Germany,  Hohenfels Day Trip

Playground Day

The request was simple. 

Seesaw or obstacle course event?

Eva, the 10 year old, LOVES playgrounds and asked if we could spend one entire day of school spring break visiting playgrounds in the area.  Unlike America where life goes on as usual during the COVID-19 pandemic, here in Deutschland the lockdown continues in some fashion now in its 14th month.  And rather than discuss loosening restrictions, national and regional leaders are strategizing how to tighten the restrictions.  With this background we set out to do one activity that was initially banned in Deutschland early in the pandemic lockdown but was now allowed, visit playgrounds.

Our first stop was Schwaighausen which is a ten minute drive from our home, 20  and 26 minutes if coming from Hohenfels and Parsburg respectively.  On the weekend day we visited there were no other people present.  This playground was the least impressive one on the day’s tours however we enjoyed it and there were several highlights which I’ll get to in a moment.  First the equipment.

Spring rocker, basketball hoop, and soccer goal.

It’ small but it has the basics.  It has two wooden benches upon which parents can rest.  No picnic table though there is plenty of grass where you an lay out a blanket and the rural setting makes for a pleasurable experience.  There is a basketball hoop and soccer goal–a bonus as some towns only have soccer fields that can only be accessed by the town’s soccer clubs at official practices.  Additionally there is a lamb spring rider, see-saw, swinging rope disc that can fit thee children and a structure that includes a slide and rope climbing.  For the younger ones there is a sandbox.

Because this was a pretty rudimentary playground for children as old as Hunter (12), Eva, (10), and Acadia (8), I created an obstacle route and then timed each child as they completed the run.   Nothing says fun more than rushing through playground accessories in a way they weren’t designed to be used. 

It started on the black surface behind the swinging net disc.  You had to climb over the top of that to the other side and then run over the top of the lamb spring rider.  After hitting the ground you had to run to the far soccer goal post and then head for the see-saw where you had to leap over to the far side.  The next step was to climb the structure’s rope net on the soccer goal side, climb over the side on to the platform where you took the slide down.  When your feet hit the ground, your time stopped.  I think the best time at this playground was 47 seconds.  The playground obstacle course run stuck with us for the remainder of the day.  Truth be told it will probably stay with us for the remainder of our lives as well.

Sandbox with a view.

I mentioned there were a couple of highlights from this playground.  The obstacle course was one.  The other is the proximity to a great network of running/walking trails.  If you and your spouse visit this playground, one can stay with the children while the other takes in the forest and field around you.  From the playground you can simply start running south along the wood line which starts with a grotto.  Conversely, from the parking area you can simply continue on the road up the hill.  When you approach the woods you can either run directly into the woods, turn left along the wood line or right down the dirt road into the woods.  Each of these paths connects to many other paths.  I’ve gotten up to 9 miles in these woods. 

Normally I enjoy running along the Naab river out my front door but like many things during these 14 months of lockdown, my priority is to avoid Groundhog Day where we do the same thing every day because that is the ONLY thing we can do.  As a result I get in the car and drive to a running spot now.  These woods with several large interior open fields are rejuvenating with beautiful landscapes.

The climbing wall.

Our next stop was Baiern, a three minute drive from the first playground.  I pass this playground when traveling from Backerei Schifferl to Rewe and knew it would keep the kids’ interest (if you are looking for a great baguette try Backerei Schifferl which will only add a few minutes to your trip from the first to the second playground).  When we visited this playground there was no one present.  During our time there two young brothers, maybe 6 and 10, shared the playground for half the time we were there, leaving before we did.  They thoroughly enjoyed watching our family obstacle run challenge.

The Equipment

No basketball hoop here however there was a soccer field with no restrictions as to who could use it or when it could be played upon.  In addition to benches it also offers a picnic table.  For playground accessories there is a spinner, several wood circular platforms housed on spring, swings, a stand alone slide, sandplay, and two structures. 

The first structure is meant for younger children and the second level can be accessed by a rope ladder, metal rungs, or slide.  The second floor encompasses a house like structure reminiscent of a cuckoo clock where I guess little kids can go in and escape the watchful eye of their parents.  The second floor platform also has a pulley system in which a bucket of sand can be pulled up from the ground and then emptied through a plastic chute.  Deutsche playgrounds differ from American ones in that you will frequently see engineering concepts incorporated into the design.  It is no wonder they are a very logical, engineer strong society.  The larger structure has several rope ladders as well as a decent climbing wall that is maybe three meters high.

Purview of the obstacle course.

For this playground the obstacle course began at the spinner which you needed to spin as you ran alongside it, slapping a high five to the timer to complete your one complete revolution.  From there you hopped across all springy wooden platforms and then moved on to the small structure which you had to ascend using the slippery metal slide.  Once at the top you had to pull up a bucket of sand and empty through the plastic tube.  This created some controversy with the rules committee. 

The start to the obstacle course

As both adults joined in this obstacle course the competition was disparate when in the beginning the bucket was filled completely with sand.  It’s not really fair to have an 8 year old with spaghetti arms be required to haul a bucket of sand up four feet against an adult male.  We adjusted the rules requiring just a smattering of sand in the bucket to complete the challenge and re-ran the contestants who had already cycled through as this rule change would clearly improve time results. 

Once you dumped the sand you had to get down from the small structure in any manner you wished (except next to the chain running the bucket pulley–after one contestant went down this way I had macabre nightmarish vision of children getting entangled in the chains as they try to beat their siblings and parents).  It was on to the standalone slide which you needed to climb and then descend and then over to the climbing wall.  Just like American Ninja, sans red button, once you reached the top of the climbing wall and tapped the top bar, your time stopped.  Miraculously we made it through both playgrounds without a serious injury.  This still astounds me.

The third and what would be the final playground was the real gem of the day.  In fact it was what led to the day of playgrounds.  When going for a run near Burg Loch my buddy Chad and I ran past a very cool slide setup.  We both knew at that time we would return with children to spend time there.  Today was that day.

The epic slide and it’s fierce younger brother.

The drive to Spielplatz Deuerling was 21 minutes.  There is a Rewe and Netto just moments before arriving at the playground.  Good to know if you want to stop to pick up food and drink at this point.

This is another great place where if you visit with your spouse you can divide and conquer.  One can watch the kids while the other does a nice run along the river that goes in both directions.  The roundtrip to Burg Loch is maybe a 4 mile run.

And just WHAT do Deutsche children do with this?

This playground has the mother of all playground slides.  A very long slide constructed on the side of a sloping wooded hill.  Growing up where I could see the snow on Whiteface’s Olympic mountain in Lake Placid, New York this setting gives one the feeling of a bobsled run.  There is a second slide that would be a thriller at most playgrounds but clearly is second fiddle to it’s bigger brother.

First let me say these slides are metal.  We all remember these from our childhood before they were changed to plastic in the U.S.  Oh how we remember the burning pain when you would be the first one down on a hot summer day.  The pain, oh the pain.  But my point is metal is fast.  Since it’s not the 1970s anymore and I didn’t have a burlap sack hanging around the house, I brought my painting tarp to increase speed efficiency.  I have it on good advice from a Minnesotan that putting wax paper underneath your fanny increases speed as well.  I look forward to testing this method.

Climbing structure.

Since we are all friends here let me be honest.  Following one of my children down the slide I was challenged to traverse the length of the slide with my hands in the air the entire time similar to what you would do on a roller coaster.  I failed on my first attempt.  It was the tiniest curve near the bottom that is coupled with a slight drop in elevation that gives you both a twist and a drop-off through the air (if you are going fast enough).  I

t’s kind of silly.  It’s just a playground slide. I can keep my hands in the air the entire time right?

So I went back and did it again and this time I kept my hands up the entire time.

Partial view of sandbox w/public access soccer field in background.

What’s great about this long winding slide is that it wasn’t crowded when we were there even though this playground was busy.  There may have been twenty people present among adults, children, and babies but they were not crowding this thrilling playground accessory.  I think the stairs up the hillside are simply too long and discourage the toddlers who usually wander around into the bigger kid playground accessories.  Additionally, many kids get tired of doing something over and over again if it requires continuously walking up a hill.  Finally, there is also a great zip line at this playground so the children also had other options.  Regardless, it was great to be at a somewhat busy playground where your kids (and yourself!) aren’t waiting for the equipment to become available.

The seesaw section.

Before describing the zipline let me mention the second slide.  It’s not long compared to THE slide but it has its nice points.  It is wide.  All three of my children started at the top next to each other to go down at the same time.  And because it’s metal it’s fast.  Fast enough that Eva who started in the middle, immediately reached behind her sister to hug the side rail and pull herself closer.  I guess going down in the middle of the slide with nothing to hold on to was a little too unnerving.  I don’t blame her.  Though short, this slide has two bumps that essentially turn this into a mogul run for you skiers out there.  Those bumps are just enough that it’s hard to keep control of your body when you exit the slide at the bottom.  In some ways, the little slide is the more dangerous one.

Located closest to the slides is the zipline.  Though ziplines are fairly common at Deutsche playgrounds, this was cool because rather than start on a wooden platform as many of them do, this one started on the hill that houses the slide.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not pay a lot of money start at the top of the hill zipline.  It starts at the bottom of the hill on a slight mound but adds to the experience.

Spring riders.

Having the zipline and two slides at this playground did a great job of keeping three sibling from arguing about whose turn it was for which item.  There was enough for them to do in addition to exploring the rest of the playground that was designed primarily for younger children.  At this playground we did not do the obstacle run as there were too many bystanders.

The Equipment

This playground is surrounded by both soccer fields controlled by clubs as well as ones you can use.  This one also had the most extensive sand area for toddlers.  It was in heavy use so I was not able to photograph the full area.  There are several small items for younger children:  a slide, several spring riders, and a little slide.  There are also several seesaws, two swinging rope disc seats, two concrete culverts for climbing through, a structure, and this weird log that was clearly placed over a gravel play area but I have no idea what a child is to do with.

A bonus is a skate park located directly across the street from the park.  Picture shown does not do it justice (couldn’t take a more expansive photograph because there were people in the shot).

Partial view of the skate park to avoid photographing starngers.

The drive home from this playground was 20 minutes.  For those in Hohenfels and Parsberg the drive will take you 25 minutes.

Take your kids to all three regardless of their age, even if the only kid you have is the one to whom you are married.

Playground stop one park here.

Playground stop two park here.

Playground stop three park here.

Quiet homebody.

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