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Kallstadt: The Ancestral Village of the Trumps

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Kallstadt in a wine village along the German Wine Road in Palatine, one among many pretty places along the route, though not too spectacular. It is located in the northern part between Bad Dürkheim and Grünstadt.

The main street is winding in gentle curves through the length of the village. It is officially named „Weinstraße“ and part of the Wine Route. Several half-timbered houses have been carefully restored. An old wine press has been set up on a terrace under a wooden roof to create a place for meetings, events, wine tastings in the centre of the village. Vines on the facades add that certain flair of a wine-growing village.

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A hotel in the centre of Kallstadt was our base for a long weekend related to wine and culture in Palatine together with my parents and relatives from Thuringia. Anything wine-related is best organized by my dad, so my influence was limited to a few suggestions concerning the cultural part, although they were not really needed either. The building in the background behind the lion fountain was our hotel. The protestant parish church, not visible in this photo, is its neighbour across the street.

We went to Bad Dürkheim, Deidesheim and Rhodt from there, had one wine tasting at a top-class winery in Kallstadt and another ditto in Hainfeld, visited Hambacher Schloss and Villa Ludwigshöhe, went for walks in the vineyards. Busy and enjoyable days! These destinations deserve separate entries, though. By coincidence we stumbled onto a winery’s private wine festival.
Wine-related tourism is an important part of the entire region’s economy and Kallstadt makes no exception. There are various restaurants, inns, hotels, guest rooms in the village, some even run by working wineries.

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In the hills outside the village an ancient Roman villa has been found and excavated. Parts of it underwent a bit of reconstruction, kitchen and facilities were installed, and the result is now used for festivities and wine tastings. It can also be rented for private celebrations. A very pleasant spot among the vineyards with a wide view. Some boards provide information about the history of the place. There is a long tradition of wine-growing in this area. In fact the ancient Romans were the ones who brought and planted the first vines. We owe them a a big thanks!

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The Roman villa

Kallstadt is famous for:

Wine

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The picture of Little Bacchus
hung on the wall in my hotel room

Of course. Needless to mention. As usual, quality differs and one has to know where to go. There are several very good wineries in the village, some even qualify as first class.

(Since I am still waiting for an offer to provide me with a year’s supply of their produce in return for some PR *twinkle* I will not mention any particular names, though.)

Kallstadt cherishes its reputation as „Edelweinort“, a place that grows noble wines. Among their neighbours the Kallstadters are often acccused of a little big-mouthedness and superiority because of that... No comment from my side, I have not noticed any behaviour of that kind.

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Saumagen

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Saumagen is a popular speciality all over Palatine. This dish gained fame as the favourite food of our former chancellor Helmut Kohl. He used to treat his state guests to Saumagen dinners – not to everyone’s liking…

Saumagen is, basically speaking, a pig’s stomach filled with small cubes of pork, minced meat and potatoes, then cooked and cut in slices. The slices can then be fried in a pan. It is usually served with sauerkraut and boiled potatoes. Saumagen is a lot tastier than it sounds!

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In Kallstadt they have even named one of the main vineyards after this dish: Kallstadter Saumagen. The symbol marks a hiking trail through the vineyards. On a winery in the village I spotted a cute relief with a little man sitting on a Saumagen.

Certain Inhabitants Who Emigrated to America

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Proud of their relations

Many people from Palatine have emigrated to the „New World“ already in the 17th and 18th century because they saw no future for themselves in a land that had been destroyed over and over again in the various wars. More followed in the 19th century, be it for economical reasons or because of politics (for example after the 1848 revolution). The reasons for emigration in the 20th century are well known and need no further explanation.
Many Palatinate families have emigrants in their relationship, and being visited by „our rich relatives from America“ was always a big thing that caused lots of envy and staring among the neighbours.

Well, Kallstadt has two particularly big success stories on offer.

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Festival at Heinz winery

The first is related to that famous tomato sauce brand. In the 1840s a young man named Johann Heinrich Heinz left Kallstadt for good and crossed „the big pond“ and settled in Pennsylvania. His son Henry John started a business with horseraddish and pickled cucumbers and invented a recipe for tomato ketchup which became is best-selling product. The business is thriving to this very day. The family never lost contact and did a lot for the village of their ancestors, for example a big donation that enabled the local church to repair their organ. The ketchup magnates have a good reputation in Kallstadt. Relatives of the same name still live there. They have a winery on the edge of the village. By coincidence we stumbled onto their annual wine festival that they held on their premises. The display in the showcase indicates how proud they are of their relationship.

The other has brought Kallstadt even more into the focus of international media just recently. However, concerning that relationship, not everyone is too happy about it and pilgrimages from „fans“ are not necessarily wanted.

A second-grade cousin of the Heinz’s followed their example in the 1880s at the age of 16. His name was Friedrich Trump. He first worked as a barber, a trade he had learned already in Palatine, in Seattle. Then he moved further north with the gold rush and started a growing business with restaurants and boarding houses, then real estate. Well, the rest is history.

In 1901 Friedrich, or rather Frederick as he named himself in America, returned home to Kallstadt as a wealthy man. He met a pretty young lady, Elisabeth Christ, fell in love and married her, despite objections from his parents because Elisabeth was poor and came form a lower-class family. „The happy couple“ settled in New York but, due to Elizabeth’s extreme homesickness, decided to move back to Germany. However, German authorities would not allow them to stay: By his emigration Friedrich had avoided his duty in military service. This resulted in the loss of his German citizenship. The Trumps had to leave the country and return to New York, where they and later their sons continued their thriving business.

These were the grandparents of that blonde guy who was elected the 45th President of the USA in November 2016. I am sparing you my personal opinion about him and his politics…

Posted by Kathrin_E 04:08 Archived in Germany Tagged kallstadt pfalz Comments (4)

Maulbronn Abbey: World Heritage Site

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The fountain in the cloister is Maulbronn’s iconic view.

This is certainly the Number One among the sights in the wider surroundings of Karlsruhe. Maulbronn Abbey claims to be the best preserved Cistercian abbey north of the Alps. They are actually competing with Eberbach for that title – hard to decide, Eberbach has more original side buildings but is lacking the cloister. Since I do not want to interfere in that rivalry, let’s say, it is one of the best two.

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This gained Maulbronn the status as UNESCO World Heritage Site already in 1993. It was then the first, and is now one of five World Heritage sites in Baden-Württemberg.

Every year the German federal bank issues a special 2 Euro coin that depicts one of the 16 federal states, always the state that has presidency in Bundesrat, the second chamber of our parliament, in the current year. In 2013 it was Baden-Württemberg. As symbolic building for the state, Maulbronn was chosen. The coin shows two views: the facade of the abbey church with the „paradise“, and the fountain.

A Little History

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The foundation of the abbey dates back to the year 1138. The founder was a local nobleman who invitied the Cistercian monks. The ground for the new abbey was donated by the Bishop of Speyer.

A legend tells how they found the right place. A mule was loaded with a heavy sack and set free in the forest. In the spot where the mule would stop to drink and throw off his load, the new convent was to be established. The name Maulbronn („Mulenbrunnen - mule well“) is said to refer to this. It is a legend, though, but if a legend is told often enough it becomes a historical fact...

Cistercian abbeys were always located in remote locations, far away from any existing settlement. A good source of fresh water was essential. So there is truth in the legend in that respect, and since animals are usually better at finding water than humans, using the mule or another animal's instincts to find a good spot would have made sense.

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The abbey buildings were begun in Romanesque style. In the 13th century the new gothic style arrived from France and was soon adopted. Church, cloister, convent buildings tell of this change in style. Their appearance is predominantly gothic. The so-called Paradise, the porch of the church, was the first pure gothic part that an unknown master builder erected in Maulbronn.

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The abbey is a town of its own. The convent buildings and church are surrounded by all kinds of economy building that were needed to make the convent a self-sufficient organism. The huge courtyard is surrounded by various buildings that served as workshops, storage, stables and accommodation for the lay brothers (who were the ones who did the work).

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The slope in the east offers an overview of the whole abbey.

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On the southeastern corner there is a beautiful tower with a half-timbered top and baroque roof. Legends tell that Doctor Faustus has done his alchemy experiments in there, employed by the abbot with the order to make gold. Needless to say he wasn‘t successful…

A high wall surrounds the abbey grounds. Walking the whole round is highly recommended. The paths offer more and different views of the buildings.

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On the northern side the slope is very steep and gives room for but a narrow path from where you look over the walls into the back gardens, the school’s sports grounds -areas which are off-bounds to visitors. On warm sunny days lizards can be spotted sunbathing on the stone walls. A bridge and a narrow stairway down from the wall connect this path with the main courtyard.

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The landscape around the abbey still tells of the monks‘ efforts in economy. The lake behind the abbey is as artificial as the terraced vineyards on the slopes. All Cistercian abbeys created ponds for fish breeding, as fish was an important part of the monks‘ diet. Wine was also part of the monks' diet - I forgot the exact amount of their daily allowance but it was certainly a lot.

The lake is now used for swimming and rides in rowing or pedal boats. The modern building on the bank is part of the public swimming pool. There is also a small restaurant inside. So the monks' labour has left their town a welcome leisure resort. There are more lakes and ponds in the surroundings which were similarly used as fish ponds.

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The abbey received many donations from the surroundings. Together with clever economies and acquisitions of real estate, they assembled their own territory with 20 villages (including Knittlingen which I already described). They also had houses in many cities and towns near and far that served as dependances to collect taxes and tithe, which were usually paid in kind.

In the Reformation Württemberg closed the abbey down. The monks had to leave. The convent buildings were turned into a school. To this very day the back wings of the former convent buildings host a renowned boarding school as well as the Seminary of the protestant church of Württemberg. It is a modern school now, but in former times education must have been really strict.

One of Maulbronn‘s most famous students was a young guy named Hermann Hesse from Calw, who ran away because he could not take the pressure. He later became a world-famous author and Nobel Prize winner (1946) – he is my favourite German poet, by the way.

Many pupils and students of the 19th century have left inscriptions with their names and dates in the sandstone walls of the paradise and the cloister. We see that vandalism is no invention of our times… only that they took more time and effort to write neatly.

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Practical hints:

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Maulbronn is reachable by public transport, although it is a bit complicated. The S-Bahn S 9 goes to Maulbronn-West, which is outside the town and distance the abbey is not really walkable from there. There is a small side railway that goes into Maulbronn town but still stops a bit away. Much easier: Take the bus 700 from Bretten which stops directly in front of the entrance to the abbey. This bus departs right from the train station in Bretten. Attention, the bus is part of the VPE network and while KVV tickets are valid on their rail lines, they are not valid on the buses.
Going by car is the easiest way and recommended in this case.

The grounds of the abbey can be walked and explored for free. Tickets are needed to enter the cloister and the abbey church. Tickets must be bought at the visitors centre in the building on the right side of the courtyard. They cannot be obtained at the entrance itself.
All details about opening hours, tickets, guided tours and so on can be found (in English) on the official website:
http://www.kloster-maulbronn.de/en/home/

There is a restaurant (Klosterschänke) in an old half-timbered house on the western side of the courtyard, the former blacksmiths‘ workshop. This restaurant is a good address for a lunch stop. Cosy inside, and good food.

The building next to the main gate contains a small museum about the abbey, its history and the life of the monks. The not-to-be-missed piece inside the museum is a painted altarpiece from the 15th century: The outward sides of the wings depict the foundation of the abbey and the monks at work building church and convent.

Another exhibition above the visitors centre tells of the later history after the reformation and the closing of the abbey.
A little bookshop, pharmacy, and arts and crafts shop occupy the other small buildings by the gate.

A Tour of the Church and Convent

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The tour of the core of the abbey, be it on your own or with a guide, begins under the „paradise“ left of the church. Through an automated gate you enter the cloister.

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The cellar on the right is used as Lapidarium and shows pieces of stonemasonry together with explanations about medieval building techniques.

The church is then entered through the side door. This door should be treated with due respect: It is an original from the 12th century, including the leather coverings.

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A jube divides the basilica into the nave for the lay brothers and the choir where only the monks had access.

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The greatest art treasure in the church are the choir stalls with their fine woodcarvings.

Then the tour continues back into the cloister witht he adjacent refectory, chapter house and more side halls in gothic style. I don’t want to write a whole guidebook here so let me keep my description brief.

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One of the cloister wings

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Chapter house

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Passage to the infirmery

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Refectoorium (dining hall) for the monks

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Refectorium (dining hall) for the lay brothers

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Not to be missed: the fountain house. The chapel-like building is an annex to the cloister. It hosts the famous fountain. If there aren’t too many noisy tourists around, you may feel the meditative peace of this quiet spot where the running water and occasional birds are the only sounds.
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Posted by Kathrin_E 05:04 Archived in Germany Tagged maulbronn kraichgau Comments (0)

More About Gernsbach

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Gernsbach is one of the many small towns in the valleys of the Black Forest that have preserved their old flair. In past centuries it was the home of the Counts of Eberstein whose castle is located on a nearby hilltop above the Murg valley. One would not cross oceans to see this little place but if you are in the area it is worth a stopover.

I first visited on the weekend of Gernsbach's annual event, the Altstadtfest. This event has already been described in an earlier blog entry. In the following year I returned on a bright sunny day in May, in order to see more of the town on a random weekday with nothing special going on. After a visit at the baroque garden on the river bank and a walk of the town I climbed a forest trail up to Eberstein castle, and then down to the neighbouring village of Obertsrod to catch the tram back home.

Arriving on the Murgtal tram S 8 or S 81, the more convenient stop is Gernsbach Mitte, as opposed to Gernsbach Bahnhof which is further away from the centre. Nothing is really far in little Gernsbach, though. The old town is located on a hillside on the opposite river bank. There is one sight that should not be missed before crossing the Murg bridge, though: the baroque Katz’sche Garten on the right river bank.

Katz'scher Garten

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In 1803 the wealthy family Katz, who had earned their fortune with rafting and trade on the Murg, had themselves a beautiful garden designed between their big new villa and the river. Despite the late date the style of this garden is still baroque. The family owned and used it as their private refuge until the 1960s, since then it has been opeend to the public. At first it was modernized in a way that endangered the original design. In the 1990s it was restored to its baroque appearance.

The garden is not very big but very pleasant. In these small-town surroundings it is totally unexpected. The mild climate on the river bank allows growing subtropical plants like bananas. Some of the trees, for example the magnolias, are indeed 200 years old. There is a small open pavillon, a sundial, lots of sculptures, little fountains, and an abundance of flowers. The lower river bank has been integrated into the garden, a stone stairway leads down. Here are more benches with a view of the river, this is a lovely spot to sit and watch the water pasing by and relax.

The baroque parterre in the centre suffers from a big problem, though: the boxwood hedges had to be erased because they were infected by a fungus and also by a dangerous pest, a butterfly that has recently been introduced from the Far East, which eats and kills the boxwood plants. The structure is still visible but without plants. It is to be replanted with a different species of plant in the near future.

The garden is open to the public from April to October, daily 10.00 - 18.00. Entry is free, there is a little box for donations.

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Katz'scher Garten seen from the Murg bridge

The Old Town

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Gernsbach has a fine old town with many historical houses. Tourism has not yet spotted this hidden gem, for which we can be glad. Some low-key gastronomy is there so the visitor won’t starve, but there are no souvenir shops and such.

Two steeples dominate the skyline of biconfessional Gernsbach. The protestant community built their church on a terrace close to the river, while the catholic parish uses the other, larger church on the highest point of the town.

The protestant church of St Jakobus originally dates back to the 15th century. The choir ist still late gothic, with tabernacle, crucifix and tombstones of the local nobility. The nave was enlarged and refurbished in the late 18th century and shows a typical protestant interior with wooden galleries. The pulpit, the organ and the windows are new.

The gentle slope above the church is covered by the protestant cemetery. (Hint: The flat white building at the bottom of the graveyard is the funeral hall and there are free public toilets in its back.)

From the protestant church into the old centre of Gernsbach, the walk leads down a short side street into a valley with a little creek. Parts of the old town walls are preserved along here, and on top of them the impressive Zehntscheuer has been built. These are the barns where the grain taxes were collected. Because of their size they are a landmark in townscape. Unfortunately the building is in bad shape. People in Gernsbach want to preserve and renovate it and find new uses for it. Campaigns and events take place to raise money for the Zehntscheuer. Let's hope they will succeed.

The old town covers a slightly ascending hill. It consists of hardly more than three parallel streets and a few side lanes. The main street in the middle, named Hauptstraße, widens to form a series of squares.

The architecture are smallish, rural townhouses – with one exception, the old town hall. The magnificent Renaissance building was originally a private house. In 1617/18 it was erected for Johann Jakob Kast, a Murg rafter who had become rich with his timber trade - see how promising this business was? This architecture could be in any big city. In a small town like this it must have looked like a paradise bird. Later on it became the seat of the mayor and magistrate. The ground floor and cellar host a wine pub and restaurant - even if you don't want to drink and eat there, peep in for a glimpse the staircase and the vaulted cellar. The rest of the building can only be visited on special occasions like the monument heritage day.

The series of squares along Hauptstraße leads up to the Catholic Church of Our Lady. The catholic parish church is visible from afar due to its elevated position on the steep western end of the ridge at the end of the old town. It is said to originate from the chapel of the former castle. The present building dates from the 14th century but was extended and refurbished in neogothic style in the late 19th century. The steeple is connected with the town wall and had strategic functions.

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Graveyard with a View

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The catholic cemetery is located on the hilltop right behind the catholic church but separated by a deep cut in the topography of the ridge. A stone bridge connects the churchyard with the cemetery. It is protected by a fortified gate in the town wall next to the steeple. The defensive function of the steeple and wall here at the high end of the old town become obvious. From the bridge you have a great photogenic view of the steeple. Imagine how impressive funerals must be, with a procession accompanying the coffin over the bridge to the gate of the graveyard.
The most beautiful spot on the edge of the old town has been given to the defunct. The catholic cemetery of biconfessional Gernsbach is located on the ridge behind the Church of Our Lady. The stone bridge leads up to the wrought-iron gate against the light, it's almost like a gate to heaven.

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The most prominent person buried in this graveyard is, by the way, Maria von Wedemeyer, later Maria Weller: the fiancée of the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the young lady with whom he exchanged his famous letters during his imprisonment in the Nazi era.

The cemetery has probably grown in height with layers and layers of graves. High substruction walls surround its sides towards the valleys. The view of the town with Storchenturm and church is exceptional, highly recommended to photographers. Storchenturm („Stork Tower“) is the only remaining tower of the old fortifications. It was named after the storks nest on top. The tower protected the gate to the old town from the upper end, the hillside, together with the steeple of the catholic church. This was a vulnerable spot because aggressors coming from above would have an advantage, so it was heavily fortified. Originally access to the tower was only possible through the adjacent guardhouse. Now there is a door from the street. The view from the tower must be nice but there are open wooden stairs so scared-of-heights me did not go up.

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The Opposite Hillside

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Back down by the Murg bridge, the walk continues to the opposite hillside. Some pretty half-timbered houses are standing along the street by the river bank. The finest of them is Amthof, the former home and office of the bailiff. It also contained wine cellars and the workshops of the barrel-makers, here the tax wine for the cathedral of Speyer was collected. It is located outside the old town on the bank of the Murg, along the road to Eberstein castle. The blue timberwork and white facade are an eyecatcher both from the opposite river bank and along the street. The municipality of Gernsbach has a small museum in the Amtshof that is used for exhibitions about the town's history. Opening hours seem to be limited, though. The rest of the estate is a private residential house.

Further up the hill there is a strange octogonal structure with heavy stone pillars and pointed arches. The war memorial on the hill with the funny name Rumpelstein („rumbling rock“) overlooks the town and the valley. Access is from Schlossstraße near the Amthof, either up the steep stairway which soon turns into a rough path, or, longer but more comfortable, follow the road around the orchard. The monument is well visible so you can't lose your way. The view is worth the climb. The memorial was built in 1936 – an example of Nazi architecture. Inscriptions refer to the soldiers killed in the German-French war of 1870/71 and First World War. The stone octogon is open at the top. Around the opening we find the sentence: „Forever remains the glory of the deads' deeds.“ The quote is taken from the medieval Edda, which must have been extremely popular after World War I, I have seen the same text elsewhere. The inscriptions on the walls list the names of the fallen soldiers from Gernsbach. Not all of them, though: those of Jewish faith and/or origin were missing on purpose. In the 1980s the names of two Jewish soldiers have been added. The annual commemoration services on Volkstrauertag still take place in this location. However, nowadays no one glorifies war any more. This country has learned its lesson. Instead the victims are remembered. Thinking about the horrors of war serves as warning for present and future.

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The Hike to Eberstein Castle

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Eberstein castle is located on top of a ridge high above Gernsbach. You see it best from the right bank of the Murg river. It can be reached in a nice hike, not too far but with some steeper ascents and descents. The walk from Gernsbach's old town to the castle is about 2 kms. Walking time is about 45 minutes in total, including the steep ascent, checking out the trees in the Arboretum, enjoying the view from Engelskanzel and a short rest on the benches at Luisenruhe.

From Hofstätte, follow Schlossstraße to the edge of the town. The road to Eberstein and Baden-Baden turns right and uphill but it has no sidewalk, avoid it on foot. Instead, follow the signs saying "Fußweg Schloss Eberstein" straight on until you reach the little neogothic chapel (Klingelkapelle). Here the hiking trail starts. Signposting is detailed and idiot-proof, there is also a board with a map behind the chapel.

The marked trail is actually a round trip up to the castle, then down on the back of the hill to the neighbouring village of Obertsrot, and back through the forest close to the river bank. Total length is 4 kms, including notable ups and downs. It is mostly an unpaved forest trail. Two healthy legs in comfy shoes will cope easily but it is not suitable for people with walking difficulties. In that case, better drive to the castle.

Along the hiking trails on the slopes around Eberstein castle, parts of the forest have been turned into an Arboretum, an exhibition of trees. Some of these are really old trees that have been growing here for decades, if not centuries - like the linden alley on the way to the castle, or the group of chestnut trees halfway up in the vineyards. Others have been planted in groups of a species each, in order to give an overview of the trees that grow in the Black Forest, both native and introduced specieses. They are explained but the signs are in German only plus the Latin botanical names. Even if you don't read them the trees are simply enjoyable to look at. Rhododendron bushes have been planted in several shady spots, most beautiful in May when they are in bloom - I was there at the perfect time.

The trail leads through the forest in a zigzag, thus not too steeply, up the slope. Halfway you reach Engelskanzel with a view of the valley. The top is named Luisenruhe ("Louise's Rest") and has some inviting benches. I have no idea who that Luise was, but this girl or lady certainly had an eye for pleasant spots in the forest. From here it is only 600 ms to the castle.

Eberstein castle is located on a ridge high above Gernsbach. With its towers the castle is a landmark which is impossible to overlook. The Counts of Eberstein built it as their seat in the 13th century. When the family died out in 1660 it became property of the Margraves of Baden, who owned it until the 1990s.

The castle was in decay for some time until it was restored and refurbished in the 19th century, hence its present appearance is not medieval. The castle hosts an upscale hotel, the main buildings are not accessible to passers-by. You can enter the first courtyard through the impressive gatehouse which dates from 1602 - 1609. The way further up is closed by an iron gate. Nevertheless the place is worth visiting for the views.

The buildings on the right are now a gourmet restaurant. I hear it is excellent, unfortunately it is far above my budget. There is outdoor seating on the terraces facing south with a wide view of the Murg valley and the surrounding mountains. The winery Schloss Eberstein has a shop and tasting room in the courtyard.

So enjoy the view from the outside and continue your hike. The southern side of the castle hill is planted with vineyards. All the way down you are rewarded with a wide, beautiful view over the valley. Eberstein castle is well known for excellent wines from these vineyards, by the way. The winery has a shop and tasting room in the courtyard of the castle.

In the vineyards below Eberstein castle you'll notice rose bushes at the end of the rows of vines. A pretty sight in summer when the roses are in bloom. The rose is the crest of the Counts of Eberstein and the town of Gernsbach, but neither is this the reason why the vintners have planted them, nor is it a question of looks. The roses serve as indicators for a plant disease: mildew, which is caused by fungi. Certain types of roses, and these are used, are more sensitive to mildew than vines. The roses are affected first. The winemakers watch the roses carefully. If a rose is affected they know it's time to protect the vines by applying fungicides.

If you don't want to hike the whole round, you can do as I did: Walk down to Obertsrot and to the S-Bahn stop there, and take the tram back. From the castle, Obertsrot station is closer than Gernsbach Mitte.

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Bench with a view down to Obertsrot

Posted by Kathrin_E 14:43 Archived in Germany Tagged black_forest gernsbach Comments (0)

Eppingen, the Half-Timbered Town

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Eppingen is one of those places where the unsuspicious tourist is totally stressed because s/he doesn not know which photo to take first! There are picturesque views in abundance round every corner.

The skyline, first thing you see from the station, is already promising. Pfeifferturm and the steeple of the catholic church are the peaks, surrounded by half-timbered gables and tile roofs. The old town covers a hill, so topography adds to the view.

Eppingen advertises as „Fachwerkstatt (town of timberframe)“ and this isn't exaggerated. This small town, hardly known beyond its immediate surroundings and totally off the beaten path, is a treasure chamber full of fine half-timbered houses. It would be a perfect location for a tutorial on this type of construction because it assembles a variety of styles in excellent quality.

Eppingen is one of the very rare places in this region that escaped all the wars. This lucky town has neither been burned to ashes in the 30 Year War of 1618-1648, nor burned to ashes by the French in the Palatinate Heritage War in 1689, nor smashed to pieces in World War II. In other words, there is authentic architecture that has been preserved since the late middle ages. The oldest half-timbered houses date from the 15th century.
Even more, the town's authorities have taken the effort to display and explain. On the way from the station you can walk along a trail with 1:1 models of construction details. In town all the important buildings have a board with background information and entertaining stories. More details can be learned in the museum in the Old University.

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Fachwerkpfad – A Tutorial on Timberframe

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Alemannisches Weible, 1 : 1 model and in reality on Schwegebiebelhaus

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The tutorial on timberframe architecture begins already on the way from the station into the old town. The direct way is a small path along the park and gardens. Along this path, models of different historical constructions in original size have been put up. Each of them is about 2 metres high and shows one element, or figure, that can be found on the half-timbered houses in the town.

For example, the Franconian Man (Fränkischer Mann), a vertical beam with diagonal bracings at the top and bottom that, with some imagination, resemble uplifted arms and outstretched legs. Or the Alemannic Woman (Alemannisches Weible), similar but with short „arms“ and a wide curved „skirt“.

Or K-shaped bracings, or the St. Andrew's Cross (Andreaskreuz) in the shape of an X that refers to the legend about the crucufication of Andrew the apostle. Etc.

The constructions are explained well and the descriptions also point out on which houses this particular construction can be found. The boards are in German only, though. For those of you with some command of the language, reading the explanations will be of interest before exploring the town and its buildings. The others should at least have a look at the models and remember the shapes. You will find them all in town.

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Andreaskreuze, model and house in Kettengasse

Half-Timbered Houses in Town

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Bäckerhaus

The oldest half-timbered house of Eppingen is the so-called Bäckerhaus („baker's house“) with its impressive high roof and gable. It is dated 1412. The crooked beams give testimony of its age. It is a residential house; the ground floor hosts a shop with clothing and toys for children.

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Baumann'sches Haus

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Baumann'sches Haus is probably the most beautiful among the many beautiful half-timbered houses in Eppingen's old town. For sure it is the one with the most elaborate details in construction and ornamentation. The house dates from 1582, the date can be found above one of the side doors. Its picture even made it onto a German postage stamp. In case you plan to stay overnight in style... The house hosts a hotel and restaurant: Altstadthotel Wilde Rose.

Three Neidköpfe („envy heads“) are attached to the southern side, a fourth to the beams on the corner. The owner obviously planned to provoke a lot of envy...Such funny to scary woodcarved faces can also be found on some other half-timbered houses, especially the most beautiful ones that tell of the owners' wealth. The „envy heads“ are supposed to drive any envious lookers-on away who grudge the owner this pretty house.
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A house in the middle of Altstadtstraße close to the curve, on the corner of Steingasse and the path to the S-Bahn station shows a small but cute detail: a pair of fish-shaped creatures - it takes *some* imagination to identify them as dolphins. Their open mouths meet (are they kissing?) and form a heart which is painted in red. The dolphins are carved into a beam on the corner of the top storey. We can now start inventing some fantasy stories about dolphin love and how come anyone chose this ornament on their house....

This crossing of Kettengasse and Zunfthausgasse is known as 3-Style Corner. This is the perfect spot to continue our tutorial on timberframe architecture. It assembles three remarkable half-timbered houses that represent the three main styles. The one with the yellow beams shows the Alemannic timberframe construction. On the opposite corner you can compare it to the Franconian style. On its left we have the much younger baroque house with the 'broken' Mansart roof and flat gable.

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These are the most remarkable among many more half-timbered houses...

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Old University: Building and Museum

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Believe it or not - little Eppingen has a history as seat of a university.

The glory of „Alma Mater Eppingensis“ lasted only for one semester, though. In 1564/65 a plague epidemy haunted Heidelberg and the university of Heidelberg left the town. The faculty of liberal arts sought refuge in Eppingen. They used this building for their lessons. Seems the citizens of the town got along well with the students.

The building itself is older, it was built in the 1490s. Its actual purpose was being a market hall where merchants deposited and sold their products. The ground floor was used by the butchers as meat hall. Its short academic career left its marks, though. The house ist still called „Old University“. It is the largest and most impressive half-timbered building in town.

The Old University hosts the Stadt- und Fachwerkmuseum (town and timberframe museum). It shows the history of the town and its surroundings and the way people lived in former centuries on all five floors of the building. This includes interiors of housing, workshops and shops. There is an exhibition on timberframe architecture on the first floor. Some command of German is helpful to understand the explanations. However, the museum is worth a look inside anyway. The exhibits and ensembles give an idea even if you don't read the explanations. In addition to what's on display, this is a chance to see the interior of the timberframe construction - even more so as it is free.

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Künstlerfahnenfestival (Art Flag festival) takes place every summer and is organized by the museum in the Old University and the municipality. Every year one artist is invited to design and create big flags which are then displayed outdoors in Altstadtstraße. The flags are a series which refer to one topic - I am not sure whether the topic is chosen by the artist or set by the organizers. At the same time the museum shows an exhibition with more works by the same artist.

The flags are waving in the wind and the change of sunlight and shadow creates a beautiful impression, although they may get in your way if you want to take photos of the houses;-) My photos show the 2016 festival. That year's artist was Martina Geist from Stuttgart, who works in graphic art, in particular woodcut. Her topic were fruit. Each of the flags show a different species of fruit. The style reflects the typical shapes of woodcut prints.

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Town Hall and Market Square

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The „old“ town hall of Eppingen looks notably younger than all those amazing half-timbered houses, and it is. Those who know the typical neoclassical architecture of Karlsruhe and the Grandduchy of Baden will immediately think of Friedrich Weinbrenner, the state architect in the easly 19th century. It wasn't himself who designed Eppingen's town hall, though, but one of his students who designed it in 1823.
The town hall is located in the wide new market square that substituted the much smaller former market square next to the Old University. Beware of the fountains in the pavement...

The two adjacent houses on the western side of market square are known as Alte Post, the Odl Post Station. In former times they probably served as inn where the post carriages rested and changed horses. Nowadays they are residential houses. They were built in the 16th century - the known date is 1588 - and show elaborate Franconian timberwork.

In recent years Alte Post has been thoroughly restored. In 2011 I saw the construction site. Now they are all new and shiny, the most beautiful facades in the town's main square.

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Construction site in 2011, and in perfect shape in 2016

Seeing the construction site was perhaps more interesting. Half-timbered houses are like jigsaw puzzles. After taking out the fillings of the walls, the skeleton of timbers remains. The timbers can then be taken down piece by piece. All damaged or mouldy beams were exchanged for new wood in the same shape. The good ones were kept. Then the whole puzzle was reassembled, and new fillings were inserted to close the walls.

Pfeifferturm, the tower in the corner of market square and Altstadtstraße, is Eppingen's oldest building. In the middle ages the town ended here. The tower was part of the town wall and served as watchtower for the guard, the „piper“, who had to blow his horn in case of danger, fire, approaching enemies. Later on the tower was used as prison.

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A funny art work is attached to the tower: a red arrow with a - chamber pot attached to its pointed end. Beware and watch out what people might throw from their windows...

Old Synagogue, Mikwe, and Chuppa Stone

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The Old Synagogue in Küfergasse was built in 1731 and was in use until the 1870s when the Jewish community built a new synagogue. The old one was sold and became a private residential house.

The ground floor is built from stone, the upper storeys are timberframe. The ground floor still contains the 18th century mikwe, the ritual bath. The wooden door to the mikwe seems to be open in the daytime (it was both times I I visited) so you can look inside through the iron gate.

The facade still bears the chuppa or wedding stone (where the bridegroom smashes a glass during the wedding ceremony as reminiscence to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple), a relief with inscriptions in Hebrew and an 8-pointed star. On the doorframe of the main entrance, the slot is still visible where the mesusah used to be.

The building survived the Nazi era unharmed thanks to the courage of the then owner. He had covered the wedding stone with a wooden shutter and pretended there was just a cellar window behind. The local Nazis showed up again and again and ordered him to open the shutter, but he refused - saying, in summer, that the hot air would enter and ruin his must, and in winter, that the cold air would enter and freeze his potatoes and ruin his must... He succeeded in saving his house, and this monument of Jewish religion.

Catholic Church of Our Lady

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The catholic parish church of Our Lady is located on the highest point of the hill in the middle of the old town. The church is of medieval origins but has been extended and partly rebuilt in the 1960s or 70s.

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The colourful crucifix on the southern wall of the nave, recently renovated, is an eyecatcher. It is named the „Longinus“ Cross because the only person depicted under the cross is Longinus, the Roman officer who said after Christ's death, „He was truly the son of the Lord.“ Around the cross the Arma Christi are assembled: a collection of all the arms and other requisites that appear in the Passion of Christ. Test your knowledge of the Bible...

The back entrance on the right side of the church is open in the daytime. The interior is not much to write about, apart from some medieval frescoes that have recently been rediscovered in the gothic choir and on the northern wall of the nave. The pulpit is also an old piece, the rest of the interior is 20th century.

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An extraordinary medieval fresco inside the church is a bit hidden and easily overlooked. Seeing such 'creatures from the dark side' within a church is at least remarkable. It shows a milk witch and the devil. The witch is milking a fountain (which is supposed to give water, not milk, and collecting the milk in a bucket. The devil brings a pot, waiting to get some of the milk. The inscription is unfortunately destroyed. Witch and devil are depicted above the northern side door, the door to the cemetery. North is the dark, the night side, and this door leads to the graveyard. The picture is probably meant as a warning to beware of the dark powers.

Danse Macabre on Katharinenkapelle

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The band of death (isn't there a rock band named Dead Can Dance?) are playing around the empty grave.

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The facade of the former chapel of St Catherine, now the parish community centre, is painted with a mural which is a bizarre surprise. This art work adopts the medieval traditions of the danse macabre. However, it has only been painted in 2002, as the signature on the left proves (Roman numbers MMII = 2002).

It is weird to see this very old tradition repeated by a modern, contemporary painter. The topic is serious but the figures, especially the grinning skeletons, are somehow funny. Macabre but funny.

The skeletons are out to get their victims: people of all ages from child to old age from the left, and all clerics from the Pope to priest and nun on the right. Just like in the medieval danses macabres the stages of life and the clerical ranks are shown in a row, each of them picked up by a skeleton and lead to the grave. Some follow readily, others are reluctant. But Death spares no one.

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The child, the dancing young couple, and the nun

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Husband and wife torn apart, and the old man who welcomes death

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The priest, and the Pope

The Old Cemetery

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2016

The plateau behind the church and the chapel of St Catherine served as cemetery for centuries. It forms a terrace high above the road below, supported by stone walls. The current cemetery has long been transferred to a place outside the village centre but the churchyard still contains histortical grave monuments. These are not stones as usual but metal crosses in elaborate blacksmith's work.

A funny detail is the (modern) iron dragon, chained to the wall of St Catherine's chapel.

Access to the cemetery is either from the courtyard between the church and the chapel of St Catherine or up a steep stairway from Kirchgasse.
Unfortunately they have tidied up the graveyard recently, and in a quite pathetic way. The iron crosses still exist, but now they are all standing in one line along the wall, the rest is a new empty lawn. The location has lost a lot of its romantic appeal.

I am nevertheless leaving the photos I took during my first visit in 2011 in here.

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Easter Wells in Eppingen

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In the old town of Eppingen there are three wells which receive colourful crowns for Easter. One is in Altstadtstraße in the small market square next to the Old University, the second in Brettener Straße, the third is on the corner Kirchgasse/Altstadtstraße opposite Baumann'sches Haus.

Decorating the wells for Easter is a custom that is most popular in Franconia but has spread to other areas like Baden. The fountains are decorated with green garlands and painted eggs. The decorations are set up on the weekend of Palm Sunday and stay during the Holy Week and the Easter holidays.

To avoid that one frequent misunderstanding, allow me to mention that this custom is not as old as many people believe or pretend. It was created in the early 20th century and has NOTHING to do with pre-Christian, pagan rites, just like the Alemannic carnival. Anyway, these wells are a beautiful sight and can be enjoyed as a festive decoration that values the source of water which is so essential for any living creature. There is probably a relation to the cleaning of the wells in spring.

The Witch Guild, and the Witch Fountain

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Russell the Wombat hitches a ride

Eppingen is a bit outside the area where the Alemannic carnival is indigenous, but the town has adopted it some 40 years ago. Since 1969 the local witch guild has been active. The witches organize a night parade in town but also take part in parades elsewhere. I have for example seen them in Freiburg on Carnival Monday.

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Eppingen witch in real life

Outside carnival season the witches are invisible - all except one. A bronze witch has been put up in Bahnhofstraße, in a corner of the rectangular square in front of the AOK building. The witch is riding her(?) broomstick, ready for takeoff. The funny shaped tap with the toad on top provides, according to the inscription, drinking water.

Posted by Kathrin_E 01:23 Archived in Germany Tagged baden-württemberg eppingen Comments (0)

Gengenbach, the Gem of the Kinzig Valley

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When discussing the Black Forest, this charming old town is frequently recommended as a destination in travel forums. It certainly meets all expectations that visitors from overseas nourish, concerning half-timbered houses and all that „old world“ picture.

Gengenbach is not very big: The whole old town including the abbey fits into this photo which I took from the „summit“ of the hill named Bergle, sort of Gengenbach's house mountain. You can spot the medieval gate towers as well as the baroque steeple of the abbey church on the left. I was sitting on a bench under a tree, right in my back there was a small chapel dedicated to St Jacobus, a sanctuary on the Camino di Santiago pilgrimage trail. The photo gives an idea of the landscape of the lower Kinzig valley: the wide valley, the Black Forest hills, vineyards on the sunny slopes.

Gengenbach's history begins with the foundation of the Benedictine abbey in the 8th century. The early history is a bit diffuse, the legendary date of the foundation is 725 A.D. Around 800/820 the abbey was property of the Emperor and the largest monastery in the Ortenau region. The middle ages were the 'golden era' of the abbey. From the 15th century onwards things went slowly slowly downwards. Nevertheless a large new convent building was erected around 1700 while the Romanesque abbey church remained and just received a refurbishment inside. Being a Reichsabtei (imperial abbey) the monastery had the status of an independent state within the Holy Roman Empire.

The settlement that developed around the abbey gained the status of a free imperial city in the 14th century. Since then, until 1803, there were two states within the walls of Gengenbach. The division is still recognizable in the structure of the town.

Kinzig Valley

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Valley view near Gengenbach

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Fischerbach in the Kinzig valley

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Further upstream near Wolfach

The Kinzig valley is a major valley that runs through the Black Forest in East-Western direction. Geographically it divides the Southern from the Northern Black Forest. The upstream part is narrow and winding, squeezed between rather steep hills - a fine area for hiking if you are not entirely untrained. From Hausach downstream, where the Kinzig unites with the Gutach, the valley is wide with a flat ground. At Offenburg it enters the Rhine plain. In this part the river has been regulated and looks more like a canal, a measure of flood protection but nowadays we know that this measure rather made things worse and is questionable concerning ecology.

The valley has always been a major travel route into and through the Black Forest range. Getting around is easy without a car. The Schwarzwaldbahn railway line runs through the valley from Offenburg to Hausach. The upstream part and some side valleys can be travelled on the Ortenau S-Bahn network.

To visitors, the Kinzig valley is like a chain of pearls with many pretty small towns and other attractions to see. The source of the river is located in the hills near Lossburg and Alpirsbach abbey. It then passes Schenkenzell, Schiltach and Wolfach. In Hausach it unites with the Gutach, the largest of its side rivers. A short distance from Hausach there is a top attraction of the area, the museum village of Vogtsbauernhof In the wide lower valley, the town of Haslach deserves a honourable mentioning, as well as Zell am Harmersbach in a side valley. Then there is of course Gengenbach. From there downstream vineyards are planted on the slopes facing South. The valley bottom has many orchards: apples and pears, cherries, plums... By the exit of the valley into the Rhine plain, just before Offenburg, you'll spot the impressive 19th century castle Ortenberg on the last hill.

Proud History: Gengenbach is NOT a Village

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Gengenbach may look small but it is not a village. It is a town, and the inhabitants are proud of their history as a Free Imperial City. The town developed from a settlement by the abbey since the early middle ages. Around 1350/60 it gained the status as Reichsstadt and independence from the abbey. The boundaries of this small settlement contained two independent states of the Holy Roman Empire, both with no other governor but the emperor: the imperial abbey on the one hand, the city on the other. Gengenbach was not the smallest imperial city, though, this trophy goes to nearby Zell am Harmersbach.

While the abbey stayed with the Roman Catholic confession, the city introduced the reformation in the second quarter of the 16th century. In 1803 both lost their independence and became part of the Electorate, then Grand-Duchy of Baden.

The fortifications and towers and the palace-like town hall tell of the city's high self-esteem in those times when they had the status of a Reichsstadt, and their competition with their neighbour, the abbey. The towers have the black eagle, the crest of the Holy Roman Empire, painted above the gate, Kinzigtorturm even has an inscription saying „Reichsstadt Gengenbach“.

Gengenbach's Old Town

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Gengenbach's old town is not too big in size, hence easily walkable, but its streets and alleys deserve being explored thoroughly. Timberframe (Fachwerk) is the predominant historical architecture, although some buildings of the city and the well-to-do are built in stone.

The old town will match the imagination of a „medieval“ town that most overseas tourists have in their heads. Being an art historian I am a bit picky about this term. Thing is, though, that Gengenbach like most cities and towns in Germany's Southwest was burned to ashes in the war of 1689. These houses are not medieval but date from the 18th and 19th century.

Heaven and Hell

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The prettiest part of the old town, apart from the main square, is the area northwest of the main square with the two narrow streets of Engelgasse („angel lane“) and Höllengasse („hell lane“). There you'll find all the old world picture - cobblestones and timberframe houses, flower pots and cats resting on doormats and dolls in the window. Engelgasse has a curved row of rather uniform half-timbered houses which were built after the fire of 1689 with the former town hall as their foundations. Höllengasse is even narrower. In and between both lanes you'll find lots of little angles, passages and courtyards with picturesque views. People will like to call this scenery „medieval“ but it isn't, most of these houses have been built in the 18th and 19th century.

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Towers and Town Walls

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Obertor (left) and Kinzigtor

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The preserved stretch of the town wall
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Snapshot from the train
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Niggelturm
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Gengenbach had a town wall around the whole city and the abbey. After the destruction of the town in 1689, though, most of it was demolished, taken down or used as foundations to build houses on like in Engelgasse. A stretch of town wall with allure is preserved in Benedikt-von-Nursia-Straße behind the abbey grounds.

Three big towers and torsos of three small towers have remained of the imperial city's fortification.

Kinzigtor, as the name indicates, leads to Kinzig river and the bridge. The tallest of the three fortification towers is close to the railway line and easy to spot from the train. Into town, the gate leads straight to the main square and to the city hall which can be spotted through the arch. The pointed ends of the portcullis look rather threatening.

Obertor, the „upper gate“, closes the end of market square/street towards the hills. It is a picturesque gate tower crrowned with a high pyramidal roof. The tower originates from the 13th century but was damaged in 1689 and rebuilt afterwards. The inner side has the city's coat of arms painted on it, the black eagle and the small inescutcheon with the silver fish on red ground. Above there is a sundial. The arched passage has a portcullis, probably a replica, on the outside.

Niggelturm once protected the Offenburger Tor, the gate at the western end of the town. It also served as prison. It has the prettiest top of them all, a 16th century addition.

Niggelturm plays an important part in Gengenbach's carnival tradition. It is the home of the Schalk, the symbolic jester figure, who is said to sleep in here all year round until he is awakened for another Fasend season.

The seven storeys of the tower are occupied by the Narrenmuseum („jester museum“) which presents all aspects of Gengenbach's carnival, the traditional masks, the various events and the background of Alemannic Fastnacht. You can also see the Schalk's bedroom. Opening hours are unfortunately limited to Wednesday and Saturday 14:00 - 17:00 and Sunday 11:00 - 17:00 from April to October. In Advent, during the Christmas market, the museum is open Monday to Saturday 16:00 - 19:00 and Sunday 13:00 - 19:00.
Website: http://www.narrenmuseum-niggelturm.de/

Main Square

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Fasend (carnival) parade
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The main square is the centre of the old town, the meeting point of the three main streets. The shape is rather triangular than square. It does not have an official name but can be described as „market square“. Here is where the weekly farmers markets, the Christmas market and about all other events take place. Each of the three streets leads towards a gate tower. The dominating building in the square is the neoclassical Rathaus, the seat of the magistrate and government. Baroque stone townhouses and several half-timbered houses surround the picturesque square. I think this is the perfect definition of „quaint“?

The 16th century Röhrenbrunnen (fountain) marks the middle of the square. The column is crowned with the statue of a knight in armour, holding a shield with the imperial eagle.

A free imperial city needs a prestigious city hall as seat of the magistrate and government. The citizens of Gengenbach built themselves a new town hall in the 1780s. The architect Viktor Kretz, citizen of Gengenbach and member of the city council, designed it in the then modern style of early classicism.

The town hall has the size and shape of a town palace or hôtel as wealthy people built them in much larger cities. It was placed in the main square and in the visual axis of the main street. Gengenbach's ambition clearly shows.

The triangular gable carries allegoric statues of two important virtues: justice and prudence, and the imperial eagle holding the town creast, a silver fish on red ground. The Roman numbers spell out the date 1784, the year of completion.

In Advent season the facade, which has exactly 24 windows including the two dormers, is turned into a giant Advent Calendar. Every afternoon at 6 p.m. that day's window is being opened in a festive ceremony.

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The baroque building on the southern side of market square served as Kornhaus and Kaufhaus, the city's grain storage. This was the place where the natural taxes were collected. The term „Kaufhaus“ indicates that this was the centre of trade. The two smaller side doors probably lead down into the wine cellars.

The inscription on the facade dates the building to 1696. The renaissance portal, however, is about a century older. It originates from the previous building, before the destruction of the town in 1689.

Farmers Market

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Can you spot the bottles?

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The farmers market takes place in the main square in front ot the town hall every Wednesday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon. Merchandise is mostly fresh fruit and veggies, so if you need a healthy snack, you'll find a wide selection. You will also find imported fruit and veggies, but some of the merchants are really local producers selling what's in season. The Kinzig valley is a fruit region with many orchards, in season a lot of local fruit is available.

What does one do with fruit? Eat it, cook jam, bake cakes... and make Schnaps, which is considered staple food and medicine in the Black Forest. Many orchard owners make their own and sell it on markets like this.

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The Saturday market is in particular declared as Bauernmarkt, a traditional farmers' market. In addition to the stalls selling regional produce, there was a presentation of historical farming techniques set up to show what farming was like in former times - I suppose they do something like this every Saturday, at least in the warmer season.

It was the season of grain harvest, so they had installed a threshing machine from the World War II era, built in 1940. A group of elderly men were operating it. Working with this thing looked still hard but a lot easier than the traditional method of threshing by hand with flails.

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Gengenbach Abbey

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The Benedictine monastery, founded in the 8th century, had the status of an imperial abbey and proudly presented its status towards the imperial city next door. Around 1700 a large new convent building was erected while the Romanesque abbey church remained and just received a refurbishment inside. The tall baroque steeple, a landmark in the townscape together with the defence towers of the city, was added in 1712-1714.
The facades of the church show its Romanesque structure with some baroque additions, for example the curved ornaments on the Southern gable. The interior underwent another thorough refurbishment in the late 19th century, the era of historism, which removed all baroque additions aiming to reconstruct the medieval interior. Hence most of the interior is neo-romanesque or neogothic, including the frescoes and the flat ceiling.

The abbey district had its own defence walls. A former fortification tower behind the church was turned into a garden pavillon for the abbot in the 18th century, hence it is known as Prälatenturm.

The monastery's history ended with the secularization of 1803. The abbey was closed down, its grounds became property of Baden. The church became the catholic parish church of the town. The former convent building is now used by a part of Offenburg university of applied sciences and cannot be visited, but a walk around it is worthwhile for the facades and the baroque gardens.

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Bergle: Vineyards and Chapel of St Jakobus

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Gengenbach's „house mountain“, the hill that rises behind the old town, is known as Bergle, which translates to „little mountain“. Its southward slopes are covered in vineyards, the northwestern side in bushes and trees. The top of the hill is crowned by a little church, the Chapel of St Jakobus (James), which is visible from afar.

Outside Obertor the different streets and trails begin that lead to the top of Bergle and the St Jacobus chapel. The climb up to the hilltop is a bit steep but not very long. It is worthwhile for the landscape views from the vineyards and the view of the town and valley from the top. I took Otto-Ernst-Sutter-Weg up, a paved small road through the vineyards which is not the shortest but probably the most beautiful way. There is another shorter paved road up (Auf dem Bergle). The shortest way is the narrow trail through the little forest on the northern slope.

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It was a sunny August morning, the grapes were ripening and the view of the valley opened wider with every step. The path, rather a small paved country road, led me uphill in a wide curve through the vineyards.

The Chapel of St Jakobus (= James the Elder), also named Bergleskapelle, is one of Gengenbach's landmarks. The top of the hill with the wide view used to be an ancient Roman religious site already 2000 years ago. In the 13th century the first chapel was built. Through the centuries it has often been the starting point for pilgrimages. The present chapel dates from the year 1681. To hold services for large groups of pilgrims it has a stone pulpit on the outside wall. A separate, much smaller chapel hosts the Holy Sepulchre.

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On top of Bergle, behind the chapel, there are a couple of benches. This is the best spot to catch the view over the old town. I spent a pleasant little while there, relaxing after the climb and enjoying the view. (Photographers: The light is best in the morning. My photos were taken around 10 a.m.)

Except for some idiot down in town who lit a fire in his garden and the smoke disturbed my photo session. Cleaning up is certainly a respectable activity, but couldn’t he dispose of his garden rubbish later…?

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The symbol of the shell carved into a big stone proved that I was on the Camino di Santiago. Gengenbach‘s Jakobus chapel is a destination along Kinzigtäler Jakobusweg, a pilgrimage route along the Kinzig valley.

Since the middle ages a stretch of the Camino di Santiago has lead though the Black Forest along the Kinzig Valley. As pilgrimages have become popular again in recent years, the trail has been newly marked in 1993. From Lossburg to Schutterwald it has a total length of 120 kms and can be walked in seven days. I have done just two very very short stretches of the Camino, the way up Bergle in Gengenbach and from Wolfach up to the Jakobus chapel there - more about the latter later on.

Posted by Kathrin_E 00:09 Archived in Germany Tagged black_forest gengenbach Comments (2)

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