Germany’s highlight: Landau

Photo by normankrauss via 123RF
Photo by normankrauss via 123RF

Germany’s highlight: Landau

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

Along the German Wine Road, a hilly and picturesque strip of land close to the Rhineland-Palatinate’s eastern border, you’d have to work hard to stumble across a city or village devoid of charm. The region’s mild, almost Mediterranean climate, rolling hills dotted with vineyards and half-timbered towns make it worthy of a visit throughout the year. While wine drinking and ooh-ing and aah-ing at all the picture-perfect surroundings are pursuits most enjoyed by grown-up visitors, the city of Landau and its local area can boast of plenty to capture the imaginations of younger day-trippers too.

Portrait of a town

Landau in der Pfalz, a university town and cultural center, is home to some 46,000 residents. A Free Imperial Town for a short time in the Middle Ages, the town bounced back and forth between French and German possession later in its history. The town’s name has traveled far beyond its borders thanks to its namesake, a luxurious horse-drawn carriage with a folding convertible top. The heart of the town is its spacious central square, the Rathausplatz, overlooked by the Town Hall and the Altes Kaufhaus, a gabled market hall turned cultural center.

Talk to the animals

Not far from the city center amongst the remains of a French fortress, the Landau Zoo is found. The zoo, founded in 1904, is lauded for keeping its animal residents in natural enclosures and the efforts it makes to protect endangered species. In addition to the seals, kangaroos, penguins and flamingos kept here, the zoo’s more exotic denizens include Siberian tigers, single-humped camels and ever-vigilant meerkats.

If fur and feathers aren’t your thing, go instead to the Reptilium, billed as the largest reptile zoo in Germany. Check out the likes of tortoises, alligators, lizards and frogs; watch the keepers feed the snakes or let spiders crawl up your arm. The indoor zoo is kept at a pleasantly warm 75-degree temperature year-round. Reptile lovers who can’t tear themselves away don’t have to, as a specially designed cube fitted with pillows and beds allows them to spend the night there.

Go down under

Landau’s fortress, built in the time of Louis XIV, was once touted as “the largest and strongest fortress in Christendom.” Above ground, hardly a trace of the structure is visible, but a visit to the Lunette 41 as part of a guided tour reveals the strength and magnitude of this edifice. The tour leads through fortified chambers connected by means of a 20-mile network of tunnels. The tours are offered on Saturdays at 2 p.m. from March through November.

Swing from the trees

The final stop on today’s tour is found some 12 miles south of Landau. The Fun Forest Adventure Park in Kandel is a climbing forest built into the treetops. Once safely harnessed, climbers can choose from 24 courses, including some strewn with quirky obstacles and others designed to test the mettle of even the most experienced adventurers. To experience the course in another light, visitors can opt for a run-through at night, headlamps on helmets to guide their way.

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