ULM lies just south of the Swabian Alb, some 95km southeast of Stuttgart and 85km east of Tübingen, but it’s the city’s location on the Danube that shaped it most. In the Middle Ages it enabled Ulm to build great wealth from trading, boat building and textile manufacture. Ulm became an imperial city in 1376 and then leader of the Swabian League of cities, which it used to throw its weight about on the European stage. Over time though, corruption, wars and epidemics whittled away at the city’s greatness; then, in just thirty minutes in December 1944 its glorious Altstadt disappeared beneath 2450 tonnes of explosive. Luckily its giant Münster came out relatively unscathed, and parts of the Altstadt have been reconstructed, but Ulm has also used the opportunity to experiment with some bold modern buildings. This sets the scene for a city that is as forward-looking as it is nostalgic and one that celebrates its festivals with an almost Latin passion. The best place to appreciate Ulm’s skyline is on the eastern side of the Danube in the modern and uninteresting Neu Ulm – a city in its own right and in Bavaria.

 

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