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Eppingen: Town offers a bevy of half-timbered buildings

By MICHAEL ABRAMS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 2, 2009

If you do not like, or are bored by, half-timbered houses, stop reading now.

But if you find them interesting, charming, picturesque or any of the above, climb aboard for a trip down the Deutsche Fachwerkstrasse to Eppingen.

Fachwerk is the German term for half-timbered, sometimes called framework. From the late Middle Ages into the Renaissance, this type of construction was used in much of central Europe to build houses.

The frame of the houses were built with wooden beams, then the spaces in between were filled with various materials, most often with clay and straw.

Throughout Germany, numerous styles of half-timbering developed. With the passing of time, many of the buildings fell into disrepair, the framework was plastered over, or they were torn down to make way for modern structures.

Today, efforts are being made to preserve the houses left standing, with most of them under historical protection. One of the efforts was establishing the German Framework Road — 1,250 miles of roadway running from the North Sea to Lake Constance, through cities and villages full of half-timbered houses.

Eppingen is one of these towns.

It is an ancient town, first mentioned in documents in 985. Walking around its old town is like walking back in time.

The first thing you notice are all the half-timbered houses. And right away you see that they come in all sizes and colors.

You will also notice the various styles in the framework. Some are simple, straight frames, while others used curved support beams, and others are decorated with carved heads or writing in the beams. More often than not, the richer the owner, the fancier the style.

One place to see different styles is the so-called Three-Styles-Corner, where Zunfthausstrasse and Kettengasse cross. Here are houses with three different styles of half-timbering — baroque, Alemannic, and Franconian.

Two of the most imposing buildings in town are the Alte Universität and the Baumann’sches Haus. The former is the biggest and tallest half-timbered house in Eppingen. Built in 1494, it got its name when members of the Heidelberg University stayed there when the plague broke out in Heidelberg in the 16th century. Today it houses the city museum. The latter is a Renaissance house from the 16th century, considered one of the most beautiful in the area. Across from it is the Bäckerhaus, which dates to 1412, and is the oldest half-timbered house in the region.

An interesting building is the Katharinenkapelle. Across from the town’s Catholic church, this massive house is decorated with a memento mori, which in Latin means "Remember you shall die." The painting depicts a dance with death.

A house on Küfergasse once housed a synagogue. It features a wedding stone and a mikwe, or ritual bath. During the war, the owner, Heinrich Renz, hung a shutter over the stone and told the Nazis it was covering a basement window, thus saving a piece of Jewish culture.

The Pfeifferturm on Altstadtstrasse is a 13th-century watchtower. Nearby, next to the Ratsschänke restaurant, is the old medieval market place. The new Markplatz today is home to the 19th-century town hall, one of the few new buildings in Eppingen’s old town.


Know and go ...

Directions: Eppingen is east of Heilbronn, off Autobahn A6 between Heidelberg and Stuttgart. Direct trains run from Mannheim and Heidelberg and from Stuttgart with one change.

Times: The town museum in the Alte
Universität is open 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday. The Pfeifferturm is open 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every first Sunday of the month from May to October.

Costs: Except for food and shopping, the fine things of Eppingen are pretty much free, as is parking.

Food: There are many restaurants in all price classes. Although many feature German fare, there are also restaurants serving Chinese, Italian, Turkish and even Portuguese food.

Information: The town’s German-only Web site is www.eppingen.de. For information on the Deutsche Fachwerkstrasse, go to www.deutsche-fachwerkstrasse.de.

— Michael Abrams


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