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.
Eberstein castle is located on top of a ridge high above Gernsbach. You see it best from the right bank of the Murg river.
The walk from Gernsbach's old town to the castle is about 2 kms. Walking time is about 45 minutes, including the steep ascent, checking out the trees in the Arboretum (see separate tip), enjoying the view from Engelskanzel ("Angel Pulpit") 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.
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. From here it is only 600 ms to the castle.
If you don't want to do 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, and the views are better. The southern side of the castle hill is planted with vineyards. Beautiful old trees of different native varieties form the Arboretum along parts of the trail. It is especially beautiful in May when the rhododendron bushes are in bloom.
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 castle can be reached either by car or on foot. The walk from Gernsbach centre to the castle takes about 45 minutes.
The buildings on the right are now a gourmet restaurant. I hear it is excellent, unfortunately it is above my price range. There is outdoor seating on the terraces facing South with a wide view of the Murg valley and the surrounding mountains.
Website of hotel and restaurant (in English)
The winery Schloss Eberstein has a shop and tasting room in the courtyard. Here is their website (in German).
In the vineyards, for example 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.
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 beautiful 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.
See more photos of the garden in this travelogue!
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 for the maintenance of the garden.
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.
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.
The war memorial on the hill with the funny name Rumpelstein ("rumbling rock") overlooks the town and the valley and offers a fine view. It was built after World War I - I could not find any date so can't tell if it is 1920s or 1930s. Inscriptions refer to the soldiers killed in the German-French war of 1870/71 and First World War.
Access 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 stone octogon is open at the top. Around the opening we find an inscription: "Forever remains the glory of the deads' deeds." The quote is taken from the Edda, which must have been extremely popular after World War I, I have seen the same text elsewhere.
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.
The pretty half-timbered house and yard was the 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 eyecathcher 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 hosue.
The barns where the grain taxes were collected have been built right on top of the town wall on the southern side of the old town. 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 impressive 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 town hall.
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 protestant church is located on a terrace close to the river. Its origins date 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 a graveyard.
Practical hint: The flat white building at the bottom of the graveyard is the funeral hall and there are free public toilets in its back.
The so-called "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.
The catholic cemetery is located on the hilltop right behind the 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.
Walk through the gate. 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 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.
The church is open in the daytime.
As we drove out of Gernsbach back to Baden-Baden, we passed this church on the right. The town would be an enjoyable town to walk around in as I'm sure there are several interesting structures in town.