Kaufbeuren, the old free imperial city

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The old free imperial city of Kaufbeuren would be a very nice place to visit or to stay for a vacation. This is one of the pearls in the Bavarian Allgäu region. Here you can find several roots of the more than 1,000 year old history of the town. The main landmark of the town is the Five-"Buttons"-Tower, built in 1420.

From Kaufbeuren, it's easy to get to many other attractive and interesting places in the region. For example, the old Roman town, Cambodunum, now known as Kempten, lies only 45 kilometers away. Or you can visit the biggest lake in Europe, the Bodensee, connecting Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Not far from Kaufbeuren you'll also find the famous Bavarian castles Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein.

You can reach Kaufbeuren by train or bus or, what I hope, with me. From the Munich airport it is a little bit more than one hour by car, about 130 km/85 miles.

The town is split in two parts, one with a truly old history, and the other a newer part including Gablonz, the well known jewelry industry centre of years gone by. Many refugees of the old Gablonz area settled in Kaufbeuren after World War II and founded the newer part, named Kaufbeuren-Neugablonz.

There you will find the world known museum of Industry and Jewelry, the Gablonzer Haus. Amateur historians will also find a treasure trove of amazing experiences and fascinating stories, because the turbulent past of the district's inhabitants is still alive in the names of its streets, squares, houses and churches. After extensive renovation, the area was reopened in 2001.

In the older historical part of Kaufbeuren the magic of ancient times is well integrated with modern life. The old town centre, surrounded by the city wall with the big defense towers, provides a glimpse all the way back to the Middle Ages. Small lanes, little shops and charming restaurants, along with the marvellous facades of old residences make for fascinating exploratory walks.

Kaufbeuren offers a smart mixture of shopping possibilities for things both old and modern. Recreational opportunities abound right in town as well as in nearby. Discovering all these places could make one pretty hungry, but that is no problem at all! You'll find food for every taste, from regional dishes all the way to international cuisine. Several hotels and guesthouses offer a wide range of accommodations. For children of all ages a particular highlight is a visit to the Puppet Theatre Museum.

Not far from Kaufbeuren is also the old Monastery Irsee located, German name "Kloster Irsee". Very interesting to visit and there are often some religious events or discussions.

I recently learned something about Kaufbeuren that touches me personally, since I lived during the time in which it happened. There is an airbase located in Kaufbeuren, active during WWII, but now used just for training. Right after the war, the Americans took it over. As the situation in Berlin worsened in the late 1940's and the citizens were starving because of the Russian blockade of the city, the "Big Lift" was start by the Allieds to help out. [very interesting - check this out: http://www.usafe.af.mil/berlin/facts.htm]. Joseph T.T. from the USA tells me that the first relief plane to Berlin flew out of Kaufbeuren! Thanks Joseph - (He learned this from his stepfather who was stationed there.)

But now - back to the older history of Kaufbeuren:

Kaufbeuren was officially founded around the year 800 by a Frankish knight called Guido Glada a Villa. He is documented as the owner of "Buron“, the town's first name. Famous kings and emperors of the Middle Ages, such as Konradin, King Rudolf of Habsburg, and the Emperors Karl V and Maximilian, visited the town often.


Historical documents show that the status of the town was raised to "Free Imperial City“ by King Rudolf of Habsburg in the year 1286. Emperor Maximilian visited the town 14 times, and a particular visit, in 1497, is still celebrated today. In 1600, Emperor Karl V granted Kaufbeuren the right to mint coinage.

One of the old great events in the city's history was the aforementioned visit of Emperor Maximilian in the year 1497. Every year the town memorializes the event with a big festival, the "Tänzelfest“. Over 1,600 of the town's children participate in this oldest of Bavaria's children's festivals, with re-enactments by the children in full historical costume.

Here is the story of the festival, briefly:

On the 25th of May, 1497, the Emperor Maximilian visited the town. The royal visit was occasion for all the local citizenry to celebrate and put on a sports competition. The winner of the boy's shooters was selected by the Emperor to receive from his hand the Winner's Neckchain and a pair of pants! (What an honour for such a simple subject!)

All in all, if you have the time, you really should not miss this festival. It's a treat for the eyes, ears and memory. For more information, please visit the homepage of Stadt Kaufbeuren.

In closing, here is an example of an old folk tale from the Kaufbeuren area:

The Musician of Blonnhoven

In the neighborhood of Kaufbeuren there is a small village named Blonnhoven. One night in the summer, thunderclouds were hanging in the sky, and the fun-loving musician from Blonnhoven was coming back from a festival in another town. There he had played a long time, earned good money and drunk a lot, maybe even one glass too much. He was really happy and glad to know he would soon be home for a long and peaceful sleep. Suddenly he noticed a restaurant on the side of the street, brightly lit and filled with guests.

The musician was really astonished. He knew every stone on this road but he had never seen this restaurant before. Was he drunk? He slapped himself and rubbed his eyes, but he was indeed awake and this restaurant was real. The only curious thing - in all of the windows he saw lights and there were shadows moving, but there was no sound at all coming from the building. Just as he got near the door two men came out, took him by the hand and indicated he should follow them inside.

They brought him into the big room, where there were a lot of strange looking people, both male and female, all in gaily coloured clothing. Nobility, soldiers and knights, (some armoured), and even all the ladies were clothed garishly. The guests lifted him up onto a table and begged him to play for them. To entice him, one of the men gave him a big bag of gold coins. Our musician liked THAT very much and he started to play the gayest dances he knew.

What a picture! Glancing at the dancers, the musician was surprised by how well these people could dance! It was certainly very different from the dancing of the farmers he was accustomed to playing for.

Step by step, one pair of dancers after another disappeared, and suddenly the lights went out. He sank down and fell asleep.

He was awakened by the morning's severe cold wind. He opened his eyes and, oh Lord, what did he see? He had been sleeping under a gallows! Quickly, he checked his pockets for the bag of gold, but he found only broken pieces of pottery instead of the gleaming coins.


Script by J.W.Lohfink, for any mistakes in spell or grammar I apologize as a precaution, but I hope now is much better by the help of my new friend Charly - he also showed me the website for the historical help for the Germans, especially the people of Berlin by the Big Lift - sorry that some has no more in memory....- that is my personal opinion !)

If you have corrections, questions or comments or do not agree with my site please mail to me.

>> German version

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