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!​

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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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AUTUMN IN THE RHINE MAIN AREA

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HIKING IN THE ODENWALD

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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Vipiteno – At The Idyllic Doorstep to Italy

Vipiteno – At The Idyllic Doorstep to Italy

Vipiteno – At The Idyllic Doorstep to Italy

Vipiteno is located in South Tyrol directly behind the Austrian border when you cross the Brenner Pass and is the northernmost town in Italy. I have been there regularly for a good 25 years. The reason for this is its ideal location. Because when I was little, we – that is, my parents, my brother and I – used to drive to Sicily every year by car, where my mother came from, and Vipiteno is perfect for a first stop on the way to the south of Bella Italia. But why you should spend more than just one night here, I’ll show you today:

Vipiteno – The Facts

Vipiteno has an incomparable charm – regardless of the season, it enchants its visitors. Even though I know the alpine town especially in the warm season, because we usually made a stop here when we went to Venice in May, to Verona in August or to Palermo in October, I assure you that the place is worth visiting at any time of the year.

Framed by the mountain panorama, picturesque shopping streets await you in one of the most beautiful old towns of the country with medieval churches and squares.

You love sports? Then go hiking on the Rosskopf, golfing on the golf course or skating in the ice rink. The high ropes course ensures fun and a high adrenalin level. Even though I now love to put on my hiking boots (which I did here), I am still more on the side of culture enthusiasts: The gothic churches and medieval castles leave me with a feeling of astonishment and reverence.

The good thing about Vipiteno? Here you can combine everything! So you have the perfect mixture.

 

Vipiteno – How to Get There

By train: Vipiteno has a railway station. You can get there via the Brenner/Brennero stop by changing trains.

By bus: From Innsbruck, for example, Flixbus takes you directly to Vipiteno in about 50 minutes. Prices start at 5.99 euros and there are three to five Flixbuses a day. This is certainly the cheapest alternative for a trip to Vipiteno.

By car: By car you can easily reach Vipiteno from Austria via the Brenner motorway. After you have crossed the border, you have to take the second exit. You can also take the first exit “Colle Isarco” and then follow the road along the river Eisack (Italian Isarco) to Vipiteno. If you choose this option, you will avoid the Italian motorway toll.

Vipiteno – My Highlights

Hiking

Vipiteno, with its location in the South Tyrolean Alps, is a wonderful place for hiking. All around there are numerous hiking trails of every level of difficulty, making it suitable for young and old, young and old.

For example, the ride in the gondola up to the Rosskopf is recommendable. Up there, you can do everything your outdoor lover’s heart desires: hiking, mountain biking, stopping for a bite to eat.

I myself wanted to walk the Trenser Höhenweg with my father and my brother. The circular path leads over almost six kilometres from the pilgrimage church Maria Trens to the castle Sprechenstein and back again and is supposed to take about two hours.

Kirche in Maria Trens bei Sterzing

Maria Trens is, by the way, after Maria Weissenstein, the most famous place of pilgrimage in South Tyrol. Its popularity dates back to the 14th century.

The trail is steep and partly leads over unpaved paths through the forest (attention: due to damp mud it was very slippery in some places), but in general I found it absolutely feasible and not exceptionally difficult.

If you’re lucky you can even observe animals here.

The view was magnificent and I was already looking forward to the opportunity to stop for a bite to eat at the castle.

Unfortunately, one section of the route was too narrow for my father and on one side it went down steeply. I am grateful that he told me what this section had caused in him. Because with my mother’s death, 2019 had already caused enough misfortune to my family. Therefore, we didn’t want to ask too much of our guardian angels. So we’re turned around. Next time I would like to do the hike completely and then see the Sprechenstein Castle not only from below. But it’s not possible go inside.

 

Stopping by an Alpine Pasture

What could be better than to do something good for your body after or during a stimulating hike, to rest and enjoy a cool drink or to fill your hungry stomach? For this purpose, numerous alpine pastures await you along the hiking trails, which also reward you with a view that makes every hiker’s heart beat faster.

If you are not quite so fit, but still don’t want to miss out on a social stop, I have a great tip for you: The Prantner Alm is accessible by car. As my father did not feel physically fit for the hike, I was looking for an alpine pasture to which we can go by car. I quickly found the Prantner Alm, which is only 11 km but a good 30 minutes drive from Vipiteno.

From the Prantner Alm you not only have a magnificent view of the Rosskopf and the surrounding mountains, but you can also feast to your heart’s content. I had a delicious Tris di Knödel – cheese dumplings in three different flavours.

Sights

Castle Sprechenstein

The castle Sprechenstein is a place shrouded in legend. It is said that the ghost of a murdered knight haunts the castle, who once lived at Sprechenstein Castle with his beloved wife. The arrow that cost him his life is still in his heart. A knight who lived in nearby Reifenstein Castle killed him out of jealousy. There is no proof that the story is based on a true incident.

A striking feature of Burg Sprechenstein is the circular keep from the 13th century. The large hall and the chapel, dedicated to St. Erasmus, with its small winged altar, as well as the wall paintings and frescoes were created in later centuries. The castle and its works of art were hit by bombs during the Second World War and later restored. Since the end of the 18th century the castle Sprechenstein has been owned by the princes of Auersperg.

As mentioned in my article above, the castle Sprechenstein can only be seen from the outside.

For the sake of completeness it should be mentioned that Burg Sprechenstein is actually located in the neighbouring Freienfeld.

 

Castle Reifenstein

Southwest of Vipiteno, the imposing Reifenstein Castle looks down from a rocky hill. The castle first appears in historical documents in 1110, when it was given as a fiefdom to the nobles of Stilfes. In 1410 the ownership of Reifenstein passed to the Order of German Knights. In 1813 the order was dissolved and the Princes of Thurn und Taxis received the castle as compensation for the abolition of their postal monopoly.

The Gothic interior of the castle takes visitors back to the Middle Ages: the entrance gate is secured by a portcullis and the historic drawbridge leads across a moat. Balustrades and embrasures in the walls remind us of the numerous battles that took place here. Unfortunately, I could not enter, because this is only possible with a guided tour, which takes place at certain times. I stupidly missed the last guided tour on the only available day.

The castle is privately owned, but is open to visitors.

Opening hours: These vary from month to month. In principle the guided tours take place between 1 April and 31 October. As mentioned, the visit is only possible within the framework of a guided tour with at least 4 people.
This year (2019) the guided tours took place at the following times:
Sunday to Friday at 10.30, 14.00 and 15.00
Closed on Saturdays

Entrance:
Euro 7,00 (Adults)
Euro 4,00 (Children)

Further information:
Tel. +39 339 2643752, info@sterzing.com

 

Vipiteno – Hotel

For about 25 years now, when I stop over in Vipiteno, I have been staying at the Gasthof Hotel Larch. Actually it is located in the neighbouring Freienfeld–- just like the Sprechenstein Castle and the Trenser Höhenweg. The 4-star hotel is quaint, cosy and we feel very comfortable. You shouldn’t expect luxury, but a homely feel-good atmosphere. The food is prepared with fruits and vegetables from our own garden, the breakfast eggs come from the chickens in the stable behind the house and the yoghurt is homemade. With milk from cows from the mountain pasture – and lots of love. You can taste that and that’s why we have been coming back again and again for so many years.

If you prefer to book with Booking, you can find the available hotels in Vipiteno here: Vipiteno Hotels on Booking*.

 

Vipiteno – Where to go Next?

Venice: The city of bridges is always worth a visit. Whether for carnival or any other time of the year, Venice is touristic, but also has many quiet corners to offer. Meanwhile, I have already been there four times and it does not get boring at all. I always discover something new and am already looking forward to my next visit when I leave. Flixbus runs daily from Vipiteno via Innsbruck to Venice.

Verona: I have also been to Verona four times. But especially for a visit to the opera it is always worthwhile to take the way and spend a few days in this beautiful city. Flixbus runs several times a week from Vipiteno via Innsbruck to Verona.

Palermo: Palermo is my second home. Therefore I am a little bit prejudiced. But I think that everybody should have been at least once in the Sicilian capital. Culture, gastronomy, architecture or just enjoying the sun on the beach of Mondello… Palermo is not to be missed!

 

Final Thoughts

For me personally, Vipiteno has been the starting point for holidays for well over two decades. Almost all trips to Italy began here and sometimes, on the way back, they also ended here.

For a long time my family, unfortunately, only stayed overnight there without exploring the area. I am glad that I now catch up step by step.

Have you ever been to Vipiteno? Have you only spent the night there or have you also looked at the surroundings? Let me know in the comments!

PS: Links with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links.

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Mannheim in Winter – This is What You Can Do!

Mannheim in Winter – This is What You Can Do!

Mannheim in Winter – This is What You Can Do!

At the end of November, I was in Mannheim for two days. I already knew the city from other short visits, as it is also not far from my hometown Kelkheim near Frankfurt. So I have met friends here from time to time or even went dancing. Now I should experience Mannheim for the first time in winter! The reason for my trip was the concert Night of the Proms, for which I couldn’t get tickets in Frankfurt anymore.

Mannheim – The City of Squares

Mannheim and Heidelberg were the capitals of the Electorate Palatinate, or Kurpfalz for short. This is evidenced, for example, by Mannheim Castle, which was built between 1720 and 1760 and was temporarily the residence of the Elector of the Palatinate.

The heavy destruction of the city center during World War II meant that the entire city center had to be rebuilt. This reconstruction was carried out in the style of the 1950s – namely in a grid-shaped street network, which gave the city one of its many nicknames, the Square City. Mannheim is known for its parks, for its music culture and for its multicultural diversity.

 

Mannheim in Winter – This is What You Can do!

I don’t know about you… But when I think of Mannheim, I think of the parks and the beautiful university and the castle. All places that are not ideal for winter excursions. At least if you feel the cold as easily as me.

Therefore I have four things here that you can do in Mannheim in winter:

 

Check Out The Art Gallery

The art gallery called Kunsthalle Mannheim was the first museum in Mannheim and was inaugurated in 1909. It is one of the first civic collections of modern art in the world. It was founded as a museum in 1909 and houses one of the most renowned civic collections in Germany. Works by Manet, Pissaro, van Gogh or Bacon in painting and numerous sculptures make the heart of every art lover beat faster. From the very beginning, the motto has been “Art for all” and is thus committed to people – regardless of their origin or education.

Mannheim im Winter – Kunsthalle Mannheim

Kunsthalle Mannheim

Kunsthalle Mannheim

Kunsthalle Mannheim

Kunsthalle Mannheim

Until June 1st of 2018, the Kunsthalle was housed in the Art Nouveau building designed by Hermann Billing, which was ceremonially built in 1907 to mark the 300th anniversary of the city of Mannheim. Today’s complex has grown naturally: in part very modern and a work of art in itself. While the other part is the former Jugendstil building.

Kunsthalle Mannheim

Kunsthalle Mannheim

Kunsthalle Mannheim

At a different time of the year, you can certainly sit nicely on the roof terrace, enjoy the sun and let the works of art take effect on you.

Kunsthalle Mannheim

Kunsthalle Mannheim

For all those who like it modern, the Kunsthalle Mannheim offers an app as a multimedia companion. There are guided tours and information on exhibitions, works and events. It can be downloaded from both the Apple Store and the Google Play Store.

Here are the facts about the Kunsthalle Mannheim:

Opening hours:

Tuesday – Sunday & Holidays 10 – 18 h
Wednesday 10 – 20 h / 1st Wednesday of the month 10 – 22 h
Closed on Monday

Entrance:

14 Euro / reduced 12 Euro
Family ticket: 24 Euro (2 adults with children under 18 years)
Evening ticket: 10 Euro (valid from 1 ½ h before closing time)
Annual ticket: 30 Euro (from 18 years, valid 1 year from date of redemption)

Free entrance – MVV art night
1st Wednesday of the month, 18 – 22 Uhr

 

Go to the Technoseum

In the Technoseum, the State Museum for Technology and Work, you can go on an interactive journey through time. Information is combined with experiences and complex technical topics are presented in a vivid way. It is a foundation under public law and is financed by the City of Mannheim and the State of Baden-Württemberg.

Technoseum Mannheim

The exhibition covers 200 years of technology as well as social history and is in many cases prepared in a playful and even child-friendly way, so that one does not just walk through a simple museum and look at exhibits or read the respective descriptions. No, here, everybody becomes an actor who likes to experiment. This is specially the case in the uppermost floor where one can help oneself.

Mannheim im Winter – Technoseum Mannheim

In an increasingly complex world, the Technoseum wants to make technical progress understandable and illustrate the influence on people’s lives and work. Modern technologies hold opportunities, but also risks. This is what the museum wants to show.

Technoseum Mannheim

Technoseum Mannheim

Technoseum Mannheim

Technoseum Mannheim

Technoseum Mannheim

These are the facts about the Technoseum:

Opening hours:

Daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm

Entrance:

Adults 9,00 Euro
Reduced 6,00 Euro
Children up to 6 years old free

 

Go to a Show at the Planetarium

In 1927 one of the world’s first planetariums was opened in Mannheim. Under a 24.5-meter dome in the Luisenpark, 514 people could be seated. In 1943, however, it was damaged in a bombing raid and demolished ten years later. It was not until 1975 that there was a citizens’ initiative to help rebuild the planetarium.

In 1984 the time had finally come: the new planetarium was built on Europaplatz. The dome is 20 metres high and can accommodate 280 people. It was equipped with the most powerful projector available at the time. But the technology improved so much over the decades that a new one had to be built in 2002. Universarium is the name of the chic new acquisition, which can realistically depict stars using fiber optics.

The old projector is located in front of the entrance to the Dome Hall and can be viewed while waiting for the performance to begin. In addition, a cafeteria ensures that you can warm up when you come in from the wintery cold streets of Mannheim.

Mannheim im Winter – Planetarium Mannheim

Planetarium Mannheim

Planetarium Mannheim

These are the facts for the Planetarium Mannheim:

Opening hours:

The opening hours of the planetarium vary as they depend on the performances, which are different every day. In the schedule you can see which performances are upcoming. The doors open one hour before the performance starts.

Free choice of seats for all events!

Admission approx. 10 minutes before the performance begins.

Tickets:

Adults9,50 €
Group of adults8,50 €
Reduced7,00 €
Children (up to 12 years)5,00 €
Students in a group5,00 €

 

Have a Hot Drink at the Christmas Market

200 huts are waiting at the Mannheim Christmas market at the water tower… For feasting, strolling, Christmas shopping! Because there’s a lot to discover here and maybe you’ll come up with an odd gift idea for Christmas.

In Germany, Mannheim’s Christmas market is one of the oldest and largest. It takes place around the water tower, the city’s landmark.

Mannheim im Winter – Mannheimer Weihnachtsmarkt

Mannheim im Winter - Mannheimer Weihnachtsmarkt

Be enchanted by the carousel organ or make a detour to the 18-metre high Christmas pyramid. It is accessible and there is even a café upstairs.

A colourful programme awaits you on a stage: artists can show off their talents here from 6 pm! Whether choirs, musicians or dancers… There is something for everyone!

Mannheim im Winter - Mannheimer Weihnachtsmarkt – Die Weihnachtspyramide

Mannheim im Winter - Mannheimer Weihnachtsmarkt

Mannheim im Winter - Mannheimer Weihnachtsmarkt

Mannheim im Winter - Der Wasserturm bei Nacht

Mannheimer Weihnachtsmarkt

These are the facts about the Mannheim Christmas market:

Mannheim Christmas market at the water tower

25 November to 23 December 2019

Or 23 November to 23 December 2020

Daily from 11 to 21

www.weihnachtsmarkt-mannheim.de

 

Hotel in Mannheim

I was accommodated in the Leonardo Royal Hotel Mannheim, less than five minutes walk from the water tower. You can reach all the places listed here within 15 minutes at the most, walking easily. So the location was ideal for me.

You can find a detailed description of my hotel stay here: Leonardo Royal Hotel Mannheim.

 

Mannheim in Winter – My Final Thoughts

My reason for this trip was a concert. So I must admit: I was a bit skeptical at first whether I would even like Mannheim in winter. I’ve already been to the parks and to the university, so I knew Mannheim mainly as a destination where you can go for wonderful walks. But what should I do in winter?

I had not expected to have such a nice time! But I found the Technoseum really exciting and it was my first time in a planetarium. The Christmas market was also really great and it gave us – me and my family – a perfect opportunity to have a bite to eat before the concert, but at the same time to do some exploring.

All in all it was a fun weekend trip!

Deine Barbara

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