Only when one was well-traveled were they really considered well educated. Somehow, we’ve lost a lot of that tradition today, but I think it’s incredibly important for people to travel and see the world to experience the full range of fashion, art, and culture that’s out there. Being stuck in the same area for the majority of your life can be a detriment to someone. And, unfortunately, that way of life is all too common here in the US.
After having been to many countries around the world in the last decade, I can tell you that Germany is, perhaps, one of the most artistic, fashion-filled, and cultural spots to visit.
With influences from the Holy Roman Empire, the Germanic, and the French, you can see each section of history as if you are reading a book in the architecture as you go through the cities in Southern Germany. And all of this unique history has now been modernized into something truly special. Here’s my favorite places in Southern Germany and a little about the art and culture that make them each so unique.
Freiburg im Breisgau
Freiburg im Breisgau is a hip, modern city full of rich history and traditions. The city, itself, has a strong artistic feel as you walk through its streets. You can see the rich colors and personality on the buildings, as well as in the unique canals that have been running through the area since the 1200s. While it holds strongly onto the roots of its culture, it also embraces fresh, new ideas of art and sustainability through its university students that have flooded the area to learn.
One great example of this happens at the Augustiner Museum. While this monastery converted into a museum holds many old statues and gargoyles that were removed from the very top of the Freiburg Munster and put on display, a wide variety of centuries-old religious pieces and stained-glass windows, and a nice collection of Black Forest art, they also want to inspire a new crowd of visitors in an artistic way. Because of this, the museum hosts dance parties and other more modern mixers within its walls periodically to bring out a younger crowd to see their traditional pieces in a more relaxed and modern environment. When I visited this past March, they were setting up for a dance in the large room with all the towering sculptures, and I can only imagine what an inspiring, artistic event that must have been.
Perhaps, however, one of the most inspiring and unique perspectives I saw while in Freiburg came from Kim Schimpfle of Schwarzwald Couture Freiburg who creates “Black Forest Couture”. You see, Kim uses prints, patterns, and designs from the old, classic Black Forest traditions to create new, modern designs that contain a respectful nod to the traditions of the past. While many of the structures of her pieces could be considered “vintage”, the colors and prints (designed by a graphic artists) make them much more modern and fun, perfect for a glamorous couture wedding, birthday, or special occasion.
Having come from a whole family of artists, Kim said that she loves the past of the Black Forest and thinks it’s important, so she’s happy to introduce it to the world in a more modern way. She loves what she does, and creating these pieces is her livelihood. She makes all of her designs by hand, which obviously makes the process slower, yet it’s worth it as the pieces are more elaborately detailed. Every one of her pieces is so meticulously thought-out and incredibly impressive to see up close. The details from the prints and each of the accents are phenomenally beautiful.
While the dresses have a higher price point (naturally since they are handmade), this also goes hand-in-hand with the sustainability movement happening in Freiburg. People are moving away from fast fashion and pushing for brands that are not only more eco-friendly but also that provide fair wages for everyone, as well. With this movement, individual designers who create their products by hand are essential to support. Kim expressed the importance of a personal, detailed pieces over something that’s fast and easy, and that really shows through in her work.
Looking in both her workspace and storefront, I was truly inspired by Kim and her vision. It’s such a noble cause to take the traditional pieces of the past and introduce them to everyone in a new, hip way, as it keeps the traditions of the past alive and also allows them to mold and change with the times.
While traveling anywhere, I encourage you to shop in smaller boutiques, but especially when in Freiburg, I encourage you to stop into Schwarwald Couture and get inspired! You can find the roots and heart of a city in the people who create there, so it’s essential to go out and see local artists. Freiburg im Breisgau is an exceptional place to do that.
Baden-Baden brings together fashion, art, and culture all uniquely its own as it embraces its history and lore of the Black Forest and mixes it with modern luxury. To me, the feel of Baden-Baden encompasses a luxurious lifestyle and getaway all its own, yet it does so in a historical way. For instance, you can enjoy a glamorous night at the Casino, which has been around for over 150 years, or experience a unique spa day at Freidrichsbad thermal baths, which has been around for over 140 years, and neither location feels ‘old’ or ‘outdated’ at all. On the contrary, their Baroque detailing and classy facades make them feel even more luxurious. So, the historical beauty of Baden-Baden only adds to its luxury. Or if you’re in the mood for a more modern affair, they have that, too.
You can visit the Museum Frieder Burda where you’ll find an array of modern art on display. If you visit now, you’ll find an exhibit dedicated to saving the coral reefs which are being destroyed by global warming. Australian-born, California-based sister-artists Margaret and Christine Wertheim have hand-crafted a full exhibit of crochet coral reefs to raise awareness for their cause.
Or if adventure is more your cup of tea, you can head out into the Black Forest and look for mermaids at Lake Mummelsee or get a traditional coo-coo clock (which comes from this area). There is so much rustic culture and fine luxury in Baden-Baden, and you really have to experience it all to get the full picture of what Baden-Baden is all about.
Heidelberg is another university city filled with modern ideas in a beautiful, vintage city façade. It’s been a breeding ground for creative minds for years, having regularly inspired writers, philosophers, and artists of all kinds, most notably of which may be Mark Twain (who was also heavily inspired by Baden-Baden).
As you walk through the old town of Heidelberg, you can see the medieval bases and structure the city was built on, starting with the tower which stands looming over the city. You can also see the Baroque additions to the town that were made after the French had destroyed a lot of the medieval parts of the city, and you can most definitely see in great detail the Baroque additions to Heidelberg Palace. That’s, perhaps, what I loved most about Heidelberg, and likely what inspires so many about it. You can see the medieval roots of the town along with a few buildings and structures still made out of the castle stones, you can see the Roman influence from its ancient past, you can see the Baroque inspirations added by the French, and you can see its more modern touches, as well. You can almost read the story of an old building off its façade just by looking at the detailing found on it.
And if you’re looking to get inspired in the same way that many creative minds of the past have, it’s imperative to walk up on the Philosopher’s walk, where you can get a full view of the entire Old Town, the castle standing proudly above it, and the water that gently mirrors the city. This view has inspired many creatives, and it’s easy to see why.
Finally, the city of Trier is defined today by its rich Roman heritage. In fact, when you visit Trier, that’s exactly what you’ll find, a rich plethora of Roman ruins with some dating back as far as the 1st century AD. It’s these immensely inspiring pieces of ancient history that give Trier the personality it has today.
When you visit Trier, be sure to check out Porta Nigra before anything else, as Porta Nigra is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps, having been on this site since 170AD. Not only is it massively impressive, but you can also climb up to the top and get an excellent view of the city. And the detailing found within the structure’s carvings is really a sight to behold.
Konstantin-Basilika, the largest single room to survive from ancient times that isn’t supported by columns, is another breathtaking sight to behold, as well as is the gorgeous Roman Amphitheater perched on a hillside.
All of these ancient Roman ruins give Trier a unique heritage and personality unlike any other city in Germany, and it’s definitely something you need to see for yourself, especially if you are inspired by history.