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Edenkoben, a Palatinate Wine Town

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Edenkoben is one of the many pretty wine towns and villages along the German Wine Road at the foot of the Palatinate Forest. The streets of the town have those arches across, overgrown by vines. The town is surrounded by vineyards and there is a vineyard even in the middle of the settlement. It is surrounded by the typical landscape of the wine region: rolling hills covered in vineyards at the foot of the Palatinate Forest. Even the Bavarian King Ludwig I loved this place so much that he built his summer villa here.

The „Postcard View“ of Edenkoben" shows the silhouette of the village with the two churches above vineyards. Only during my second visit I found the spot where this view can be taken: from Blücherstraße, the Southernmost street of the town. From the train station, follow the main road (Staatsstraße) South, seemingly away from the town, past some workshops and fields until you reach the end of a row of houses. Blücherstraße turns right there. After passing the houses the street leads through some vineyards to the Southern end of the town. There, in the vineyards, it runs on a hill and the view opens up, as shown in the photo.

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Vineyard in the middle of the town
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Old and new catholic church
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Protestant church in Ludwigsplatz

Edenkoben has, sort of, grown around a vineyard which is now in the middle of the town. It is located on the slope of the hill with the old town and the two churches, it used to be on the edge of the twon. The newer quarters towards the railway line along Bahnhofstraße and Luitpoldstraße are now enclosing it. There are some nice photo options around this vineyard with the silhouette of the two churches. The vineyards are fenced off, though. A couple of footpaths lead through this area. In best Palatinate dialect these paths are named Pädel, which can be translated as „little paths“. They abbreviate the walk from the station into town notably.

Like many villages and towns in biconfessional Palatine, Edenkoben has two churches, one protestant, one catholic. The two steeples are the landmarks in the 'skyline' of the town.

The protestant church is the older of the two. The steeple is of medieval origins, the rectangular nave was built in 1739/40. As it is common for protestant churches, it was closed. Unfortunately, because I was interested most in this one. Must make an appointment next time.

The catholic church of St Ludwig is a neogothic hall church, built in 1888-1890. Previously the catholic community had used the small church of St Nepomuk in the same street, now the parish centre. The catholic community started building their church when the protestants just finished theirs, in 1740. It was dedicated to Saint John Nepomuk, his statue can still be seen on the streetside gable. It served as parish church until the much larger new church was finished in 1890, a few metres down the street. The old church was turned into a nunnery. The nuns ran a kindergarten and a crafts school for girls. Nowadays the building serves as parish centre and library. The choir, which still has its tall windows, contains a chapel. The rest has been divided into two storeys with smaller rectangular windows.

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The picture shows the ideal local couple in front of their house... Most houses, wineries or not, have those large arched gates that lead into the yard. A vine climbing the wall is also a typical addition. The dress code, at least for the women, is a bit different nowadays. The men still wear jeans and shirts and caps (or, alternatively, the green-khaki variety of work clothes most farmers have) but the women have abandoned the long dresses and white aprons and wear more practical clothing. Anyway, I found this a cute picture to describe the spirit of Edenkoben even if it is a bit kitschy and folcloristic. This is my favourite among the many painted distributor boxes in the village.

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The typical houses of Edenkoben all follow the same pattern. The residential houses are lined up with their gables towards the streets. Next to each house there is a courtyard, closed off from the street by a high wall with a large arched gate, big enough for a loaded farm wagon. Some of these arches have inscriptions with dates, names or initials of the builders. The economy buildings are in the back of the courtyard.
They all used to be wineries and farms. Nowadays many have become just residential houses of people who work elsewhere, but there are still several wineries among them.
There are still a lot of houses from the 16th to 18th century in the town. Klosterstraße has the finest ensemble. The upper part of Bahnhofstraße is also a good address.

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Painted Distributor Boxes

Distributor boxes for telecommunication are usually plain boring grey boxes in the streets. In Edenkoben they are all painted in different designs, more or less artistic, more or less colourful, but all interesting. Groups, clubs, schools and individuals could have one and paint it to their liking. The results are as varied as the people of the town.
A kindergarten painted Jim Knopf and Lukas the locomotive driver with the island of Lummerland, the castle of King Alfons the Quarter-to-Twelfth and Emma the locomotive - characters from a popular children's book by Michael Ende. Motives from the surrounding landscape were popular, like the Peace Monument, Villa Ludwigshöhe, or the vineyards. Next to the station there is one with travellers waiting on a platform. I have also seen animals, folkloristic scenes, flowers... Here is a small selection.

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King Ludwig statue in Ludwigsplatz

Ludwigsplatz is the central square of the old town. Such a square can be expected to be the town's „market square“, but Edenkoben has renamed it after the popular Bavarian King Ludwig I, the builder and owner of Villa Ludwigshöhe. His statue, a work by the sculptor Philipp Perron from Munich, has been put up in the square in 1890. The inscription quotes his motto, „Just and persistent“.
The most prominent building in the square is the baroque protestant church. Around it there are a couple of inns and some nice old houses. The fountain in front of the church is neogothic, i.e. from the 2nd half of the 19th century.
The square is used as a parking lot. It could be the pretty 'living room' of the town if the cars were banned...

Lederstrumpfbrunnen - Leatherstocking Fountain

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Wild West in a Palatinate wine town? What is the connection between F. J. Cooper's Leatherstocking tales and Edenkoben?
One of the models that Cooper used for the hero of the stories, the trapper Natty Bumppo, is said to have been a certain Johann Adam Hartmann who had emigrated from Edenkoben to America in 1764.
The sculptor Gernot Rumpf, a popular Palatinate artist who lives and works in nearby Neustadt together with his wife, created the Leatherstocking fountain in 1987-1990. The fountain can be found in the square on the corner Weinstraße/Luitpoldstraße, in front of Kurpfalzsaal, in the centre of the town.
It shows the trapper with his dog and gun and some hunted fowl. His native friend and companion, the Mohican Chingachgook, is sitting by the fountain together with a beaver couple. The painter on the other side of the fountain is taking a portrait of Leatherstocking in the forest; he is Max Slevogt, who did the illustrations for the German edition of the Lederstrumpf series. Slevogt owned a country house in the area and often came for the summer.

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On the Way to Villa Ludwigshöhe

A small road leads through the vineyards towards the forest and towards Edenkoben’s greatest sight, Villa Ludwigshöhe. The distance is walkable if you don’t mind walking two or three kilometres, a bike or car will be useful. Nevertheless, despite the desire to reach the villa quickly, there is a lot on the way that deserves attention. First, the landscape views, of course. The hills are gently rising, the chain of the Palatine Forest forms a theatrical setting, while backwards the wide Rhine plain fades in the haze. In case it‘s a clear day, on the distant horizon the hill chains of Odenwald, Kraichgau and northern Black Forest appear. Hambacher Schloss, the spires of Speyer, the dome and chimneys of the nuclear power station at Philippsburg are prominent landmarks.

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Heilsbruck Cistercian Nunnery is located on a small hill among vineyards on the edge of the town. The view is most impressive from the valley on the Southern side, by the road to Villa Ludwigshöhe. High walls surround it, but there is a driveway from Klostertraße past the entrance to the valley which is marked as part of a public sightseeing walk.

The Cistercian nuns came to Edenkoben in 1262 and built their convent outside the town. The nunnery was closed down in 1560 after the Reformation. It is now a large winery.

The church has long been torn down. Only a small stair tower is preserved. This tower and also the main building date from the 16th century.
If you want to do a wine tasting, better contact the winery in advance. According to their website they do wine tastings in English, too.

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Edenkobeners have done their best to entertain visitors along the way. A so-called „Open-Air Museum“ about wine making has been installed. Old machinery and tools that were used in wine making are lined up along the footpath: wine presses, barrels, wagons, and such. There are some benches shaded by vines if you want to sit down, rest and enjoy. Even more pleasant if you carry a bottle of well-chilled Palatinate wine and some glasses with you, but don't forget the corkscrew. The pergola covered with vines about halfway must be the perfect place for some wine tasting.
If you are lucky and if it is a sunny weekend, there might be a winery putting up a stall and some tables where you can treat yourselves to a glass of local produce...

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Almond Blossom Season

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Spring is special in Palatine, and this time it’s not because of wine. The mild climate of Palatine allows not only growing vines but also almond trees. When they are in bloom they are the town's pride and joy. Webcams and announcements on www.edenkoben.de inform the world about the state of the trees and their blossoms so that visitors can time their visit accordingly.

Every year around the end of March and beginning of April people come to see and admire the blooming trees. Edenkoben even celebrates a Mandelblütenfest (Almond Blossom Festival) every spring. The date varies and is announced at rather short notice, in relation to the progress of the blossoms.

Almond blossoms are rather large compared to those of other fruit trees. The delicate petals show a pale pink colour. They grow on the ends of the twigs and magically transform the scruffy bare trees.

The almond trees bloom for just a short period. In March the town's website shows up to date photos every day so visitors can check how far the blooming has proceeded. When the blossoms are open, don't hesitate, it won't last much longer than a week. Single almond trees are many places in town but the best location to enjoy them is the long row along the road to Villa Ludwigshöhe.

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It was a warm sunny spring day and the almond trees were in bloom. I walked a long the road that leads to Villa Ludwigshöhe when I spotted a pleasant scene around the big historical wine press: people sitting on chairs and benches enjoying a glass of wine. I tried hard but could not resist the temptation;-)

A local winery had spotted this market niche and set up a stall where they sold their produce by the glass. I can't tell how often they do this - probably only on weekends (it was Saturday) and only if the weather cooperates. The price was moderate - something like 3.50 € for a quarter.
So keep your eyes open on weekends along the walk from Edenkoben to Villa Ludwigshöhe - they were about halfway, on the hill where the big old wine press is on display. If you see the stall, enjoy the most pleasant pastime a wine village in Palatine has to offer. If you are by car, the poor driver will have to abstain. Another advantage of public transport!

My Pinot blanc matched the scenery and atmosphere perfectly!

Sharing a glass of wine with a wombat can lead to surprising effects, though... before and after:

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Villa Ludwigshöhe, Summer Palace of a Bavarian King

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View over the vineyards into the Rhine plain
from Villa Ludwigshöhe

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Villa Ludwigshöhe is located on the slope of the Palatinate Forest, not very high up but high enough to offer a wide view of the Rhine plain and the Palatinate vineyards. It was built around 1950 as a summer palace for the Bavarian King Ludwig I (not the one who built Neuschwanstein but his grandfather and predecessor) in neoclassical style. In the 19th century the part of Palatine on the left bank of the Rhine belonged to Bavaria. Ludwig wanted a summer residence in a landscape that reminded him of Italy and in the place with the mildest climate of his country. He chose Edenkoben. His court architect Friedrich Wilhelm von Gärtner designed the villa in 1846. It is a holiday home. In every second summer Ludwig spent a couple of weeks here.

The historical rooms can only be visited with guided tours. Tours start every full hour. (I cannot tell if they do tours in English, sorry.) The interior is well worth seeing. The first stop is the kitchen, which was equipped with the most modern standards of those times. No electricity yet, but the large hearth and the system of ovens, water heater, a box to warm the plates, etc. is impressive. The most beautiful room is the main hall with murals in Pompeian style, copied after the model of the Casa dei Dioscuri. The rooms of King and Queen on the upper floor also have neoclassical murals, and the most beautiful landscape view.

The villa also hosts an art gallery with works by Max Slevogt, one of the best known German impressionists. The Slevogt family owned an estate in a nearby village and Max often stayed there to paint. Otherwise he lived in Munich, and he was very close with King Ludwig I. whom he portrayed several times. Hence this is a befitting location for his works.

Practical hints:
Opening hours: Oct-Nov and Jan-March 9.00-17.00, Apr-Sep 9.00-18.00
Closed on the first workday of the week and in December
Entrance fee: 6 € including guided tour of the historical rooms and visit to the Slevogt gallery

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The slopes behind Villa Ludwigshöhe are covered in chestnut forests. Sweet chestnut trees are common in the lower parts of the Palatinate Forest. This tree is not a native to the area but has become a wild tree around here. It likes the mild climate of the wine region.
Ludwig I had hundreds of chestnut trees planted around his summer villa, and the species spread further into the forests. They are beautiful trees with their wavy long leaves that grow in star-like patterns, and the light green spikeballs that contain the chestnuts. Picking a fallen 'hedgehog' from the ground should be done, they may look fluffy but they are rather pricky.
Dishes with sweet chestnuts (Keschte, Maroni) can be found on the menus of many restaurants in Palatine, especially in autumn when it's the season.

Posted by Kathrin_E 15:00 Archived in Germany Tagged edenkoben pfalz Comments (0)

Lauterbourg

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Place de la République and the catholic church

Let’s do a quick jump across the French border today. This can be done on a KVV ticket on the local train from Wörth. Lauterbourg is the border station on the edge of the KVV network, a small Alsation country town in closest vicinity to the German border.
Since we all love superlatives... Lauterbourg is the easternmost settlement in mainland France. It is located in the ultimate corner of Alsace on the Rhine where the French-German border leaves the river and takes a westward turn, thus easy to locate even on a map of the world. (Please note that I said mainland France. Of course Corsica is further east and several overseras territories are even much further east.)

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I did not have much idea what to expect and found it a nice place for an afternoon trip. The centre is small and easily walkable. The longest walk is the way from the station into town, which takes about 20 minutes (plus the time noeeded for taking photos).

Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-bon-secours is the first historical building that I spotted on the way. The little chapel was built in 1667 (date above the portal) after the plague hit the town. Only 200 inhabitants of Lauterbourg survived, and they donated the chapel here outside the town. This was the location of the cemetery where the victims of the epidemy had been buried. The cemetery is gone, though. Behind the chapel there is a modern residential quarter with large apartment blocks, named „Cité de la Chapelle“.

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Walking into town along Rue de la Gare takes you along a residential quarter with small villas from the first half of the 20th century. This walk is pleasant if you stay on the left side of the street: the sidewalk is under large trees that offer shade.

After passing the headquarters of the fire brigade there are some narrow lanes on the right that lead into a quarter with older, small houses, some of these with timberwork. This must have been a poorer suburb in former times. Not all houses are in good shape. Some nice streetviews can be caught, though, for example in Rue de la Forge.

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Round a few corners I reached Place de la République, the main square of Lauterbourg. What other name could the main square of a French town have? The square has been redesigned not too long ago and makes a pleasant sight with ist flags and flower beds. Only the many cars disturb the picture.

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Place de la République seen from the platform behind the church

Rue de la Première Armée is the main street of the town. Here you find the most impressive townhouses and the town hall, and also a wide variety of shops. Unfortunately there is a lot of traffic running through (okay this was Friday afternoon rush hour, it should be better in other times of the day.

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Hôtel de Ville et Mairie, the town hall of Lauterbourg, is a baroque building in Rue de la Première Armée, easy to find because of the flags in front of it. The beautiful sandstone portal shows the town crest and the date 1731.

The ground floor hosts the tourist information office, which might be useful for visitors. Even if you don't want to visit it, walk in through the portal to see the vaulted vestibule. The mairie was enlarged by a modern annex on the left of the historical town hall. I have not found out what the sculpture on the facade is supposed to mean.

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The centre of Lauterbourg is a mix of styles. The town has its share of historical buildings, mostly baroque. In the Reunion wars of the late 17th century under Louis XIV French troops burned down the town in 1678. It was then rebuilt in the early 18th century.

In the 18th century some remarkable houses have been built, like the yellow one in the photo on the right. Its tall gable with the regular windows is an eyecatcher in the main street.

In the side streets I spotted some pretty half-timbered houses. Below there is a little gallery of excamples:

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Not much is preserved from the times before the fire, for example the Episcopal Residence and Tour des Bouchers.
The renaissance building with the stair tower in the back was the residence of the Prince Bishops of Speyer during their visits to the town. Otherwise it was inhabited by their governor. In the 19th century it was turned into a school.
Tour des Bouchers and the adjacent, rather ruined stretch of town wall are remains of Lauterbourg's medieval fortification. The tower is named the „Butchers' Tower“ because the butcher guild was in charge of it. To each guild a part of the fortification was assigned where their members had to stand guard in case of war or siege. Later on the tower was used as prison. The tower is not in good shape and the wall is crumbling. Watch out for falling bricks.

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Bishop's Residence and Tour des Bouchers

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Porte de Landau is a town gate which was built in the place of a medieval gate in 1708. It is part of the baroque fortifications in Vauban style. The outward side shows a relief with a sun in the triangular gable: the symbol of the Sun King Louis XIV, which is presented to every visitor who enters from the German border. Landau is the name of the nearest larger town on the German side. The square behind is named after the famous French military architect Vauban who designed so many fortresses in those times.
This gate made history in the German-French War. German troops, Dragoner from Baden commanded by Count Zeppelin, marched into France through here on July 24, 1870. This was the first act of this war (which lead to the foundation of the second German Empire).

In the street behind Porte de Landau I spotted a funny building which I named The Melting House, because that's what it looks like. No idea if it has an official name. An imaginative artist has painted the facade of this small town house in a really weird way. Porte de Landau. The pink colour makes it impossible to miss. Fancy, isn't it?

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The catholic Church of the Holy Trinity is the centre and landmark of the town. It is located on a platform above the main square. The building still has some medieval (gothic) parts in the choir and the sacresty. It was badly damaged in the wars of the late 17th century, though. The nave has been renewed in 1716.

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Details of the architecture reveal the origins of the architect: Dominicus Elmenreich, who had learned his craft in Vorarlberg.
The church is open in the daytime. The interior still contains one piece from the old church: the pulpit, dated 1581.

The Latin inscription above the main portal: „hIC sVM faVente Deo paCe et Vrbe“, can be translated as: Here I am, thanks to the Lord, peace and the city. It is a chronogram. The enlarged letters can be read as Roman numbers and give the year of the construction: M D CC VVV I = 1716.
The platform behind the church offers a fine view Place de la République with its flower beds.

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The little protestant church is well hidden in a side lane named Rue du Temple. It looks a bit unusual and there is reason for that. The building originally served as powder magazine for the Vauban fortress. Itw as built in 1708. In 1887 the protestant community bought the building to turn it into a church. This proved difficult. Windows and doors had to be broken into the walls which are 1.70 m thick. The floor had to be lowered. A small bell spire, just a wall with two arched openings for the bells, was added on top of the gable.

I would have liked to see the interior, but it was closed and there was no mentioning of opening times, so I assume they only open it for services.

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The two cemeteries of Lauterbourg, the Christian and the Jewish, are located next to each other outside the old town along Rue de la Chapelle. The Christian cemetery is the bigger one, and open in the daytime. The active part of the cemetery has a mix of older and modern tombstones. The older monuments are on family graves that have recently received a new 'inmate', otherwise they would have been cleared after a certain time. The bones are then put to rest in the ossuary next to the little chapel. A custom that was new to me are the little stone or brass plates on the graves, each donated by a family member or friend with a memorial wish for the defunct.

In the back of the graveyard there are two rows of historical, mostly 19th century tombstones along the hedge, obviously taken away from the graves and put on display there. Some of these marked the graves of members of the local freemason loge „Persévérance“. The symbol of this loge was the bee, and it is depicted on their stones.

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The much smaller Jewish cemetery is surrounded by a high wall, and the gate is locked. But you can catch a glimpse through the wrought-iron gate. The cemetery was opened in the second half of the 19th century, the oldest tombstone present dates from 1877. Most tombstones are pre-World War II, for obvious reasons.

From the cemeteries it was just a short walk to the station, so I ended my tour there and took the next train back home.

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Lauterbourg train station has connections in two directions: to Strasbourg, and across the border to Wörth in Palatinate. A look at the timetable shows that connections to Strasbourg are once per hour or once in two hours but not at regular intervals. Also, the German and French trains don't connect. If you plan to continue south, check the timetable carefully. Connections into Germany are better. Local trains run from Lauterbourg to Wörth every hour and reach Wörth after 16 minutes. In Wörth you connect to the regional train route between Karlsruhe and Landau/Neustadt-Weinstraße and the Karlsruhe city tram into the city and to Germersheim. The route is part of the KVV and VRN public transport networks, the respective tickets are valid. The state of Rheinland-Pfalz has recently modernized the fleet of local trains, so there is a modern diesel railcar commuting on this line.

Posted by Kathrin_E 00:48 Archived in France Tagged alsace lauterbourg Comments (0)

Annweiler and Trifels Castle

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Annweiler is located in the Pfälzer Wald (Palatinate Forest) in the valley of the river Queich. This is one of the major valleys into the Palatinate Forest, but that does not imply it is really big. There are but a few streams and small rivers leaving the hills in eastward direction into the Upper Rhine Plain. The Queich valley is important enough to have both a regional railway line (Landau – Pirmasens) and a highway following it.

The village of Annweiler is famous because, and only because, of Trifels castle. But the village has got its own charm and romantic spots, especially along the small river Queich. Its main attraction is the castle, so the village is often overlooked, but the walk from the railway station takes leads the old centre. Looking a bit left and right is worthwhile.

Trifels Castle

„Trifels“ translates to „triple rock“. The mountain with the three peaks has always been considered a special, sacred place at least since the middle ages, if not far earlier. Each of the three summits bears a castle, one of them rebuilt, the other two in ruins: Trifels, Anebos, and Scharfenberg.

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Photo 1: From left to right: Trifels, Anebos, Scharfenberg

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Photo 2: Vice versa. A snapshot taken from the train between Landau and Annweiler.

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Trifels castle belonged to the Staufer emperors and kings. It was their most important castle in the high middle ages. Later neglected and decayed, the ruin was saved in the 19th century and finally rebuilt in 1938-1950. What we see today is in parts a 20th century building, including some features which indicate that the project was planned and started during the Nazi era. Since this place was of highest importance to the Staufer dynasty, it gives testimony of a great era in German history (although, strictly speaking, there was no such thing as Germany in the middle ages).

In the Staufer era, the insiginia of the Holy Roman Empire were stored on Trifels castle for safekeeping. Replica of the medieval crown, sword, scepter etc. are on display inside the castle - the original pieces sare kept in Vienna and can be admired in the treasure chamber in Hofburg.

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Hiking up to Trifels Castle

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Trifels castle is clearly visible from about everywhere in Annweiler, thus impossible to miss.

That’s the theory.

Unless it's a foggy day, as happened to yours truly.

Clouds were low and hid the castle. So we asked somebody who looked like a local about the right path, an the person told us, „Ah yes, go over there, then left, and then turn right and climb uphill.“ So we went over there, turned left and then right and climbed and climbed... finally the fog thinned, the sun came out, and we had an amazing view of the three summits across the valley because we were standing on top of the wrong hill...

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My companion strictly refused to climb up a second hill, so I did not reach Trifels castle that day. We found a fine cafe at the bottom, sat down for coffee and cake, and called it a day.

As you see from the photos, I gave Trifels a second try, now on a glorious sunny day in October. This time I found my way;-)

As soon as you are at the foot of the right hill, trails are marked. All trails up will take you to the castle. The distance isn't actually far, but the paths are rather steep, so the hike isn't that easy. For the 'softies', you can go halfway up by car, leave your car at the parking and walk only the last bit.
Opening hours of the castle: April - September: 10.00–18.00, October - November and January - March: 10.00-17.00. Closed in December

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The Palatinate Forest: Hikers‘ Paradise

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Endless hiking trails, great views of the Rhine plain and the hills, castle ruins, charming villages and of course great wines and food from the Pfalz - the Palatinate Forest / Pfälzer Wald is truly a paradise for hikers.

The Palatinate Forest is an area which is relatively unspoilt by tourism. It is popular in the region for hiking and outdoor sports, but hardly known among international visitors. The hilly region along the western side of the Upper Rhine plain is covered with seemingly endless forests. This is the largest forest area in the whole of Germany, and classified as a national park. Grünstadt, Kaiserslautern, Pirmasens, the French border and the Wine Road mark the borders of the protected area. The landscape is connected with the Vosges on the French side. The highest peaks reach an altitude of more than 600 m.

If you plan to do hiking in the Palatinate Forest, wear appropriate shoes. Ankle-high hiking boots aren't necessary (though no mistake if you have them) but you need soles that have a good grip. The paths can be steep and rocky, have loose stones and mud, and get slippery when wet or covered with leaves. Even the trails up to Trifels castle are unpaved, steep forest paths. Clumsy Me observed 999 tree roots but tripped over root number 1000 on the way down and bruised her knees badly... ouch!

Hiking is more fun if you have a destination. Several of the peaks along the Rhine plain carry the ruins of medieval castles, for example Madenburg, Burg Landeck, Hambacher Schloss and the most famous of them, Trifels above Annweiler, or view towers and viewpoints. Wide views down into the Rhine plain over to Odenwald, Kraichgau and Black Forest add to the pleasure.

The further west you go, deeper into the forests, the quieter and more remote they are. Sandstone rock formations in the central part are popular among rock climbers.

The majority of the trees in the forests are deciduous. This means autumn colours. In October the entire forests turn to rich golden colours. This is the most beautiful season for hiking, good weather provided. Sweet chestnut trees grow wild in these forests, guess what many local specialities include. The Palatine is a region for foodies and wine lovers...

Posted by Kathrin_E 13:57 Archived in Germany Tagged pfalz Comments (0)

Marxzell Car Museum: The Craziest Museum I Know

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Marxzell is a village halfway up the Alb valley, on the way to bad Herrenalb which I have already presented, adn on the same S-Bahn line. In fact it consists of a handful of villages (Marxzell and Frauenalb down in the valley, Burbach, Pfaffenrot and Spielberg up in the hills). Marxzell is not very big, but apart from forests and hiking trails, the community has two major attractions: the car museum and, further up the valley, the ruins of Frauenalb convent.

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The name of the village indicates its origins: Marxzell = „Marci cella“. A cella is a dependance of a monastery, with two or three monks who take care of a parish church and its community. Saint Marcus, Mark the Evangelist, indicates a relationship with Reichenau abbey in the early ages. Later on Marxzell was connected with Herrenalb.

The catholic parish church is still dedicated to St Mark. It is the oldest parish church in the Alb valley. The steeple remained of the 14th century church, the nave was substituted by a new and larger one in 1782. The chapel inside the steeple contains the tombstones of the last nuns of Frauenalb who died in the early 19th century when their convent had already been closed down. I would have liked to see the interior but the church was closed, and I could not find any hints about regular opening hours.

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Marxzell has some tradition as location of a goat market. Goats are the perfect domestic animals for these rough mountain regions and steep slopes. They were the poor man's cow.

A sculpture opposite the car museum recalls the Marxzell goat market. Farmer and merchant are both dressed in their Sunday best. The object of the trade is a big strong billy goat. The handshake confirms the sale. Both look happy with the result of presumably long and tough haggling about the price.

I guess that nobody has asked the goat’s opinion, I hope he found a good new master...

However, the main attraction of the village is the Car Museum.

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No matter if you are a car freak or not - if you like exploring old stuff, or if you are a devoted messie, this museum is absolutely worthwhile. It was begun 40 years ago by a family of private collectors, and is still private property. They collected oldtimer cars and everything that is related to them, no matter how distant.

The collection grew and is still growing. It fills several halls now. Not only tools and parts and petrol pumps and such, but also toys, souvenirs, dishes, automatic musical instruments, trophies, teddy bears, household items... Dressed-up dummies impersonate the owners and users of the cars.

This museum is a jungle. Imagine a couple of halls with as many cars as ever fit in. Then imagine stuff of all varieties from the same era squeezed in between the cars, in the cars, on top of the cars, hanging from the ceiling and on the ground and everywhere. Only a narrow passage in the middle is left for the visitors. Seeing the museum is more like an expedition. You'll discover more details, more little things and more funny settings again and again.

This is the messiest, craziest, and coolest museum I ever saw. It contradicts each and every principle of modern museum design and didactics. It contradicts just about everything I ever learned about exhibitions, how to plan, organize, and present them. But exactly this is why this museum is so much fun to visit!

The cars are roughly sorted by country and company. A side hall is dedicated to agriculture, tractors and tools. The second hall has a large collections of fire engines and even a firefighting helicopter. One room is a workshop (but nobody could work in such a mess). The upstairs gallery shows motorbikes and bicycles.

The museum also includes a small cinema with early 20th century furniture, complete with an old projector and a piano, which shows a movie about old cars at regular intervals.

Another new hall, which enlarged the museum by 600 sqm or 20%, has been opened in 2013; I have not yet seen that new part, though.

Some of the cars are fully functional, the owners can often be seen with them in oldtimer parades in the region.

Practical Hints:
How to get there: Take the tram S1 and get off at „Marxzell“; from the station it is a walk of 5-10 minutes to the museum.
Opening hours: daily 14.00 - 17.00
Entrance fee: adults 5 €, concessions 3 €
Website: http://www.fahrzeugmuseum-marxzell.de/

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The collection of fire engines, and a mechanic's workshop

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Old stuff in between

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One of their treasures: a 1915 Ford Tin Lizzy

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View from the gallery

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A car from the museum takes part in an oldtimer parade in Karlsruhe

Posted by Kathrin_E 13:59 Archived in Germany Tagged black_forest albvalley Comments (0)

Altstadtfest in Gernsbach

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Every year on the third weekend in September the entire old town of Gernsbach in the Murg valley transforms into a fairground. The festival is opened on Friday night. On Saturday it begins in the afternoon and has its climax with illuminations and the musical fireworks in the evening. On Sunday it runs all day. The streets and lanes are full of stalls selling arts and crafts, fashion accessoires and stuff, and food and drink of all varieties including local specialities. Many of the food and drink stalls are operated by the clubs of the town. Bands are playing at every corner. Gernsbach's twin towns of Baccarat (France) and Pergola (Italy) have their corners with music, information and specialities. One alley along Zehntscheuer and other old houses hosts a "medieval" market which charges an entrance fee of 1 €; it is not big but very atmospheric. A knights camp takes place on the Murg island. On the Murg river raft rides are offered. The churches and Storchenturm were open so I could include some sightseeing.

Unfortunately I could not go on Saturday due to health problems so I missed the illuminations. I went on Sunday instead. I had expected the little town to be horribly crowded but I was pleasantly surprised - the festival was buzzing but everyone had enough space to move and to see the stalls, lines for food and drink were not too long. All in all it was an enjoyable experience and I would happily go again.
For those of you who read German, all details about the current festival, the schedule, town map and list of participants can be found some weeks in advance on the website of the town: http://www.gernsbach.de

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Drink: Fresh Apple Juice

September is apple time. What to do with them, especially from those in the orchard meadows? Press them and make Most. Gernsbach has a club of Süßmost makers who take care of the orchards and operate the press. They have a big stall on the Altstadtfest where they show how juice is made. Very easy: wash the apples, put them through a shredder, fill the mash into the press and, well, press.
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The fresh juice runs through a sieve to catch seeds and bits and can then either be drunk fresh or left to fermentation to make apple wine, named Most (pronounced "Mosht" in Baden and Swabia). On the Altstadtfest they only have the fresh Süßmost. A couple of weeks later the real Most will be available. The fresh juice can have accelerating effects on the digestive system, so if yours is sensitive, don't drink too much of it;-)
Distinguish:
Süßmost = fresh juice right from the press, non-alcoholic, very sweet
Rauscher = half-fermented, yummy, still sweet but already alcoholic, be careful
Most = apple or pear wine, fully fermented, alcoholic.

Food: Bubespitzle aka Schupfnudeln

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These are a local kind of pasta which is prepared in a big pan together with sauerkraut and bacon. Much tastier than it sounds! They are my favourite festival food hereabouts. On festivals like the Altstadtfest and also on Christmas markets it is available as takeaway. Local pubs and rural restaurants also have it on their menu.

In Swabia this type of pasta is known as Schupfnudeln while in Baden it is called Bubespitzle ("little boys' tips") because that's what it looks like - use your imagination;-)

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The Murg Rafters

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Fancy a little cruise on an unusual vessel? Raft rides on Murg river are one of the main attractions during Altstadtfest.

Rafting and timber trade was the base of the economy in many of those towns along the rivers in the Black Forest. Gernsbach earned a modest wealth with this business. The timbers that were cut up in the forests had to be transported to the cities along the Rhine where they were sold and used for construction. The waterway was easiest. The logs were tied to long rafts and drifted down the rivers. The rafters lived in a hut on their floating merchandise until they reached the markets where they untied and sold the logs. Then they marched back home or hitched a ride on a cart to start a new raft.

Nowadays timbers are transported by truck or train. Rafting is only revived as a historical tradition. A club in Gernsbach who name themselves the Murgflößer (Murg rafters) have rebuilt such a raft. Unlike the historical ones it has a motor and can travel upstream. It is more a party vehicle, though...

The raft is made from long logs but well covered like a boardwalk. There is a long table in the middle and a counter where passengers can buy wine and non-alcoholic drinks.

The uniform the rafters invented was probably inspired by carpenters and does not resemble real work clothes of former times that much, but they look handsome in it. It consists of black pants and vest, a white shirt, a black hat and a yellow necktie. The women wear some kind of Dirndl dresses.

During Altstadtfest the Murgflößer club invites to ride the raft (2 € charge). The Murg is a shallow river, blocked by a dam downstream and the Murg island upstream. The navigable distance is hardly more than 200 m. So this has nothing to do with thrilling whitewater rafting, it is a quiet affair. Enjoy a glass of wine and the view of the river banks.

I could not resist the temptation to go for an adventurous raft ride on the Murg river. Adventurous, LOL - in fact it was not too spectacular. With a glass of Spätburgunder from the nearby Ortenau in hand it was fun, though - and something one simply has to do when there is the chance.

The green dinosaur that appears in the photos is a balloon that a child brought on board.

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Landing manoeuvre

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Fountain and Raft, Water and Light
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Posted by Kathrin_E 14:32 Archived in Germany Tagged black_forest murg_valley Comments (0)

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