Why is Baden-Württemberg counting on the Celts to provide a tourism boost?

The 'Keltenland' (Celtic Country) initiative has been unveiled in the scenic southern state, bringing an important chapter of ancient history to life.

Why is Baden-Württemberg counting on the Celts to provide a tourism boost?
A reconstructed Celtic hill grave in Eberdingen, Baden-Württemberg. Photo: DPA

Their kind haven’t been seen in Germany for at least two thousand years. Their chariots can’t be heard rumbling in the distance. Neither do we see them in their woven finery, fastened with gold and bronze, clutching swords.

So why is the German state of Baden-Württemberg counting on the Celts to provide a tourist boost in times of the coronavirus?

READ ALSO: Celtic tomb hailed as great architectural find

Beginning in 2019, Baden-Württemberg’s state government unveiled a new cultural policy, 'Baden-Württemberg & its Celts’, that would inject millions into a network of museums and cultural sites, dedicated to bringing the world of the Celts to life.

The sun sets behind a reconstructed hill grave in Eberdingen on July 10th. Photo: DPA

At the time, State President, Winfried Kretschmann was quoted as saying, “The special historical relationship of today's Baden-Württemberg to the Celts should be made more visible in the state and made emotionally tangible for people’.

This year the ‘Keltenland’ project has been unveiled, incorporating the massive redevelopment of sites such as the ‘lost city’ of Heuneburg near Sigmaringen. and the ‘princely grave’ of Hochdorf, near Ludwigsburg, as well as the establishment of several traveling exhibitions and cultural events.

READ ALSO: Irish in Germany: How many are there and where do they live?

‘Why now?’, you might ask. The answer lies in the significant discoveries made in the past decade – chiefly the aforementioned Heuneburg.

Rather than the lovably roguish warriors of ‘Asterix and Obelix’, artefacts taken from the Heuneburg revealed that the Celts who settled throughout the region created an advanced trading network.

This network brought goods into the region from throughout the Mediterranean world, in exchange for a variety of their handwork sent south. Combined with aerial photography and ground-scanning, these artefacts lead archaeologists to suggest that the Heuneburg could be considered the first ‘city’ north of the Alps.

Fortifications across the state also show that these Celts had a complex society that necessitated massive construction. The Ipf, near Bopfingen, and the Heidengraben near Grabenstetten demonstrate the ability of these local Celts to create massive earthworks that served as defensible bastions, and demonstrations of their power.

A silver ring from Trichtingen hangs in the Landesmuseum Württemberg as part of a Celtic exhibit. Photo: DPA

Finally, grave goods discovered at locations such as Hochdorf and Nagold showcase the Celt’s ability to create stunning works of jewelry from gold and other metals.

In particular, the Hochdorf site contains such a diverse range of complex, crafted goods as to blow apart conceived notions of the ‘Celts’ as barbarians and subsistence farmers. Rather, they strike experts of the period as some of the first ‘modern’ Europeans.

As the year progresses, and the country emerges further from the coronavirus lockdown, more about the ‘Keltenland’ initiative will be unveiled to the public.

As one of the largest cultural heritage projects currently active in Europe, many will be watching to see whether showcasing the world of the distant past will be enough to attract visitors to spend their money.


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Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg to lift priority list and allow GPs to vaccinate all adults

The two southern states are set to lift the priority order for vaccines from GPs, allowing family doctors to vaccinate everyone over the age of 18.

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg to lift priority list and allow GPs to vaccinate all adults
A GP's waiting room in Munich on May 31st. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

From next week, all adults – regardless if they are in a priority group or not – will have the chance to book a Covid-19 vaccine at a family doctor in the two southern German states.

Bavarian state premier Markus Söder confirmed the move after the CSU parliamentary group meeting on Wednesday. He said it would happen “over the course of next week” to give doctors time to prepare, reported broadcaster BR24.

Germany follows a strict priority list for who can receive a Covid vaccine first, mainly based on age, health condition and occupation.

So far, authorities have only lifted the priority list for vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. The federal government plans to offer all vaccines, including the two other approved vaccines BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna, to all adults in June.

However, Bavaria said it plans to offer vaccines to everyone sooner.

READ ALSO: How did Germany turbocharge its vaccine rollout – and what can it do better?

Baden-Württemberg also announced that it would allow GPs to vaccinate all adults even if they are not in a priority group from Monday. 

It comes despite the state health minister Manfred Lucha urging people to wait their turn for a jab.

According to Lucha, those most at risk from Covid need solidarity from society. “This includes waiting your turn to be vaccinated,” Lucha said in Stuttgart on Tuesday.

In both states, the offer only applies to GPs at this point; vaccination centres will still follow the priority list. 

READ ALSO: Berlin and Baden-Württemberg begin vaccinating priority group 3

Vaccine still in short supply

The Bavarian GP Association welcomed the move to lift the priority order for all coronavirus vaccines in medical practices.

“We stand for pragmatism,” state chairman Markus Beier told broadcaster BR24. He said GP patients were growing impatient as they are desperate to be inoculated against Covid.

However, Beier said there needed to be clear communication on the availability of vaccine supplies.

The German Foundation for Patient Protection slammed the planned vaccine release.

As long as there is not enough vaccine doses, politicians could cause a “rift” in society with a decision like this, said board member Eugen Brysch.

“It’s not the prioritisation that hinders vaccination progress, but rather the lack of vaccine,” he said.

The decisions in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria to allow family doctors vaccinate people regardless of the risk group priority list are an example of “how you can both increase the vaccination pressure on doctors and create frustration in society,” he said.

READ ALSO: ‘Mood is getting more aggressive’: Thousands of people in Germany caught skipping line for Covid vaccine

Further opening steps for Bavaria

Meanwhile, Bavaria plans to allow outdoor swimming pools to open from May 21st with conditions including negative Covid tests (for unvaccinated guests) if the 7-day incidence stays below 100.

Likewise, outdoor cultural events with up to 250 people are to be allowed. Prerequisites are fixed seating, tests and hygiene plans.

After Whitsun later in May, Söder said, there would be a review of the possibilities for indoor dining. “All in all, we have done really well, despite one or two setbacks,” he said.

He emphasised that a cautious strategy was still needed.