I kinda stumbled upon the new Fantastic Road, or Fantastische Strasse in German, a 400km/248mi scenic route through Baden Württemberg, quite by accident. What it reminded me of was the Classic Road in Thuringia.
No, it isn’t that it’s a copycat, both are in two different federal states after all. No, it just got me to wondering if I was going to find a Terrific Road or I’m-Not-Mediocre Road somewhere.
Yes, I’m only playing around. If I can’t make fun of Germany (having an entire website dedicated to the country) then who can?
There are only nine stops on the Fantastic Road, and before you say “Aw, is that it?”, wait until you’ve heard what the nine are. Patience is a virtue, my Friends. ;-)
Start of the Fantastic Road
It’s Heidelberg that starts the route off. A university town filled with cafes and restaurants, ten museums, countless art galleries, botanical gardens, and a castle.
I say it like Heidelberg Castle is just some ordinary castle, but ain’t nothin’ further from the truth. Heidelberg Castle is actually two castles, both in ruins. Thousands of people flock to the Heidelberg Castle every year to see its blown out turrets, its breathtaking views overlooking the city, and the Goethe Memorial Tablet. Fantastic!
You know where else it is fantastic (help me, I can’t stop saying the word)? Baden-Baden. The Romans knew they found something special here, which is why they built baths over the thermal springs. In addition to the spas, you’ve got a casino to see, and museums to visit (like the City Museum and Faberge Museum), as well as wineries.
Hey, the Fantastic Road doesn’t hook up with the Baden Wine Route in Baden-Baden for nothing, ya know. ;-)
Anyway, Calw is the hometown of German writer Herman Hesse, and is where you’ll find the Nicholas Chapel (built 1400) deadsmack in the middle of the city’s bridge. I wouldn’t skip town before you’ve seen the Vischer Palace (built 1791) or the Calwer Schafott, an old execution site. Yeah, it’s a bit morbid — but history is history.
And don’t even think about jumping off here in Calw for the Northern Black Forest Monasteries Route that’ll bring you to Hirsau Abbey — you can come back to do that, because our next stop is…
Stuttgart, home of Mercedes Benz. Heaven for all of you out there in love with the German automobile. OK, it’s got a Palace and the Johannes Church for history lovers, an Opera House for music lovers, and the annual Stuttgart Beer Festival in September for, uh, beer lovers. ;-)
Along the Neckar River is Tübingen, another university town along the Fantastic Road. Don’t worry about it if you’re way past your college days, you’re always welcome at the Collegiate Church (Tübingen’s landmark, BTW) or to stroll along past its many half-timbered houses. Hopefully you’ve managed to time it right to come for the annual Christmas Market or the Afro-Brazilian Festival in July.
Our next stop isn’t a town at all, it’s Burg Hohenzollern. Originally built in 1061, the castle stood until 1423 before it was destroyed. Because of its strategic location, it just had to be rebuilt. Which it was, in 1454. Only to fall yet again, and was in total ruin by the end of the 18th century.
It was the brainchild of Prussian King Frederick William IV, who decided to restore it. Today it’s one of the most amazing Gothic-revival castles in the country (OK, that’s my opinion, but I think you’ll agree), and where you’re able to see its medieval St. Michael Chapel and grab a bit to eat at its restaurant.
Wait! Don’t leave off to the Hohenzollern Route; we’ve got a couple more stops on the Fantastic Road to discover…
Once you’ve managed to climb down from Burg Hohenzollern (no, don’t leave off to the Hohenzollern Route) you’re off to Meersburg. In Meersburg you’ll find a Zeppelin Museum, a Wine Museum, a City Museum, and a Castle Museum. The latter being inside the castle by the sea, Schloss Meersburg. OK, it’s not really a sea… it’s Lake Constance. But it sounded good for a minute there. ;-)
The castle isn’t Meersburg’s only glimpse into its medieval days, look for the Obertor that was once part of its Stadtmauer. What else you’ll want to look for are all the lookout points around the city, and for the half-timbered mill at the Altes Schloss (Old Castle). The mill isn’t the only half-timbered building in town, though, there are lots and lots of ’em.
What else Meersburg has lots of are festivals. The biggest ones are the Lake Wine Festival in September, the Lake Festival, and the Jazz Festival — all in addition to the countless concerts at the palace every March to December.
Our next place is out in Lake Constance itself, the island of Mainau (which is now part of the town of Constance, but more on that in a minute). This is a tropical oasis filled with all sorts of gardens, like to Italian Rose Garden (ahhh, the scent is intoxicating) and the Palace Gardens. A perfect location for the Butterfly House, I would say.
The Castle Church is exquisite with all its Baroque accents (gotta love all the marble and gold), and the German Order Castle is stunning too.
Constance (German: Konstanz) brings us to the end of the Fantastic Road. Too bad, I’m loving it here. I guess I’ll stretch out my stay on this city watching the Rhine flowing into Lake Constance, and take my time to explore the Petershausen Abbey, which was founded in 983. It was used for more than 800 years before being dissolved in 1802. That’s a long history, so how could you possibly rush through something like that?
The medieval abbey isn’t Konstanz’s only reminder of the Middle Ages. Its church has crypts that are over a thousand years old, which doesn’t seem so old when you consider that Konstanz Cathedral was first built around the year 615 A.D.
And the Schnetztor and Rheintorturm are towers that were once part of its defense wall (known as a Stadtmauer). What better way to protect medieval villagers, I ask you. ;-)
I really hope you’ve found the Fantastic Road (called the Fantastische Strasse in German, in case I forgot to tell you), well, really fantastic. And if I find the I’m-Not-Mediocre Road out there in Germany — you’ll be the first to hear about it.
Fantastic Road Web Site
Here’s the official Web site of the Fantastic Road.