Jack of Clubs is trumps

Discoveries in the town of Altenburg

What's going on over there? On Altenburg's oldest market square, the Brühl, four gentlemen are embroiled in a heated argument. Luckily, not fisticuffs. Four "Wenzel" are trying to outdo each other.

Internationally, they're probably better known as "Jacks" or "Unders". Anyone familiar with card games will soon realise what's happening here, of course: This is all about "skat"! Skat is not just any old card game, but the most popular card game in the country. It's a serious business, with a international skat court, extensive rules and regulations, and numerous variants. And who invented it? Precisely, the people of Altenburg! Or rather, five leading townsmen who met in an apartment on Hauptmarkt 26 in 1810. Admittedly, I don't actually know a lot about the game. However, one thing I do know: the Jack of Clubs always trumps the others. He is therefore likely to win the argument.

Der Skatbrunnen in Altenburg

©Maik Schuck, TTG

From photo spot to photo spot

Apart from the bickering Jacks, which I kind of expected, I'm pleasantly surprised by Altenburg's old city centre. It seems you can not only test your knowledge of skat but also of architectural styles here. This former imperial residence situated right by the Via Imperii, an ancient trade route, was probably quite busy in the past. I let my gaze wander across the expansive Hauptmarkt, the main market square, 7,850 square metres of civic pride framed by period buildings ranging from Gothic to turn of the last century. I wonder about all the events it must have witnessed... and then there's the town hall, a gigantic, striking building from the Renaissance period. I definitely have to take a few pictures before I do anything else. 

Gebäudefassade - Fenster mit Blumen (Petunien)

©Maik Schuck, TTG

Of the old wooden doors, the charming faded old shop signs and the many towers. It reminds me of Prague and Lisbon. Only that it's much quieter here. I am unlikely to be the first tourist to hit Altenburg. Nice idea, though. An explorer, on the way to pastures new and amazing discoveries. In any case, I take even more pictures: Of the moon phase clock on the town hall tower, that elaborately decorated church facade over there, the clearly Italianate tower. Most of these have been beautifully restored, although there's still peeling plaster to be seen here and there. It looks charming, though.

Blick auf das Residenzschloss Altenburg

©Jens Hauspurg

I find my way out of the winding lanes of the old city centre, and am suddenly right in front of the Altenburger Residenzschloss palace. It looks oddly disjointed, like a jigsaw puzzle. However, also sort of friendly, I reckon, so I get my smartphone out again. I bet there are some interesting stories behind it, but I'll save those for later. 

For the time being, my urge to explore brings me back to the small bakery where I saw those tasty cherry cream puffs earlier on. After all, you also have to explore the local specialities.



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