Experiencing Germany With Three of My Nieces. Part 6 – Bad Duerkheim and the Pfaelzer Wald

Since we had gone further afield the day before, our last full day in the Pfalz was focused more on relatively local activities where a bit of rain would be more easily managed.  We started off with another excellent breakfast, then set off to visit the ruins of the Limburg monastery.

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Although well tended, the Limburg in it’s current state bears only slight resemblance to the importance it once carried.  The hill it crowns was a seat of the Salian dynasty, and as they came to power as Kings of German and Holy Roman Emperors  it was re-purposed and expanded into a powerful monastery at around the same time as the cathedral in Speyer was constructed.  It was at the Limburg that various factions within the Church agreed to a 4 week period of preparation prior to Christmas, what is currently celebrated as Advent, where previously some factions used other timeframes.  In that time period, the Limburg carried in Germany the distinction that Westminster Abbey carries today in England… but times change, and on an evening described by James Fenimore Cooper in “The Heidenmauer” tensions between the Church and the local secular ruler in the nearby Hardenburg castle overflowed and resulted in the monastery being burned down in the 16’th century.  Now it stands quiet as an imposing relic with superb views of forests and vineyards while the exposed stone of it’s construction hints at hundreds of years of architectural development from Romanesque to Gothic.

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It had been intended to be a place of royal burial, yet after the initial burial of Gunhild, the teen aged Danish princess who was married to the future King Henry III but died before he was crowned, all subsequent royal burials took place at Speyer, including that of her husband.  I personally have a soft spot for Gunhild and try and make a point of visiting her grave with it’s modern stone whenever I am in the area, and I hope that she was an independent enough spirit to relish being the only burial in a long-since vanished basilica floor rather than being perturbed at not being with the others in a still-standing cathedral.  There were of course others buried nearby – a monastery can’t last over 500 years without having had it’s share of monks and abbots die, not to mention the other supporting personnel, but they were likely buried elsewhere.

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After a good visit at the Limburg the wind began to pick up and the first splatters of rain hit the windshield, so we made a quick detour through Seebach to see the Klosterkirche and the neighborhood around it where I had often visited with another group of relatives who unfortunately have since passed away or moved out of the area.  From there we headed deeper into the forest with a drive to Kaiserslautern.  In and of itself Kaiserslautern has no attraction for me, but the drive through the forest to it is nice as a way to see the landscape and, given the number of US military personnel stationed there, I wanted my nieces to have at least seen the scale of what that means.   I was prepared as we came through the town of Frankenstein to point out the ruined castle with the railroad tunnel running under it, but one of my nieces had seen the town name as we drove in and was prepared in advance to (correctly) dispute any suggestion that it was at all related to the book beyond perhaps the name.

On the way back from Kaiserslautern the skies started to clear up and I began to entertain the thought of stopping at one of the many trailheads for a short hike.  Unfortunately I had never been driving when I had gone hiking from any of them, and I found myself seeing them too late to be able to safely pull over and stop, and traffic was heavy enough that turning around wasn’t much of an option.  Eventually I recalled one sufficiently in advance as we were entering Grethen to be able to make the turn and head into the forest to the trailhead parking.

Quite conveniently this particular trailhead led off around a small pond, through a forested section, and then crossed the road the trailhead was off of and paralleled it to the Naturfreundehaus Groß-Eppental.  As hikes go it wasn’t much of one but given that we were in the window for lunch and happened to walk up to a restaurant along the trail it was too good of a moment to not stop in and eat.  We sat out on the terrace to eat a meal of regional specialties (including introducing my nieces to Leberknoedel – another of my favorite dishes) and finished up just as the rain came back.

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It was only a half mile or so back to the car along the road, and as I enjoy the occasional walk in the rain I offered to go get the car and come back for them, but they decided that a walk in the rain was more enjoyable than sitting under an awning and waiting.

Once back at the car we decided to head into Bad Duerkheim for further exploration on foot.  Unfortunately when we were a block away from the entrance to the parking area we had been aiming for the road was closed ahead of us due to set-up for an event later in the week.  Luckily I still had enough of a picture of the roads of the central part of the town to be able to come up with a viable alternate plan without too much of a detour.  Once parked, we set out on foot for a general walking tour through the market area, along the main shopping road, and back to the car via the train station, Schlossgarten and the Saline.  Along the way we did a bit of shopping, stopped off in a cafe for cake and coffee while another rain band moved through, and generally enjoyed the city before reclaiming the car and heading back to Wachenheim.

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After a tea break we had a wine tasting in the courtyard and I picked up a few bottles for the friends we would be staying with later in the trip, then we headed over to Ungstein to meet up with some of our relatives and visit over dinner in their home.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, however the more we visited the more I forgot that my nieces are not fluent in German so I am afraid they may have become  a bit bored sitting around the remnants of dinner while the rest of us talked until late in the night.

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