Karlsruhe and its region is a fascinating MICE destination which I had the opportunity to discover during a study trip from 24–25 May 2019 with the Convention Bureau Karlsruhe & Region. I guess that many of you know the Black Forest, but not everyone knows Karlsruhe, and in fact these are two nearby destinations which unite under one umbrella when it comes to MICE.
While the city of Karlsruhe has one of the top universities, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), and is a hub for knowledge, entrepreneurship and research, the wider region also has state-of-the-art meeting spaces, such as in Pforzheim and Ettlingen, as well as diverse offerings for incentives in the wider Baden-Württemberg region (the German state where Karlsruhe and Black Forest are located), which is also one of Germany’s top wine regions.
Our tour started at the Novotel Karlsruhe City, a modern city hotel located at a walking distance from the Karlsruhe main train station. It’s highly spacious with plenty of natural light. It’s a 4-star superior hotel with 246 rooms and suits and 14 meetings rooms, the biggest meeting room being suitable for 220 people in a theatre style. We had the first introduction to get to know all the other participants and local partners of the Convention Bureau and had a lunch before taking a walking city tour.
Karlsruhe – city of law and justice
Did you know that Karlsruhe is the city of law and justice? I didn’t, and I had the chance to learn more about it during our guided city tour, which was dedicated to the VerfassungsFEST to celebrate 70 years of coming into effect of the ‘Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany’.
On 23. May 1949 this Basic Law, which is the name of the German constitution, came into effect. Two distinctive features of this law include ensuring that there will be no dictator in power again. Some of the Basic Law is based on the Weimar Republic’s constitution and, in the Basic Law, human rights and human dignity were elevated to core values, further as they stand in the Weimar Republic’s constitution, to also be protected by it.
The court that monitors the adherence to the Basic Law, the Federal Constitutional Court, is based in Karlsruhe. The VerfassungsFEST took place at the Palace Gardens, and it was open to the public. The entrance to the event was at the ‘Platz der Grundrechte’ (Square of Constitutional Rights), which is dotted with 24 double-sided street signs. Each sign features an aspect of right and wrong, with quotes from judges, lawyers and common citizens who have come into conflict with the German law.
Karlsruher Messe- und Kongress GmbH
The Karlsruhe Exhibition and Congress Centre is located just next to the train station, Novotel Karlsruhe City and the Karlsruhe Zoo. It is suitable for both public and private events, and on the day that we visited, a medical congress took place there. The Karlsruhe Exhibition and Congress Centre encompasses five locations, for various purposes, from congresses and public events, to private and exclusive functions. Thanks to its proximity to the Karlsruhe Zoo, one of the event spaces is in the Zoo itself, in the greenery. Some of the halls can be used in combination with each other as well.
Transfer with the Goldiner bus from Karlsruhe to Durbach
From Karlsruhe, we had a private retro bus transfer to Durbach. The Goldiner, as the name implies, is a bus covered with Gold, and is operated by Schmuckwelten Pforzheim, a large jewellery and watch shopping mall in Pforzheim (but we’ll get the relation between gold and Pforzheim later). The bus is covered entirely in golden lamella, and the interior is from root wood.
After about one and a half hours’ drive, we arrived in Durbach and checked into our hotel — the Best Western Plus Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten. Located in the middle of the wine regions, the month of May is a wonderful time of the year to visit because all the surroundings are blossoming, and views from the conference rooms are breathtaking. The hotel has 95 guest rooms, and eight meeting and event spaces for up to 200 people. We had one of the meeting spaces reserved for our dinner and had a 3-course menu. My personal USP for this hotel is its location in the middle of the vineyards — it’s highly unique and energising to have so much greenery at your footsteps.
The following day, the Black Forest experience was awaiting us. After checking out, we continued our journey to Altensteig Wart. Unfortunately, our bus broke down, so we took a taxi to continue our journey onwards. We drove through the vineyards, small villages and forest and arrived at the countryside where DEKRA Congress Center Wart is located. Being late to view the DEKRA Congress Center Wart, we headed straight for lunch at the Gasthaus Zum Joggel, a typical Black Forest restaurant which belongs to the DEKRA Congress Center Wart and located approximately half an hour walk from the congress centre itself. The restaurant is a former barn, so it maintains its original structure and offers traditional, hearty German food.
The Congress Center Wart has the capacity for 750 people for an event, and the connected DEKRA Congresshotel Wart has 146 rooms. The countryside backdrop is particularly empowering for a team-building event.
König-Karls-Bad in Bad Wildbad and WildLine
After lunch, we continued further by coach to Forum König-Karls-Bad in Bad Wildbad. Bad Wildbad is the town where you need to go if you want to have a real Black Forest experience. Another aspect which makes the Black Forest world famous is the thermal baths and spa tourism, and Bad Wildbad is such a spa resort. The word ‘Bad’ stands for ‘bath’ and provides an indication of its statue. The König-Karls-Bad was built in 1890/1892, and from 1977 it served as a ‘guest house’ for spa guests who went there for lectures and events. In 2010, it was renovated to become Forum König-Karls-Bad for events. This venue is suitable for up to 132 people in the main hall and smaller groups between 20–80 attendees in the other four event spaces. During renovation, the resort ensured that the original neo-renaissance style would be preserved. The building is a manifestation of the ancient bathing culture seen thought the paintings, tapestries, the impressive staircase and the domed hall.
Within a short walking distance, the ‘Sommerbergbahn’ takes guests to the Sommerberg. On the top of the mountain, groups can hike, ride bikes and take the WildLine, a 380-m-long and 60-m-high bridge from which you are provided with a panoramic view of the Black Forest. As you walk, the bridge wobbles, which makes the experience a bit scary if you afraid of heights. The bridge offers an adventurous experience for nature and adrenaline enthusiasts. I loved this outdoor experience, and gladly could have stayed longer for a short hike, for example. With event formats constantly changing and evolving to incorporate wellbeing, this experience could be a perfect example by providing a conference in the morning at the Forum König-Karls-Bad, getting out for a 1–2-hour walk in the forest and then returning to the conference room.
Sparkasse Pforzheim Calw
From there we continued to Pforzheim, a city famous for its jewellery and gold industry and is also known as the ‘City of Gold’. It gained its reputation for gold mostly due to the Wellendorff family establishing their gold business in 1893 in Pforzheim, which is still based there, as well as leading study programmes at the School of Design and the Institute of Jewellery Technology at Pforzheim University.
In Pforzheim, we visited two spectacular venues, the Sparkasse Pforzheim Calw and the Gasometer Pforzheim.
Sparkasse Pforzheim Calw is run by the Sparkasse bank and it’s a spectacular venue that has a corporate charm that offers an immersive experience of Pforzheim from its rooftop terrace. The highlight was the Panoramasaal, which is suitable for up to 60 people, and other event spaces can accommodate up to 300 people for a conference.
What was Pforzheim’s largest gasholder with over 100 years of history, now is a modern venue for public exhibitions and private events for up to 650 networking reception and 500 people in a theatre style. Currently, it hosts the Great Barrier Reef 360° panorama exhibition by the artist Yadegar Asisi. This exhibition is a unique, one-of-a-kind creation where visitors have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the underwater world of the wonders of this well-known Australian coral reef. Asisi gives visitors the ability to explore the smallest details of this natural wonder. He collected and built the panorama after multiple visits to the Great Barrier Reef, including helicopter and diving excursions with experts in their fields. He worked together with diving experts and marine biologists to develop an extensive understanding of this natural world, and in this time collected and created extensive visual material to later assemble into a panorama. What makes the panorama so unique is that it combines all the geographical features in the reef, corresponding particularly closely to the natural environment.
To conclude, this trip was filled with surprises and opened my mind to new ideas. The world- famous Black Forest is so unique in its beauty and history, and I haven’t experienced anything like this before. The combination of the city, vineyards and forest is highly unique, and Karlsruhe and the region is a little secret gem to be further discovered.
Header photo: Pia Kumpmann, Director of the Convention Bureau Karlsruhe & Region