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Stuttgart, Germany: Part 1

After leaving almost four months of unique experiences and a roller coaster relationship behind me in Turkey, it was (finally) time to head to Europe and the UK. I had been talking with Bianca, Andy, and Geoff about visiting them since I had left Uzbekistan in late October.

I could have travelled north at any time. The simple truth is, I did not want to be in winter weather. I wanted to wait for Europe and the UK to warm up. My plan was to head north as close to spring as possible. I had made a deal with Ash to be home for their 21st birthday on April 9, so as close to spring as possible meant I would travel to Germany (to see Bianca) and England (to see Andy and Geoff) in March.

On March 4th I marched forth. It was time.

Some people travel to see a place. Stuttgart, Germany is a worthy destination-spot. I could very well have planned to travel to Stuttgart just to see Stuttgart.

Stuttgart attracts tourists to the Mercedes-Benz and Porsche Museums. Stuttgart attracts people from all over the world because it is "an international job hub, with several major corporations...including Porsche, Bosch, and Mercedes-Benz Group" (this all from Wikipedia).

Stuttgart boasts of its wine vineyards and orchards. It houses many parks and a forest. Stuttgart has a rich cultural history and offers many museums for residents and tourists alike. The people are friendly, the environment is healthy and smells fresh. From Stuttgart, one can easily take day trips to Switzerland and France.

Stuttgart, Germany would be a worthy place to see. I, however, had my sights on a person.

Ami (above) feeling very excited to see Bianca.

Bianca and I had known each other for years through our online meditation group. We call our group a "Meditation Family." Knowing I would be traveling, Bianca invited me to visit her in Stuttgart. I very much wanted to meet my meditation family sister, and she (it seemed) me. This would be our first time meeting in person. We were both feeling very excited.

I would also visit Eli in Stuttgart. I had texted my friend Melody about the whereabouts of her son. The text exchange went something like this...

Me: "Eli is in Germany, right? I'm going to be in Stuttgart. Where is he stationed?"


On this day, March 4, Eli picked me up at the Stuttgart airport. I squealed loudly and uncontrollably with utter delight when I saw him. We hugged for a wonderfully long time. I am 100% sure that this hug was much longer than Eli's usual allowance for hug-time. I am grateful for his generosity. After the enormously satisfying hug, Eli brought me to where I would be staying.

I would be staying at Andrina's house. Andrina was Mike's aunt. Mike was Bianca's friend. Andrina lived two blocks from Bianca's apartment. I now consider Andrina my friend, by the way. She is a gift. I respect and adore her and hope to visit with her again. I would really like to collaborate with her. The future is wide open and unknown. More shall be revealed.

You may recall the picture I took when Bianca and I first met...

I was extremely joyful. I think if I had smiled any wider I would have injured my jaw.

Bianca and I began our visit with Indian food and an online meditation with our "family." I bow my head and hold my hands in prayerful gratitude to Bianca for thinking up this plan. It was the best possible start to our visit (after our hug, and greetings of utter amazement that this was real, and another hug).

The Meditation Family members expressed envy seeing Bianca and I sitting side-by-side in our Zoom cell. I know they all wanted to be in my shoes, or in my Darn Tough socks.

Everyone wants to be with Bianca. Everyone loves Bianca. Bianca is quite lovable, so that makes sense.

In a figurative way the family was there. I have been bringing the group with me during my travels (through the Compassionate Travel Blog). So, figuratively and energetically, you are with me here and now my friend. And in that kind of way, when I sat next to Bianca, you were there too.

Literally and physically though, the family was not in Bianca's living room. And literally and physically being in Bianca's living room did make a difference.

It was unique and wonderful to be side-by-side in real 3-D human form next to our Bianca. It is different than being together on a screen or connecting energetically. It feels significant to hug someone, to feel their skin and bones through their clothes, to see them in your peripheral vision, to smell them when a slight breeze brings their scent your way.

I am dreaming of when we can all be in the same room in real 3-D human form. I hope it will be some day soon. Maybe (you) will join our first in-person Meditation Family retreat in September 2024. Maybe we will squeeze each other in a hug then.

Back in Stuttgart, Bianca had all sorts of suggestions for where I might like to explore. She suggested walking to the forest, taking the train, exploring downtown Stuttgart, visiting the zoo, going to a mineral bath... (that last one peaked my interest). She had a lot of great suggestions. The hitch was, she would not be with me. And really, I just wanted to hang out with her.

Bianca was not feeling energetic enough to go out, or for us to have long visits. So, each day, I would happily wait to hear from her, walk to her apartment, joyfully visit for a bit, and then go out on my own.

One day I was fortunate enough to be taken on a personal tour of Stuttgart by Mike.

Among other talents, Mike was an excellent tour guide. Beyond having an amazing knowledge of the history of Stuttgart, he also shared a wide variety of personal stories about historical people's relationships and drunken exploits. Mike also had (some passionate) opinions about those stories which made for an intimate, intriguing, and fun day.

Mike met me in Bianca's neighborhood to help me navigate the train to Stuttgart. He pointed out where not to get off (because "that station is the most confusing one") and where to get off for possible future explorations.

We got off the train in Stuttgart and began to walk. We had not walked far when Mike told me to stop. "Stop," he said, "Look around. Notice how, as far as you can see, there are modern buildings." I looked around and saw buildings probably built in the 1950s and 1960s... all the way up to present day architecture. He explained. "This whole area was almost completely flattened by bombs at the end of WWII." Mike talked about the rebuilding taking years.

Mike's story about Stuttgart being bombed made me think of Malta. While walking around Malta, Liza had pointed out where she noticed modern buildings squeezed between ancient buildings, where, she imagined, bombs might have taken out one building here and there along the street, leaving the surrounding buildings standing. I imagined war torn Malta, where, when the residents were able to recover from all the physical, emotional, and financial loss and devastation, rebuilding began.

Here in Stuttgart, almost the entire city was flattened. There had been so much loss and devastation. Almost the entire city needed rebuilding. According to Wikipedia, it took until 1952 for the area to "bounce back."

I thought about how the Nazi era caused so much loss and devastation around the world, and how Germany was not immune to the massive pain and suffering that WWII caused. I thought, once again, how war causes pain and suffering that ripples out for a very, very long time, and how, in many, many ways, with war, no one wins.

We walked on.

Mike pointed out the Schauspiel Stuttgart drama theater. "Here," he said, "drama students study and the public comes to see theater productions." Mike later pointed out an art museum where, unannounced, those same drama students perform pop-up live theatrical stints. "You never know when they'll be there," he said, "and when it happens, it's awesome."

Next door to the Drama Theater building was the Staatstheater Stuttgart opera house. "This is one of the few buildings that was not completely destroyed during the WWII bombing," Mike said.

Staatstheater Stuttgart opera house

"Anna Sutter performed here," Mike told me, and looked at me, expectantly. I looked at him rather blankly. "Do you know who Anna Sutter was," Mike asked. "No," I had to confess. He kindly explained that "she was a very famous and sought after Swiss opera singer."

I do not remember so many of the amazing details Mike shared, such as the Stuttgart Royal's name at that time. For now, I will refer to the royal ruler as So-and-so.

"So-and-so, " Mike said, "enticed Anna Sutter to move to Stuttgart to perform regularly at the Stuttgart opera house." Mike told me the details of the enticement. Unfortunately, I do not remember those details. I do remember the story Mike shared about Anna Sutter's lifestyle and dramatic and tragic death.

"Anna Sutter was from Switzerland," Mike said. He explained that she was a "free woman" and that she openly dated young men. "This," Mike said, "was scandalous in Stuttgart, Germany, and she was told to change her ways."

Mike continued that, to comply, Anna Sutter got into a romantic relationship with an older man, a music conductor. Unable to sustain that lifestyle, she ended the relationship, converted to her former ways, and started dating a 17-year-old. On June 29, 1910 her older, scorned ex-lover-opera-conductor murdered Anna Sutter in her Stuttgart apartment.

Mike conveyed that, upon hearing of her death, huge crowds of people gathered in front of the opera house, "the likes of the outpouring of people who grieved the death of Princess Diana."

A monument in Anna Sutter's honor was erected outside the opera. As I admired the artistic skill of the monument, Mike threw up his hands at the statue. He had very strong opinions about how Stuttgart could have better honored their cultural treasure: Anna Sutter.

Anna Sutter memorial
Close-up of plaque at base of the monument next to the opera house

As we walked around a park with a large body of water ("filled with goose poop," Mike said with disgust), a variety of flowering trees, and expanses of green grass sprinkled with statues, Mike pointed out the old state buildings. One of them in particular was huge and looked like a castle.

He described historical political stories, like when the local political group leaders were kicked out of the large (massively huge) "castle" (that they had filled) because the Nazi leaders took it over... and were allowed to occupy the next (much, much smaller) building, that had no heat in the winter nor air ventilation in the summer. We stood and imagined a massive amount of men crowded together, shivering one season and sweaty the next, pissed off about the current state of affairs.

Later, we saw a statue of Else Weil. "The statue," Mike told me, "had been hidden and later erected here... (he pointed at Stuttgart's City Hall)."

The statue was fairly small, almost obscure on the side of the large (rebuilt) City Hall. I noticed people walking by on the street, not noticing it. I noticed it because it was a beautiful piece of art. If I had been alone, I doubt I would have taken the time to understand its significance.

Instead of trying to remember and restate what Mike shared about Else Weil, I recommend you click on the link embedded in her name (above) and read about her. Else Weil was a fascinating, brilliant woman who deserves to be known and remembered. After you read about her. please share your thoughts as comments below. Maybe we can help honor her in that way.

close up of the Else Weil statue

close-up of plaque (below statue, closer to street level)

Mike pointed out Stuttgart's Modern Art Museum. I did not go into the modern art building, but just seeing it made me think fondly of my new daughter, Kira. I stopped to take a picture and sent it to Kira.

Kira had been wanting to visit the modern art museum in Istanbul, and so she, Michael, and I spent a day doing just that (when I had visited them in Istanbul, Turkey in May 2023). I saved a few pictures from that visit. Maybe I will post them later.

In October (2023) in Uzbekistan, Kira had led me to a textile museum that was fascinating. I will definitely go back to Uzbekistan in my posts and share pictures from that day.

I am grateful that Kira wanted to share her love of art with me. I stood in front of the modern art museum in Stuttgart and thought about how I would like to share a visit to this museum with her.

Later that night, walking home from Bianca's to Andrina's, I saw a street sign that made me think of my son, Michael. I know so many Michael's, I often refer to him as "Michaelson." Here on this corner was the sign "Michaelstr(eet)." (That's how I read it :-).

My son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Kira, were the reason for my initial travels abroad. They are world travelers. I saw the sign and imagined that someday they will be here. My whimsical mind thought: There's already a street named after Michael, and art museums nearby to visit...

Back on tour with Mike.

I asked Mike: "What is the most famous, traditional food dish in Stuttgart?" He walked me around the corner from the City Hall and pointed to this restaurant (pictured below), famous for their handemacht Maultaschen (handmade dumplings).

We walked on and I was struck by a sign that said: "We are so open." It sounded so Valley, it made me giggle. I stopped Mike so I could take a picture to capture the moment for you...

Right now, I am home in Brattleboro, Vermont, writing about Stuttgart, Germany. My thoughts, memories of images, and feelings about being in Stuttgart are visceral. As I write, it fees like I am there. Kenzie-cat is curled up on my lap as I click the keyboard. She is making very cute chirping kitty-cat dreaming sounds. She is reminding me that I am here. I do not feel torn, though I do feel I am in two places. I feel larger, somehow, now that I have traveled.

A favorite thing I am remembering is when I explored the area around Stuttgart with Bianca via our phones. She loved when I sent her pictures of wherever I went.

Modern phones are amazing. The caveat of course is ...when they work.

I would go for a walk, take pictures, and send them to Bianca. "This is where I am now," I would say. She would respond: "I think you'll see the hospital on your left soon..."

...or "I love that view..."

...or "I don't know that place."

Sometimes Bianca would follow me on live map share. "I see where you are now," she would say, "You got there fast."

Sometimes we would be on video and I would hold the phone out so she could see my view as I was walking. Sometimes she pointed out something she saw and I would see her view.

These times were as close to us being on an outing together as was possible. These were precious times.

I saw many Vespas, and recycle bins.
I saw many trails for both pedestrians and bicyclists.

As I walked I noticed a large volume of people on bicycles. There were manual and electric bikes. There were individuals, couples, and children riding bikes. The bikes had baskets filled with groceries and cut flowers and baby seats filled with little ones. There were mail-carriers carrying mail on bicycles.

I learned that, no matter the weather, this is how the mail is delivered - by bike.

A couple of times, I walked to Marienplatz, or what I lovingly (and longingly) dubbed Gelato Square.

The first time I walked to Marienplatz, I texted Bianca: "Is it wrong that during the whole walk I was looking forward to this gelato?" Bianca texted back: "Ice cream is never wrong."

Yes, I confirmed to myself, Bianca is my kind of person.

Marienplatz was a wonderful hubbub of activity. I took videos of people playing basketball and ping pong. I took pictures of people eating and talking, and bicycles, lots of bicycles.

My first visit to the square, I saw two gorgeous women, each stunning in unique ways. They each had a child with them. The two children were playing furiously together while the moms and I chatted. Come to find out, the two were old friends who had planned to meet here on this day after not seeing each other for (maybe a few years?). Neither woman was born and raised in Germany. They were both ex-pats. They both considered themselves "German." One woman was originally from Turkey and the other... Ghana?

We talked about cultural peculiarities. The woman from Turkey was interested in my take on Turkish men. I told her how I had observed men being sweet to their children in ways that were more tender and kind than I was used to seeing in the states, and how I also saw men berate their children and women to the point of tears. She said I had observed well.

I took a picture of the the two worldly German mom friends. It was one of the many pictures that I regret deleting from my phone camera.

You may recall that, when my phone would flash a message saying that I had no phone storage left (and, at that point, I could not even text) I would freak-out and delete everything - apps, message threads, videos, and pictures. I deleted the videos of people playing basketball and ping pong. I deleted the picture of these two new friends.

The second time I was at Gelato Square I met two gorgeous high school students. They were sitting at a cafe table next to mine. I overheard them and asked if I could join their conversation. I listened to the young women with presence, compassion, and an older woman's perspective. They talked about relationships, personal boundaries, and communication skills.

I listened. I was impressed with their depth of self-reflection and spiritual aspiration. They asked me questions. I offered skills I have learned. I offered my aged perspective. They expressed gratitude that I shared from my experience. I was reminded how in a less independent-oriented and more collectivist culture, everyone feels seen, heard, needed, and fulfilled.

Bianca had suggested I take the Zacke (cog-train) that started in the center of Marienplatz and went up the steep hill toward "home." I of course deleted all the great footage of that trip. All videos are gone. All but one...

Bianca suggested I get off part way up the hill to see the view, before continuing to the top. What most impressed me when I got off was a little park's statue and the view of the church wall art across the street from the park.

Bianca left on Saturday to stay with her parents in the Black Forest. Eli and I headed to Tubingen...

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