Schwaben cultural region

"It has been evident for a long time that, of all members of all the Germanic tribes, the Swabian is the most difficult to understand and the most mysterious. In him the most intense contradictions are found. Often, in one individual, meet both extreme boldness and amazing timidity, rebelliousness and philistinism, winning kindness and resentful standoffishness, skillfulness and awkwardness, firmness and instability, mistrust and friendliness, soaring idealism and grounded realisticism."
by Fritz Rahn in Der schwäbische Mensch und seine Mundart (Translation by Matt Carver)

The Schwaben cultural region is, for most Austrians, Germans, Swiss and visitors, a very ancient and distinct cultural area, most of which is in Baden-Württemberg, but with a substantial portion also in the western part of Bavaria, the Vorarlberg of Austria and the northern fringe of Switzerland. The whole of Liechtenstein is within the historical confines of Schwaben and the Lech river forms its traditional eastern boundary in Germany.

Understand

Traditional costumes often come out of the wardrobe at village festivals

Cities

In Austria:

Parish church of Rankweil

In the German Customs Area (deutsches Zollgebiet) of Austria:

In Baden-Württemberg:

The Tübinger Tor in Reutlingen
With a wonderful view over the Danube and, on a clear day, a huge swathe of the Alps, Ulm Minster is still the tallest church in the world at 161.5 m (530 ft) and was, for a brief period at the turn of the nineteenth century, the tallest building in the whole world.

In Bayern:

Roman fort from c. 300 AD in Konstanz showing the foundations of an eight-cornered tower

In both Germany and Switzerland:

In Liechtenstein

Other destinations

the Blautopf spring

Talk

Swabian (in standard German: Schwäbisch) is just one, albeit a very major one, of the dialects of German spoken in Swabia. However, like folk from Yorkshire or the Arcadian parts of the New World, speakers tend to be rather proud of their linguistic heritage - there is even a tiny, almost stillborn version of Wikipedia in Schwäbisch ! If you're interested in Swabian vocabulary and inventions here's an interesting website.

Swabian also used to be spoken by the Volga Germans in the former Soviet Union, part of the Danube Swabian minorities in Hungary, parts of the former Yugoslavia and Romania.

The dialect ranges from a 'standard' Swabian, spoken in Stuttgart, to a variety of more vigorous, denser forms found in its hinterland. Just by listening quietly, many people can often tell the town or area a person comes from.

The market place in Schwäbisch Gmünd

Like Glaswegian for Britons, Swabian may be difficult to understand for other German speakers, not just because of its distinctive accent and vowel inflections but because it has its very own vocabulary too. For most Germans, a girl is a Mädchen, but when she crosses the Lech she becomes a Mädle. Strawberry jam for most Germans is Erdbeermarmelade while older Swabians often call this preserve Präschtlingsgsälz. Bizarrely, a readers survey of the largest newspaper in Stuttgart, chose as the most beautiful Swabian word: Muggeseggele (the fly's balls) !

Get in

Liechtenstein 10 frank gold coin

Although this region spreads over several international borders, most travellers will have no bureaucratic hassles, since all the relevant countries are both members of the Schengen agreement on facilitated border formalities and part of the same customs union. Currencies used are the euro (€) and the Swiss/Liechtenstein franc/frank (CHF)

By air

No smoking in the toilets allowed!

Stuttgart airport (IATA: STR), located in Leinfelden-Echterdingen, hosts various airlines including the low cost airline TUI and has direct flight connections with major German and European cities. It won't be difficult to book a flight to Stuttgart from outside Europe connecting through a major hub such as London Heathrow or Paris Charles de Gaulles. Fares usually don't differ much if at all if you choose to fly into Stuttgart from another continent (rather than to Frankfurt, Munich or Berlin).

See

Blaubeuren Abbey

Eat

Swabian potato salad with Maultaschen

A traditional dish in Schwaben is Maultaschen. These are rectangular pasta parcels filled with meat, onions, spinach and various herbs, similar to ravioli but much larger. They can be served "as is" with a little butter or in a broth. Another appetising variant is to slice and fry them in a pan and serve with a seasonal salad. In times of more rigorous religious observance, this was sometimes thought of as a sneaky dish because the diner could plausibly claim that he was abstaining from meat - the offending pork being hidden inside the pasta parcel!

Beef with fried onions and Spätzle

An almost stereotypically Swabian classic dish is Spätzle - egg based noodles often served with a meat dish. A rule of thumb is to use one egg for every diner and then add an extra egg for luck.

Swabians have a reputation for being "Damp Diners (Nass-Esser)" . Most dishes are smothered in a sauce or gravy and a lot of dipping, dunking or crumbling into soups goes on. If you're served a soup, you'll always get a slab of bread to dunk in it if there's not a variety of pasta floating in it already. They're not called "Suppenschwaben" for nothing! Roast meats are invariably served with plenty of gravy.

Drink

Go next

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