Monreal in the Eifel – Day Trip to the Romantic Eltz Valley

Monreal in the Eifel – Day Trip to the Romantic Eltz Valley

Monreal in the Eifel – Day Trip to the Romantic Eltz Valley

Last week, I was in the Eifel for the first time. Monreal was the destination – a small village with not even 800 inhabitants, which is both beautiful and enchanting. No wonder: Time seems to have stopped here a few hundred years ago. The old half-timbered houses look like something out of a picture book and not just one, but two castle ruins are enthroned on their hills above the village. I have rarely seen such an idyll. That is why I immediately said yes, when my friend Jan (@jan_wehnert on Instagram) asked me to join him on a photo tour. Our photo buddy Sven (@sky.pix2016 on Instagram) came also with us.

How to Get to Monreal

  • By bus or train: Monreal is located on the RB 23 railway line of the Lahn-Eifel railway. It runs once an hour every day. For ticket prices, it is best to check directly at the website of the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Mosel (VRM). Coming from Gerolstein, you are faster during the week if you take the regional bus and change in Ulmen. On weekends in the season the Vulkaneifel-Bahn (special ticket necessary, because it’s a private special train, available at the conductor on the trains; if you want to take your bike with you, you have to reserve it upfront).
  • By car: Both the A48 and the A61 are nearby and Monreal is easy to reach from there. Parking spaces are available along the main road.
  • By bike: There are also bike lanes in the area. However, there is a lot of up and down here and you have to expect steep gradients.

We arrived by car and I was enchanted from the first moment! That was my first impression of Monreal and my first view of the Löwenburg – the castle in the background:

Löwenburg im Hintergrund, Monreal im Vordergrund

 

Monreal

Monreal is located in the beautiful volcanic area Eifel. With not even 1000 inhabitants, one can probably speak of a very small community here. The village lies in the Eltz valley and the Eltzbach flows through it.

If you would like to book a guided tour or receive information, you can do so on the Homepage of Monreal. Otherwise, you can simply roam the cute alleys on your own and wander to the two castles that tower above the city.

Alte Brücke Monreal in der Eifel

Stiefmütterchen in Monreal als Dekoration vor einem Haus

Monreal – Dekoration an einem Hauseingang

 

The Almost 1000 Years of History of Monreal

Although the oldest traces of a settlement in Monreal date back to pre-Christian times, the place was not mentioned until the 12th century as Cunisberch (Königsberg – King’s Mountain). In the following century, Monreal became part of the county of Virneburg. The then name Königsberg was translated into French, as was appropriate at the time. Monroial was born and developed over the centuries to the present Monreal.

Around the year 1220, the construction of the Löwenburg (Castle of Lions), which is also called Burg Monreal, began, as it is considerably larger than the Philippsburg, which was built later. Hermann III of Virneburg began the work, although he lacked the necessary permits and rights over the land, as it actually belonged to his brother Philipp. He saw this as a political move to strengthen his count dynasty, as the family’s ancestral seat – the Virneburg – was too far away from economic centers. His plan worked out. In 1306, Monreal was granted town privileges and the rights to organize a market, which could be held every Monday.

Since Monreal belonged to the area of the Trier archbishopric, the property fell to Trier after the death of the last Count of Virneburg in 1545. The Elector of Trier appointed a bailiff instead of reassigning the fief and was later merged with the Obermayen office.

Monreal was destroyed twice in the 17th century: once in 1632 by Swedish troops and then in 1689 by French troops during the Nine Years’ War. At the same time, the cloth industry was discovered in Monreal, which brought prosperity to the small town. The half-timbered houses still bear witness to this today. However, this peak phase came to a serious end in the second half of the 19th century, as the clothiers could no longer keep up with the international competition. As a result, Monreal became impoverished.

 

Monreal’s Charming Old Town

The recovery of the city came in the 1930s, when people began to see the charm of the Eifel and Monreal’s romantic old town with its pretty half-timbered buildings became a destination for excursions. I can absolutely understand it, as it really is a beautiful old town. The little town lies in the valley, the Eltzbach flows through it and the two halves are connected by three old bridges.

Blick von der alten Brücke Monreal – Langzeitbelichtung

Blick auf die alte Brücke Monreal

Monreal – Langzeitbelichtung vom Eltzbach Richtung alte Brücke

Not only the fairytale half-timbered houses can be admired here, but also the late Gothic stonemasonry, which is presented on the bridges, among other things. For example on the Elzbrücke: here the Lion Monument awaits you. These four lions first stood at the gates of Monreal Castle to guard it. That is why it got its name – the Castle of Lions. Here is one of them:

Löwe auf der alten Brücke in Monreal

Monreal offers the visitor a small insight into the history described above. These were turbulent centuries and here they come to life. In order to illustrate this, in the years 2003/2004, information boards were installed all over Monreal.

 

The Two Castles – The Löwenburg and the Philippsburg

From Monreal, a path leads up to the two castles, the Löwenburg (Castle of Lions) and the Philippsburg (Castle of Philipp). You can’t actually miss them, firstly because the path signposted, and secondly because Monreal is really small.

Zu den Burgen – Schild in Monreal

Gleise und Löwenburg im Hintergrund

The Löwenburg is on the right and is a so-called spur castle, which is the most common type of high-altitude medieval fortifications in Germany. It means that the castle is not on the summit, but steeply above the valley on a mountain spur. The Löwenburg is the bigger of the two and one of the highlights of the whole trip. This is the view of the Löwenburg when you stand at the Philipsburg:

Loewenburg und Lensball von der Philippsburg aus fotografiert

You can explore them at your leisure and there are also information boards so that you always know what the towers and walls used to be. Because it’s not self-explanatory, unless you happen to be an expert in Medieval Studies.

Auf der Löwenburg Monreal

I particularly liked the fact that the tower is walkable. For this you should either have a flashlight or use your mobile phone as such. But it is not a long way to the top and so I arrived there only slightly out of breath. The walls are quite thick so that I personally found the view rather mediocre. Nevertheless, I love to stand in such places and think about how the people who lived here must have felt. What they thought. What stories the walls would tell me if they could speak.

Blick von der Löwenburg auf Monreal

From the Löwenburg you also have a good view of the Philippsburg. It was also built in the 13th century and was popularly called Rech – which is Middle High German for deer – because of its smaller size.

Philippsburg Monreal – Blick von der Löwenburg

It is not clear why the second castle was built at all: one theory says that it was built as a forework or outer work of the Löwenburg. However, there is also a local legend according to which the castle was a kind of answer from Philip to his brother Heinrich, who had built the Löwenburg illegally on his brother’s property. To me personally, it is not quite clear why this “answer” should be less impressive than the original. But I am not a medieval count… So what do I know? Hah!

In the 14th and 15th centuries, the complex was further extended and served several times as a widow’s seat of the count’s family. In the 16th century, Monreal was already the ancestral castle of the family and had replaced the Virneburg as its ancestral home.

The Philippsburg is especially worth a visit because you have a great view of the entire panorama from it and the tower is open to the top. So you can take cool pictures up to the top.

Loewenburg und Monreal von der Philippsburg aus fotografiert

 

Traumpfade (Dream Paths)

In the Rhine-Moselle-Eifel region, there are the so-called dream paths. These are well-signposted premium hiking trails in this region. Such a dream path also leads through Monreal: The Monrealer Ritterschlag, about which I write more below, even though I, unfortunately, haven’t been able to walk it myself yet.

 

Traumpfade Eifel

The volcanic Eifel is today a green and fertile land. This is how the nickname “green heart of Europe” came into being. Excursions in this region are not only something for nature lovers, but also offer a journey into days long gone by: peaked mountain cones, geological formations, and the crater lake Laacher See bear witness to the past as a volcanic landscape.

Here are a few of the Eifel’s dream paths that invite you to go hiking:

 

Monrealer Ritterschlag – Monreal’s Knighthood

The almost 14-kilometer-long hiking trail is one of the Eifel’s dream paths and goes right through Monreal and the castles. It is definitely on my bucket list and as soon as I have walked it, you will be the first to know about it here on Barbaralicious!

The highlights of Monreal’s Knighthood are:

  • Monreal with its charming old town
  • The Elz and Thürelz river valleys
  • Forest gorges and ridge paths
  • The panorama of the Eifel
  • The Philippsburg and Löwenburg

 

Traumpfädchen Rhein-Mosel-Eifel

If the afore-mentioned tours are too long for you, you can also walk one of the mini dream paths. These are only between three and seven kilometers long and can, therefore, be walked in a maximum of two hours. They are great for exploring other highlights of the region – such as Monreal or Eltz Castle, to name two examples – in addition to the short hike.

 

My Gear

On my tours, I am mainly on the road with clothes and equipment from Decathlon. My hiking boots for example are waterproof half-height hiking boots. In general, if you are a regular hiker or outdoor enthusiast, I recommend that you buy some appropriate clothing and shoes. In the worst case, normal sneakers will do, as long as they give you a good grip and you can handle them if they get dirty. On hikes like the one in the Margarethen Gorge, this can happen faster than you can look.

Wanderschuhe von Decathlon

I would also recommend protection for your phone. I got a nice scratch when I was hiking in Margaret Gorge. And that’s even though my phone didn’t fall off or bump into anything. At least not consciously. Therefore, I have now an outdoor case.

By the way, I take my pictures with a Sony Alpha 6500*. I usually switch between my two favorite lenses: a 10-18mm wide-angle lens* and a 30mm fixed focal length*. In case you’ve ever wondered how I take pictures of myself even though I’m often on the road alone: I have a Rollei tripod*.

 

My Final Thoughts

To be honest, I had never heard of Monreal. But since I’m always happy about photo tours with my buddy Jan and he has a good hand for choosing cool locations, I didn’t have to think twice about joining him or not. And that was absolutely right! Monreal was just adorable and we had a great tour.

Barbara in Monreal

Have you ever been to Monreal? Or have you ever heard of the romantic place in the Eifel?

 

PS: All links with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links!

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GORGE OF MARGARET

Hiking on the Katzenbuckel – The Path of Crystals

Hiking on the Katzenbuckel – The Path of Crystals

Hiking on the Katzenbuckel – The Path of Crystals

Since I have been drawn to the Odenwald a lot in the last few weeks, it was only a matter of time before I would take a hike on the Katzenbuckel (Katzenbuckel means cat’s hump in German). The Katzenbuckel is the highest mountain in the Odenwald and several hiking trails lead around it or over its summit. There is for example the Katzensteig, a 12-kilometer trail, but today I will first introduce you to the Path of the Crystals. This hike is a quick one but no less beautiful.

The Katzenbuckel

The highest mountain in the Odenwald – the Katzenbuckel – is located in the border triangle between Hesse, Baden-Württemberg, and Bavaria and is actually an extinct volcano. Its vent has a diameter of almost 1000 meters. At 626 meters, it is enthroned in the red sandstone plateau of the Odenwald and stands out from its surroundings due to its easily recognizable shape. It is located near Waldkatzenbach in the far south of the Odenwald. On the summit, there is a tower of the same name, from where you have an amazing view.

Katzenbuckel Infotafel

 

How Has The Katzenbuckel Been Created?

About 60 million years ago, the Katzenbuckel erupted, which was probably very explosive due to a steam explosion when the magma came into contact with the groundwater. This is indicated by tuffs and small volcanic bombs. Today neither collapse funnels nor craters are visible. So the assumption is based purely on geological findings.

Since the end of the 19th century, volcanic rock has been mined in two quarries: Gaffstein and Michelsberg. In the 1920s, however, only one quarry was still visible on the maps: The Gaffstein had fallen victim to mining. In 1970 a blasting led to the fact that the work on the second quarry was also stopped: Groundwater had seeped into the Michelsberg Quarry and the Katzenbuckelsee (the lake of the Katzenbuckel) was created.

 

Where Does The Name Katzenbuckel Come From?

There are various explanations, but none of them is verified.

    1. The most obvious explanation is that the shape of the mountain resembles the back of a cat.
    2. Another assumption is that the name is etymologically derived from the Chatti – a Germanic tribe that lived in this area. They once had their main settlement area in northern and central Hesse and their name lives on in the neighboring state of Hesse, which is only three kilometers away from the Katzenbuckel.

 

The Path of Crystals

For your hike on the nature trail, you should choose a day with good weather if possible, as there is a lookout tower on the top of the Katzenbuckel which gives you an excellent all-round view. But only in good weather. Here are a few facts in brief:

Distance

2,4 Kilometer

Duration

1 Hour

)

Difference in Altitude

144 Meters

Highest Point

626 Meters

The Starting Point: Turmschenke / Villa Katzenbuckel

Until January 1st of 2020, the restaurant at the Katzenbuckel was in the hands of the Geier family. During the 65 years, the Turmschenke became a popular place in the Odenwald. Since May 18th of 2020, it has been reopened under new management and with a new name: The Villa Katzenbuckel awaits guests with Odenwald specialties. The restaurant is also a lounge, bar and hotel.

There is a parking lot from where you can plunge into the short adventure. Two large info boards mark the beginning of the Path of Crystals.

Infotafel Weg der Kristalle

 

Weg der Kristalle

 

The Katzenbuckelsee (Lake Katzenbuckel)

After a short hike, you get to the Katzenbuckelsee. As described above in the section on the formation of the Katzenbuckel, it was created by a blasting in the former quarry. Groundwater had entered the quarry, after which it was abandoned. You can get a glimpse of the lake through the trees, but unfortunately, you can’t get close enough to take a good photo from the Path of Crystals. The trees are also very dense. If you want to get to the lake, you can try it by leaving the path.

As you go halfway around the lake, you will pass several info boards that give information about the formation of the Katzenbuckel and the minerals. In this way, the hike gains an informative aspect and also becomes a journey into the history of the earth. Of course, you can decide how much background information you want to have.

Weg der Kristalle Infotafel

 

The Viewpoint Katzenbuckel

When you leave the lake behind you, it won’t be long before you can see the old tower between the trees. But do not confuse it with the ski jump of the Eberbach Ski Guild, founded in 1949. The ski jump is closed and may not be entered.

Wandern auf dem Katzenbuckel

Aussichtsturm Katzenbuckel

The observation tower, on the other hand, is an 18-meter-high stone tower that was built in 1820. The round tower is made of sandstone – just like this part of the Odenwald. Once you reach the top, you have an excellent view of the Taunus, the Spessart, and even the Rhön.

Panorama Aussichtsturm Katzenbuckel

Auf dem Aussichtsturm des Katzenbuckel

From the observation tower, it is only a stone’s throw back to Villa Katzenbuckel. On the way there you have a great view of Waldkatzenbach and can enjoy the moment on benches at the edge of the forest.

Auf dem Katzenbuckel

Aussicht Katzenbuckel

In the Villa Katzenbuckel, you can stop by if you wish and let the day end quietly.

 

Ideas For Nearby Activities

The Horse Farm Pan Perdu

Close to the Katzenbuckel, there is a horse farm called Hof Pan Perdu. I recently spent a whole weekend here (a separate post will follow!) and I can highly recommend it to you if you love animals as much as I do and would like to explore the Odenwald from horseback. The four-legged friends are elegant and gentle and will certainly give you unique experiences if you are open to them.

 

The Katzenbuckel Spa

Alternatively, you can also give your body a break: In the local spa Katzenbuckeltherme there are several swimming pools, a relaxation area, and a sauna are waiting for you. A visit here can be perfectly combined with a hike. But make sure that it is open! While I am writing these lines, it is still closed because of Corona.

 

Hiking in the Region

About hiking in the Odenwald, I have already written an own article. I have also written a blog post about the Felsenmeer and the Gorge of Margaret.

If you like hiking and want to explore the surrounding regions, I can recommend having a look at the Palatinate Forest, the Spessart, or the Taunus. Blog posts will follow for these regions. So far, I can only refer you to my blog post about Staufen in the Taunus outside the Odenwald.

 

City Trips in the Region

If you want to make a city trip in this part of Germany, I recommend the following cities:

  • Aschaffenburg: Aschaffenburg is nicknamed the gate to the Spessart. Besides the (partly very photogenic) sights like the Aschaffenburg castle, which the town itself has to offer, you can also reach the forest quickly from here and can let off steam on many hiking trails.
  • Heidelberg: Heidelberg is located directly at the Neckar and offers a picturesque backdrop with the river, the old town and the castle on the mountain. Here you will also find the ideal mixture of town and countryside.
  • Lohr am Main: Lohr am Main was first mentioned in a document in 1295 and is generally known as Snow White town. Although this is not documented, it is quite possible, since the Brothers Grimm lived in Hanau and passed through the Spessart on their way to Bremen.
  • Mannheim: The square city is worth a visit at any time. Whether inside or outside, there is always something to do or experience here.
  • Michelstadt: The historical old town with the famous town hall and the half-timbered houses is simply enchanting. My tip: Take a photo tour at sunrise when you have the cobblestone streets all to yourself! Near Michelstadt there are a lot of hiking trails so that you won’t get bored.
  • Miltenberg: The small town in Lower Franconia is located between Odenwald and Spessart and is a real gem. The old town is picturesque and even the starting point of several hiking trails. The Mildenburg and the museum of the city of Miltenberg offer the culturally interested among us the opportunity to quench their thirst for knowledge.

 

My Gear

On my tours, I am mainly on the road with clothes and equipment from Decathlon. My hiking boots for example are waterproof half-height hiking boots. In general, if you are a regular hiker or outdoor enthusiast, I recommend that you buy some appropriate clothing and shoes. In the worst case, normal sneakers will do, as long as they give you a good grip and you can handle them if they get dirty. On hikes like the one in the Margarethen Gorge, this can happen faster than you can look.

Wanderschuhe von Decathlon

I would also recommend protection for your phone. I got a nice scratch when I was hiking in Margaret Gorge. And that’s even though my phone didn’t fall off or bump into anything. At least not consciously. Therefore, I have now an outdoor case.

By the way, I take my pictures with a Sony Alpha 6500*. I usually switch between my two favorite lenses: a 10-18mm wide-angle lens* and a 30mm fixed focal length*. In case you’ve ever wondered how I take pictures of myself even though I’m often on the road alone: I have a Rollei tripod*.

 

My Final Thoughts

I love being out in nature, but for me, it doesn’t have to be a day hike every time I go out. Therefore I liked the Path of Crystals on the Katzenbuckel very much. The hike is not long but with the tower and the view, it is still a lot of fun. Also, like this you have more time to enjoy the view, the restaurant, the horse farm, or the spa…

Have you ever been on the Katzenbuckel?

 

PS: All links with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links!

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THE GORGE OF MARGARET

The Gorge of Margaret – The Highest Waterfall of the Odenwald

The Gorge of Margaret – The Highest Waterfall of the Odenwald

The Gorge of Margaret – The Highest Waterfall of the Odenwald

If Corona had anything positive for me, it was that I am now getting to know my own home country better! While I had not done a single hike in Germany until a few months ago, I think I’m now doing quite well with about 20 of them. Of course, I would like to share these hikes with you. I started with my blog post about the Felsenmeer a few weeks ago, then I continued with my blog post about hiking in the Odenwald and today my third post comes about a hike in this beautiful region: to the Gorge of Margaret where the highest waterfall of the Odenwald is waiting for me.

The Gorge of Margaret

The hiking trail in the Gorge of Margaret is a journey through the history of the earth. Information boards are placed along the trail to tell about the background of the formation of the gorge and to draw attention to special features of the flora and fauna. For example, it is explained that the humid climate ensures that many fern plants can be found here and that fire salamanders live in the area around the stream called Flursbach. Unfortunately, I did not see any, although I was particularly attentive after I saw the sign. But I advise you to look down – no matter if you are on the “hunt” for fire salamanders or not. Because there is quite a danger of stumbling in the partly narrow gorge.

In the gorge, you will also find the highest waterfall of the Odenwald, which is one of the highest in Germany! Over 110 meters the water of the Flursbach falls down in smaller cascades. The highest is 10 meters. The mountain is called Gickelberg by the way.

 

The Starting Point in Neckargerach

Neckargerach is a state-approved resort in a wonderful location, namely in the Neckartal-Odenwald Nature Park and the Bergstrasse-Odenwald Geo-Nature Park. Here – between Heidelberg and Heilbronn – those seeking recreation will find an ideal mixture of water, meadows, and forests.

The starting point itself is the train station of this pearl. This is super practical because you can either arrive by car and park there (like me coming from Frankfurt and having a relatively long journey) or, if you come from the surrounding area, by train. However, I found the station a bit hard to find: I had only entered the Bahnstraße in my navigation system. But since it’s around a corner again and the sign for the station is very faded, I went straight twice. Alternatively, you can also find a Park & Ride on the side where I was first – going straight instead of turning right.

On whichever of the two P&R you park, there are signs everywhere that are in better shape than the ones to the station. Finding the way to the canyon is therefore definitely no problem.

Margarethenschlucht Beschilderung

 

The Hike

For your hike, you should choose a dry day if possible, as it can get slippery in the gorge. But still, you might want to choose a day after some rain because otherwise, the waterfall is going to be very thin. Here are a few facts in a brief and concise overview:

Distance

4 Kilometers

Duration

2 Hours

)

Difference in Altitude

281 Meters

Highest Point

291 Meters

After ten or fifteen minutes walking you will have a fantastic view of the Neckar valley. The river Neckar winds in a pretty perfect loop around the Zwerrenberg. This is an excellent first photo spot!

Ausblick ins Neckartal

Then you reach the entrance to the gorge. A sign warns you that entering the gorge is at your own risk, that there is a danger of slipping and also that especially now in the time of Corona, the minimum distance is difficult to keep. Therefore, I would like to ask you at this point to act calmly and definitely not to push during this time. You should never do that, of course, but at the moment, even more, solidarity is needed than usual.

It won’t take long, you can see a first view of the highest part of the waterfall.

Der Wasserfall in der Margarethenschlucht

The waterfall is really a breathtaking sight. You should definitely have a camera with you to capture the tour. It is impressive how the water makes its way down into the valley and splashes on the rocks in front of my eyes.

Der Wasserfall in der Margarethenschlucht

I almost thought that was it, but then it turned out that the Margarethenschlucht path really does run through the gorge and over and over again over the Flursbach. So it goes back and forth for a while. On the rocks, there are partly wire ropes to which you can hold on to when the “step” is a bit high. Again and again, the above-mentioned information boards explain different things and so the hike becomes even more entertaining.

Farngewächs in der Margarethenschlucht

Der Wasserfall in der Margarethenschlucht

Except for a place at the very beginning, where you have to turn left to follow the course of the stream, you really can’t miss the path.

But to be sure, I would still recommend that you download Outdooractive or Komoot. Both are available as an app and there you can download the gpx data. Then, you really can’t get lost. You can also follow my tour here:

My Tour on Outdooractive

Basically, I think you should be able to cross the stream on dry feet. At least as long as you have shoes with good grip and don’t slip. But that probably also depends on how much water the creek carries. Further down, I recommend hiking boots, which are even waterproof in case you do slip or step next to a stone.

The gorge itself is about two kilometers long. Once you reach the top, it’s a short detour back to Neckargerach. You will pass a wild animal enclosure and another enclosure with goats.

Ziegen nahe der Margarethenschlucht

After about 1.5 kilometers the path then meets the path you came from again. Turn right and you will return straight to your starting point – the train station of Neckargerach.

 

Other Destinations in the Area

If you like hiking and want to explore other regions, I can recommend you to visit the Pfälzerwald, the Spessart or the Taunus. Blog posts will follow for these regions. So far, I can only refer you to my blog post about the Staufen in the Taunus.

If you want to make a city trip in this part of Germany, I recommend the following cities:

  • Aschaffenburg: Aschaffenburg is nicknamed the gate to the Spessart. Besides the (partly very photogenic) sights like the Aschaffenburg castle, which the town itself has to offer, you can also reach the forest quickly from here and can let off steam on many hiking trails.
  • Heidelberg: Heidelberg is located directly at the Neckar and offers a picturesque backdrop with the river, the old town and the castle on the mountain. Here you will also find the ideal mixture of town and countryside.
  • Lohr am Main: Lohr am Main was first mentioned in a document in 1295 and is generally known as Snow White town. Although this is not documented, it is quite possible, since the Brothers Grimm lived in Hanau and passed through the Spessart on their way to Bremen.
  • Mannheim: The square city is worth a visit at any time. Whether inside or outside, there is always something to do or experience here.
  • Michelstadt: The historical old town with the famous town hall and the half-timbered houses is simply enchanting. My tip: Take a photo tour at sunrise when you have the cobblestone streets all to yourself! Near Michelstadt there are a lot of hiking trails so that you won’t get bored.
  • Miltenberg: The small town in Lower Franconia is located between Odenwald and Spessart and is a real gem. The old town is picturesque and even the starting point of several hiking trails. The Mildenburg and the museum of the city of Miltenberg offer the culturally interested among us the opportunity to quench their thirst for knowledge.

 

My Gear

On my tours, I am mainly on the road with clothes and equipment from Decathlon. My hiking boots for example are waterproof half-height hiking boots. In general, if you are a regular hiker or outdoor enthusiast, I recommend that you buy some appropriate clothing and shoes. In the worst case, normal sneakers will do, as long as they give you a good grip and you can handle them if they get dirty. On hikes like the one in the Margarethen Gorge, this can happen faster than you can look.

Wanderschuhe von Decathlon

I would also recommend protection for your phone. I got a nice scratch when I was hiking in Margaret Gorge. And that’s even though my phone didn’t fall off or bump into anything. At least not consciously. Therefore, I have now an outdoor case.

By the way, I take my pictures with a Sony Alpha 6500*. I usually switch between my two favorite lenses: a 10-18mm wide-angle lens* and a 30mm fixed focal length*. In case you’ve ever wondered how I take pictures of myself even though I’m often on the road alone: I have a Rollei tripod*.

 

Final Thoughts

The Gorge of Margaret is a really lovely destination! The waterfall is a great motive for amazing photos and through the signage, you can learn a lot about the (earth’s) history, the formation of the gorge, and its flora and fauna. The path is also not very difficult to walk. Personally, I didn’t have sore muscles at all, but that depends on how regularly you go on hikes.

All in all, I loved the trip.

Have you ever been to the Gorge of Margaret?

 

PS: All links marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links!​

Did you like this blog post?

Share it in your social networks!

Subscribe to my newsletter so I can keep you posted about my life of travels and as a digital nomad! You will never miss a new blog post, a new ebook or where my next adventure is going to bring us. Because it’s never going to be boring!

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Hiking in the Odenwald – Discover Your Home And Have Fun in the Outdoors

Hiking in the Odenwald – Discover Your Home And Have Fun in the Outdoors

Hiking in the Odenwald – Discover Your Home And Have Fun in the Outdoors

The Odenwald is so close to my home town Frankfurt, but apart from a single excursion with my primary school class – about 25 years ago – I have never really made it to this area in the past. Now I’m changing that, because of the new situation with Corona I want to get to know the region better where I grew up. In addition, a possibility has opened up for me, because of which I am traveling a lot in the region of Odenwald and Spessart.

So, these are my favorite places and routes for hiking in the Odenwald!

The Odenwald

The Odenwald is a low mountain range in southern Hesse, Lower Franconia, and northern Baden, which offers a fabulous landscape. Castles and palaces offer the perfect basis for numerous legends and stories that entwine around the places. Rough rocky landscapes alternate with wide, romantic valleys and gentle hills with peacefully rippling streams… The small towns in the Odenwald such as Michelstadt and Erbach are no less idyllic and live from the picturesque old towns, which are known nationwide with their colorful half-timbered houses.

Blick auf Schloss Lichtenberg

Altstadt Miltenberg

You will find all this in the Odenwald, making the area interesting and exciting for holidaymakers, day-trippers, and photographers alike.

 

Hiking in the Odenwald

In this idyll, the UNESCO Geo-Nature Park Bergstraße-Odenwald awaits you. Fresh air, great photo spots, and marked trails are the best conditions for hiking in the Odenwald or for outdoor enthusiasts who come to this part of Germany. There are three long-distance hiking trails that have been awarded the title “Qualitätsweg Wanderbares Deutschland” (Quality Trail Hikable Germany) by the German Hiking Association: the Alemannenweg, the Nibelungensteig, and the Burgensteig Bergstrasse. They are over 100 kilometers long. But of course, there are also short hiking trails and excursions for a few hours or a day. Now I would like to introduce you to ten of them:

 

 

The Felsenmeer

The Felsenmeer (German for Sea of Rocks) is probably the best-known spot for hiking in the Odenwald. It is located directly at the Nibelungensteig, a well-known long-distance hiking trail over 130 kilometers, and offers you an insight into the history of the earth, the history of the last 2000 years, and the world of legends and myths. Sore muscles are guaranteed, making the day trip perfect.

You can either walk up once and then walk back the same way, or you can take the hiking trails around the sea of rocks for one stretch. You can plan about 1.5 hours for the hike one way.

Wandern im Odenwald: Das Felsenmeer in Lautertal im Odenwald

This is my blog post with a detailed description of the hike: The Felsenmeer – The Sea of Rocks in the Odenwald.

 

The Himbächel-Viadukt

The Himbächel-Viadukt is a 250-meter-long stone arch bridge in Oberzent-Hetzbach, which was inaugurated in 1882 and is still in use today. So you can watch the Odenwaldbahn ride along here once an hour. Around the viaduct, there is a beautiful hiking trail. This leads on a short detour through Hetzbach and then, after an underpass, under the tracks. On the other side, you are almost in the field. Following a footpath, you then walk in an arc away from the viaduct and then towards it. Depending on your speed, it will take you about 1.5 hours to complete the loop.

Wandern im Odenwald: Das Himbächel-Viadukt

 

The Marbach-Stausee

Although the Marbach reservoir was built at the beginning of the 1980s to protect against flooding, it has also been officially used as a local recreation area since 1986. It is the largest still water of the Odenwald. A hydroelectric power station with a capacity of 80 kW was attached to the reservoir.

A hiking trail has been created around the reservoir. You can plan about one hour for the tour itself. But the lake offers even more: It is suitable for swimming and from May to September there are even lifeguards. Outside this time, you can go swimming at your own risk. In the bathing area, there is also a lawn with tables and benches. There is also a bird sanctuary and an area where you can surf and sail.

Wandern im Odenwald: Barbara im Sonnenuntergang am Marbach-Stausee

 

The Margarethenschlucht

And now we’re taking a trip to Thailand… Oh, no, wait! We’re in the Odenwald. In this place, you can easily forget where you are.

In the 300-meter long Margarethen Gorge, the highest waterfall of the Odenwald is waiting for you. Here the waterfall plunges ten meters into the depth. But it’s not only the waterfall, the Margarethenschlucht itself is also worth the tour: the rough and exotic surroundings give the impression as if you had been beamed to another country. The hike takes about 2.5 hours, depending on how many photos you take.

Wandern im Odenwald: Der 10 Meter hohe Wasserfall in der Margarethenschlucht

 

The Obrunnschlucht

Situated between Höchst in the Odenwald and Rimhorn, the Obrunn Gorge is home to a hiking and fairy-tale trail that has been attracting hikers from the surrounding area and even from the Rhine-Main region for many decades. The gorge is about three kilometers long and lies up to 17 meters below the road that runs parallel to the hiking trail. You have to cross the peacefully rippling stream several times over wooden bridges. Along the way and on small islands in the course of the stream, miniature models have been lovingly built, depicting figures and buildings from the world of legends and fairytales.

Die Obrunnschlucht – Märchenweg und Wanderpfad im Odenwald

 

The Meditationsweg

The Meditationsweg (German for Meditation Trail) runs for five kilometers between the Michelstadt districts of Steinbach and Rehbach. Along the way, there are ten stations where the verses of St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun are presented. The path invites us to reflect. Awe and gratitude are in the focus. The Einhards Basilica, where the walk begins, is a great photo spot and worth a detour.

 

The Hubenweg

Follow in the footsteps of the Romans at the Odenwaldlimes on the 17-kilometer long Hubenweg loop. It runs on the high plateau of Michelstadt-Würzberg and therefore has hardly any ascending slopes. The loop leads over fields, along the forest, and through woodland. A Roman fort is on the way as well as the ruins of a bath from Roman times.

 

The Weg der Kristalle (Path of Crystals)

This geological theme trail is located on the Katzenbuckel – with 626 meters the highest mountain in the Odenwald. The hike is easy and only two kilometers long. Therefore it is also well suited to experience it with the whole family. The observation tower with a fantastic view is the highlight of the tour.

 

The Römerweg (Path of Romans)

The Römerweg in Miltenberg is a medium-difficult hiking trail with a length of 17 kilometers. It runs for a large part along a Celtic ring wall on which the Romans had built a temple of Mercury. Unfortunately, you can only see the remains in the museum. Otherwise, the two highlights of the tour are the viewpoints. One is right at the beginning of the trail after you have left the main road of Miltenberg. The other one is the Haagsausicht after some three-quarters of the way. Both times you have a fantastic view of the Main valley.

Die Haagsaussicht auf dem Römerweg in Miltenberg

 

The Pfad der Vielfalt (Path of Diversity)

The (Pfad der Vielfalt) is located in Fischbachtal and is an easy but varied hiking trail of about five kilometers. My highlights were the flowering orchards, the view of Lichtenberg Castle, and the old quarry where a lake has formed. Not only fish live there, but also freshwater jellyfish. I think I should take another trip there and try to get one of them in front of the camera.

Blühende Streuobstwiese mit Schafen auf dem Pfad der Vielfalt

 

 

Other Destinations in the Area

If you like hiking and want to explore other regions, I can recommend you to visit the Pfälzerwald, the Spessart or the Taunus. Blog posts will follow for these regions. So far, I can only refer you to my blog post about the Staufen in the Taunus.

If you want to make a city trip in this part of Germany, I recommend the following cities:

  • Aschaffenburg: Aschaffenburg is nicknamed the gate to the Spessart. Besides the (partly very photogenic) sights like the Aschaffenburg castle, which the town itself has to offer, you can also reach the forest quickly from here and can let off steam on many hiking trails.
  • Heidelberg: Heidelberg is located directly at the Neckar and offers a picturesque backdrop with the river, the old town and the castle on the mountain. Here you will also find the ideal mixture of town and countryside.
  • Lohr am Main: Lohr am Main was first mentioned in a document in 1295 and is generally known as Snow White town. Although this is not documented, it is quite possible, since the Brothers Grimm lived in Hanau and passed through the Spessart on their way to Bremen.
  • Mannheim: The square city is worth a visit at any time. Whether inside or outside, there is always something to do or experience here.
  • Michelstadt: The historical old town with the famous town hall and the half-timbered houses is simply enchanting. My tip: Take a photo tour at sunrise when you have the cobblestone streets all to yourself! Near Michelstadt there are a lot of hiking trails so that you won’t get bored.
  • Miltenberg: The small town in Lower Franconia is located between Odenwald and Spessart and is a real gem. The old town is picturesque and even the starting point of several hiking trails. The Mildenburg and the museum of the city of Miltenberg offer the culturally interested among us the opportunity to quench their thirst for knowledge.

 

My Final Thoughts

The Odenwald is versatile and varied. My personal highlights were the Felsenmeer, the Himbächel Viaduct, the Marbach Reservoir, and the Margarethen Gorge. These places are so much more than just hiking trails. They offer a great opportunity for extraordinary photos and give an insight into history in different ways. Whether the history of the earth or the history of modern times … For me, such backgrounds make a place special!

If you like to be outside, go hiking or if you enjoy visiting castles, palaces or viaducts, this region offers you a lot of possibilities. It certainly won’t get boring that quickly.

What is your favorite trail for hiking in the Odenwald?

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The Felsenmeer – The Sea of Rocks in the Odenwald

The Felsenmeer – The Sea of Rocks in the Odenwald

The Felsenmeer – The Sea of Rocks in the Odenwald

I was about 10 years old when I went on a school trip to the Felsenmeer (German for sea of rocks) in the Odenwald. It was the first and only time I saw this place. I remember how fascinated I was climbing over the rocks, even though at the same time I did not understand how magical these rocks really are. More than two decades later I returned. Armed with my camera and eager to learn more about the sea of rocks.

How to Get to The Felsenmeer

For the hike in the Felsenmeer you have to travel to Lautertal in the Odenwald and there you have to go to the information center Informationszentrum Felsenmeer. This is an ideal starting point for the hike. The best way to get there is by car. At the information center, there is a paid parking lot where you can leave your car while doing the hike.

Alternatively, you can park on the Felsberg – the top of the mountain above the Felsenmeer – free of charge. Next to the restaurant Ada’s Buka you can leave your car in a car park and either walk downhill to the Felsenmeer or uphill to other hiking trails.

Wegweiser im Felsenmeer auf dem Felsberg

 

The Felsenmeer

The Felsenmeer is located above Lautertal-Reichenbach in the Odenwald on a mountain called Felsberg (German for mountain of rocks). It is a rocky landscape of dark grey quartz diorite. The Romans already used the Felsenmeer for stone extraction. This tradition was later continued by local stonemasons. Today this so-called “Felsberg granite” is no longer mined.

Das Felsenmeer im Odenwald

The Felsenmeer has become a popular recreation area and destination for hikers, which also makes children’s hearts beat faster and is, therefore, suitable for trips with the whole family.

 

The Legend of The Felsenmeer

Two giants are said to have dwelled in the Reichenbach area. One lived on the Felsberg and was called Felshocker (German for he who sits on a rock), while Steinbeißer (German for he who bites rocks)  lived on a mountain called Hohenstein. The valley Lautertal divided their empires. One day they got into an argument and started throwing rocks at each other. Steinbeißer had more throwing material at his disposal, which gave him an advantage. So Felshocker ended up under the rocks. Legend has it that you can still hear him roar under the Felsenmeer sometimes. On the Hohenstein, there is a single wall of rocks, which is said to have been the last house wall of the other giant.

 

Origin of The Felsenmeers

The oldest rocks of this part of the Odenwald, which is also called the Crystalline Odenwald because of its age, are probably more than 500 million years old. 380 to 340 million years ago, two large primeval continents divided the planet. Due to the so-called continental drift, the two large continents moved towards each other and became one: the primeval continent Pangaea was born. Through various tectonic processes of a smaller continent in the course of the fusion of the two original continents, the Odenwald was created, which at that time was located at the level of the equator.

The quartz diorite that makes up the rock sea is a crystalline rock that probably took a good 10 million years to cool down. During this process, the rocks shrunk and cracked. When the sea level rose all over the world in the Mesozoic Era, the Odenwald was flooded and covered with deposits. It took many millions of years to remove them. This was supported by the collapse of the Rheingraben (the Rhine Rift) about 50 million years ago. Finally, cuboid blocks were formed by the deepening cracks. From then on, the stones were exposed to the weather.

The last ice age about 12,000 years ago transformed the Odenwald into a permafrost zone. When the frost line receded at the end, the stones started to move and thus led to the formation of the sea of rocks as we know it.

 

The Hike

The hike through the Felsenmeer has a very special character. Like suddenly cooled waves the boulders pile up in front of you and you have to climb a lot to overcome them. But don’t be afraid if you want to enjoy the sea of rocks but you are not a climbing fan: there is also a normal hiking trail that runs along the edge and for example a bridge that crosses the sea.

Weg zum Felsenmeer

Steine im Felsenmeer

I started from the top, from the parking lot on the Felsberg, and followed the path down. It is impressive how suddenly the first rocks appear and gradually become more and more. On the way, right next to the giant column, which is a testimony of the presence of the Romans in this region 2000 years ago, there is a hut to stop for a bite to eat, which unfortunately was closed when I was there because of Corona.

Im Felsenmeer im Odenwald

Up to here, I could easily walk back and forth between the stones. But now the stones become so dense that the climbing begins. At the same time, the view into the valley opens up before me. Wonderful!

Aussicht vom Felsenmeer ins Lautertal

At this point, you should make the decision whether to avoid the sea of rocks on the hiking trail or to go for some climbing fun. I go for the latter.

My legs start hurting and I notice very quickly that I will certainly have sore muscles the next day. But it feels good at the same time and the almost surreal landscape of the Felsenmeer distracts me from my burning calves and thighs.

Bachlauf im Felsenmeer im Odenwald

For the last part after the bridge, I choose the path. This is, by the way, part of the 130-kilometer-long Nibelungensteig – a long-distance hike and main hiking trail of the Odenwaldklub.

Wanderweg im Felsenmeer

Holzstufen im Felsenmeer

Once you have arrived, you can find out all kinds of information about the history and formation of the Felsenmeer Informationszentrum, if you want to read more about this topic. However, you should check if it is open, as it is currently closed due to Corona. I was there the week before the social distancing started and was able to explore it before the lockdown.

 

My Final Thoughts

The Felsenmeer is a cool place to visit and not only children have fun here. My legs were really burning the next day, so you not only have a great photo spot with lots of sagas and stories, but the hike is also a workout for your legs.

I give two thumbs up for the Felsenmeer in the Odenwald!

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The Staufen in the Taunus – A Hike, a Castle Site, And an Oath

The Staufen in the Taunus – A Hike, a Castle Site, And an Oath

The Staufen in the Taunus – A Hike, a Castle Site, And an Oath

The Staufen in the Taunus has always been familiar to me. Sure: It is only about an hour walk from the place where I grew up. But as is so often the case, I have explored many destinations around the world. Only my home country I never knew very well. But in these difficult times, I learn to appreciate what is right in front of my doorstep. And so I started to get to know the region. My first trip was to the Staufen. I didn’t even realize what a legendary place it is.

How to Get There

For the hike on the Staufen in the Taunus, you have to travel to my home village Kelkheim and there to the Waldgasthof Gundelhard. This is the starting point for the hike. The best way to get there is as follows::

  • By car – There is a large parking lot in front of the Waldgasthof Gundelhard. So you can simply use Google Maps to get there and then leave your car on the parking lot.
  • By public transport and foot – If you are not traveling by car, you can take the Taunusbahn from Frankfurt’s main station or Höchst in the direction of Königstein, get off in Kelkheim Münster and then follow Google Maps or your preferred navigation service. It takes about half an hour to walk from the train station to the Gundelhard.

 

The Hike

When you stand in front of the Gundelhard and look at the house, take the path to your right, so that you have the field on the left and the forest on the right. There are usually lots of people enjoying nature, especially on weekends. Because the inn is a bit like a junction: From here hiking routes lead in all directions and to several great places. The Staufen in the Taunus is one of them. But from here you can also go to the so-called Kaisertempel, the Bahá’ì Temple or the Meisterturm.

Von der Gundelhard zum Staufen

Just keep walking straight until the road makes a 90-degree turn to the left. There you follow the path into the forest. Unfortunately, the Staufen is not signposted. Either ask your way through or keep Google Maps open. This is not ideal because not all hiking trails are marked. But this way you can roughly guess where you have to go when you get to a crossroads. Although there are not many crossroads anyways. Just keep left after entering the forest, walk up the mountain and turn right at a large intersection with a picnic table (last photo below). From there you go straight again until you reach the view point.

Von der Gundelhard zum Staufen

Von der Gundelhard zum Staufen

Von der Gundelhard zum Staufen

Von der Gundelhard zum Staufen

If you are walking at a leisurely pace and making photo stops to capture the beauty of nature, you should still not need more than an hour. It is only 2.7 kilometers from the Gundelhard to the Staufen.

Auf dem Staufen im Taunus

Auf dem Staufen im Taunus

You can tell that you have arrived by the fact that there are probably a few hikers and cyclists enjoying the view. They are probably sitting on the group of rocks to your right, the so-called Großer Mannstein.

Auf dem Staufen im Taunus – Der Große Mannstein

 

The Staufen in the Taunus

Now you are almost 450 meters above sea level. The summit itself is densely forested and not very exciting. From the Großer Mannstein, on the other hand, you have a fantastic view, which on clear days allows you to see as far as the Odenwald. According to the legend, it was created when a knight was petrified by a mountain giant.

Auf dem Staufen – Ausblick vom Großen Mannstein

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a very clear day when I was up there. But nevertheless, I don’t want to withhold a close-up of Frankfurt’s skyline and my home town Kelkheim from you:

Ausblick vom Großen Mannstein auf Frankfurt

Ausblick vom Großen Mannstein auf Kelkheim

 

The Tale of the Großer Mannstein

The origin of such a place is often shrouded in legends. This is also the case of the Großer Mannstein, which tells us the story of Kelkheim’s Romeo and Juliet.

Legend has it that a noble boy who grew up in Königstein Castle and was knighted in Frankfurt at a young age met a noblewoman. Her father was an enemy of the lord of the castle, so she secretly came to a party in the noble boy’s house. The boy and the girl fell in love with each other and arranged to meet near the lady’s castle.

However, her father had the girl watched by a servant who was also a witch, so the servant quickly understood what was going on and even watched the couple together. When the couple noticed that the servant was lurking in the shadows, they fled to the Staufen. The witch was quicker though and turned first the noble boy and then the young lady into stone.

It is said that the two lovers wake up every 13 years and take a stroll around the Gimbacher Hof. The next day they transform back into the stones. 

 

The Circular Rampart

Unfortunately, not much of the castle has been preserved. At best one can only guess that it has been here and there is so little left that even dating was not possible. However, shards of clay have been found which appear to be Roman Terra Sigillata and thus date from the 1st century BC.

With such a poor state of preservation, one no longer speaks of a ruin but of a castle site. The wall is 9 meters long, 3.5 meters wide and 2.7 meters high.

It is assumed that it was a small rampart that had a wooden tower to control the road. This road led from the river Main to the ridge of the Taunus. The castle was first mentioned in 1361.

 

The Oath of The Staufen

But the vantage point is not only beautiful with its view of the Taunus and the Rhine-Main plain, and looks back on two millennia of history. A truly memorable event also took place at this point: In October 1838, the brothers Friedrich, Heinrich, and Max von Gagern, after whom one of Kelkheim’s primary schools was named, met here to swear loyalty in the fight for German unity. This endeavor is expressed in this verse from a poem by Friedrich von Gagern:

Nur eine deutsche Fahne sollte wehen
Vom Ostseestrand bis zu der Alpen Höhen;
Und unsre Losung war: Ein Deutschland sei,
Ein Vaterland – groß, mächtig, einig frei!

A memorial plate on the Großer Mannstein still commemorates this so-called Oath of the Staufen today.

Großer Mannstein – Staufenschwur

Heinrich von Gagern became president of the Frankfurt National Assembly, the first parliament of the then emerging German Reich, ten years after the Staufen Oath.

The brothers are buried on the Kelkheim Hornau cemetery, from where they can look up to the Großer Mannstein. This way they are reminded of their oath even in death.

 

 

The Oak of Schiller And The Memorial Stone

Near the rampart is also the so-called Oak of Schiller with a corresponding memorial stone. Baroness Antonie von Reinach had the American red oak planted to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of Friedrich von Schiller’s death. Next to it on a memorial stone, it says “Schiller-Eiche 9. Mai 1805-1905”.

 

My Final Thoughts

Even though I delayed it for 33 years until I finally took it, a hike on the Staufen in the Taunus and to the Großer Mannstein is an absolute must for Kelkheimers as well as all those who live in the area or travel here and are hiking enthusiasts.

And as soon as the Waldgasthof Gundelhard is open again, you can stop here after your return from the hike, enjoy a cool drink or fill your hungry stomach.

Deine Barbara

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