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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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...
Almond Blossom Season
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.
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:
Villa Ludwigshöhe, Summer Palace of a Bavarian King
View over the vineyards into the Rhine plain
from Villa Ludwigshöhe
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.
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
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.