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Karlsruhe, Germany - Nottingham's Twin City

11 August 15 words: Jared Wilson
Ever wondered what it's like to be in our twin city? We've broken down exactly what to expect if you ever care to embark upon the journey
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Population: 300,850
Students: 43,700
Founded: 1715
Area: 173.46km²
Time difference: GMT + 1

Only 15km from the French border, bright and busy Karlsruhe is one of Germany’s youngest cities. Created in 1715 by Margrave Karl Wilhelm of Baden as a place to escape his wife and spend time with mistresses, Karlsruhe literally translates as ‘Karl’s rest’. The city’s pyramid emblem derives from his tomb in the middle of the Marktplatz, where the grave was adorned Egyptian emperor-style in 1825, by the city’s seminal architect Friedrich Weinbrenner. The city is also nicknamed the ‘fan city’ (die Fächerstadt) because of its design layout, with straight streets radiating like paper fans from out of the palace.

Karlsruhe grew as the capital of Baden from 1771 and developed as a liberal town where art and science flourished, as did their university which still guarantees the town a young population. After the war it lost out to Stuttgart as regional capital but it still plays a significant role in national law, as the seat of Germany’s two highest courts, and is an important industrial base, with a strong community of growing digital tech businesses.

Karlsruhe’s premier attractions are its excellent museums and its well-priced regional public transport network, which puts it within easy reach of the Northern Black Forest and Baden-Baden. Indeed, the Karlsruhe tram system has developed to become a victim of its own popularity and they currently lie three years into a ten-year plan to bury some of the most popular stations underground to ease congestion.

So what do twin cities actually do? The basic premise is that two places agree to partner each other to promote cultural and commercial ties. The Nottingham-Karlsruhe relationship is fairly successful with an annual staff exchange programme between our city councils now into its 29th year. Approximately forty of our staff visit Karlsruhe one year and then the following year they visit us. This exchange is self-funded, so rest assured that no flights or accommodation are paid for out of your council tax.

Aside from this, our city twinning has seen telematics and ticketing giant INIT expand from Germany to take up a subsidiary office in the Creative Quarter. When you wait for a Nottingham bus or tram, it’s our German cousins you have to thank for the electronic timetabling system you look at. It’s hoped this may be the start of many successful business relationships between the two cities, with more trade missions being mooted.

If that wasn’t enough, twin cities sometimes name things after each other. In Karlsruhe we visited ‘Nottingham Park’ which is a short stretch of land in the city centre where our current mayor Councillor Jackie Morris planted an oak tree as part of the 300th birthday celebrations. In return, we named the new tram bridge that stretches from Station Street into the train station as ‘The Karlsruhe Friendship Bridge’ and the mayor of Karlsruhe Dr Frank Mentrup was the first to make the journey.

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Oliver Kahn. The most exquisite of gentlemen.

Famous folk from Karlsruhe:

Karl Benz (1844–1929)
Regarded as the inventor of the first automobile (or, more precisely, the first vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine), together with his wife Bertha Benz, Karl was the founder of Mercedes-Benz.

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz (1857–1894)
Physicist who first conclusively proved the existence of electromagnetic waves by engineering instruments to transmit and receive radio pulses. The scientific unit of frequency (originally called cycle per second) was renamed hertz in his honor.

Oliver Kahn (1969–present)
Notoriously mental German international goalkeeper who gained 86 caps for his country, more than 400 for Bayern Munich and 128 for his hometown club. He was once caught speeding three times in one day (in two different countries), missed his own side’s title celebrations because he was listening to his Walkman and left his pregnant wife for a 21-year-old barmaid. What a guy, eh?

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Some cars stuck together.

Creative Karlsruhe:

A business networking scheme with a heavy focus on digital technology. CyberForum has now established itself as the largest regionally active business network in Germany. Entrepreneurs, creative minds, R&D personnel and other institutions, students, business angels and trainees, all connect across CyberForum at regular meetings and workshops. More than 1,000 businesses are signed up and the members represent a combined 22,000 job positions.

Old Slaughterhouse
A business incubation centre that, as the name suggests, is housed within a place where hundreds of thousands of pigs once oinked their last oink. It’s scrubbed up really well, with dozens of upcoming designers, videographers and much more all housed in converted shipping containers. They also have a couple of pubs and music venues on site to keep the area going all night long.

Located in a converted ammunitions factory, the ZKM Centre for Art and Media opened in 1997. It houses two museums, three research institutes and a media centre all under one roof. Their shows cover themes of contemporary art and present practically forgotten artists and art movements. The mediums on display take all forms from oil paintings to phone apps.

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A t-shirt.

Karlsruher SC:

Nickname: KSC

Ground: Wildparkstadion (29,699 capacity)
Manager: Markus Kauczinski
League: 2. Bundesliga

KSC made the play-off final last season and suffered extra time heartbreak to Hamburg SV. At the end of ninety minutes they were 1-0 up and leading 2-1 on aggregate, before Chilean international Marcelo Diaz curled home a last minute free kick to force extra time. Then, with four minutes of extra time left, Nicolai Müller scored for Hamburg. The final nail in the coffin came two minutes into stoppage time (of extra time), when a Rouwen Hennings penalty was saved. KSC hearts were broken as they were condemned to another season in the second tier. Sound familiar, Forest fans?

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Our Claudizzle.

Claudia Purkhold is 39 years old and works in the Environment Team for Karlsruhe City Council. She grew up in Bavaria, but moved to the city fourteen years ago...

What’s it like living in Karlsruhe?
People here are very open and friendly. It has a lively and young population. People are very concerned about their city, they like to take part and have a say in town planning as well as other decisions that affect the local population.

What entertainment do people enjoy in Karlsruhe?
There’s a very broad field of cultural activities. There are all kinds of pubs and restaurants, you can go dancing, there are rock concerts, opera, plenty of cinemas, good sports teams, theatres and galleries. When I think “Tonight I’d like to do this”, I just have to have a look at the local listings and there’s usually somewhere I can do it.  

You’ve actually spent some time in Nottingham yourself, but do you think many people here are aware of your twin city in the Midlands?
Probably not, to be honest. A lot of people will be aware of the place and Robin Hood, but not many will know we are twin cities. But there are ways you can find out. In our Christmas market there is always a stall dedicated to our twin cities, with information about the places.

Karlsruhe Tourism website

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