The beauty of living in Hohenfels Germany is the ability to daytrip to a magical location or locations and sleep in your own bed at night.
Our day started with a wakeup at 0800 for the children (Hunter age 11, Eva age 9, Acadia age 7) and a departure time of 0830. Departing thirty minutes after wake up was only possible with a quick stop at the Rewe in Hemau to grab fresh pastries and bread. Jules and I appreciate living in Germany where you can stop in any town and and find a great bakery.
In America, we don’t think twice about traveling 3-5 hours to visit children or parents. In Germany you find many Germany nationals that have never visited Prague or Paris even though they are only a 2 hour 45 minute and eight hour drive respectively. For this trip our initial destination was Burgruine Brunneck in Titting Germany and the travel time was 75 minutes.
The drive may have been a little over an hour but it was enjoyable–reminiscent of the Vermont countryside with forested hills, streams, and small villages. We made one stop on our way to the first castle ruins as the friends we were meeting were running a little late. About fifteen minutes from our destination was a small village called Enkering which from the looks of it, caters to the city crowds from Ingolstadt and Nuremberg which are a short drive away via the Autobahn (A9). This would be the first of two times we would stop in this village for the day. On this first visit, we found the ubiquitous German village playground and as far as town playgrounds go, this was one of the best. The park is water based and our children literally screamed as they ran out of the vehicle to explore. There were tall places to climb and hydro-engineering ‘toys’ to investigate. We saw many amazing things on this day but the kids didn’t stop asking to return to this playground until we were well past it on our return trip.
To the groans of our children, we demanded they return to the call so we could complete the first leg of our journey. Upon arriving in Altdorf where Burgruine Brunneck is located, we saw our friends situated in their minivan, shifting their heads left and right trying to determine what to do next.
For Americans who have never hiked in Germany, like many things foreign, it’s just different. We are such a car culture in America that when we plan a hike we look for the trailhead parking lot. It doesn’t work that way in Germany. Parking lots are rare as are trailheads–surprisingly. Germany at times seems like one continuous walking/hiking/biking trail with no start and no end. In America we have the 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail but for the most part we travel to a closed loop hiking trail which will be anywhere from three to twenty miles. We leave our car in the trailhead parking lot and complete the loop. In Germany, part of the challenge in hiking is finding a place you can park your vehicle and then finding where you can access the trail system that will take you to your destination. In this case the Brunneck Castle ruins.
In this very tiny German village the two American minivans–a Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna–rolled out on the few streets looking for signs of where to park and where to start the hike. Coming into town we spied the castle ruins on a hill above the town so that gave us some clue as to the general direction. Eventually we settled on a stretch of grass next to their town playground. Though not intentional, it allowed the seven children from the combined two families to expend even more energy than just the hike. The children attacked the playground like banshees. Fortunately for us there was a town elder cutting the grass at the playground and though he spoke no English, he and I managed to have a meaningful conversation in Deutsche that allowed me to know we were okay to park there and that we were close to the trail to the castle ruins.
After fifteen minutes, the banshees were called off the playground to attack the castle ruins. Small German villages are nice because traffic is so think you don’t have to constantly worry about your children wandering along the roadway. From the playground we walked toward a small bridge and then after fifteen feet followed the sign for the castle ruins and turned right. After two or three houses we were out of the village and into the woods on what seemed like a logging trail.
As we ascended the trail it became clear this logging road was not like the many others that dot the German countryside. Along the dirt path I started noticing cement storm drains. I know this sounds innocuous but honestly, I’ve biked, hiked, and walked hundreds of miles here and until then had yet to see a drainage system on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. As we completed the second leg of a switchback we came to a set of earthen stairs ascending through the woods right next to a gated home. The cement storm drains now made sense. The family that lived at the top of this hill was probably tired of road washouts and had invested in the upkeep of this road. For Americans reading this what you need to understand is how out of place this is for Germany. Germans do not build big houses at the top of hills with long driveways and nice views. It’s not practical so they don’t do this. I can’t recall a more American location then this home.
Upon climbing the stairs we arrived to a stretch of mowed grass leading the hundred feet or so to the entrance to the ruins. The entrance itself is through an archway in the most solid piece of remaining wall. After entering what used to be the castle interior, you turn left and climb the earthen mounds to the top of the second most intact wall. Walking along the edge at a height of 20 feet (with railing) you come to the end which provides one of the best vantage points from which to take a photograph.
From there you descend down through dirt and weeds to where you stand upon the edge of a third wall. This wall is not visible unless you stand near the downslope edge, bending your neck to look back at the wall you are standing upon. This area also affords a good photograph backdrop of the valley below. Although there is a five mile loop hike from our parking spot through the woods before ending at the castle ruins we chose to do a straight hike to the ruins and back.
This hike may be completed by itself as a day hike or completed in conjunction with walking Burgruine Bechthal, located 12 minutes away, as we did. To see the second half of our castle ruin day trip, click here.
ONE WAY TRAVEL TIME FROM HOHENFELS AREA: 1 hour 15 minutes
TOTAL HIKING DISTANCE: 2.00 miles
TOTAL HIKING TIME: 1 hour 1 minute
ELEVATION GAIN: 321 feet
DIFFICULTY RATING WITH CHILDREN: simple to moderate/ not too strenuous, path is wide, stairs are well maintained
Set your GPS to this address.