During the Roman settlements in what is Germany today, they have built a limes, Limes Germanicus to be precise, to defend their territory to the east. In that approx. 570 km long defensive “wall”, a tiny section of 70 km, leads down south from Main river approximately south of Aschaffenburg. It was called Odenwaldlimes, best seen on the map of Limes Germanicus and was the original section of the wall, until it was decided to expand to the east. Close to this, remains of many hundreds of villas have been found and this one, Villa Haselburg, was one of the biggest villae rusticae (countryside villas), the biggest in Hesse state to be precise. It had a big bathing house with several types of baths (different water temperature). A model of their very comfortable toilets has been put here and @leics, our avid Roman expert who went here with me, told me that they even had these in several sizes for the several butt sizes, haha. It never ceases to amaze me how elaborate the Romans were in every aspect of life and building expertise. They also had a fascinating method of floor heating and heating in general, by leading hot water or steam through clay tubes. Several of these can also be seen in the remains of this villa rustica. A bit in the distance of the villa buildings they also had a Jupiter temple, which shows that it must have been a wealthy family who lived here.
The villa can be visited all year round, there is no fence, no entrance fee. They have a small model at the entrance of the ground and a very detailed leaflet to take, although in German only. It is nice to leave a small donation in the box because the work and caring of this fascinating Roman remains is all done on a honorary base.
Oh, the name Haselburg derives from hazelnut trees which grow here.
Update, August 2010:
I came back with visitors and the little hut at the entrance was open. Inside is a huge collection of clay pots and plates which were found during the excavations and many maps, sketches and another little model explaining the significance of this villa in context to the other settlements.
And leaflets are available now in English as well.
This is also a bit tricky to visit, because no bus stops here. Villa Haselburg is located approx. 5 km west of the village of Höchst, southwest of Dieburg. Dieburg is located at B26, the Bundesstrasse between Darmstadt and Aschaffenburg.
Nearest airport: Frankfurt International (code FRA).
Villa Haselburg on google maps
© Ingrid D., July 2009 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
I came across this very unusual custom when I read a book about hiking in Odenwald. On one of the photos these strange “tomb poles” and I knew I had to find them. The custom of adding these to graves seems to date back to pagan times when the dead were laid out on wooden planks to protect them against evil spirits on their last journey. Later they were used to transport the dead to a burial ground. These wooden planks are quite custom still in Bavaria, but not that much outside of this region. So it is extra special to find them here in the middle of Odenwald. But according to an explanatory board outside of the cemetery some might be still exist in other communities of this region. It seems that each region has developed a different style and design. The ones here in Schlierbach are being called Stickel and belong to the Protestant Reformed church and thus the writing on them is “Hier ruht in Frieden” (here rests in peace) rather than “Hier ruht in Gott” (here rests in God) and have a three stem tulip, symbolising the Holy Trinity, with air roots, symbolising eternal life.
(The website below is in German only)
Schlierbach is located on road L3099 in Odenwald. It is accessible either via Heppenheim (road 460, Siegfriedstrasse) and turn off north at Fürth or via Bensheim (road 47, Nibelungenstrasse) and turn off south at Kolmbach. Church and cemetery are located in the west of the village.
Location of Schlierbach church and cemetery on Google Maps
© Ingrid D., April 2011 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
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.
A good place to start the hike is at the Am
Interested in seeing a couple of castle ruins but also getting in a little bit of exercise? If so, then this is a good hike for you. The two castles you will see are Alsbacher Schloss and Aurbacher Schloss both located on the western edge of the Odenwald nature park and about 40 minutes south of Frankfurt. The total distance for this hike is less than seven miles along a gravel road for most of the length and very little change in elevation. I would even say you could do this hike pushing a stroller, as long as it was made for gravel trails.
You can start at either castle – both have ample parking which is free. Alsbach has a café for drinks and snacks while Auerbach has a restaurant. Whichever castle you start from you will want to take the blue “B” trail toward the other castle. If you begin at Alsbach you can either park at the bottom of the hill for an invigorating hike up to the castle (don’t recommend it if you are not in shape or have small kids) or you can drive up the narrow paved road to the castle and park at the small parking lot at the top of the hill or continue on around the castle to additional parking. To begin the hike you will go through the small parking lot at the top of the road, past the playground area and into the woods. You will see signs pointing you toward Auerbach as well as the blue “B” markers.
If you start at Auerbach your parking is at the top of the hill and about a 5 minute walk from the castle. After you explore this castle, which is larger and more extensive than Alsbach, you will begin your hike by walking back to the car park and following the blue “B” trail toward Alsbach. Be careful at the parking lot since there is one sign for Alsbach Castle pointing up the parking lot and not along the blue “B” trail. I took this route on the way back hoping to return to Alsbach Castle along a trail and ended up hiking up to the top of the highest mountain in the area (Melibokus) before finally making it back to my starting point.
As you probably figured out by now once you reach and explore the other castle you will return to your car using the same blue “B” trail. There are signs showing some alternate routes back (one of the running trails is a possibility) so if you are up for a little bit of adventure give it a try.
Both castles are free to enter but it will cost you 50 cents to climb the one tower at Alsbach (it on an honor system) and you can’t take pictures inside this castle unless no one is around. I suggest planning at least 3 to 4 hours depending on how fast you walk and how long you wander around the castles.
Once upon a time there were two giants who lived on two hills; one on the Felsberg, the other on the Hohenstein. One day they had a quarrel and began throwing boulders at each other. The giant from Hohenstein had the advantage of many more stones to throw, and soon the giant from the Felsberg was buried in a sea of rocks. Today that spot is known as the Felsenmeer.
This is just legend, of course, but there really is a sea of rocks in Germany’s Odenwald region between Reichenbach and Beedenkirchen. The real reason is there has everything to do with geology and nature and nothing with giants. (from the Felsenmeer website listed below)
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We have been to Felsenmeer twice in as many months. Nestled on a hillside in the Odenwald, a forest between Hesse and Bavaria, Felsenmeer is a delight for hikers and families alike. Starting from the bottom of the hill, you can look up the hill to a sea of rocks – not pebbles or skipping stones, but the big ones, boulders actually, the kind you can’t move even with a group of friends.
As you stand at the bottom of these rocks, you are instantly faced with a dilemma – climb up or go around? Families love this place; kids have no dilemma (climb the rocks, of course) and parents (or at least one) climb with the children. Those less adventuresome can climb the hill the easier way, through a system of pathways, steps, and bridges – still not the easiest, but definitely more appealing to some than rock climbing.
Working your way upwards, you can turn around and see a green valley with a village in the distance; keep climbing and you reach a bridge that stretches across the rocks from one side to the other. Keep climbing – you are half way there! At the top you will be rewarded with some artifacts from long ago when the Romans used this place as a quarry. A 30-foot, 27 ½ ton column from the 4th century is waiting to be explored and calling to be climbed upon.
Continue uphill just a little bit more to the northern parking lot and have lunch at Ada’s Buka, an African themed restaurant – great food, pleasant atmosphere, and comfortable chairs to relax in before you make the descent back to the bottom (see below for website).
Those with children should be prepared for a quiet ride home as they will have expended all their energy in the climb.
Felsenmeer is about 12km from Seeheim-Jugenheim near the village of Reichenbach in the Odenwald. Parking is 1 Euro for the day and admission is free.
NOTE If you search for Felsenmeer on GoogleMaps - switch to the satellite view -- you will see the rocks and how long big Felsenmeer really is!
In our quest to see the sites of the Odenwald, we planned an outing to Höchst im Odenwald. The town has a number of interesting sights nearby. Our initial plan was to follow the Obrunnschlucht, a unique trail that has many small model houses and castles along the way, followed by lunch at the local brewery.
We found the parking for the trail on the east side of Höchst and following the 3km pathway. (be sure to read about our journey in my travelogues!) Because it was too early for lunch, instead of heading into town on foot, we went back the way we came to our car.
In a moment of spontaneity, we opted to follow the brown places of interest sign to Burg Breuberg, just down the road from Höchst. We traveled up the hill to the castle only to find that there was something special going on and was rather crowded. Making a mental note to return another day (which we did!), we headed back, assuming it was now a good time for lunch at the brewery. Ha! The brewery had the final say since they were not open until 1730 for dinner! We wandered the town, stopped for a pretzel at the bakery, and headed out of town to find the Roman villa that was somewhere nearby.
The Roman villa Haselberg was quite nice and well worth the visit. The small model of what it would have looked like originally was helpful to put the pieces together. You could get a feel for the size of the village by the remains of the wall around it.
On our first outing to Höchst, we didn’t see (or eat/drink) everything we set out to see; so it is a place we will definitely return to, seeing what we missed and adding a couple other nearby sites as well. Look for my travel page to expand over the next few months.
Visit my weekend in Höchst im Odenwald page for more information about this town.
Located in the heart of the Odenwald, Michelstadt is a wonderful little village full of half-timbered buildings. The town dates back to Roman times when nearby Roman settlements guarded the limes.
In the middle of town is the unique Rathaus (Town Hall) – the day we were there a wedding was taking place so we were not able to go into the building, but it did not detract from the fascinating architectural views of the outside. Later on we were treated to a horse-drawn carriage waiting for the bride and groom. I was so fascinated by the Rathaus that Hubby bought me a ceramic version of it for Christmas.
We passed through the Thieves Tower with its dry moat and cute little fox monk statue, then we checked out the Odenwald Museum and Toy Museum – both very interesting. Then we wandered around the town and then headed over near the train station to check out the Schloss and Einhard’s Basilica.
On our way home, we ate in a nearby town named Mossautal at the Schmucker’s Brewery (hubby being a fan of the beer).
Michelstadt made a pleasant day trip and we have been back more than once. There is lots of hiking in the Odenwald and Michelstadt is a good place to begin your hikes and then stop for a meal or lunch after hiking.
Visit my weekend in Michestadt page for more information about this town.
While Lorsch is part of the Bergstrasse, it is on the other side of the A5 and B3, making getting there a little more time consuming. But getting to Lorsch was easy - just off the A67 west of Bensheim. For us, it wasn't far at all from home so we took a day to tour this town. We didn't have any problems finding parking; in fact, we got a spot on the street for free just about as close as one could get to the center of town.
As we got out of our car, directly ahead of us was the gatehouse - most notably because it was covered in scaffolding. Since we had come to see this site, luck was not on our side. In the city center, we wandered around a bit, noting the unique fountain of a girl with a tobacco leaf (tobacco was a prominent crop in Hesse years ago), a boy playing with some balls, and a playful cat.
Noting the Tourist Information Centre in the old Rathaus (just behind the fountain), we headed in for some information. A very friendly young girl helped us out and explained that behind the scaffolding was the Torhalle (gatehouse), but she showed us a model of the gate, told us of other things to see that we weren't aware of, and gave us some literature. So we were off to see what there was to see in Lorsch on this pleasant autumn day.
Lorsch was once a very important town in the 8th-13th centuries with its most famous visitor being Charlemagne himself. The town is best known for its Kloster, or the Benedictine Abbey (statue of Benedict is near the center of town). Starting at the gatehouse, we headed into the abbey grounds.
It was nice to have so many signs in both German and English, complete with helpful maps and diagrams. There is little left of the actual abbey, but you can see the footprint of the abbey and get a feel for the size of what it used to be. The old abbey wall and garden remain - the garden being well maintained and herbs nicely labeled. It was a frosty morning in October, so some of the plants were starting to fade from the cold nights. We walked throughout the abbey grounds, reading the signs and enjoying the morning. One of the signs told us that this was actually the second abbey built, with a smaller abbey down the road. So we decided to take a walk...
Near the gatehouse we saw a sign that told us the old abbey (Altes Munster) was 1,000 meters down the road. It was a pleasant day, so we headed down towards a canal where the path turned and we found ourselves headed up along a canal pathway. Along the way, we saw a large field with tobacco growing. Across the field there was a massive barn, obviously for drying the tobacco leaves.
When we got the old abbey, you could clearly see the difference in size - the new one was much larger, reflecting its heightened influence and prestige. The old abbey was a small rectangular nave and an altar at the east end. While the "ruins" we saw had been rebuilt, it gave us a good idea of what it used to be like.
Near the old abbey was a unique wood creation that we had seen in other places, but we never knew what it was. A box with hollow tubes (possibly bamboo) and slices of tree trunks with holes cut into them. This time, however, we had a sign to tell us what it was -- it was a wild bee house, catering to one of the 500 species in the area.
We headed back to the Tourist Information centre where we learned that the scaffolding comes down in the spring/summer of 2012. Looks like we will have to come back then, but with such pleasant memories from our day, it will be something to look forward to!
Visit my page on weekend in Lorsch page for more information on this town.
Seeheim-Jugenheim, a pair of small villages sitting side-by-side along the Bergstrasse, is a great place to spend the day. For hikers, the Bergweg winds through the hills that nestle beside the towns and meander down into town, giving wanderers ample opportunities to stop for lunch or an ice cream. The Bergweg actually runs the entire length of the Bergstrasse (from Darmstadt to Heidelberg) with more than 30 castles, palaces, or ruins along the way.
For those who want to spend the day in Seeheim-Jugenheim, there is parking in town or you can take the train in from Darmstadt. Park and walk around. Look for the small "B" stickers on signposts to catch the Bergweg. As you look up into the hills, you will see a large white building – that is the Lufthansa Conference and Training Center.
Seeheim-Jugenheim isn't really a *destination* as much as it is a good stopover, a place to spend a few hours, have lunch, and walk the town. Hikers will find it a good place to start or end their hikes or a break to come in from the hills. Visit the castle ruins of Tannenberg for a spectacular view of the region. There is a small Aldstadt with the Altes Rathaus dating from 1599, now the Seeheim-Jugenheim Museum. Near the Altes Rathaus are several restaurants with beer gardens and a very popular ice cream shop that seems to always have a line in the warmer months (or at least whenever I'm nearby!).
Not far from Seeheim-Jugenheim is the family friendly Felsenmeer, a sea of rocks in the Odenwald.
Visit my page on weekends in Seeheim-Jugenheim page for more information on this town.
We returned to the Odenwald and specifically to see Burg Breuberg and explore this interesting looking castle near Höchst im Odenwald. Before we left home we checked out their website so we’d know some of the history and what to expect when we got there.
Burg Breuberg was built with sandstone in the 13th century and today is still one of the best preserved castles in southern Germany. It sits proudly atop a hill more than 1,000 feet high. The castle has five different styles of building to it, including Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance – basically it was always been enlarged or rebuilt in places using the newest techniques and styles. There is some damage, but it has never been destroyed. The castle houses a museum and a place to eat as well as the hostel. There are some interesting things to see, such as a bust statue of a crossbowman in the front of the armory and live sheep in the moat.
Within the museum, visitors can see the Knight’s Hall with its heavy beam structure and Renaissance stucco ceiling. The hall has images from Greek and Roman mythology and coat of arms from previous owners. There is a collection of armor, pewter, and coins on display within the museum. In the stable part of the museum, one can see displays of the craftsmen that would have worked in this area – the cooper, the blacksmith, and the wheelwright. Within the armory section, there is an interesting display of equipment used by firefighters. The well is 275+ feet deep and the keep is 82 feet tall, which can be climbed for a view of the surrounding area.
Through the ages, Burg Breuberg has been used as noble residence, a fort, administrative offices, and a toy factory (that’s different!). It is currently a youth hostel, so there were lots of young people around (ages 13-18). But the castle was free to walk around, except for the tower which was 50 cents/person to climb the 25 meters up (but the view was gorgeous!). Guided tours and the museum have fees involved (€4 for adults). There is also a restaurant at the castle, the Burgschänke, which serves food starting at 10:00 am and has a beer garden for those nice days.
The castle is considered one of Germany’s best preserved castles. So my question is: “Why don’t we find this place in any of the guide books?” We happened upon it on a previous trip simply by seeing some signs and following them.
The castle is open year round, but the museum and guided tour areas are only open from March to October on the weekends.
If you only have time for one short hike, you might consider visiting Tannenberg castle ruins up in the hills behind the Lufthansa training center. The ruins sit high above the town of Seeheim-Jugenheim and provide spectacular views on a clear day.
To get there, from the center of Seeheim, take Ober-Beerbacherstrasse towards the hills. Just as you start to get away from the town and into woods, turn right onto Lufthansaring (there is a yellow sign pointing to the Lufthansa Training and Conference Center). Head up the road for about a half-mile until you see a small parking lot on your left (you will start to see the training center on your right).
Park and take the trail that parallels the road for a little bit. After you cross over the opening with power lines, start to look to the left for a wide path (there is a sign on a rock pointing to Tannenberg). Head UP the trail – and I mean UP. It is pretty steep and will get your heart pumping, but rest assured it will be worth the view.
Continue up the path, which goes straight most of the way before it starts to wind to the right and around (look to your right and you will start to see the walls of the castle ruins). You’ll cross a bridge that lets you know you are almost there. Follow the path around and you can’t miss it.
There are picnic tables and a gazebo at the site of the ruins. Have a snack or some lunch and enjoy the time! You can explore the ruins, some of which have been rebuilt. There are other trails you can take if you want to continue to explore the area.
Here is an excellent hike for those who are interested in history and geology. It is 11 miles long but can be cut a little shorter is you take a side trail and involves two hills to conquer that are not bad if you are in decent shape.
You should start the hike at one of the nature parking lots on the road up to the Auerbacher castle. I wouldn't do the first one (Am Hollberg) since you have to hike up the hill to get to the main trail but it's an option for the energetic (did it, don't need to do it again). I choose the second one (Not Gottes Kappelle) which is at the top of the hill but farther away from the castle. Your 3rd choice is one just below the castle that is aptly called Auerbacher Schloss.
From the 2nd or 3rd parking lot you should take the trail that has the White "A" as its symbol. On the walking maps it is designated as an "S" in a box. Speaking of maps, I use the ones issued by the Odenwaldklub. For this hike the Bergstrasse-Odenwald #5 map works just fine.
Stay on the "A" trail for about a mile and then head east on the "white line" trail. This trail will take you to Felsenmeer and is where you will encounter the first of two hills. This one is fairly gentle but goes on for what seems forever. Before you hit the hill you will get a nice view of one of the many valleys in the Odenwald.
Once you get to the top of the hill you will see the Ohlyturm which looks like an ancient tower but was actually built in the early 1900s. There is a nice restaurant at the top of Felsenmeer that was closed for the winter but serves good food when it is open.
When you get to the parking lot you will see the "red line" trail. Take it to the right (toward the south) and down the hill to what makes Felsenmeer so interesting and a big attraction to German families. Felsenmeer consists of a line of boulders stretching from the top of the hill all the way down to information center at the bottom of the hill. These boulders used to be quarried by the Romans and you can still see their work to include a huge column lying on its side.
Continue following the "red line" trail as it winds its way back to the west. Along the the way you will merge with the "yellow square" trail and also see a rock formation that the Germans have transformed into a war memorial.
Leave the "red line" trail" and continue on the "yellow square" trail as it wonders back to the town of Auerbach. This trail takes you to an old church with a thatch rood and bark covered beams for its siding. You will also go through the Furstenlager park which was packed on a Sunday afternoon with couples walking the trails.
In the park you will hook up with the "blue B" trail which connects all the castles located along the Bergstrasse Way. Take this trail to the north through a small neighberhood and then up the hill to the castle. This one is not as long as your first ascent but it is much steeper. Just keep in mind that the hike is almost over.
At the top of the hill take some time and explore the castle and the continue on the "blue B" trail back to your car. The hike is 11 miles long and took me almost 4 hours but that included stop to take pictures and check my map.
I'm always surprised by the number of towns in the local area that are not in any of the tourist books I own (and I own a number of them) but are worth a visit (or two). Weinheim is one such town. I visited the town so I could hike in a new part of the Odenwald region and check out the the castle ruins above the town. After seeing the town I now want to return when I have more time to explore. Anyway back to my walk/hike.
I parked up near the castle (called Ruine Windeck) and, after walking around the castle but not inside since the door to enter was locked, I found the "white square" trail which took me down the hill and into the town. I followed it until it hooked up with the "red line" trail in the center of town. This trail took me north through the town and up into the hills on the other side of the B38. From there I got a good view of the Wachenburg castle (a castle built in the early 1900s) and the old quarry that took a good chunk out of the neighboring hill.
Since it had started to rain I decided to take the #2 trail which circled around the hill and brought me back to the "red line" trail further to the north. I headed back to the car by retracing my steps on the "red line" trail then the "white square" trail but changed it up at the end by using the #2 trail for the last section of the walk.
The hike wasn't too difficult but hiking up into the hills isn't fun. I did this walk in 2 1/2 hours. I plan to go back so I can check out the Wachenburg castle, the altstadt and the local brewey.
The small village of Hüttenfeld ( not even 2000 people are living there ) is nevertheless
known internationally among Lithuanians. In 1953 Lithuanians living in exile founded a boarding school there for their children, to help them learn about the culture and language of their home country.
They had chosen a mansion built for the banker family Rothschild 100 years before. In this mansion they established a Lithuanian secondary school.
When Lithuania regained its independence, for a while it looked as if the school was about to be closed. But parents and teachers decided to keep it open.
Because of the very good student/teacher ratio this school is also attended by some German students, even though it means having to learn Lithuanian as classes are bilingual.
When you click on their website you can see better pictures of the school and the grounds.
Between Bensheim and Darmstadt you see a large castle up on the hill, Schloss Auerbach.It was built in 13th century and belonged to the Counts of Katzenelnbogen. A strange family name, by the way, as it means cat's elbow.It was not the home of the family, but used as a defense castle. From the towers you still have a great view and any invading army of enemies would have been seen immediately.
Today there is a good restaurant in the castle , where you can book " a knight's meal" and pretend to live in the middle ages. From time to time there are also tournaments staged here.
Falcons are being bred here, just as in medieval times. If you want to, you can pretend to be a falconer and have one of these birds put on your arm. When I was there, only children did this. I would have liked to do the same, but got the impression it was for children only. Finally I asked and was told no problem. It's just that no adults ever asked. So I did it, felt a bit like a fool, but enjoyed it very much. The falcon seemed to be very surprised, too, and apparently took me to be another falconer. It started to fly off.
And you know what I saw when we were leaving? Some more adults wanting to hold the falcon!