Don’t worry, I won’t take you along for something illegal. The Nibelung-Siegfried Route follows the tale of Siegfried, a dragon-slayer; and his wife Kriemhild who exacts her revenge on those who kill her beloved husband (and the Prince of Xanten who had magic at his disposal; how else are you expected to kill dragons?).
True story or fiction (some think it’s based on Norse mythology)? How about both. Siegfried’s tale, while based on 5th/6th century stories and legends, is told in the Nibelungenlied — the Song of the Nibelungs, an epic poem from the Middle Ages.
Either way, this route will take you along areas once walked by some famous cultures in history. Ever hear of the Burgundians (a Germanic Tribe from Scandinavia; hence the whole Norse mythology thing, huh)?
How about the Huns? No? Does the name Atila sound familiar?
All these characters are integral to the Song of the Nibelungs, and real German history.
Start of the Nibelung-Siegfried Route
If you haven’t guessed by now, the Nibelung-Siegfried Route is actually made up of two routes — the Nibelung Route (Nibelungenstrasse) and the Siegfried Route (Siegfriedstrasse). So yes, you get a two for one kind of package here.
Siegfried Route (Siegfriedstrasse)
As the story of the Song of the Nibelungs takes place in the Burgundian Court, it’s fitting to start off in Worms, the city at the center of royal life. Learn more of Siegfried’s story at the Nibelung Museum (and Nibelungenfest), then visit the city’s Romanesque Cathedral (even though the story takes place in pre-Christian days), the Luther Memorial, and the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe.
Worms is also where you’ll see a statue of Hagen von Tronje, the man who “killed” Siegfried — but history says he was one of the strongest Burgundian warriors.
Bürstadt is at the mid-way point toward Lorsch, and the next stop along the way. While the Nibelung-Siegfried Route has to deal with the Burgundian Court, Bürstadt was the site of the Carolingian one; and is where you’ll find prehistoric grave mounds.
Once you arrive in Lorsch on the Nibelung-Siegfried Route head straight to the Lorsch Abbey where there’s folklore exhibit and mention of the Nibelung.
When you’re done at the Abbey and the Lorsch Cathedral, an afternoon of hiking and minigolf or sitting at a cafe on the Marktplatz is a very good idea.
The Nibelung-Siegfried Route splits here after Lorsch (told you, 2 for 1). Follow the “Siegfried” portion on to Fürth (Odenwald) where there are 450km of hiking trails, plenty of half-timbered houses, and guided tours are always a good idea.
It’s time to relax in the spa town of Grasellenbach. Imagine yourself as Siegfried as you sit under the Crooked Tree or visit the ruins of a Gothic chapel.
Arriving in Mossautal will bring you to what was once the Burgundian hunting grounds and the spot of a fresh water spring that Siegfried himself got to drink from.
Beerfelden is your next town with its thousand-year old Oak (around the time of Siegfried, I believe), forests, and mountain biking trails.
Leisure is the word of the day in Hesseneck, where you could just spend all your time swimming in the Eutersee.
St. Gandolf’s Church, the Templar House (built 1291) and the sauna are all on the itinerary in Amorbach; whereas it’s a holy pilgrimage to the Church of the Holy Blood, a visit to the Pilgrimage Museum, and the Jewish Museum in Walldürn.
Get ready to explore the caves (especially the Tropfsteinhöhle) and/or 300km of hiking and biking trails.
Siegfried never had it so good.
More fairytale half-timbered houses wait for you in Wertheim, as well as a castle (12th century), an Abbey Church, and plenty of wine tasting opportunities.
Oh sorry, Siegfried never had it so good I guess. ;-)
Nibelung Route (Nibelungenstrasse)
As I mentioned earlier, just as the Nibelungenlied is divided into two parts, so is the Nibelung-Siegfried Route.
After Lorsch, the route is known as the Nibelungenstrasse which follows along to Bensheim (the City of Flowers) with more wine drinking and the Auerbach Castle.
Leading off to Lautertal (Odenwald), the Nibelung Route highlights carvings in stone from the Romans, an enchanting (not enchanted) forest, the Felsburg Museum and the Kaiserturm.
For the true medieval look no further than Lindenfels, where there are annual jousting tournaments, a Folklore Festival (appropriate in this case, don’t ya think), and a castle.
No need to worry about a place to stay, camp out in Reichelsheim (Odenwald). Or, just stick around long enough to visit Castle Reichelberg, the Rodenstein ruins, and the mid-16th century half-timbered houses.
Before Siegfried and Kriemhild, there were the Romans, and that’s what you’ll find in Michelstadt, Roman ruins. There is also a castle (go figure!), a Jewish Museum, and a Motorcycle Museum.
Not too much is left of the Nibelung Route once you get to Erbach (Odenwald) with its Baroque Castle, framework houses, and loads of cafes, pubs, and bars makes almost being at the end bearable. ;-)
Don’t think about how there are only two towns left on the Nibelung Route — get lost on all the hiking and Nordic Walking trails in Miltenberg. It’s home to one of the oldest hostels in Germany and a castle.
What’s the story of a prince without castles in it?
Wow, is what you’ll say about Freudenberg (Baden). It has an 11th century castle (Castle Freudenberg holds a Castle Fest on odd-numbered years), frescoes in its 13th century cemetery chapel, and and amusement park, and a swimming lake.
The Song of the Nibelungs ends with the death of Kriemhild after killing Hagen (and her own brother Gunther) for slaying her dragon-slaying husband and stealing her treasure. And so too must the Nibelung-Siedfried Route end in Wertheim (again).
And I’ll leave it up to you to decide if the story of the Prince of Xanten and his devoted wife (who married Atila the Hun just to put her revenge plan in action) were “real” or not.
Sure, England’s got the story of King Arthur and his Merry Men (sorry, that’s Robin Hood). I mean King Arthur and his Knights of the Roundtable; Germany’s got the Song of the Nibelungs.
I hope you enjoyed traveling along one of the two (or both) trails of the Nibelung-Siegfried Route.
Nibelung-Siegfried Route Web Site
Here’s the official Web site of the Nibelung-Siegfried Route.