I love to get out of the house and into the woods especially if it is a new set of trails. After looking over my maps of the Odenwald area I decided to hike along the ridge line between Hemsbach and Weinheim. While the weather wasn't the greatest as least the rain stopped by the time I got to the parking lot and didn't start up until I was already back in my nice warm house. I had no idea what to expect on the route I choose since my maps didn't show any points of interest (except for some scenic overlook symbols). Therefore I was pleasantly surprised when I found the old Jewish cemetery, a group of people in old German outfits (from the Roman period) acting out some scene and a tower on the top of the ridge that gave me a great, if cloudy, view of the Rhine Valley and the beautiful valley on the east side of the ridge.
A good place to start the hike is at the Am Mühlweg parking spot in the small town of Hemsbach which is right off the A5. From the parking lot you can either head up or down the valley on the “yellow circle” trail. I went up the valley and almost immediately came across an old cemetery on the side of wooded hillside. Upon closer inspection of the tombstones I saw that it was an old Jewish cemetery. From the cemetery I continued up the trail until it hit the “red line” trail and headed south (went right). Before I did this I walked north a couple of hundred feet to see a tower and some actors doing their thing (not sure what).
One you are on the “red line” trail you are heading south and will come across a tower (Turm in German) that you can climb for fantastic views of the valleys on both sides of the ridge and a look at the next set of hills (above Weinheim) that have a tower and castle on them. From the tower you continue south on the “red line” trail down into Weinheim.
As you arrive in the town you should see blue and yellow B trail markings. You have your choice of routes to take back to your car. Both trails head back up to Hemsbach so if you want some hills follow the “yellow B” trail up into the hills and along some one-lane roads that pass through some vineyards. Once the “yellow B” trail meets back up with the “blue B” trail you can head off on the “blue B” trail when it separates with the “yellow B” trail and heads back up into the hills. The trails will merge back together before you arrive back at Hemsbach. To return to your car, you just need to find the “yellow circle” trail and head up the valley to your car.
The hike was approximately 8.5 miles and took me under three hours to complete it. There were a number of hills but they were not too steep. The path at times was covered with wet leaves which made the descents slippery at times. However, despite all the rain we are getting the paths were in good shape and worst part was the parking lot which was all churned up by forestry equipment. I plan on doing this hike again in the spring when everything is in bloom.
This year has been perfect for sledding , much more snow than in the years before - all the children love it. In some regions around Weinheim there was no school, because the buses couldn't manage the steep roads, which was even better for the children.
A great place to go sledding is in the castle gardens in Weinheim. No cars, no fences, just a steep hill to go up and down. I enjoyed the lovely view of the old town, but the children couldn't care less, for them it was fun in the snow only.
The newer castle in the hills above Weinheim is called Wachenburg. It was built by the fraternities in the beginning of the 20th century, so it's really not an old castle. Each year, in the week before Pentecost, the fraternities have a meeting in Weinheim up on the castle. During this week you can see many young men walking around in fancy, colourful uniforms, wearing sables and looking like straight our of a movie set.
Some even wear a scar in their face and are very proud of it, when fencing had been part of their initiation.(Drinking too much seems to be another part).
Apart from this week the Wachenburg offers a great view of the Rhine valley. The hike up there is not too long, but pretty steep. You can also go there by car, there is a large parking lot outside. Many hiking trails start from there.
After your hike you can relax in the restaurant.
The picture shows the main gate of the Wachenburg. All the fraternities have put up their coat of arms there. "Arms" can be taken literally for some of them, as they still fight duels.
Picture 2 was taken on a somewhat hazy day, but you can see the new castle of Weinheim on the right side and the tower of the old castle, the Windeck, with the flag on the left.
People from Weinheim had emigrated to the USA and settled there. In 1976, some of their descendants came back to Weinheim and put up a memorial to the USA, calling it a salute to 200 years independence. On it they describe the journey to the new world.
Just opposite of this memorial there is the smallest house in Weinheim, shaped like a ship.I suppose, any furniture the people living there need must be hand-made, otherwise it would be too large.
One of the counts living in Weinheim about 300 years ago had enough time and money to pursue his hobby of gardening. He sailed across the world and collected seedlings. Some of them grew in Weinheim, like this 300-year-old Lebanon ceder.
Close to the park there is also an older part of the new castle. In these nice-looking rooms a princess banished from Mannheim castle had to spend the rest of her days. She was sick and tired of her husband's philandering ways and decided not to go with him when he moved to Munich. Staying on in the Mannheim castle was impossible, so she had to move to Weinheim.
In the 18th century the new castle was built in Weinheim, no longer a fortress type of castle, but a more comfortable one.It now houses the offices of the mayor of Weinheim and of city hall. Attached to the castle there is a park, with a lake for feeding the ducks, some large bird cages and of course lots of flowers.
Most working people in Weinheim were tanners, living at the bottom of the hill where they had their own creek. Running water was essential for their job. This quarter is now a nice area to live in, but it's difficult to drive as streets are really narrow. The houses there were built in the 16th century. You can still see the tanners' sign, two crossed knives with a handle right and left. Leading up to the market square are many very narrow alleys or some pretty steep stairs.
The last guard tower was built to be just this, a guard tower, but from the 15th century on it was used as a prison for women acccused of witchcraft. City and Church authorities didn't dare to put these women in the same prison as the normal prisoners. They were afraid the"witches" would cast a spell and everyone would escape.
It is hard to understand why they still believed these poor women were witches, when none of them managed to escape by casting a spell.
How difficult life was for these poor women, and how terrible their death, depended entirely on the belief of the local priest. The Catholic priests in these times were convinced that men -males - had a soul, animals had no soul and women, well they weren't too sure. So for a woman who stood out in any way - maybe very beautiful, red hair, a special way with animals - it was very easy to be accused of witchcraft.
This mass hysteria throughout Europe went on for a long time, but the main years were in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The second guard tower still standing is called the Blue Hat. Its roof was laid with slate, seemingly blue in the sun. This tower is still attached to a piece of the old city wall. It was used as a prison. The poor prisoners - not always criminals, but also people who couldn't pay their taxes - were thrown into the tower. Straw covered the floor and in about eight meters height there was a small window. No human rights in those days.
The tower is in the park of the new castle, a playground just in front of it. The children playing there have of course no idea what happened in the tower 800 years ago.
Between the years 1200 and 1250 Weinheim got a new city wall, complete with guard towers. Three of them are still standing today. One of them is called the Red Hat, because the roof was laid with copper plates which glowed red when the sun was shining on it. The tower is usually closed to the public, but on heritage day - the second Sunday in September - it is open. I went in and started to walk up. I could easily see that the people were smaller than we are today, I'm not very tall but felt I had to duck all the time.
What you see sticking out from the tower was one of the first outdoor toilets, something the people of Weinheim were very proud of. But somehow i think, the builder back then could have chosen a better place than just above the entrance. It must have been pretty dangerous to stand there and wait for the door to open, if the soldier up there was just using the bathroom...
Looking up from the war memorial you see a group of people struggling, raising their arms against the sky. This is a metal carving of the memorial for all victims of oppression, persecution and violence. While it is certainly well-meant, in my opinion it has two flaws:
One, the memorial is in front of the tennis courts. I'm not sure if this is the best place.
And second, on the ground there is the Star of David, laid out in metal, but most of the time covered by gravel.In fact, I had been there many times before I first noticed it. I don't think it is very respectful to have people walking on the Star of David at the site of a memorial dedicated to victims of violence.
When you walk up the hill from the train station, you pass a grim memorial of three grey soldiers marching forwards. They' re standing within a wall, covered with names. This is the war memorial of Weinheim, and the names belong to the soldiers who died in the two world wars.
Directly opposite of this memorial a street leads further uphill and from the soldiers you see another memorial laid out against the sky.
Since I couldn't decide which picture should be the main picture of this tip, I decided to split it up into two tips.
In the year 1888 the Freudenberg family in Weinheim had this garden designed for them. About 100 years later, in the year 1983,still their private property, they opened it for the public. Several gardeners plant local flowers and shrubs here, they experiment with more exotic plants, young gardeners can train here and get special tasks.,for example to put together plants native to the grass lands of a prairie.
They are also very helpful when people have questions concerning gardening and occasionally there are sales of bulbs, seeds or plants.
All over the garden there are benches, some with picnic tables, so many Weinheimers spend their lunch break here.
My favourite ice-cream vendour is one minute away, so in summer I often get some ice-cream and sit in the garden for half an hour.
Best of all: Entrance is completely free, no charge at all.
The ruin you can see when you look up in Weinheim is called Windeck - windy corner. And sure enough, when you climb up the tower it is windy up there.
It was built around 1100, ruled Weinheim until the 17 th century and now houses a good restaurant.
The steps leading up to the tower are very uneven, some really low, others really high, so that I'm always asking myself how - if ever - the ladies with their long dresses managed to climb up there. When you're up on the tower the view is spectacular.
You can go to to castle by car, there are a few parking spaces behind it, but the road leading to it is extremely narrow. On the main road, going further up to the newer castle Wachenburg, there are a few more parking spaces and I recommend leaving your car there and walking the rest of the way.
Or, that's the best thing to do, drive up to the Wachenburg, park at the large parking lot there and walk down to the Windeck. This takes no more than about 30 minutes.
Again , there is a very good restaurant in the cellar of the Windeck, in summer also with a beergarden.
This is a great place to watch the fireworks on New Year's Eve.
I just about feel over laughing when I saw this car known as the "Smart Car". Kris was very up on this car and expressed her desire to own one. Should it matter that she is almost twice as tall as this puny thing?
Billed as the answer to rising fuel costs and declining open space, the car built by Daimiler-Chrysler was actually under a recall as of May 2005 when problems with the front axle have been reported.
The SMart Cars are due to hit the open market in the US by 2007. I wonder how it will handle the Los Angeles Freeway during peak rush hours?