Odenwald - a land of mystery!

The Odenwald, a low mountain range in the German states of Hesse, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. The tallest peak, the Katzenbuckel is 625 metres high.  It is a region which has much to offer tourists, it promotes itself as being motorhome friendly and at the same time it is great for hikers as well.  Two things stood out for me during my visit which were history and nature.

 

As far as cyclists are concerned there are excellent cycle paths through the forests and fields, sometimes with a hard surface.

Regional authorities recognise that motorhome tourism is one of the fastest growing forms of holiday making at the same time as the statistical spend per person is around EUR40 per person per day.  During my stay in the Odenwald I was parked at the free aire in Walldurn and at Campingpark Kirchzell which is further to the west.

Historically the land has been settled for at least 4,500 years although as the region was (and is) densely forested, the population remained low.  Around 100CE it became the location for the frontier wall of the Roman Empire which was built under Roman Emperor Trajan (98-117). Around sixty years later the border was pushed around 30km further east to the Miltenberg–Walldürn–Buchen-Osterburken line.  The ruins and locations of these forts can be visited today.

Throughout history the area has had a comparitively low population density, not only because of the forests but also due to the poor soil quality.  This meant that this was an area of emigration with many leaving for America in the nineteenth century.

This is an area of myths and legends starting with the name Odenwald.  It sounds like Oden, but as far as I can tell this god was known as Wodanaz in this region.  It may come from the name of the tribe who inhabited the area before the Romans came along or indeed it could come from the Old German word for not many people living there!.  Another alternative is that it is the name of a tribal chief.

Part of the folklore of the region includes ghost stories often linked to knights, monks, white ladies, witches and apparitions of the devil: Like in the UK a knight called George fought against a man eating worm! Probably such legends started because of the dense forests and strange rock formations and because the area may have been somewhat out of touch as no major trade routes passed through in medieval times except for the pilgrim routes.  There are also two Odenwaldsagas - maybe more about that at another time!

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