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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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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Work Out at Home – Stay Fit During the Lockdown!

Work Out at Home – Stay Fit During the Lockdown!

Work Out at Home – Stay Fit During the Lockdown!

Actually I wanted to write a different article. But when my fingers flew over the keyboard, they typed the title of this post instead of the one I had originally in mind. Well then, I guess it’s meant to be. I am currently in a forced fitness break: My body has clearly told me “So far and no further! My joints and muscles are sore and sometimes they won’t even let me sleep. And to prevent this from happening to you, I’m now writing a blog post about how you can stay fit during the lockdown (and of course afterwards when you want to work out at home) while staying healthy. These are my experiences:

Ways to Work Out at Home

First of all, it is important to say that there is not ONE method for your workout at home. There are numerous ways and you have to find out which one is best for you. Of course, there is only one way to do this: Try it out. What is ideal for me can be unthinkable for you. I have also tried a few things and got stuck with one method that I liked most.

 

Apps

The first method here is also the one I have chosen for myself long term. Apps allow you to create training programs or have the computer compile them for you to run through. I have trained with three apps so far:

  • SEVEN: With this app, you can do circuit training, each of which takes seven minutes. In principle, you can do as many circles as you like. But when I start after a while of not working out, seven minutes are usually enough. Then I work my way up. I’ve never been able to do more than three circuits if I remember correctly. Maybe four a long time ago. I have been training with SEVEN for five years now, even if not regularly. Until yesterday I had a streak of 28 days for the first time in a very long time. With the free version, you can unfortunately only run one program. The 60 Euros per year are worth it in my opinion and I am happy to invest them, as I have a lot of different training programs to choose from with the paid account.
  • Gymondo: Unfortunately I can’t say much about Gymondo, because I only used it once for a few weeks when a friend of mine wanted to train with it. But the exercises and the principle were similar to SEVEN and probably, in the end, it’s just a matter of taste concerning layout and usability. The app is a bit more expensive and costs a total of 83,99 Euro for a subscription of 12 months. However, there are recipes and motivational messages that you can request or cancel.
  • 30 Day Split Challenge: A sports program of a different kind is the 30 Day Split Challenge. This is designed to do the splits at the end of the 30 days, but it is basically nothing more than a warm-up with cardio exercises and then stretching. What I particularly like about this app is that it automatically includes rest days. You train for four days and then you have a day off.

 

YouTube

It shouldn’t surprise you to read that YouTube has an incredible number of channels on the topic of fitness. I picked out three different channels that seemed cool to me.

  • DoYogaWithMe: On this channel, you will find mainly yoga videos, but these have different orientations. For example, you can train specific areas of your body, do a 14-Day Challenge, or find a video that is right for your level of experience. There are also meditations to round off the program. And to make sure it doesn’t get boring, there are various trainers teaching.
  • Caroline Jordan: Health Coach Caroline Jordan puts fitness videos of various kinds online. For example, extra workouts that you can do on a chair (perfect for a quick workout during a break in the home office), or stretching for situations like After Travel or End of Day.
  • Amanda Russell: Amanda Russell mainly makes videos with workout quickies. The training sessions last between three and 15 minutes and are aimed specifically at people with little time, but who still have high goals. In addition to the training units, there are also videos with tips for healthy eating.

I have to admit that I’m just not the YouTube type of person. I don’t follow YouTubers and only go there when I am looking for trailers or other videos. But for How To tutorials I still use Google. But if YouTube should be your preferred medium anyway, then have a look at these three channels.

 

Your Own Program

Of course, you can also set up a training according to your own rules. For quite a while, for example, I did 50 push-ups, 100 squats, and 200 crunches a day. But on the long run, I got a little bored with that and so I switched back to the app.

The advantages of a self-made program are clearly that you can easily integrate any fitness equipment you might have at home. Therabands, gym balls, or kettlebells can become part of your daily routine.

So, make a plan with the exercises that will bring you closer to your goal. Be it a better condition, better flexibility, or a flatter stomach. You decide what your program will be. You can either base this on the number of repetitions or you can set a timer and do an exercise for a certain amount of time – which is usually 30 to 60 seconds.

 

More Tips

Now that you know how to get to the exercises in the first place, it’s time for some tips that will make your training easier or help you get through it in the long run. Build yourself up for success, my coach used to say. So if you think about everything from the beginning, nothing can go wrong!

 

Don’t Forget to Drink!

When working out it is even more important than in our everyday life: drink, drink, drink! Our body consists to a large extent of water and must always be hydrated. So don’t be afraid to reach for a water bottle between two exercises.

If you also want to add a little taste and vitamins to your water, I can recommend Fruit Infused Water. You simply cut a few fruits and leave them in the water for two to twelve hours so that they release vitamins and minerals into the water. That’s healthy and delicious!

 

Pimp Your Equipment!

While I didn’t even own a yoga mat in the past, today I enjoy thinking about how I can incorporate various sports equipment into my training. I have treated myself to a mega cool new yoga mat (nice, not slippery, practical with a carrying strap), I use my Therabands again and have taken out my finger dumbbells to train my wrists. Next on the agenda is a fascia roll with which I can massage my trigger points and loosen knots.

 

Take Breaks!

Between the exercises, you should be able to rest your body for ten to 20 seconds at a time. But even more important are the breaks between the individual training units. Especially when you try to get fit again, you should not overdo it. That is the reason why – as mentioned at the beginning – I have to take a forced break.

I have trained every day for 29 days in a row. And this after not opening SEVEN for months. I thought my body could take it. I changed the areas to train – I did abdominal training one day and the next day I trained my legs. So I wanted to train my whole body, but I also wanted to give the individual body parts breaks. Well, unfortunately, it did not work out. Now I sit in front of the computer with sore shoulders and while I was able to do the splits three days ago, I’m so in pain when I’m halfway down that I have to stop.

Hence my clear appeal to you: Give your body the necessary time to regenerate! You can’t go from zero to hero. With a dusty cape.

 

Go Out!

Nothing is more liberating than a walk at the fresh air. Depending on the lockdown regulations in your country, try to go out for half an hour every day, get some fresh air, and change your mind. You will see how this will make you feel better.

 

Stay Motivated!

There are many ways you can motivate yourself to go through your training program as planned. One of them is, for example, that you do the training with friends. Meet up on Zoom or Skype and give yourself a kick in the butt if needed. Personally, I wouldn’t even think of chickening out if I knew that my friends had pulled themselves together and would train without me. That’s one of the reasons why I pulled it through for 28 days. Alone I would not have done that and would have given in much sooner. I know this from past experiences. As a consequence, I didn’t train for months. I hope that the fact that I have friends who continue training will help me to restart in a few days. You are welcome to give me a digital kick in the butt that will make me fall off my office chair if I don’t do that. Permission granted!

 

Treat Yourself!

Not only to stay motivated you should also treat yourself regularly to something nice. But because you deserve it! And I’m not talking about a candy bar or a box of gummi bears. No, I’m talking about a hot bath, a massage, or anything else that will do you good physically or mentally. Or maybe it’s an offline weekend. Whatever “luxury” means to you… …plan it and treat yourself.

 

See Body And Mind as a Unity!

As I mentioned in my blog post on physical and mental health, we must always take care of our physical and mental health equally. So if you want to be fit in general, it is essential that you take care of your mental health as well. The best way to find out is to have a look at the other blog post. But in summary, I can advise you to do the following: Try to switch off, meditate, try to focus on the positive. Also reading a good book can contribute to your mental health.

So always remember: physical fitness alone is not enough!

 

Get in The Mood!

If one thing can put you in the mood, it’s music. So either create your own playlist if you like to train to certain songs. If you don’t have a playlist or you can’t spontaneously think of suitable songs, I can recommend the Workout Playlist by Decathlon: Motivational Playlist. Or simply look on YouTube.

 

My Final Thoughts

Today it seems more important than ever to take care of our health. Physical fitness is an essential part of it. That’s why it was important to me to write this blog post, to give you ideas about how you too can stay fit and above all motivated.

Let me know in the comments how your workout looks like and if I could inspire you to try something new or implement something new into your routine.

PS: Alle mit einem Sternchen (*) markierten Links sind Affiliate Links!

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