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Odenwald / Bergstrasse : castles and ruins

Here, in the “Bergstrasse” (“mountainstreet” or also known as “Strada Montana”) in Hesse, Germany, are plenty of castles and ruins. As they are all lined up from north to south on the first hills of the Odenwald, I am interested if it would be possible to walk from the most north one (Frankenstein) to the one located most south (Schloss Auerbach).

I will have to plan this route beforehand so that is going to take a few nights of Google Maps, some GPS devices, and some ancient maps :)
Also it is preferable to walk this route in the spring or summer, as then the roads are better, less slippery, and most important, the restaurants and shops in the castles are open.


Supersize XXL

There is still one “Schloss” I have not visited yet (Starkenburg, near Heppenheim), but that is in my opninion too much in the south to be able to reach. The rest are all in walking distance, where as Schloss Auerbach is rather far away and with a big hill in the middle, the Melibokus, might be a bit more difficult to reach.

The Castles and Ruins of the Bergstrasse, from North to South:

Burg Frankenstein

On top of the first hill from the Odenwald, coming from the north (Frankfurt am Main / Darmstadt) Burg Frankenstein is located between Malchen and Nieder-Beerbach.

burg frankenstein
Burg Frankenstein

It was built around 1420, but after some wars from the local lords (Frankenstein and Darmstadt) and some saga after that about gold being hidden there, most of it got destroyed. An attempt to rebuild it failed miserably, as some parts are rebuilt completely wrong.

Nowadays Burg Frankenstein is still very often visited. The most important happening is the Halloween party on Burg Frankenstein, apperantly one of the biggest ones from Germany. These parties originated from the US Military bases located around Darmstadt, back in the 70s, and are still very well visited. Cards are sold out a long time in advance.

Also this place has got a restaurant, it has got parking places about 400m away from the main entrance, a good road and offers a great view from a round “terrace” just before the main entrance. Many roads go to and around this ruin, which is a great climb if one comes from the east (Nieder Beerbach).

burg frankenstein
Burg Frankenstein

The view from the top of the tower, if they are open, is fantastic. One can see towards the north-west till south-west, and offers at every time a great view (except with new years eve, when it is foggy :)

Burg Tannenberg

Burg Tannenberg is actually not much more than a ruin these days. It is however the location for an important milestone in the human history: The leftovers of the first canons used by mankind in Europe were found here. At least the Burg did not survive it. Also the oldest german handheld guns are found in the leftovers (dated before 1399).

Burg Tannenberg
Burg Tannenberg

Burg Tannenberg is built around 1230 and destroyed in 1399. It was not rebuild and the locals have used the stones and rocks for their own houses and stables.

It is located behind Seeheim on a hill called “Tannenburg” and offers a great view of Seeheim and the forest behind it. There is a road which comes from behind Jugenheim which is a nice walk to the Burg. After one last steep road uphill one enters the ground where several remains can be found. There is one little shed where one can shelter for the rain, but for the rest it is rather open and deserted.


Schloss Heiligenberg

Schloss Heiligenberg is located on a hill behind Jugenheim and surrounded by many historical buildings, places and signs. More information about these other locations can be found in my blog about the Goldenes Kreuz and the historical buildings in and around Jugenheim.

Goldenes Kreuz
Schloss Heiligenberg

The Schloss itself is fairly recent, built in the beginning of the 19th century, for the Countess Wilhelmine von Hessen-Darmstadt and her son, Prinz Alexander von Hessen-Darmstadt.
It has been frequently visited by the russian families, until the beginning of the first world war (1914).

Schloss Heiligenberg
Schloss Heiligenberg

These days the Schloss is still being used by the “Amtes fr Lehrerbildung” (group for education for teachers). There is no shop nor restaurant, and there are no notifications how to get a tour inside the castle. One could get one via the Amt in Jugenheim I have heard, but not dug further into this. There is too much to see around it anyway.

schloss heiligenberg
Schloss Heiligenberg

The inside of the Schloss contains a square “garden” with a fountain. It is not always opened, the gates on the back and the front are often closed. At the back there is another fountain and some more buildings. There is a paved road for pedestrians and for cars which is located opposite of the “the Jugenheimer Forstamt”, a hughe yellow house with the head of a deer at the front.

Nonnenkloster

About 300 meter west of Schloss Heiligenberg there is a small but beautiful little “(Nonnen)Kloster-ruin”. It is built somewhere in the 11th century and being rebuild to a Kloster, to be used until around 1415.

Nonnenkloster
Nonnenkloster bei Schloss Heiligenberg

After 1415 it got deserted and was never built up afterwards anymore.


Nonnenbrunnen unterhalb Schloss Heiligenberg

At the bottom of the hill in the south (the road from Jugenheim towards Balkhausen) there is a small parking place at the left side. This place is called “Nonnenbrunnen”, which is most likely where the nuns got their water from.

Burgruine Jossa (ruin)

Burg Jossa is the least “castle” like, it is not much more than a collection of rocks put on top of each other.

Burgruine Jossa
Burgruine Jossa

It used to be a middle sized burg, with a big wall around a place of 25x40m and a few towers on the wall. It was built around 1300 on top of the “Burgberg”, also called Dagsberg or Darsberg and lasted only till 1360 when it was taken apart again.

Burgruine Jossa
Burgruine Jossa

Nowadays a few tracks for hiking and biking go around this place, where the leftovers of the walls are filled with soil again and thus not much is seen from this 700 year old building.

Schloss Alsbach

Schloss Alsbach
Schloss Alsbach

A rather well preserved Schloss is Schloss Alsbach behind the village Alsbach. It is very well reachable by car, by foot and also by bike. At the inside there is a little restaurant which serves great “Flammkuchen”, allbeit a bit expensive. The single tower can also be visited, one euro (50 cents?) is requested for donation to preserve the Schloss and around it.

Schloss Alsbach
Schloss Alsbach

It was build in the first half of the 13th century and partially destroyed in the 18th century, so now only the wall and the tower can be visited. All other buildings are destroyed, leaving a big open place in the inner ring.

Schloss Alsbach
Schloss Alsbach

Schloss Alsbach nowadays has their own website and group, to raise money to maintain the schloss. Also the Schloss has their own group of knights and “medieval inhabitants” which come together once a month.

Schloss Alsbach
Schloss Alsbach

Schloss Alsbach is also well known for the fests they organise. The first one is about to start next week on the 14th of March already.

Schloss Alsbach
Schloss Alsbach

Schloss Auerbach

My absolute number 1 favorite Schloss is Schloss Auerbach, located in the hills behind Auerbach on one wing of the Melibokus.
Schloss Auerbach
Schloss Auerbach

Although it is being built in the 13th century as well, it is still well preserved, although some parts are missing from the old Schloss. It was rebuild after a massive earthquake in 1356 and modernized according to the standards from that time.

Schloss Auerbach
Schloss Auerbach

From 1675 onwards it became more and more a ruin after it had been heavily hit in the french-dutch war.

Schloss Auerbach
Schloss Auerbach

(picture above taken from the northern tower, standing on the newly reopened southern tower)

In 1820 the northern tower collapsed, which was the start of another attempt to preserve it. It has been rebuild with the southern tower as an example.
In 1888 a hotel was opened in front of the Schloss which stayed open throughout the year.
The southern tower then got closed from mid 1950s onwards as the stairs were unreliable.

schloss auerbach
Schloss Auerbach

In 2007 this tower was reopened again after restoration.

Schloss Auerbach
Schloss Auerbach

Some other remarkable parts and places at this Schloss is the tree which is living its life like a Bonsai tree on top of the castle.

schloss auerbach
Schloss Auerbach

My favorite place is the “balcony”, a room with a view over the whole valley, which is a great place to sit to enjoy the sunset… and planes flying by low :)

The restaurant has some very nice food, however not very cheap.

A few times a year there are “Ritterfests”, including food and (separate) knights-tournaments. Also these are rather expensive, but the show around the food and the knights fighting is great to see. A must do for families with children and anyone interested in Medieval stories.

Reservations can be made here.

For the rest this Schloss is perfectly available via a nice road, many roads for hiking are around the Schloss, and if you are not sure about the weather, one can look at the webcam of melibokus.com which reveals the weather around the Schloss.

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