If Stones Could Speak: The Palaces, Gardens and Monasteries of SouthWest Germany

Almost four million visitors each year visit 60 of Baden-Württemberg’s monuments and enjoy their very special atmosphere and the range of varied activities on offer there. Free open days, special guided tours, culinary demonstrations, garden walks make these special places come alive with stories from the past.
Anyone wanting to make the most out of Baden-Württemberg will soon realize they’ve come to the right address at Staatliche Schlösser & Gärten (SSG), the state heritage preservation agency for the state of Baden-Württemberg, or SouthWest Germany. The agency is responsible for 60 historic monuments that it maintains, develops and opens to the public. They include famous places such as Heidelberg Palace but also hidden gems such as the Palace and Palace Gardens in Schwetzingen, only 20 minutes from Heidelberg; the well-known Ludwigsburg Residential Place outside of Stuttgart as well as the lesser-known but no less stunning baroque gardens of Weikersheim Palace; the World Cultural Heritage site of Maulbronn Monastery as well as the luxurious Salem Monastery and Palace on Lake Constance and the Hohentwiel Fortress Ruins. Each estate has its own special stories that make each visit memorable as the past come alive with the lives of noble families, kings, queens and their followers.
Heidelberg Palace, the most famous palace ruin anywhere in the world, is the “flagship” of the Baden-Württemberg monument landscape and has more people visiting it than any other monument in the federal state. Its ruins are some of the most romantic in all of Europe ranging from the Elizabeth Gate constructed overnight by Ludwig V for his wife, Elizabeth Stuart to the façade of the castle which is brilliantly lit up four times each year in an enormous display of Bengal fireworks. The palace has cafes and a newly opened restaurant with one Michelin star.
Only 20 minutes from Heidelberg is the lesser-known summer palace of Schwetzingen with its extensive formal gardens, allees, and park. One of the most beautifully planned gardens in Europe, it also has a stunning restaurant open to the public which is well worth the visit especially during asparagus season. Hidden by enormous hedges, an outdoor stage is carved from a grotto where the nobles would gather and stand for hours while the king and queen sat and watched the plays.
The UNESCO monument of Maulbronn Monastery has a much different story as it was, and still is, a Protestant school. Today, it hosts concerts, culinary demonstrations, wine tastings and architectural tours. The Cistercian monastery in its rural tranquillity has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List on account of its well-preserved architecture and history. Other outstanding examples of church architecture, include the resplendent monasteries of Upper Swabia, such as Wiblingen, Schussenried and Ochsenhausen and the impressive medieval complexes, including the monasteries of Bebenhausen and Alpirsbach, and the grandiose castles and ruins of fortresses, such as Hohentwiel or Hochburg.
At a time when celebrations of the Reformation 500 years ago are going on throughout Germany, there is an opportunity to savour this anniversary year in a quite particular way in these castles and monasteries where famous events occurred. Heidelberg Palace is an example as it used to be the residence of the prince electors of the Palatinate, who espoused the Reformation at an early stage. It was here that the Heidelberg Catechism was compiled at the behest of the prince elector – and it has retained its validity through to the present. In the 16th century, the palace was the glittering stage of the powerful protestant prince electors.
In Maulbronn Monastery, the Duke of Württemberg established a school in the former Cistercian monastery after the Reformation. In doing so, he marked the beginning of a pioneering tradition, which has continued through to the present. In those regions that did not go along with the Reformation, the Counter-reformation gave birth to an artistic movement, whose stated aim was to bring heavenly magnificence down to earth. The large monasteries in Ochsenhausen or Schussenried, as impressive edifices of Upper Swabian baroque, bear effective witness to that Counter Reformation. Fourteen monasteries and palaces are playing their part in the theme year and have an open invitation to visitors.
Another highlight this year is the reopening of the renovated bel étage in Bruchsal Palace, the former residence of the bishop princes. The reconstruction of the suite of rooms in the bel étage of Bruchsal Palace is now complete and a lost chapter from Bruchsal’s history has come back to life. But more than that: in the 18th century, the prince bishops’ palace used to be one of Europe’s cultural and artistic “hotspots.” During WWII, numerous artistic treasures were taken away for safe keeping, including furniture, paintings and tapestries – more than 350 priceless items – and they are now back in their original positions. It is no exaggeration to say that the collection of valuable tapestries in Bruchsal Palace is absolutely unique. Altogether, there are 38 of them, one of the biggest collections in Europe.
The third Sunday in June is Schlosserlebnistag (Experience a Castle Day), and many people make sure it is highlighted in their diaries – not only those living in Baden-Württemberg. It is a day on which all the palaces and castles throughout Baden-Württemberg are open to the public and offer organized events particularly suitable for families. On October 8, the Erlebnistag im Kloster  (A Day in the Monastery) will be held. Visitors can find out about the world of the monks and the pupils who studied in the schools that were installed in the monastery buildings later on. Whether large monastery complexes or romantic monastery ruins, whether severe mediaeval chambers or joyous baroque dining halls, the range of impressions is extensive.
Every year, the Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten frequently renews its programming and adds new and unusual guided tours. It might be stroll escorted by a lady or gentleman in historical dress, applying all their charms and acting skills in transporting you back to their epoch; or it might be a gourmet tour, during which experiencing history is combined with a culinary extra; or, yet again, it might be a “behind the scenes” program, a children’s event or a walk by candlelight – whatever it is, it will include plenty that’s new or never been seen before.

Interview with the 2017 Poster Artist: Pixel Pancho


Born in Turin in 1984, Pixel Pancho was introduced to color and form by his grandfather, who painted occasionally. With time, his passion for art and design led him to the Albertina Academy of Fine Arts followed by the Academy of Fine Arts in Valencia, Spain, where he obtained his degree. It was in Spain that he became familiar with the graffiti and street art scenes and began working on outdoor surfaces with spray cans and markers. Traveling between Turin and Valencia, Pixel Pancho took every opportunity to make his mark, using different media such as tiles, wall painting and sticker/poster art, eventually expanding across Europe.

Pixel Pancho’s work is drawn from several diverse influences. Traces of Joaquin Sorolla, Salvador Dali and the political painter group “El Equipo Cronica” to the more modern Ron English and Takashi Murakami can be seen in his works. Traveling extensively for graffiti jams and gallery exhibitions has allowed his style to evolve from a simple robot character to the more complex compositions in his work today. The narrative in Pixel Pancho’s art is driven by a forgotten world that sits under a blanket of dust. In it, broken and dented robots are found decaying into the ground, their iron and rusted copper bodies falling and laying as if discarded into oblivion. Although the scale of his work ranges, the surreal realm is a constant thread, piercing through contemporary and historical references that add a sense of relevance within our place and time. The strength of physical and gestural references that humanize these robots results in the artist’s unmistakable mark. Found on the walls of abandoned buildings in cities throughout Europe, the U.S. and Mexico, Pixel Pancho’s design is an interconnected structure of stories. The murals, the paintings, the sculptures in the end are only a small part of something greater, another story within the ever-growing realm.

Chicago is a city that loves its parades. St. Patrick’s Day to Thanksgiving, presidential inaugurations to baseball championships, and Helenic Heritage to Pride — there are plenty of opportunities to hit the streets and fly your freak flag. For the 2017 Lollapalooza poster, Pixel Pancho played on that tradition and imagined Lollapalooza as an old-timey street fair complete with marching band. His version gets a surrealist spin with the musicians as robots, one of his signature motifs, powered not by gears but by the greenery of Grant Park. While the execution is vintage in style, they march forward to today, when Lollapalooza will once again fill Chicago’s streets with music.

Read more about Pixel Pancho in our interview about his background and inspiration for the 2017 Official Lollapalooza poster.


You have an inspiring story. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started on the path of becoming a world-renowned artist.
When I was a child I used to creates things, spending time in my dad’s garage where I start[ed] assembling pieces, fixing bikes. [On] the other side there was my grandpa, a talented amateur painter, who [taught] me the way to express myself trough painting. Then followed the years of the graffiti, the studies and [graduating with] Fine Arts in Spain, [it was] the first big wall… I’ve always believed in what I’ve done, while I was doing it.

We are curious to know what inspires the themes in your work and how the use of earth tones helps convey the story you are telling.
I paint in the way I see the life surround me. Plants, nature, time get me inspired. Robots are a metaphor of life, as the skin [gets] old, the iron gets rusted. The warm tones come from there, from the rust, from the ground, the soil, the leaves, flowers and fruits. Things to which we belong, things we should be grateful [for] instead of] try[ing] to destroy them.

What was the inspiration behind your design for the 2017 Lollapalooza commemorative poster?
I’ve imagined a band who fled from a carillon, one of those [from a] old dusty music-box, feeling free to play the music that they love, with no rules, breaking down the barriers of everyday routine. That is [the] way music [is] supposed to be [for me]. A way to make you feel free, out of market rules.

As an artist, does contributing one of your works to become a part of Lollapalooza’s history have significance for you?
Yes, sure. Lollapalooza in [it’s] history has [been] promoting a lot of music since the ’90s that [has also] accompanied me through this time.

Does music regularly have an influence on your art?
Actually, there [are] no rule[s]. Sometimes I love to hear it loud [while] singing, sometimes I prefer the silence. But, yes, the truth is that some songs have been the soundtrack and the inspiration for some of my works.

Where did the name Pixel Pancho originate from?
[At first,]there was Pixel, it was me. And [also] there was Pancho, a guy from South America who started this project with me. Then one day, our roads moved on different paths, however, I decided to push forward the “cart” of pixels ahead.

Your murals are spectacular masterpieces found all over the world. Are there any special locations around the world that are meaningful to you where hope to paint a mural in the future?
Antartica, sounds weird but this is it.

Do you have any advice for a young artist just discovering their talents?
Never stop studying, keep informed, let yourself be inspired without being too influenced.

We heard you will be attending this year’s festival in Chicago. We look forward to having you there! What are you most looking forward to? Is this your first time at the festival?
Yes, it will be my first time at Lollapalooza. I’m curious as I always [am]. Nothing in particular, [and] everything. “Nothing shocking” [and] everything surprising.

Del Frisco’s Grille Celebrates Father’s Day Weekend with Dry-Aged Steaks & Bourbon June 16-18

Featuring 28-Day Dry-Aged Steaks & Gentleman’s Mules All Weekend
DFG 2017_Steak_Dry Aged Bone In Strip _Father_s Day_
28-Day Bone-In Dry-Aged Strip Steak


Make dad feel like a king this Father’s Day weekend at Del Frisco’s Grille Santa Monica with special features including an 18 oz. 28-day Bone-In Dry-Aged Strip Steak for $52 and a bourbon-centric Gentleman’s Mule for $11. The full lunch and dinner menus boasting elevated twists on American classics will also be available for dad’s to enjoy, complete with handcrafted cocktails, Del Frisco’s famed steaks and signature desserts like the decadent Coconut Cream Pie.
WHEN: Friday June 16-Sunday June 18
Del Frisco’s Grille Santa Monica
1551 Ocean Ave.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Del Frisco’s Grille is an exciting eatery located across from the Santa Monica Pier that combines the atmosphere of an American bar & grill with upscale entrees, an extensive wine list & handcrafted cocktails. Del Frisco’s Grille Santa Monica is the first of three locations in Southern California, including Pasadena and Irvine. Taking the classic bar and grill to new heights, Del Frisco’s Grille draws inspiration from bold flavors and market-fresh ingredients. The energetic bar, a destination in itself, creates a buzz throughout the restaurant and sets the stage for an amazing night out.
Located at 1551 Ocean Avenue, on the corner of Ocean Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, Del Frisco’s Grille is open Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., which brunch on Saturday and Sunday. For more information visit http://delfriscosgrille.com/santa-monica/.

Lubbock: The Napa Valley of the South

West Texas is responsible for 70 percent of the total wine grape production in the state.

In the heart of one of the fastest growing wine regions in the country, Lubbock is the Napa Valley of the South with five unique, individual wineries within the city limits. In fact, the area surrounding Lubbock, known as the High Plains, produces 80 percent of the wine grapes in Texas.Our area’s wide open spaces provide ample ground for wine tours and cultivating the perfect grape to create even, delicious blends of West Texas wine.

From award-winning wine to stunning architecture, indulge all your senses and come out to Lubbock for wine tours of the Llano Estacado Winery, Cap*Rock Winery, McPherson Cellars, La Diosa Cellars, Pheasant Ridge Winery and others.