Durlach – the city of fountains


Durlach Turmberg

Durlach’s Turmberg tower

Just a shot tram ride from the center of Karlsruhe in south-western Germany, nestled below the imposing castle ruin, is tiny, frozen-in-time Durlach. This charming place dates back to the 11th century and was a separate town until 1938 when it became a part of Karlsruhe. But to this day Durlach clearly retains its own, very special character. And the best way to appreciate it is from the top of Turmberg, or tower hill, connected to downtown via a historic funicular railway in operation since 1888. Once a mighty castle stood on the hill. What remains today is a lone tower with an amazing viewing platform that offers panoramic views of Karlsruhe, the Rhine River valley, and the Black Forest.

The tower was build between 1230 and 1250 and the reason for its location is as obvious today as it was back then – it’s a great observation point. The top of the hill is green, leafy, and and serene. And the climb up 127 steps from the tower’s base to the viewing platform is well worth it. Red roofs and church steeples, streetcars rumbling along narrow streets, and ancient trees lining even narrower allies. But as great as the view is from above, Durlach only gets better from up close. And there is one thing in particular that makes it so: fountains, fountains everywhere!


Durlach from above


Pfinztalstraße, Durlach’s charming main drag

The highlight, and hallmark, fountain stands in the middle of a medieval market square, Marktplatz. There has been a fountain on this site for centuries, with the original stone one replaced in 1862 by a cast iron structure. The fountain gained its current form in 1992, designed by Klaus Ringwald as “Fountain of Life.” A closer look at what it depicts – not without controversy – earned it a nickname “fountain of love” (Liebesbrunnen). In the spirit of more than platonic love, the centerpiece of the fountain consists of two naked figures of a man and a woman in a passionate embrace.

Fountain of love

The Fountain of Life – or more accurately, love

But that’s not all. Look closer… there is plenty more love around, of non-human kind. On the fountain’s corners there are eight groups of animals, including hedgehogs, rabbits, crows, rats, bats, owls, chickens, and toads. And they clearly like each other if you catch my meaning.


In an interesting contrast of themes, the sides of the fountain display cast iron panels describing the history Durlach. A sense of history and a sense of humor – I love it! But the love fountain is but an introduction to Durlach’s watery world. Strolling through the town is a journey of discovery – you never know what new fountain you’re going to find hiding in a courtyard, squeezed into a tiny alley, or quietly murmuring in a shady park. Amazingly, unlike in most cities I’ve been to, water in these urban jewels is safe to drink, which makes for a perfect way to explore Durlach on foot even on a hot summer day.

Right along Pfinztalstraße there is Wasserwerkbrunnen, or Waterworks Fountain. It was built in 1896 and stands on the site of Durlach’s former water utility. It depicts the Water God – with a frog on his head.

Waterworks Fountain

Waterworks Fountain – the blue sign to the left indicates that water is safe to drink

Then there is Basler-Tor-Brunnen, or Basel Gate Fountain, named thanks to its proximity one of the city’s surviving medieval gates that guarded the southern entrance. The fountain was created in 1987 by Ulrich Sekinger.

Basler Tor

Basler Tor – Basel Gate – in Durlach


Basler-Tor-Brunnen – Basel Gate Fountain

Finding this fountain was rather unexpected. I walked into a courtyard I didn’t even know was on the other side of a narrow passage off Rappenstraße, and there is was! Rappenbrunnen – Stable Fountain – has a great modern look given to it in 1991 by sculptor Hans Vaupel.


Rappenbrunnen – Stable Fountain

And then there is this one… I don’t know its name (maybe others do?) but love the frog-and-lizard theme. Cheers!

Durlach fountain

Anonymous fountain

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