Discovering Silesia: Walking to Siedlęcin with its unique frescoes

May 2023 in Silesia, in the Giant Mountains. We walk from Jelenia Góra north west to Siedlęcin to see the unique medieval frescoes in the tower house. 


The gorgeous view from the top of the “mushroom”

On top of the “city mountain”, called Wzgórze Krzywoustego, there is a tower.

It is called Grzybek or “little Mushroom”.

From the top we have a gorgeous view of the Giant Mountains.

We can identify the Schneekoppe (Snezka) and the Schneegruben (Śnieżne Kotły) in the haze.


Walking along the Bóbr river (Bober)

The train from Jelenia Góra to Kořenov in Czechia whistles loudly and shows us the way to the train viaduct crossing the Bóbr river. 

The train crosses the Giant Mountains up to Czechia (Korenov). It is from the early 20th century and has been reinstalled in 2010. 

We walk under the viaduct and continue our way along the river Bóbr. 

A fountain on the way… refreshment for the hikers.

A snail in the sun… hurry up, little one, the sun will dry you out.

Rocks are scattered in the foresr; glaciers have dropped them a long time ago.

A restaurant in the forest, we have lunch here. 

The river Bóbr has been dammed.


Siedlęcin – our target with the medieval frescoes

After about 6km we reach the tower house at Siedlęcin. This is, what it looked like in the 18th century.

The tower house and part of the complex are still around. On the first floor of the tower, we find this wall full of frescoes.

The frescoes have been  painted in the years 1320 to 1340, applying the al seco technique on a chalk-bed. The frescoes tell us about the life of knights; this is unique in Europe. 

Christopher watches over the scenery. To the left of Christopher are two couples. One lady wears a hud – she is married. The seond lady wears no hood – she is not married. They are standing on top of a line of graves. 

Chrstopher is carrying Christ across the river. He stands in the water, barefeet, and some small fish around his legs indicate, this IS water. 

The scene to the right of Christopher tells the story of Lancelot. Lancelot is a knight of the Round Table of King Artus and he is in love of Queen Guinevere. The adultery causes a civil war, as described in literature of the 12th century. 

On this fresco, Lanzelot is sleeping and Guinevere tries to wake him up. Lancelot has deposited his helmet in the background; the helmet carries a dog sculpture.

Later Lancelot fights a duel with Tarquyn. Lancelot can be recognized by the helmet with the dog scultpure.

Some frescoes decorate the windows such as the coat of arms of the family Redern; they had acquired the tower house in 1354 and owned it for about two hundred years.  

On the fourth floor, guards defended the tower house. The roof construction dates from 1315. It had to be renewed after a fire in the late 16th century. The clay floor provides heat insulation and protection against fires.

The ceiling of the third floor from 1315 has been largely preserved. Only parts of it had to be renewed after the fire of the 16th century.  

While my friend takes the bus back to Jelenia Góra, I walk back, taking a different route and getting lost, though following the green markings. Our car was waiting for us next to the central bus station which helped finding it nevertheless. After a wonderful day, we return to “our” palace, the Palac Stoniszów. 



  • Frank Schüttig, “Riesengebirge”, Trescher Verlag, Berlin 2022
  • Malgorzata Ulrich-Kornacka, “Niederschlesien”, Via Nova, Wroclaw 2018
  • Dieter Schulze, “Polen der Süden”, Dumont Reisehandbuch, Osfildern 2020
  • Tomasz Turbos, “Polen”, Dumont Kunst-Reiseführer, Hamburg 2011
  • Explanations in the tower house of Siedlęcin


Discovering Silesia: Hirschberg or Jelenia Góra

In May 2023, I am in Silesia again, now with a good friend of mine. We stay south of Hirschberg (Jelenia Góra) at the foot of the Riesengebirge (Karkonosce or Giant Mountains).


Staniszów, the castle that is our home for a week

We have selected the castle Staniszów to stay for a week. 

It is located in a beautiful park that offers…

… charming corners.

Until 1945, the castle belonged to the family Reuss from Thuringia. In 2001, it has been acquired by the government. It has been restored and is now a spa hotel with an excellent restaurant. We are very pleased with our selection, we just had to learn, how to master the labyrinth of corridors and stairs in this old building.


Around 1100, Hirschberg or Jelenia Góra was a good place for hunting

Hirschberg was founded in 1108. “Boleslaus Distortus urbem struxit (Boleslaw with the distorted mouth constructed the town)”, the inscription on the townhall says. 

He liked the place, because it was good for hunting deer, hence the name “Hirschberg” that the Poles translated literally to “Jelenia Góra”.


Now, we find a pretty city centre around the town hall

We enter the city centre next to the St. Anna Chapel. It has been built into the city wall. The Wojanów gate has been removed. The tower is not a belfry. It was the Schildauer tower that protected the gate. 

We stroll along the street of 1st of May. Nice shops here. We enter the wine shop that, besides international wines sells Polish wines from the area around Jelenia Góra and from the Owl Mountains (yes, wine is grown here as well). The street is also a good place to buy fashionable clothes. 

The townhall dominates the market square or Rynek. 

The small gallery connects the townhall with the seven neighbouring houses. The complex has been used by the city government until today.

The townhall and the seven houses are sourrounded by carefully restored medieval buildings.

They show that Jelenia Góra was rich based on trading with cloth, particularly in the 16th century. Various coffee places and restaurants invite to sit down under the arcades.


In former times, trams crossed the old city centre. This wagon reminds of that; it is small coffee shop now.

In the museum of the Giant Mountains (Muzeum Karkonoskie), we find a photo of the old tram in action.


The church of Saint Erasmus and Pankratius is of gothic style with a baroque decoration

Not far from the Rynek, we enter the Basilica of Erasmus and Pankratius. The gothic vaults seem to rise to heaven.

The wooden altar from the 17th century has been painted to look like marble. 

The choir from the 18th century – beautifully carved – shows clearly: We are at Hirschberg.

Epitaphs from the 17th century decorate the outside walls. Mayors, wealthy citizens, even a Swedish warrior from the war of thirty years.


The Gnadenkirche or Church of the Holy Cross

The Gnadenkirche was built as a protestant church under the Habsburgian Emperor Josef I in the beginning of the 18th century. 

Though being a protestant church, it was richly decorated and painted inside. This is the view towards the altar (with the organ above)…

… and towards the entry from the west.

The baptismal font is made out of blue marble.

Around the church, various tombs of German patrician families have been restored.


The hotel Europe, formerly “Hotel Drei Berge”

The hotel Europe was one of the main hotels, when Silesia still belonged to Germany. Then it was called “Hotel Drei Berge” and had a roof top terrace. It is still a recommended hotel today. 

We return to our beautifuk castle Staniszów. I have a long swim in the pool (20x8m). After that I enjoy delicious asparagus in the castle restaurant, while my friend has a turbot with couscous and vegetables, also excellent.



  • Frank Schüttig, “Riesengebirge”, Trescher Verlag, Berlin 2022
  • Malgorzata Ulrich-Kornacka, “Niederschlesien”, Via Nova, Wroclaw 2018
  • Dieter Schulze, “Polen der Süden”, Dumont Reisehandbuch, Osfildern 2020
  • Tomasz Turbos, “Polen”, Dumont Kunst-Reiseführer, Hamburg 2011

Around Basel – Eiserne Hand with historical boundary stones

Boundary stones tell stories. Where I live, they tell us about the history of the Regio Basilienis. One example are the historical boundary stones along the “Eiserne Hand” (“Iron Hand”) at Riehen.

The “Iron Hand” looks more like a finger. It belongs to Riehen and reaches into Germany, between Lörrach-Stetten and Inzlingen. The “Iron Hand” is about 1.7km long and 50m-300m wide. The boundary line encompasses 3.5km overall (red line around “Herrenwald” and “Maienbühl”). 

Source: Swiss Topo and my own photos

More than 40 boundary stones mark the border along the “Eiserne Hand”. I show some stones on the map above. The oldest stone is from about 1500. 


The oldest boundary stone with the red bishop’s crook, about 1500

The oldest boundary stone (#61, about 1500) is nicknamed “Bischofstein“ (Bishop’s Stone). In 1500, the Bishop of Basel resided in Basel, and Riehen was one of his possessions. The stone shows the red bishop’s crook on the Swiss side. It is the only red bishop’s crook along the “Eisernen Hand”. The black bishop’s crook below is the coat of arms of the CITY of Basel that we will see on all the other boundary stones.


Coats of arms of the Schönau family NORTH of the “Iron Hand”

On the German side of the Bishop’s Stone #61 from about 1500, we see the coats of arms of the noblemen of Schönau. 

Stone #61 is on the northern border of the “Eisernen Hand” (towards Stetten which is located north of the “Iron Hand”).

Towards the north, the Schönau family marked more boundary stones, such as #51 from the year 1600,…  

… and stone #59 from 1700.

The Schönau were a powerful noble family in the Black Forest. The city of Stetten uses the three rings of the Schönau family in their coat of arms today. 


Coats of arms of the Reichenstein family SOUTH of the “Iron Hand”

Along the southern border of the “Eiserne Hand” (towards Inzlingen, located south of the “Iron Hand”), I find five stones with the coats of arms of the noblemen of Reichenstein. They owned Inzlingen as a fief. The years I identified are 1717, 1737 und 1752. 

Examples are the stone #69, with no year, …

… the stone #70 from 1737, …

… and the stone # 71 from 1739.

This is the view of the German settlement Inzlingen that once belonged to the Reichenstein family; I took the photo from the path aolng the border of the “Iron Hand”, in the rain.

By the way: The coat of arms of the Reichenstein family can also be found along the boundary path behind the Chischona and on Reichenstein Castle at Arlesheim. 


Boundary stones marked by the Grossherzogtum Baden (Grand Duchy of Baden) (1806-1918)

From 1806 to 1918, the German area bordering the “Eiserne Hand” was called Grossherzogtum Baden (Grand Duchy of Baden). That is why we find the coat of arms of the Grand Duchy with the slanting red bar on yellow background (years I found are 1830/40/42/48/56).

The most beautiful boundary stone is #54 from 1842 with the crown.

The other stones just show the red bar on yellow background such as #65 (no year, I assume mid 19th century).

Later the Grand Duchy invested less effort and marked their stones just with “GB” for “Grossherzogtum Baden”. I found nine stones with “GB” with the years 1888, 1898 and 1900 engraved. This is stone #71a from 1888.

By the way, boundary stones with the red bar or the letters “GB” are found along all the borders of Basel with Germany, for instance also on the Chrischona. 


Republic of Baden from 1918 to 1945

From 1918 to 1945, Baden was a Republic; from this time, I found one boundary stone, #60, marked with „RB“ (“Republic of Baden). 


Unified as Baden-Württemberg from 1952

In 1952, the German area bordering the “Eiserne Hand” was unified to Baden-Württemberg. I found two boundary stones from 1954 showing a plain “D” on the German side. 


The “turning point” marked by the “Dreieckstein” (“triangle stone”)

The “turning point” of the Eiserne Hand is marked by the so-called “Dreieckstein“ (“triangle stone”), stone #64 from 1717. Here the German communities Lörrach-Stetten and Inzlingen meet the Swiss community Riehen.


The black bishop’s crook of the City of Basel on the Swiss side

On the Swiss side, Riehen was acquired by the bishop of Basel in1270. After the reformation of 1529, Riehen remained with the city of Basel. The city of Basel has always marked their side of the “Eiserne Hand” with the (black) bishop’s crook, and the crooks vary in shape. Here are some examples. 

The city “owning” the black bishop’s crook can be seen from the boundary path along the “Eiserne Hand”. 


Boundary stones tell stories; they tell us about history

Boundary stones tell stories. Where I live, they tell us about the history of the Regio Basilienis. One example are the boundary stones along the “Eiserne Hand” or “Iron Hand”: On the German side they mark the evolution from the possesions of the noblemen of Schönau and Reichenstein (family coats of arms) to the Grand Duchy of Baden (elaborate representations of the coat of arms – slanted red bar on yellow background – and plain “GB”). Later the duchy became the Republic of Baden (RB). Now we border the German state of Baden-Württemberg (plain “D” on the stones). On the Swiss side the stones illustrate the evolvement of Basel as the bishop’s residence (with the red bishop’s crook, before 1529) to the protestant city of Basel (with the various black bishop’s crooks). 

The “Iron Hand” is just one example of historical boundary stones. There are may more examples, such as the Benkenspitz (border with France), the trail to the Schauenburger Fluh (border between Basel and Solothurn) or the border of the Prince Bishopric of Basel such as above Biel-Benken. And – there are many more boundary stones waiting to be explored.

May some of you decide to discover the stones of the “Eiserne Hand” and later turn to the borders with other cantons, with France, with Germany or check, where the historical Prince Bishopric of Basel has left marks. The small monuments are hidden in forests and fields around Basel and they speak to us.  We just have to listen to them.



  • Wiki  entries about the Eiserne Hand, about Stetten, about the Grossherzogtum and the Republic of Baden
  • Homepage of Stetten and Baden,
  • Information website of the Wasserschlosses Inzlingen,
  • Working material (Arbeitsmaterialien) Heimatkunde Riehen.




Erbach in the Odenwald – the ivory city with medieval charm

In August 2022, we are on our way from Berlin to Switzerland, via Thuringia and the Odenwald.

Now we are in the Odenwald, where today we have seen the Castle Wildenburg and the Abbey Church of Amorbach. On our way back, we stop at Erbach, the city of ivory carving. 

We park our car and cross the river Mümling lined with half-timbered houses.

We stand on the Market Square. The protestant City Church of Erbach (1750) can be accessed through the gate called “Städtelbogen”.

The City Hall is from 1545. The statue is called Räibock and commemorates the day labourer Johann Adam Fleckstein (1849-1917). He was a known character at Erbach. He worked as a carpenter, as a messenger or he waited at the train station to serve incoming passengers as a porter. The citizens liked his odd humour. He wears a servant’s cap and a carpenter’s axe and a saw. 

A second monument decorates the Market Square. It is Duke Franz I zu Erbach-Erbach (1754-1823). He was probably the most important duke of Erbach. 

The dukes of Erbach resided in the Castle, built from 1736-1902 (first in Baroque and later in neo-Baroque style). The castle we see today was built reusing foundation walls and the oak posts of the former moated fortress from 1140 that later was reconstructed as a Renaissance castle to finally become the Baroque castle of today.

The donjon from the year 1200 has remained, the Gothic pinnacle is from 1497. 

Today, the castle presents the antique collection of Duke Franz I and the collection of ivory artefacts.

In 1783, Duke Franz I introduced ivory carving to Erbach after having travelled through Europe for six years. On his educational journey, he saw collections of precious ivory works and also learnt how to process ivory. Back at Erbach, he set up his own ivory workshop.  Ivory became an important economic sector at Erbach. The rose of Erbach won a prize at the World Exhibition of Vienna in 1873. Erbach attracted artists, became the German ivory centre and founded the school for ivory carving in 1893. Because trading elephant ivory has been restricted since 1973, the artists now use mammoth ivory that mostly comes from Siberia in Russia. While in former times, ivory shops could be found in almost all streets of Erbach, I now only find Jürgen Schott’s workshop on the internet. 

On the Market Square, we visit the shop of Jürgen Reimer, also an ivory artist. I like the finely carved animals. 

Nearby, I notice this boy telling his father “Vadder-do!” meaning “Dad – this way!”. It seems to be urgent for dad.

Where does “Vadder” (father) have to go to so urgently? The children’s town rally offers three options for the answer: (1) the church, (2) shopping (3) the toilet. Now, it is your turn to guess…

We have a different solution; we take a seat on the Market Square in front of a nice restaurant to round off our visit with a coffee.

We leave the charming medieval city, again crossing the river Mümling.

From our two hours visit, I will keep good memories of the historic ensemble of the medieval city of Erbach. May be, I would have to return to explore more medieval streets, the pleasure garden with the orangery along the river Mümling and the workshop of Jürgen Schott.  

Tomorrow, we will return to Switzerland, after four wonderful weeks of travelling: Riedlingen, Ulm, Nebra, Berlin (here I enjoyed the eye twinkling of the City Cleaning Service and commented about the Heidelberger Platz), Thuringia with Neustadt an der Orla, Castle Burgk, Schleiz, Plothener Teiche (ponds), along the dams of the upper Saale, Lehesten, Lauscha, Weimar, Rudolstadt, Erfurt, Arnstadt, Eisenach, Schmalkalden, Steinau an der Strasse, and the Odenwald with Lindenfels, the Castle Wildenberg, Amorbach and now Erbach. 




Amorbach and its Abbey Church

After having climbed up to see the Castle Wildenberg, we visit Amorbach and its Baroque-Rococo Abbey Church.


Amorbach is a small medieval city in the Sandstone-Odenwald

Known in the 10th century as Amerbach or Amerbach, the settlement evolved around the Benedictine monastery and became a town in 1253. We are in the Sandstone-Odenwald; dark red sandstone bricks characterize the buildings, such as the catholic church St. Gangolf, built in the 18th century. 

The City Hall, covered with slates, is from 1479. I could not find out who the man is that sits on the bench in front of the City Hall.

Next to the City Hall we have lunch in the Ristorante Pizzeria di Marina.

Around us are medieval houses. The Internet contains a long list of notable buildings at Amerbach.

 On the way to the Abbey Church, we come across the former monastery mill (Klostermühle) that was built in 1448 as the inscription above the gate says. It was the mill and bakery for the monastery. Now it is an inviting coffee bar


The Amorbach Abbey Church – have we seen a cock on the belfry?

Abbeys are catholic institutions, and I have never seen a cock on the belfry of a monastery church. I rub my eyes. This IS a cock. Let us look into the history of the abbey to understand, how the cock ended up on this belfry. 

The Abbey of Amorbach is from the 8th century. It was one of four abbeys that were founded in Carolingian times to bring Christianity to the Odenwald. In 1446, the abbey acquired the relics of Saint Amor and Saint Landrada and became a pilgrimage site. In 1740-1744, the Abbey Church was reconstructed, whereby the Romanesque west towers from the 12th century were incorporated. 60 years later, in 1803, the abbey was dissolved and given to the duke of Leiningen as a compensation for the lands left of the Rhine that they had lost to the French. The principality of Leiningen was founded, and the abbey became the residence. The noblemen of Leiningen originated from Palatine near Dürkheim, and they were protestant. They handed the Abbey Church over to the (Protestant) parish of Amorbach. The principality of Leiningen ceased to exist already in 1806. It was passed over to the Grand Duchy of Baden (Grossherzogtum Baden) and in 1816 to the Kingdom of Bavaria. The noblemen of Leiningen still own the abbey today. 

Now, we know, why there is a cock on the belfry of the Abbey Church: The church has become Protestant and many Protestant Churches show the cock on their towers.

This is the bird’s eye view of the abbey that I found, when visiting the church. 

Inside the church, we find an overwhelmingly rich decoration – late Baroque/early Rococo.

Six red marble columns frame the altar picture that shows Mary arriving in heaven. Above the black beams is the Holy Trinity. The statues of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, flank the altar.

The iron screen was made in 1748-50.

The organ was set up in 1782 by members of the organ-building Stumm family; it was at that time the largest organ in the world.

In front of the organ is the plain protestant communion table.

The frescoes mainly tell the story of Saint Benedict.

Impressed by the rich decoration, we leave this place full of history. Our next target is the ivory town Erbach, not far from here.



The Staufian Castle Wildenberg on a hill near Amorbach

In August 2022, we travel back from Berlin to Switzerland, visiting Thüringen and the Odenwald and staying with an old family friend near Heidelberg.

Now, we have walked up a steep path and stand in front of the Staufian Castle Wildenberg (Burg Wildenberg), located on a hill in the middle of the forest.

We are in the Odenwald near Amorbach; the area belongs already to Bavaria. 

Source: Wikipedia entry about the Odenwald (,_Serie_A-de.png).

Above the entry gate, the coat of arms, two wheels with seven spokes and three stars in two fields, welcome us.  

The castle was the seat of the noblemen of Dürn. 

Ruprecht von Dürn founded the castle in 1170. He belonged to the close circle of Friedrich I Barbarossa (1155-1190). Ruprecht was from Dürn, today called Walldürn. The coat of arms of Walldürn contains a wheel with six spokes. Perhaps the wheel above the entry gate (though with seven spokes) is related to the noblemen of Dürn. I could not find anything about the stars.

The Dürn enlarged their Castle Wildenberg in 1220.  In the late 13th century, the noblemen of Dürn sold the castle to the Diocese of Mainz. The Diocese installed the local administration of the territory here. The panel says that the castle was damaged during the earthquake of Basel in 1356. Interesting. Did “our” Basel earthquake reach the Odenwald, about 300km north of Basel? This is new to me – very interesting – and I could not find sources on the internet that would give me more information about that. 

The castle has been a ruin since 1525. At that time the farmers burnt it down in the German Peasant’s War (Deutscher Bauernkrieg). 

We enter the castle. This finely engraved column decorates the entry.

We continue to the inner courtyard separated by this wall that was added in the 15th century.

We approach the entrance to the palace (Palas) in the northern part of the castle.   

The palace (Palas) is 200m2 large. On the ground floor are the winter rooms with the fireplace, about 9m2 large. 

The fireplace is finely decorated.

Historians assume that Wolfram von Eschenbach wrote parts of his medieval romance Parzival here, as he emphasized that the fireplace in the Castle of the Holy Grail is much larger than the fireplace in the Castle of Wildenberg. No one at the Castle of Wildenberg had ever seen a fireplace as large as the one in the Castle of Holy Grail, he wrote in his Parzival.

The second floor of the Palas, added in 1220, is famous for the early Gothic arcade windows. They brought light into the hall that was probably used for festivities in summer.

We did not feel like leaving this beautiful place full of history.

But it is lunch time, and we are getting hungry. We take the steep path down, where our car is waiting for us. Our next target is Amorbach, where we hope to find a restaurant and where we intend to visit the famous Abbey Church of Amorbach.




Lindenfels – the pretty dragon city clustering around the medieval castle

On our way to Switzerland, from Berlin and Thuringia, we spend one night at Lindenfels in the Odenwald.


Some pretty spots in the city of Lindenfels

Lindenfels is located on 360m in the Odenwald north of Heidelberg. It is a spa resort…

… with pretty half-timbered houses …

… and some cosy gardens.

This shingled house has an interesting history that is explained on the panel: It was an inn and a brewery, acquired by Michael Rauch in 1850.

At that time, Lindenfels founded its tourist organization, and Rauch was one of the founding members. Peter, the youngest son of his nine children, took over the inn before the First World War. In 1949, Peter’s son, Heinrich, carried on with the inn. From 1969, Heinrich’s foster daughter Else lead the inn with her husband. The inn was closed in 2003. Recently the great-great-grandson of the original buyer, Michael Rauch, has bought the house back.

By the way, five members of the family Rauch emigrated to America in the 19th century. They have many descendants, and their name is pronounced “Rauk”.

What a tradition!


The castle Lindenfels guards over the village

Above the village are the ruins of the castle Lindenfels.

The castle was founded in the early 12th century by duke Berthold Junior. He was the bailiff of the monastery Lorsch (not far from here). In 1277, the castle was taken over by the Electoral Palatinate (Kurpfalz with the centre Heidelberg).

The nucleus of the original castle from the 12th century has been preserved as a ruin.

In the 14th century, the small city Lindenfels emerged around the castle. Up to the 16th century, the Electors (Kurfürsten) of Heidelberg used the castle as a secondary seat.

As the information panel in the castle shows, it was an impressive castle in 1634.

The Electors enlarged the castle of Heidelberg in the 16th century, lost interest in Lichtenfels, and the castle decayed. The citizens obtained building material here.

As the panel shows, by 1891, the castle had become a ruin.

We climb up to the lower defensive wall and take a photo of the Odenwald hills. We are in the crystalline, western part of the Odenwald (see post scriptum).

Now we are on top of the ruin, again enjoying the view of the Odenwald.

Emperor William First is venerated with this monument.

“To our beloved emperor”, the people of Lindenfels say thankfully. I cannot find out, what he has done for Lindenfels.

In the castle, there is this huge sycamore (Bergahorn), a natural monument. Beware of hornets, the panel on the mighty old tree says!

The foundation of the Savings Bank (Sparkassenstiftung) of Starkenburg is setting up the summer open air cinema which will take place this weekend.

I do wish you good weather for the weekend! I would have liked to watch the film of Monsieur Claude with his sons-in-law from all nations and all religions.


Lindenfels – the dragon city

Lindenfels is located on the Nibelungen hike (Nibelungensteig commemorating the Song of the Nibelungs). In the song, the dragon Fafnir was killed by Siegfried.

In 2010, the city named this lump of rock “dragon rock” (Drachenfels). On 25th of November 2009, it had broken off under the castle, slid down, destroyed two castle walls and stopped here above the spa gardens.

A dragon guards the “dragon rock”.

In 2010, Lindenfels participated in the competition “ab in die Mitte” of Hessen and won the first prize for their project “Lindenfels – the town of dragons”. The city opened the dragon museum (Drachenmuseum) and organized a parade of colourful dragons. The dragons of the parade now decorate the city and the hiking paths around Lindenfels.

We come across this dragon the colour of which may have faded in the meantime.

Under the castle, Siegfried fights the dragon Fafnir. It is a rather abstract interpretation of Fafnir and Siegfried.

We leave the dragon city Lindenfels with its castle, gorgeously located in the hills of the Odenwald.


Post Scriptum: Short insight into the geology of the Odenwald

This is the morphological map of the Odenwald, north of Heidelberg and with the small Odenwald (Kleiner Odenwald) in the south around the river Neckar.


Source: Wikipedia entry about the Odenwald (,_Serie_A-de.png)

In the Lindenfels castle, a panel divides the Odenwald into the “crystalline” (western) and into the “sandstone” (eastern and southern “small”) Odenwald.

In Lindenfels, we are in the crystalline Odenwald. Here, the Odenwald is like a window giving insight into lower levels of the earth crust, as Peter Rothe, p. 77, writes. What we see, is crystalline bedrock (kristallines Grundgestein), mostly various kinds of granite.

This is, in a nutshell, what happened: About 300 million years ago (late Palaeozoic), the Variscan mountains evolved here. The rocks were transformed both by pressure and temperature becoming what we call crystalline bedrock. The bedrock was covered by sediments. About 50 million years ago, the area was lifted which caused it to break apart. Part of the “broken” area dropped down by 3000 meters and formed the Rhine valley rift. The western Odenwald mountains “lost” their sediments; they were eroded and deposited in the Rhine valley. The crystalline bedrock, uncovered from the sediments, provides insight into lower levels of the earth crust. The bedrock consists of various kinds of granite (magmatic rocks) that invaded the existing metamorphic rocks from below. Geologists observe the stripes of the “original” metamorphic rocks (gneiss and mica slate or Gneis and Glimmerschiefer) amidst the prevailing granite rocks (map in Rothe, p. 78). The more resistant granite rocks remained as mountains.

The soil is rich in nutrients. Broad-leaved forests and agriculture dominate the landscape.

The eastern and southern Odenwald is different. It is dominated by sand- and claystone (Sand- und Tonsteine). They are sediments deposited, when, in the Mesozoic, the area was covered by lakes and traversed by rivers (about 240 million years ago). I came across this sandstone rock at Neckargmünd on the river Neckar.

The sandstone Odenwald is low in nutrients and covered by conifers. The landscape is dominated by table mountains.

Later in the Mesozoic, the eastern Odenwald was a seashore, as shell limestone (Muschelkalk) and sea fossils tell the geologists.

This post scriptum is a short insight into the geology of the Odenwald. Not being a geologist, I tried to understand the overall picture that Peter Rothe gives about the Odenwald in his book “die Geologie Deutschlands”. It was the old family friend that we visited south of Heidelberg who gave me this book. Her mother was a geologist and so was my mother. Thank you so much. My mother would be happy, could she watch me diving into this well written book. I admire, how geologists can read the landscape and some vertical sections to derive the history of the earth from them.

We will next explore some cultural sights at the Odenwald with the old family friend.




Steinau an der Strasse – the city of the Brothers Grimm

In August 2022, we are on our way back to Switzerland, coming from Berlin and Thuringia. On the way, we stay one night at Steinau an der Strasse.


Steinau an der Strasse – is this a noisy place? No, “Strasse” commemorates the medieval Via Regia

First, I frowned at “Steinau an der Strasse“. Why “an der Strasse” (“on the road”)?  Is it a noisy place with the houses lined up along a busy road? No, not at all. It was one of the cities on the medieval trade route Via Regia (from Frankfurt to Leipzig and beyond), and this is why it has the attribute “an der Strasse”.

These are some meters of the original cobble stones; it must be a bumpy experience to travel on such a road.

The cobblestones, retrieved nearby (between Salmünster and Steinau), were installed in the city in 2006, as the panel says.

In 2007, Steinau opened a museum about the Via Regia, the trade route between Frankfurt and Leipzig, as the Stadtchronik (town chronicle) on the Steinau homesite says.

Twinkling with an eye in 2007, Steinach installed the milestone that welcomes travellers (Reysende) and invites them to spend some Euros in the shops, inns and restaurants (läden, herbergen und tavernen) so that these will not be in need henceforth (auf dass diese fürderhin nit noth leyden).

We conform to this wish. We spend one night in the friendly B&B Burgmannenhaus on the Market Square (called am Kumpen).

On the ground floor, the shop “Wilde Speisekammer” sells local specialties, including venison products, as the owner is a hunter. The owner tells me that the guards of the nearby castle once stayed in this house (“Burgmannen” can be translated as “castle men”).


The Brothers Grimm lived at Steinau

In the Amtshaus (administration building), the bailiff (Amtmann) Philipp Wilhelm Grimm lived with his family from 1791-96. His sons Jakob und Wilhelm Grimm later became world-famous as linguists and fairy tale collectors. The Amtshaus was built in 1562. It is a museum today.

Fairy tales are present all over at Steinach. This house has been painted with fairy tale scenes, such as Hänsel and Gretel, Snow White, Red Riding Hood (Rotkäppchen), the Wolf and the seven little Goats or Gänseliesel (Liesel with the geese).

On the Market Square, the fountain tells more fairy tales, such as Frau Holle (Mother Holle).

Dragons also belong to the world of fairy tales and legends.

In 2006, Steinau received the official attribute Brüder-Grimm-Stadt or city of the Brothers Grimm.


The city centre has been well preserved with medieval half-timbered houses

We stroll along the streets of the city centre and find well preserved medieval half-timbered houses. This is the view of the main street.

The “Kemenate derer von Hutten” (bower of the von Hutten family) was built in 1557. It was reconstructed in 1732 to serve as the Lutheran parochial house, as the plate on the house explains.


Market Square with City Hall and Saint Catherine Church

The City Hall was built in 1561.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria is the city saint. The first church was built here in the 9th century. What we can see today is mainly late Gothic from 1481-1511. I find the two naves interesting, as seen from the castle.


The Renaissance Castle

The Renaissance castle of Steinau was built in 1528-55. It was a representative building for the duchy of Hanau (Obergrafschaft Hanau). Temporarily it served as residence of the duke, later it became the seat of the duke widows. Steinau was the centre of the duchy of Hanau.

I like the staircase in the castle.

Today the castle is a museum. It makes the life of the former dukes of Hanau-Münzenberg revive. In addition, it hosts another exhibition about the Brothers Grimm, besides the museum of the Brothers Grimm in the house, where they once lived.


Our culinary experience at Steinau

We have dinner at Ali Baba. It is a small Turkish restaurant, well liked and visited by the people from Steinau. I do not remember, what I have ordered. But I remember, I enjoyed the meal, and I enjoyed the service provided by the extremely friendly and hard-working wife of the house.

Our breakfast was served in this cosy small dining room in the Burgmannenhaus. It was a delicious small breakfast with fresh fruit and yogurt.

After one night, we leave the welcoming small city Steinau and der Strasse; our next destination is the Odenwald.

Perhaps I will return one day to explore the museum of the Brothers Grimm (in the house, where they lived), the Museum Steinau (about the Via Regia) and the Renaissance castle (about the life of the dukes and again about the Brothers Grimm).



Exploring Thuringia – Schmalkalden, the centre of the protestant movement in the early 16th century

In August 2022, we travelled in Thuringia. Our last city in Thuringia was Schmalkalden, where we stopped for lunch.

In the early 16th century, Schmalkalden was the hot spot of the reformation. Here, some protestant dukes and protestant free cities founded the Schmalkaldic League (Schmalkaldischer Bund) to defend themselves, when being attacked by catholic armies (1530). The leaders were the dukes of Hesse (Hessen) and of Saxony (Sachsen). In 1547, the League was defeated by the catholic imperial army of Charles V and some allies he could recruit from the protestants. However, the protestant religion was already well established, and the Peace of Augsburg confirmed that in 1555.

On the Old Market Square, the coats of arms of some of the members of the Schmalkaldic League remind of the days, when Schmalkalden was the centre of the protestant movement.

At school, we have learnt about the Schmalkaldic League. Then I never thought that the name “Schmalkaldic” denotes a city, namely Schmalkalden. It is located at the southern border of Thuringia, south of the Thuringian Forest (Thüringer Wald), where the road starts to climb the mountains. Originally, Schmalkalden did not belong to Thuringia, it was part of the duchy Hessen until 1866. The people here speak with the accent of Hessen.   

Let us look at this small city.


Medieval half-timbered houses at the Altmarkt (Old Market Square) and in the narrow streets around it

The city centre of Schmalkalden has been well preserved. 

Medieval half-timbered houses surround the Altmarkt, the Old Market Square.

The City Hall had been installed in the Gothic stone bower (Steinerne Kemenate) of 1419. 

It was in the audience chamber behind the arched window, where the Schmalkaldic League was founded in 1530 and where the League met until 1543.  

Also, in the narrow streets around the Market Square, medieval half-timbered houses have been preserved.

Since 1664, the Rosenapotheke has provided their services in a building from the 15th century, located at Steingasse 11. 

Luther was also at Schmalkalden. 

During the 1537 meeting of the League at Schmalkalden, Luther stayed on the second floor of this house for about two weeks.


Late Gothic Church of Saint George (Georgenkirche)

The late Gothic Church from 1437 (accomplished in 1570) is located next to the historical City Hall. 

Luther preached here in 1537, during one of the meetings of the Schmalkaldic League.

The guard of the church is very proud of the Cantionale, a collection of spiritual songs, handwritten in 1599 by Andreas Ostermaier, court conductor (Hofkapellmeister) of duke Moritz von Hessen. 

For us, the guard opens the cloth covering it. 


The Wilhelmsburg above the city

1585-1590, the duke of Hessen-Kassel constructed the Renaissance castle above the city, to stay here for hunting and in summer.

The four-wing building clusters around the quadratic courtyard. 

The chapel is closed; we would find the wooden Renaissance organ inside. It is the original, built in 1587-89 and can still be played.

Along the wall, we admire the castle garden, laid out on terraces.

The steps lead down to the city.

We eat some delicious sandwiches and sweets in the bakery and café bar Endter in the city centre.

After that, we leave Thuringia and continue our way Hessen, to Steinau, and later to the Odenwald near Heidelberg.


Exploring Thüringen – Eisenach with Wartburg, Bach, Luther and dragons

In August 2022, we explored Thüringen. Along the Via Regia, we have visited Weimar, Erfurt, Rudolstadt and Arnstadt. 

Now, we are at Eisenach, for one afternoon and one morning. We want to learn more about Bach, get a feeling for the castle Wartburg, walk in the old city centre and go for a short hike in the picturesque dragon’s canyon.


Our first target: We want to learn more about Johann Sebastian Bach – in the Bach Museum

Our first target is the Bach Museum, where we want to learn more about Johann Sebastian Bach. The museum is located on the Frauenplan in the yellow house from the 15th century and in the attached modern extension from 2007. 

Around 1900, the Bach Society had acquired the medieval house on the Frauenplan, because they believed, Johann Sebastian was born here. The museum opened in 1907. However, some years later, it became clear that Bach’s father Ambrosius had acquired another house at Eisenach, where Johann Sebastian was born. This house does no longer exist. 

The statue of Bach stands in front of his museum. He is now the mature man with the Baroque wig. 

He is no longer the young lad stretching out on the market square of Arnstadt, where he had started his career at the age of 18.

The visit of the Bach Museum begins in the room of instruments. Various historical instruments are demonstrated, such as this clavichord. 

A surprise is the small organ for house concerts, where the player looks at the audience, not at the organ pipes turning his back to the audience. 

The museum illustrates Bach’s life and culminates with the information room. Hanging armchairs invite to sit down and listen to music, … 

… and around the “plaza” in the middle, I find videos about Bach’s music and about music in general, wonderful for amateurs like me. 

I learn about the well temperament (wohltemperierte Stimmung), about suites or about the life of Bach… I completely forget the time, until I am alone in this room. Is the museum going to close? I find my friend in the cafeteria. I join her and recover with a cappuccino.

A month later, I visit my friend, the clavichord builder, at Berlin. He tells me that there are many ways of well-tempered tunings, and he prefers Werckmeister III (Werckmeister had defined the concept in 1681). My friend demonstrates a clavichord that he has recently tuned, and I can hear the combinations of keys that “work” and the combinations that do not “work”. Well, I get a faint idea of the concept and I admire my friend’s sense of hearing and applying it to his instruments.


Our second target: We want to get a feeling for the Wartburg, and we look at it from “our” hotel terrace

We settle in the wonderful hotel Haus Hainstein in the noble hill area under the castle Wartburg. We have lunch on the terrace. The table has been reserved for us under the name of “Peter Erbs”. 

Well, “Peter Erbs” is almost right. I have two last names “Peters Erb” which is somewhat unusual, I admit. Ernst would have enjoyed seeing this.

From the terrace, we have this view of the Wartburg under blue sky. 

We return for dinner. At dawn, the Warburg looks even more romantic, …

… and now, it is night. I am still sitting on the gorgeous terrace of our hotel.

We sleep in these comfortable beds, …

… and, early in the morning, we look at the Wartburg once more, now from our room.

The hotel “Haus Hainstein” IS to be recommended! For the location, for the atmosphere and for the friendly service.

The Wartburg originates from the 12th century. Then, it was the residence of the mighty dukes called Ludowiner. Around 1200, minstrels met here, such as Walter von der Vogelweide and Wolfram von Eschenbach. In 1521, Luther was hidden away under the name of “Junker Jörg”. He was under imperial ban, and the duke of Weimar wanted to protect him. Luther used the time in his “prison” to translate the bible into German creating the basis for the modern German language. In the year 1817, students from Jena and Leipzig met in the Wartburg and asked for a united homeland, after having fought against Napoleon. Around 1840, the dukes of Weimar started to renovate the Wartburg adding romantic elements that were not all based on historical facts. Some of the romantic additions were removed later. 

We have not visited the Wartburg, we have just admired it from afar, from “our” terrace. Just looking at it gives a feeling for the mighty castle that has never been conquered. Perhaps I will visit it another time.


Our third target: Get an impression of the old city centre of Eisenach – Georgskirche (Saint George’s Church) and Market

The Market of Eisenach is dominated by Saint George’s Church. Construction started around 1200 and ended around 1900. Hence it is a mix of styles. Bach was baptized here in 1685, and Luther preached here in 1521, when, already under imperial ban, while he was returning from Worms on his way to the Wartburg.

Next to the church is Saint George’s fountain, erected in 1549 (Renaissance). Knight George is killing the dragon.

Across we can see the city castle (late Baroque, completed around 1750). The dukes of Sachsen-Eisenach resided here for just eight years. After that, the dukes of Weimar installed their government in this building. Furthermore, the castle hosts the historical museum of Eisenach. 

The red City Hall building originated from 1502. It had to be reconstructed after a fire in the 17th century. Then, the stairs tower was added. 

This half-timbered house is called Rodensteiner, with the bookshop”Leselust” (“reading pleasure”) on the ground floor. The building dates from the first half of the 17th century. It was a wine tavern, much visited by Joachim Ringelnatz around the year 1900.


More walking in the old city centre: Karlsplatz (Charles Square)

The triangular Karlsplatz (Charles Square) is dominated by the Romanic Saint Nicolas Church (St. Nikolauskirche) and the Saint Nicolas Gate. 

From a small park, Luther watches over the Karlsplatz. He seems to be thinking, cross-armed.

In the south-west corner of the Karlsplatz, I admire the Stadtapotheke (city pharmacy); it has been a pharmacy since 1800. 

We walk down Johannisstrasse and find the “Schmales Haus” (slim house, Johannisplatz 9). Built about 250 years ago, it is just 2.05m wide. In 1974, Klaus Trippstein bought the house, renovated it and lived in it. After his death in 2017, his son offered it to the city of Eisenach. The house is a tourist attraction. Oh yes, it also attracted us.


Still more walking in the old city centre – towards the Lutherhaus

When walking to the house, where Luther once lived, we come across this window, carefully decorated with flowers. The house is covered with slate.

Later, my friend disappears in this shop that sells laces from Plauen, which is another city in Thuringia.

My friend likes the modern interpretations of tiny point- lace (I have learnt from Cathy that “laces” are for shoes). She buys scarfs and small tablecloths – gifts for the family and for friends at home.

Around the corner is the Lutherhaus. Luther lived here with the family Cotta, when attending the Latin school. After the war, the late Gothic building was reconstructed in the original way. The exhibition is closed today; it is another Monday.


And more strolling in the centre: Elisabethenkirche (Elisabeth Church)

Elisabeth of Thuringia is venerated as a Saint. At the age of 14, she was married to Ludwig von Thüringen who resided in the Wartburg. She soon started to care for people that were sick or in need, even more so, after her husband Ludwig had died on the Fifth Crusade. 

She died in 1231 and was canonized four years later, in 1235.

The neo-Gothic Elisabeth Church of Eisenach is a quiet place, …  

… with solemn simplicity.


More Churches in the city centre: Predigerkirche (“Preacher’s Church”)

On the way to the Predigerkirche (Preacher’s Church), we see idyllic backyards, …

… and nicely decorated slate houses ….

The Predigerkirche (“preacher’s church”) is now the museum for prehistory and religious medieval sculptures (closed today, still another Monday).

The building is from the 13th century and was part of the Dominican monastery.

Interesting is the “organ” presenting some music of Bach in front of the church.


Our fourth target: Hike in the Drachenschlucht (dragon’s canyon)

In the morning, we feel like hiking in nature. Our “Müller” recommends the Drachenschlucht (dragon’s canyon). Indeed, the canyon is attractive, sometimes so narrow that two persons cannot cross. 

The canyon widens up again …

… and becomes narrow once more.

At the end, stairs lead up to the main road B19 and to the hotel Hohe Sonne on the Rennsteig, which is the famous hiking trail across the Thüringer Wald.

The cars on the road B19 can be heard all the way… but while driving on the B19, you would never believe to be so close to such a picturesque canyon.


Map overview of Thuringia and the places visited

Eisenach is our last overnight stay in Thuringia.

We have seen the dams of the upper river Saale, the Slate Mountains with Lehesten, Lauscha, Schleiz and the Plothen Ponds. Furthermore, we have explored cities along the so-called Via Regia, the medieval trade route – Rudolstadt, Weimar, Erfurt, Arnstadt and – now – Eisenach.

We next move on to Frankfurt, with a lunch stop over at Schmalkalden (still in Thuringia) and an overnight stay at Steinau (already in Hessen).