I’m here in Germany for business reasons but me and my colleagues still get the weekends off like normal, so we are able to go out sightseeing. There are of course some limitations due to Covid19, but so far they are comparatively mild and we’ve been able to visit a bunch of different tourist attractions. Some of them are really worth seeing so I thought I would share them here.
Germany is full of castles, if you do a search on Google Maps you’re bound to find at least ten in any given area. With that being the case it’s hard to know which ones are worth visiting. A German colleague gave me the tip to visit Castle Lichtenstein (not the country) and I have to thank him for that because it was a good tip. The castle is situated at the top of a hill overlooking the valley below. You can park at the base of the hill and hike up, or drive all the way up to the castle. I would have preferred hiking but but the rain was in the air when we arrived so driving all the way was a better option. The castle itself is fairly small but has an appropriate fairy tale look to it. What makes it extra special is that while one side of the hill is a gentle slope, the other is a sheer cliff, and the castle sits right at the cliff’s edge. This makes for some pretty spectacular views, both of the castle itself and the surrounding landscape. Despite the drizzle I enjoyed it a lot and I believe it can be brilliant on a sunny day. I won’t say more than that but let my photos speak for themselves.
Note, it was possible to visit the castle despite the pandemic, you just had to wear a mask while inside. Now during the lockdown I believe it is closed however.
Speyer Technical Museum
As far as I can tell, Sinsheim is one of those cities that would go completely unnoticed by tourists if it wasn’t for that one thing. In this case that one thing is the Speyer Technical Museum. The museum consists that three large halls that house a vast collection of vehicles and machines. The collection covers pretty much every type of vehicle imaginable including cars, trucks, motorcycles, farm equipment, tanks and various military vehicles, and even planes. To top it all off they have a couple of planes, too big to fit inside, propped up on struts as if mid flight, on the roof. It’s safe to say that if you have any kind of interest in vehicles or technology you will enjoy this place. In fact, I’m pretty sure people who aren’t the least bit interested in vehicles will be able to find something worth seeing. I have to admit there are two downsides to this museum however. First, the scale, it’s so big you kind of run out of energy before you’ve seen everything. Second, the way it’s organized is a bit messy, when looking at one exhibit it’s easy to be distracted by another close by. Despite that, I think this is a great place to spend one or two rainy afternoons.
The museum being indoors meant we had to wear masks while visiting but other than that it wasn’t a problem. Right now during lockdown the place is of course closed.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
All over Europe there are picturesque little towns where the streets are lined with old houses and there’s picturesque church and/or mayor’s residence by the town square. I’ve visited several such towns in Germany and while they do have their charm, most of them are not really worth writing about. Rothenburg ob der Tauber on the other hand, is one of the more memorable ones. The main draw of Rothenburg o.d.T. is the old city wall which remains more or less intact all the way around the old town, with its different gates and towers. What’s extra nice is that the city is located among forest clad hills, with fields of wine covering the slopes outside the city walls. This means that you get some really great views when walking along the city walls.
Some of the gates and towers of the city
Being a city, unless there is a full lockdown, it is of course possible to visit Rothenburg o.d.T even during a pandemic. You might hae to limit yourself to eating your food out in the street but other than that, it’s not a problem, everything worth seeing is open 24 hours and visible from the street.
The Mercedes Benz Museum
If you mention Germany to people, they will likely think of one of two things, cars or beer (or both). What with the pandemic, this year’s Oktoberfest has been canceled which means no beer for me, that only leaves cars. Handily enough, the headquarters of Mercedes Benz is located in Stuttgart, only about an hour’s drive from where we are, and it just so happens that they have a Museum showcasing their cars through the ages. You might think that sounds very similar to the Speyer Museum in Sinsheim but in my opinion there are some important differences. Firstly, the focus on one brand and its history, which is extra interesting because one the company’s co-founders invented the first car. Secondly, the museum curators have tied the history of their cars to the history of Germany, giving the cars more of a connection to the people who drove them. Thirdly, and most importantly, the Mercedes museum is far better organized than the one in Sinsheim. Instead of several large halls, it is a big cylindrical building where the exhibitions follow a spiral from the top floor down to the bottom, and each floor showcases a different era or different type of vehicle. The exhibition space is also notably clean, only focusing on a few cars in each area. This all makes for a very pleasant museum visiting experience. Personally I think both this and Speyer are worth visiting but if you aren’t so interested in cars I’d recommend Speyer simply because it has greater variety.
We had no problem in visiting the Mercedes museum, we just had to wear masks all the time. Right now during the lockdown it’s closed however.
The Black Forest
Most people have probably heard about the Black Forest (or Black Forest Cake) but I don’t think people actually know much about it. To put it simply, it’s a low, forested mountain range that covers a large area in southern Germany. That might not sound very exciting (unless you live in a dessert) but the thing is, it’s an entire region, which means there must be at least a few places worth seeing, you just have to find them. It just so happens that, with the help of a bit of homework and some tips, we found a couple really good places.
My Favorite is Triberg Waterfalls, a series of falls with a total height of 163 m, which supposedly makes it the highest waterfall in Germany. There is a trail that starts in the town of Triberg and snakes its way up the mounting, crossing the falls in several places. It’s not a very long trail, but it it’s a good way to see the falls and once at the top there are several other trails you can take to get down. I have to say these falls are pretty impressive, especially for Europe. Once your back down in Triberg you can take a rest in some cafe or other and try some Black Forest cake.
Few more shots of the Triberg Waterfalls
Just around the corner from the Triberg Waterfalls is The House of 1000 Clocks. Apparently (I did not know this), one of the things the Black Forest is famous for is cuckoo clocks and this shop literally has 1000s of the things. As you might have figured out by now I’m not big on shopping while traveling but even I was impressed by the sheer amount of finely carved wooden clocks on offer in this place. Except for selling clocks to rich tourists – the prices are up there – the shop also has a few interesting displays, one showing the internals of a clock, one showing how clocks are carved, and finally a display of the world’s most expensive cuckoo clock. What’s confusing is that there is another place called House of 1000 Clocks just outside town. This place does not have quite as many clocks, but it does have the world’s biggest cuckoo clock. It is literally the size of a house and you can go inside and see the mechanism. Personally I think the shop in town is a better experience, the big one looks a bit too much like a normal house to be impressive. What we did, which I think is a good way to do things, is to start with the waterfall, then stop by the House of 1000 clocks in town, before grabbing a piece of Black Forest cake.
Just south of Triberg is a less known tourist attraction, the Stöcklewaldturm. It’s basically just a tower with a viewing platform at the top that allows you to get up above the treetops and look out over the forest. The view isn’t particularly special, just a lot of tree tops and some hills in the far distance, but we managed to time it just right so we were standing on top of the tower watching the sun go down behind the trees; it was brilliant. I believe there are some other viewing towers or viewing platforms in other parts of the back forest that give a similar experience. Which ever one you go to I wholeheartedly recommend going around sunset for some magnificent views.
A lot of the places to visit in the Black Forest are outdoors which makes them extra suitable for pandemic tourism. That being said, some places like the House of 1000 Clocks or the Stöcklewaldturm might still close during a lockdown.