The two churches of Weingarten are positioned next to each other in one line, they sort of form a pair of 'sisters'. The two steeples are points de vue from the bridges over the little river. The panorama is best enjoyed from the twerrace below Wartturm. The two churches are turned towards each other - rather unusual to see a catholic church with the choir in the west.
Both are not as old as they seem - late 19th century. The former church in the centre of the village was shared among the two confessions; the catholics used the choir, the protestants used the nave, until each confession was finally able to build their own church.
The protestant church (photo 2) is a rather plain sandstone building. Like many protestant churches it is closed outside services.
The catholic church (photos 3 - 5) is open in the daytime and can be visited. The door through the steeple is open. The interior resembles mendicant churches of the middle ages. Paintings on the flat ceilings show the seven catholic sacraments.
The church is in need of a renovation. There seem to be static problems about the building. A part of the nave is roped off, the choir has a net under the vaults, and the northern wall shows some cracks.
(Footnote: there is a toilet in the corner opposite the entrance.)
The town hall of Weingarten is a building with interesting art nouveau facades. It dates from 1900. The facade towards the street has a little tower, a pulpit above the main portal (for the mayor to make speeches?), and the art nouveau shapes are mixed with scarce gothic ornaments.
A funny detail (photo 4): on the corner there is a bust of a man in talar and beret who points at a book, and an inscription in gilded letters: "Geht dir Rath aus, geh ins Rathaus" ("If you need advice, go into the town hall") - the pun works only in German. The book is inscribed "LEX", in other words, it's the law.
The street crossing in front of the town hall is the busiest in town but behind it there is a quiet courtyard in modern design. A narrow passage leads there between town hall and the icecream parlour in the house on its right. Get yourself an icecream, walk over to the backyard and sit down on the stairs and relax...
Walk'sches Haus is the most beautiful half-timbered house in Weingarten. It is located by the main bridge and in vicinity to the two churches. These together for the most picturesque street view of the village.
The house originally dates from 1701 but has been rebuilt in the 1980s.
It is a country inn with a restaurant and guest rooms. The restaurant also has outdoor seating, in the courtyard and on a terrace by the stream.
The so-called Tier- und Naturpark is a tiny zoo which is operated by the local bird protector association. It shows mostly domestic animals, like sheep, goats, ducks and chickens, a small herd of fallow deer (click for photos), and a variety of exotic birds from canaries to parrots.
This is not a zoo one would travel far for. It is also not the best-kept zoo I have ever seen, to put it mildly, although tle living conditions of the animals look acceptable. Visitory are mostly local familes with small kids. However, if you are in the village and have children to entertain, it is good to know about this. There is also a cafe/eatery in the bird park.
Entry is free. Sorry can't find anything about opening hours. The part with the bird cages can be closed off but the paddocks of the larger animals seem to be accessible any time.
The old cemetery of the village is located next to the zoo park. It has long been given up, only a handful of old graves are still there. The plants of the forest are reconquering the area. This is the "nature" part of Tier- und Naturpark. Birds of the forest can be observed here. A trail leads through the cemetery grounds and further on to the animal paddocks of the little zoo.
From the entrance gate and the top of the wall you have a pretty view of the village with the two churches and the watchtower on the hill [photo 5) and over the valley to the vineyards of Katzenberg.
Walzbach is the stream that runs through the village. It is canalized with stone walls, but the stretch downstream from the main bridge has grassy banks. Here, in the very centre of the village, is the best spot to observe the animals that live in the stream.
Ducks, obviously. There is hardly an open water without wild ducks hereabouts. There are mallards and mixes with domestic races. (Please don't feed them, you are not doing them any good.) Cutest in spring and early summer when the little ducklings are there.
There is another species at home in Walzbach and if you are lucky you get to see them: nutrias or coypus (not to be confused with muskrats, which look similar but are a different species). These large rodents originate in South America. They were and still are bred in Europe for their fur. Some escaped, some were set free on purpose, so the species established in the wild although the Central European climate is not perfect for them. Nutrias are feeding on plants and the ducks obviously did not consider them a threat. Birds and rodents happily share the stream and its banks.
I had no idea there were nutrias in Walzbach but the large number of people who were lining up by the stream and staring into the water made me do the same, so I spotted them right below where I was standing, to my surprise and joy. A family with eight half-grown kits, cute fluffy little things...
More photos of the nutrias
Video of the ducklings in photo 4
The courtyard behind the art nouveau town hall has been redesigned a few years ago. Rathausplatz is now called the "new middle" of the village (a bit exaggerated but if they must...) It is a modern square, surrounded by the town hall and other houses, no traffic, thus quiet. It has a pizzeria and one or two other cafes/eateries with outdoor seating, and also the large open stairs and some benches for passers-by to just sit and relax.
Why am I telling you about this? Well, in case you find the icecream place next to the town hall on the right, buy an icecream cone and wonder where to enjoy it along that noisy busy unpleasant street - walk through the narrow passage between the town hall and the icecream place and you are right here. The benches and the stairs are perfect to sit down and enjoy your cold sweet treat.
Wine making is a backbreaking job. We easily forget how hard the vintners and their helpers had to work for that fine drop in our glass. Weingarten honours the namesakes of the village with a small monument that is easily overlooked, but touching if you have a closer look at it. The sandstone figure, hard to tell if it is a man or a woman, carries a heavy load of grapes on his (her?) back. Face and posture express how tough it is.
Location: Durlacher Straße, corner Kirchstraße in the curve uphill (Kirchstraße meets Durlacher Straße twice, it is the southern corner, not the one next to the churches).
The watch tower on the hill above the village was built in the 16th century. Palatinate soldiers used to stand guard on it. After war damages it was renovated in the 19th century.
The large sandstone relief of the angel on the wall dates from 1956, it is meant as a war memorial.
The tower is open only on Sunday afternoons. It is used for exhibitions, and there is the viewpoint on top. The view of the village can also be enjoyed from the terraces below the tower any time.
One mill wheel is still turning, driven by the waters of Walzbach. The wheel is attached to Untere Mühle (Lower Mill), a former water mill. It is an "undershot" wheel, i.e. the water hits the bottom of the wheel.
This is not the original wheel, though. It is a recent reconstruction, dated 2002. The energy is used to gain electricity.
Weingartner Moor is a swamp landscape in the Rhine plain south of Weingarten. It is actually an old river bed. Until the end of the ice age the rivers Kinzig and Murg ran along here. Since they changed their beds and broke through to the Rhine further south, the former river bed became a swamp.
These wet lowlands are of high ecological value and thus a protected nature reserve. They are a mix of wetland forest, reeds, ponds and streams and home to many endangered specieses of amphibia, birds, insects and plants.
Visitors can enter the area on foot but on the marked trails only. If you have the chance, join a guided tour that explains the particularities of nature. There are no regular tours but sometimes nature groups in the region organize one. I once had the chance and this was very interesting.
Bring and apply moskito repellent...
The sunny hillsides above Weingarten that face south and west are planted with vines and orchards. There are some paved trails that can be walked, which is herewith recommended because of the view over the village and far out into the Upper Rhine Plain with the hills of the Palatinate Forest in the background.
From the village centre, best is walking up to Wartturm/watch tower, then continue across the cemetery and follow the road further uphill. It is only a short walk to the beginning of the vineyards.
Most local vintners are members of the Winzergenossenschaft (winemakers' association) because their patches of land are too small to do everything on their own. There the grapes from their small vineyards are assembled and processed. Winzergenossenschaft Weingarten is known for good whites of different varieties (give me the white burgundy resp. pinot types any time...) that go well with a meal of, for example, fish or asparagus.
The village has installed an 'educational path' in the vineyards. Signboards explain about the works in the vineyard, the grape varieties, and so on. They hardly provide more than the most basic information, though, so you don't miss much if you don't read German.