Villa Haselburg, Roman villa in Odenwald
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.)
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Very unusual wooden planks on a cemetery
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.)
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Hiking north of Weinheim
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
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Hiking between two castles
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.
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Auerbach Castle and Felsenmeer Hike
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.
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Walking in the Weinheim Area
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.
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A Lithuanian School
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!
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Zwingenberg - 3
This is the Scheuergasse.
Scheuer is a barn and during the 18. century the barns were build as a special part of the city away from the house. This should avoid fires.
The Scheuergasse is unique in south Hessen.
Now you find there some shops and restaurant. Also a holiday appartment could be rented.
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I know I had said I wouldn't write any tips about Darmstadt, as there are excellent pages about this city on VT, but since I haven't seen any tip about this museum I decided to write one.
More than 100 years ago, Darmstadt was the site of the Art Noveau scene in Germany. The last ruling Arch Duke had invited many artists to come and build homes and workplaces. They formed the artists' colony Mathildenhöhe.
Today there is the magnificent Russian Chapel, the Wedding Tower, a museum which regularly houses special exhibitions and the smaller, relatively unknown museum about the artists' colony itself, the Museum Künstlerkolonie.
I have been there three times so far, and have never seen any other visitor. It shows items from daily use of the artists, their ideas and plans, and gives some inside information about the colony.
My absolute favourite there is the large window created by Hugh Mackay Baillie Scott. It was originally in a mansion in Mannheim, but was then brought to Darmstadt to the museum.
Entrance fee was 5 Euro an adult for this museum only, if you also want to visit the main exhibition in the other museum, it is 8 Euro according to the website or 9 Euro, which is what I paid the last time.
A Dragon has found its way to Viernheim
When you walk up from the small train station in Viernheim, you'll see a very colourful dragon sitting on the roof of a garage near the bank. Because of the vicinity to the places connected with the legend of the Nibelungen, which involves a fight with a dragon, the local bank decided to have a dragon put up on this roof. The schoolchildren got the job of painting it, and it seems their favourite colour was violet.
So, when the dragon was about to be named, most people decided on the name Violetta - making it a dragon girl.
Schriesheim, part 3
One of my favourite walks in Schriesheim is along the small creek, the Kanzelbach. The water is coming down from the hills with enough power to have driven an oil mill. The wheel is still to be seen, and even the mill - certainly from 1623, probably from the end of 14th century - could still be used. The family who owns it today keeps it in good shape and occasionally turns it on.
But even without the mill, this is just a very nice walk along the water and the old houses.
In the centre of Schriesheim the old city hall built in 1684 is still standing. It was put up at the market square and the open hall on ground floor level was very convenient for storage, in case of rain. Next to it the old pillory from 1540 can be seen, a reminder that market days were also jurisdiction days.I like the old post box, still in use and so much prettier than the modern ones.
Behind the old city hall there is one of the few houses which survived the destruction in 1674. It was a priest's house and it is said, that he asked the church for a new house , but grew impatient because it took so long for the money to be granted. Not much has changed, has it? The priest decided to build his house with his own money and was finished in 1662. It doesn't say anywhere if he was able to get reimbursed later.
This half-timbered house is ornamented by inscriptions in German, Greek and Hebrew.
On the way from Darmstadt to Heidelberg you pass through Schriesheim. This is a small town, with lots of vineyards on the hills, above them the ruin of a castle, the Strahlenburg. Strahl means ray, and this is the reason the crest of Schriesheim shows two crossed rays. They look like arrows, and I suppose this is what most people imagine them to be, but they are rays.
The castle is from 1235. In 1500 it burned down, while most of the town was destroyed by French troups in 1674. Just a few buildings are older than late 17th century.
Today Schriesheim is mostly known for its very good red wine, also for the Mathaisemarkt, the first wine festival of the year, in early March.You won't find Schriesheim wine in the supermarkets, but at a good wine merchant's. And of course in Schriesheim itself, there are quite a lot of small shops.
On the castle grounds there is a very good restaurant, you can go up there by car for most of the way, but a glass of wine is so much better when you think you deserved it by walking up the hill. On a sunny day,the view across the Rhine valley is breathtaking.
Villa Rustica - an old Roman mansion
This small village along the B3, the Bergstrasse, boasts of having the ruins of a large Roman mansion in its fields, the Villa Rustica.
That is, the village council may be boasting, the villagers don't seem to care very much. In fact the farmers used to be very angry about these Roman places, as it meant lots of stones, bricks and broken pieces of pots in the ground of their fields.These fields were called walled fields, and were considered to be a nuisance. But in the 1980s the university of Heidelberg did some excavations there and saved what was left of the villa. However, there is no sign from the B3 towards the ruins.
We turned into the main road of Großsachsen, still no sign.
When we asked someone we were told we had to walk there, as it's in the fields.
So we walked through the fields, passed gardens and orchards, kept getting closer and closer to the A5 , until we suddenly saw the ruins. There are some boards there with explanations how the villa looked in the first centuries A.D..
It must have been a important family who lived there, as the villa was quite large. It was also
a very modern building, with floor heating, an extra bath house, even a fish pond, either for
looking at the fish or for having fresh fish on the table. They had separate rooms for the toilets, a cellar for storage and their own small temple for worship.
When we were there, three families had met there for a picnic and the children were
playing hide and seek and yelling and laughing at each other.
It was a very peaceful scene, but I was wondering what would the Roman family say if they
saw this.Would they be happy that even after many centuries their old home was still the scene of family fun? Or would they be annoyed? Would they prefer the silence of a museum?
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