So when Anselm Vogt-Moykopf, the architectural tour guide I'd engaged for the afternoon, took me up to the Württemberg Mausoleum up on a hill, and we drove past all these vineyards within city limits, I was pretty astonished by the scene. But it turns out that Württemberg is the largest red wine region in Germany (a country mostly known for its whites) and in fact, there's a vineyard right behind the city's main train station.
Beyond wine, Stuttgart is best known for these little car companies you might have heard of: Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche, which all together make for a who-knew luxury itinerary.
- Mercedes Benz Museum: This giant museum is The-Guggenheim-meets-Mercedes-Commercial, but if you're a fan of the brand (or something of a history geek), you'll love it there. You take pod-like elevators directly to the top of the museum, which is of Dutch design and is impressive on its own. Then, work your way down. The exhibit traces the history of Mercedes from the time when Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft delivered its first car on December 22, 1900, to around about 2006, when the museum first opened. (And it doesn't gloss over the difficult stuff, the museum is straightforward about its use of Jewish slave labor during World War II.) On each landing, there are shiny examples of Mercedes vehicles, from trucks to race cars, about 160 vehicles in total.
- Württemberg Mausoleum: From there drive up through the vineyards (hire a car if you plan to stop along the way at the wineries, usually law-abiding Germans are not much for speed limits.) There's not much to see inside -- it's the burial place for Katharina, wife of King Wilhelm, who had it built for the purpose in 1819, and whose earthly remains are also in there. Across the front it says "Love Never Ends", but rumor has it that this may be a bit of guilt trip. Katharina died of pneumonia, apparently contracted after riding on horseback in bad weather to catch Wilhelm with his mistress. Naughty royals.
- Viniculture Museum: Next, hit a small museum dedicated to the area's wine. It's helpful to have someone who speaks German with you, but it's fun to see the old barrels, with their small doors that children would once crawl into to clean. Even more fun: sidle up for a wine tasting at the museum's bar. These wines aren't often available for export, so you may find a hidden treasure.
- Porsche Museum: This brand new museum opened in January of this year, and if you really needed an explanation of the difference between Porsche and Mercedes you can feel it by visiting their museums back-to-back. Mercedes museum visitors are having an intellectual experience, while at Porsche, it's an emotional experience. (Dare I say, even sexual?) There's some history here, but what you've really got are hot, hot cars. There are about 80 of them, including the Porsche 356, 550, 911, and 917.
Gallery: Stuttgart's Hot Cars & Red Wine