Road tripping through the Odenwald

Odenwald | Photo by Victoria Shaad
Odenwald | Photo by Victoria Shaad

Road tripping through the Odenwald

by Karen Bradbury
Stripes Europe

A day trip that offers something for everyone?  An impossible task, you might say. To which we reply, have you never explored the Odenwald?

The Odenwald is a densely forested region found northeast of Heidelberg and southeast of Frankfurt. Its name, which translates to Odin’s Forest, recalls an Old Norse god associated with wisdom, healing and victory in battle. Tucked into its rolling green hills is a wealth of attractions sure to conquer the heart of modern-day warriors, too. A scenic drive along curving highways with tummy-tickling dips links up all the pieces of the puzzle. Here’s a possible itinerary with stops sure to appeal to a variety of tastes:

Weinheim: our journey begins in a small city 10 miles north of Heidelberg to which the region known as the Bergstrasse lies equal claim. Among the most attractive features of Weinheim is a market square that looks like it was dropped into place straight from Italy. It’s the perfect spot for your morning coffee as you map out the day ahead. Those with a thing for plants and trees will enjoy a wander through the Hermannshof Botanical Gardens, with its 2,500 shrubs, and the Exotic Forest, where giant sequoias tower toward the sky.

Wald-Michelbach: drop by this tiny community to take a ride on the Sommerrodelbahn, a metal tracked roller-coaster-like ride built onto the slide of a slope. The fast-paced ride packs enough thrills for grown-ups, too. Not enough action? There’s also a Kletterwald, or climbing forest, with 10 different climbing set-ups. When it’s time to come back down to earth, the Flying Fox zip line allows you to land with a flourish.

Mossautal: who’s hungry for lunch? Place your orders at the Odenwald’s most traditional of breweries, the Guesthouse of the Privat-Brauerei Schmucker. Even without that man in the tricorn hat hefting a mug of frothy beer there to serve you in person, his face will smile out at you from the label of any one of the 20 types of beer brewed on-site. As for food, schnitzel, backfish and gulasch will make choosing from the menu a challenge. Once Coronavirus concerns have passed us by, booking a tour of this traditional brewery will once again be an option.

Grasellenbach: it’s competition time, and the place for that is Spielgolf Wahlen, where an 18-hole mini-golf course awaits players. The attractively laid out course is new, having opened only in 2019.


Michelstadt's old town | Photo by bystudio

Michelstadt: a highlight of any day spent in the Odenwald is a wander through this charmer of a town. Unique among its buildings is its magnificent circa-1484 half-timbered Town Hall, instantly recognizable with its wooden-beamed, open gallery on the ground floor and red-tiled, pointed turrets. Other sights include the Thief’s Tower, a pretty fountain, and the ancient walls surrounding the town.

Lindenfels: there’s one last stop before heading for home. What remains of Lindenfels Castle, in the town of the same name, can be seen from far off in the distance. First mentioned in chronicles dating back to the 11th century, it’s a ruin now, but a pretty one, and walking through what remains provides stunning views across this lovely slice of the country you’ve just been lucky enough to spend the day in.

Given the times of Coronavirus, be aware that some places may be only partially up and running or closed entirely.

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