Tübingen is a city in the German State of Baden-Württemberg that sits between the Ammer and Neckar rivers. The city’s academic reputation is owed to the Swabian intellectual elite, whose collective brilliance have earned the university town a name all across the world.
Tübingen College was founded by Duke Ulrich of Württemberg in 1536, who wanted to create a state-supported institution where “children of the pious poor” could obtain education. The college quickly earned a reputation as a breeding ground for new ideas and philosophies as well as great works of science, poetry and literature. Great names such as Johannes Kepler, George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, Wilhelm Hauff, Eduard Mörike, and Ludwig Uhland have hailed from this institution. Another great name is Friedrich Hölderlin who studied divinity at the college, before falling into mental derangement in the second half of his life. He spent his latter days in a tower overlooking the Neckar River. Even notables who didn’t study in Tübingen were drawn to the city for its literary residents, including poets Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller who both visited publisher Friedrich Cotta frequently.
Not surprisingly, Tübingen even today is nicknamed “the cradle of poets and philosophers”. The town continues to attract young students who spend their days traversing the winding alleys and living in the town’s idyllic half-timbered houses.
Every year, the Tübingen Art Gallery holds a series of brilliant exhibitions that become the talk of the town. Past exhibitions have included the works of Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Willi Baumeister, Max Ernst, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. On these occasions of the year, streams of visitors from around the world flow into this small college town situated on the Neckar. And, of course, “Up above is the chapel” are the words once uttered by Ludwig Uhland to describe Tübingen’s jewel, the towering mountain nearby that overlooks the neighboring town of Rottenburg and boasts the small chapel made famous by the poet.
In Tübingen, you’ll find one of the few historic cities in Germany still left intact and unscathed by WWII destruction. Its old town is fun to wander through and features windy cobblestone streets lined with canals, narrow stairways, and traditional half-timbered and adjoined houses. Notable buildings include the City Hall and the Castle of Hohentübingen, which was rebuilt between 1507 and 1540 and is now used by the University of Tübingen. Behind the City Hall is the Judengasse, or Jewish quarter and what is left of the neighborhood where Jews used to live before they were banished in 1477. Another landmark of Tübingen’s old town is the Stiftskirche, or Collegiate Church, which has been the city’s central place of worship for centuries. It was one of the first churches to convert to Martin Luther’s protestant ideals.
The Market Square is the lifeline of Tübingen, located at the center of the town. Many celebrations, festivals, and various events are held at this square during the year. You’ll find various happenings from market days when stalls and stands fill the square, to outdoor film showings in the summer and winter, to autumn and Christmas markets.
Tübingen’s main attraction, perhaps, is its Neckar Island (Neckarinsel) – an island strip that divides the Neckar River into two streams. The interesting aspect of this island is the centuries-old high plane trees that have grown on this isolated stretch. Together with the medieval town houses that run alongside the “Neckarfront”, the scene becomes the quintessential idyllic sight. The highlight of the “Neckarfront” facing the river and its island is the house with its cute yellow tower where the poet Friedrich Hölderin lived in for the last 36 years of his life as he struggled with mental derangement. In the summers, concerts, poetry readings, and plays are performed on Neckar Island, which can be reached by descending the stairs found on the two bridges spanning the river.
Tübingen’s history dates back to 6th century AD, although not much is known about the settlement as it existed back then. In the mid-14th century, the city became part of Württemberg when it was purchased by Count Ulrich III. In the 16th century, Tübingen was one of the main supporters of the Martin Luther-led protestant reformation, and broke from the ranks of the Catholic Church. The city did not play much of a role during the Industrial Revolution and its lack of industry during WWII allowed it to escape destruction, as it was not seen as strategically important. Over the last half of the 20th century, Tübingen has grown substantially in population in part because of its annexation of outlying villages and in part because of its recently developed reputation as one of Germany’s most livable and youthful cities.
Kustos, Norbert, and Alice Loyson. Schönes Baden-Württemberg. Hamburg: Ellert & Richter Verlag, 1998. ISBN: 3892344523.
“Tübingen.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tubingen>
 Kustos, 47
 Kustos, 47