The catholic parish church marks the centre of the village. It was built on a terrace above the main square. Its history dates back to the middle ages, it is one of the oldest parishes in the Murg valley. Only the bottom part of the steeple is left of the medieval church, though. The nave was substituted by a larger one in the 18th century which then underwent further changes in the 20th (date 1936 above the portal).
The interior is a wide hall without much atmosphere. The four altars and the pulpit are in baroqze style but they do not fit together, they look like an exhibition in a furniture shop. It is hard to tell how old they really are because the catholic church art still uses the baroque style to this very day.
The church is open in the daytime. If you walk past anyway, you may want to have a look inside, but it is not worth a detour.
Some houses still have them: little stone huts in the courtyard that contain a baking oven. While other villages have one or two large baking houses that were used by the whole community, here the farms each had one of their own or maybe for a handful of families, it seems. The ovens were separate buildings outside the houses because of the heat and the danger of fire. Having them in the street, easily accessible, makes sense.
I found these two in Rotenfelser Straße, round the corner from the church, but there must be more.
The current of Mühlbach stream has long been used. There must have been more water mills in the past - this one is preserved, about halfway from the village centre towards the Gumbe and the upstream end of the village. Some of the water is lead in a wooden flume a lot further upstream which has less decline than the stream itself, hence this water reaches the top of the mill wheel several metres above the stream's water level and this drives it.
The wheel is not un use any more, though, and does not turn. The former mill is a residential house now. I think the inhabitants can do without the noise of a mill wheel. When I took my photos, there was an old man sitting on the verandah by the water, relaxing in his deck chair and happily snoring.
Michelbach is the most beautiful among the villages that now form the town of Gaggenau. It is cuddled into a side valley among the hills. A mountain ridge with Mahlberg and Bernstein as highest elevations forms the background. The older part of the village stretches along a stream named Michelbach (surprise surprise) at the bottom of the valley. Newer residential quarters have grown on the slopes above.
Michelbach is known for its beautiful and well restored half-timbered houses. Flower pots in the streets add to the atmosphere. The village is well taken care of, it has won a couple of prizes in countrywide "Beautify Our Village" competitions. I am inclined to call it one of the prettiest villages in baden-Württemberg.
Some houses are still working farms, others are just residential houses. Two marked walking routes present the village, its history, attractions and particularities which are explained on signboards (in German). The prettiest part is along the stream. The street leads gently up until you reach the Gumbe at the end of the village, a small pond that is a nature reserve and a leisure ground with barbecue and a Kneipp basin etc.
More photos in the travelogue
... or vice versa, I walked it the other way round.
The distance between Michelbach and Moosbronn is given as 3.5 kilometres, which sounds like a relaxed hike. The little church in Moosbronn and its sacred image of the Madonna is a popular destination for regional pilgrimages. Processions on foot from Michelbach are done on some holidays, and many people visit on their own.
At three locations there are small stone shrines with images of Mary and baby Jesus, private donations from the 18th and 19th century.
The trail is marked with a little picture of the church in Moosbronn and named Wallfahrtsweg (pilgrimage trail). It is signposted but sometimes you have to look twice to see the signs, usually nailed to trees. The pilgrims trail is not one of the large wide paths, it is the small and steep trail that crosses the wide paths.
I was in Moosbronn and did not feel much inclination to wait for the next bus. The weather was glorious but not too hot, and 3.5 kilometres did not sound too bad, so I decided to walk. At first the trail was wide and comfortable, leading through meadows and orchards (this applies to the Michelbach side, too). However, the route soon leaves the big path and takes a narrow, uneven trail straight up the steep slope. The highest point is Mönchskopfsattel on top of the ridge between the two villages at an altitude of 525 metres. The descent to Michelbach was a lot longer but just as steep. (Well, a pilgrimage has something to do with repention, eh.)
Unfortunately I was wearing my trekking sandals (I had not planned to go hiking, after all) - it was doable but far from perfect and far from safe. I recommend wearing closed shoes, not necessarily hiking boots but comfortable walking shoes with soles that have a good grip.
The village of Moosbronn, tiny as it is used to be divided in two by a border that run right through the village. Since 1660 (when the Counts of Eberstein died out) one half belonged to the Margraviate of Baden-Baden and later the Grandduchy of Baden, the other to the Duchy, later Kingdom of Württemberg. The division also influenced the religion: Baden's half was catholic, Württemberg's half was protestant.
After the end of the two states the border still existed as border between two governmental districts within the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg. Only in the administration reform of the 1970s Moosbronn was finally reunited when both halves became part of the municipality of Gaggenau.
The historical border stones are still there. They show the crests of Baden on one side and Württemberg on the other. A marked hiking trail (Grenzweg) follows the former border. In the middle of the village a stone obelisk marks the location of the former border. On some old houses you'll see the crest of the respective state.
Moosbronn is located in a small valley high up in the mountains between Murg and Alb valley. From Gaggenau centre one has to cross the rather steep ridge of Mahlberg. Moosbronn is a small and quiet village. Walking the full length hardly takes five minutes. The village is surrounded by lush green meadows and forests with plenty of options for hiking.
The most striking feature of the village is the pilgrimage church Maria Hilf (see separate tip) which attracts a lot of visitors. These make the living for three or four inns. The catholic church runs two houses that accommodate groups.
The second most striking feature is the stud farm and riding centre of Mönchhof where Icelandic horses are bred and trained. The house next-door is a shop which is specialized on equipment for Icelandic horse riding.
Moosbronn has regular bus connections to Gaggenau, Ettlingen and Bad Herrenalb.
Pilgrimages to Moosbronn began already in the late 17th century in times of the Turkish Wars. Legends tell of a farmworker who got stuck with his horses and wagon and cried to the Madonna for help, and Mary helped. The first sanctuary was just a small chapel, built in 1683. Since it attracted more and more pilgrims, a laarger church was needed. In the 1740s the present church was erected. Franz Ignaz Krohmer, court architect of the Margrave of Baden, desinged the plans.
The sacred image of the Madonna is displayed in the retable of the main altar. It was painted after Lucas Cranach's Madonna with Child.
The church is open daily from 9.00-19.00, in summer until 20.00.
Geese are, sort of, Gaggenau's 'heraldic' animals (although they are not depicted in the town's crest). Legends say that the town was founded in a swampy area with ponds and that the place received its name from the voices of the geese. This explanation is funny but must be considered a fairy tale.
Anyway, the geese are present in town. Not real ones but sculptures. The square in front of Gaggenau station has a large fountain (There was no water in it when I visited, but basins and plumbing are there) with a flock of bronze geese, life-size and naturalistic. Between the basins there are some benches which are shaded by trees at least until mid afternoon, a pleasant spot to sit if you are, for example, waiting for a bus.
The catholic parish church of Gaggenau pretends to be a lot older than it really is. The church, dedicated to St Joseph, was built in the shape and structure of an early Romanesque basilica with short sturdy pillars, cushion capitals and flat ceilings. It is, however, just a bit older than a century. The church was built in 1899 - 1901.
The air raids of World War II hit the church together with the whole town, hence the present church is a post-war rebuilding. While most of the town centre is modern, the church was rebuilt in its original shape, only with slight simplifications. The big mural of Christ Pantokrator in the choir is an obvious post-war addition, as are the abstract stained glass windows.
The church is open in the daytime.
Practical hint or emergencies: free public toilets are in the small flat building north of the church next to the northern transept.
Gaggenau does not have an old town any more. The town was hit by bomb raids in World War II, about 70% were destroyed. Gaggenau is the seat of a notable amount of industry. The Daimler-Benz factory is the biggest employer in town.
The town centre around Hauptstraße and Marktplatz was rebuilt after the war in the typical post-war style. It has a pedestrian zone and quite a bit of shopping. Recent efforts to make the town centre more attractive and pleasant to stay in are visible: cafes and restaurants with open-air seating, modern sculptures and fountains, benches and flower pots.
If you feel like having an icecream, try brezels cafe in the library building, corner of market square. They sell icecream from a small producer in nearby Loffenau, really good.
This funny sculpture can be found in front of the town hall in market square. Unfortunately I do not know the title; would be interesting to know. My internet research was not successful, though.
The style indicates that it must be a work by Guido Messer because it so much resembles his "Claque" in Schwetzingen which consists of similar serial half-figures on the same four-legged pedestals.
It shows two men greeting each other, both with identical cheese grins and identical gestures, ready to shake hands and pat each other's shoulders. At first sight it looks like a friendly welcome. The copied expression and gesture makes one wonder, though, how honest this friendliness actually is.
Let's hope that this is not the typical behaviour of Gaggenau's magistrate...
A spa town needs a Kurpark, of course Bad Rotenfels has one. It has some pretty trees and is nice for a walk but, sorry for honesty, is not really special.
The pride of the town is, however, the thermal spa named Rotherma, which is located within the Kurpark. The spa facilities have recently been modernized. The spa uses the waters of the three thermal springs. There is a pool area with indoor and outdoor pools in different temperatures, the separate sauna part, and the salt grotto.
From late April to September the entrance fee permits unlimited stay, during the rest of the year the stay is limited to four hours.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 9.00-22.00, weekends 9.00-20.00
Single ticket: 10,50 €
The parish church of Bad Rotenfels is a late baroque building of 1752 - 1766. The interior is said to be a baroque gem - unfortunately the church was closed when I walked by, so I cannot tell about it.
The baroque steeple is a landmark and signpost in the village that can help you to find your way. It is located on the right bank of the Murg, next to the small pedestrian bridge that connects the village centre with the Kurpark and the sports grounds on the other side of the river.
The view is most impressive in the winter season when the trees in front of the church are bare.
The title "Bad", spa, is a recent acquisition. Just like the status as part of a town. Until the 1970s the place was simply named "Rotenfels" and it was just a village. The centre still tells of those times. Old Rotenfels has a rural look, small streets, small houses, a bit of timberframe architecture. The only larger building is the art nouveau office of the forest administration (photos 1). Nevertheless Bad Rotenfels is a lot prettier than the main centre of the town in Gaggenau.