Monday, August 25, 2014

Tagesausflüge / Day trips from Horb

One of the best things about living in Europe is that when you have a free day you can hop on a bus or train and go explore a town just because you've heard it's beautiful. Wisconsin is very nice, and each town and city has its charms, but I don't recall ever saying, "Hey, I've got some time. I'm going to drive to Oostburg and check out what there is to see and learn."

Here I can leave around 9:00 in the morning and return before 17:00 with beautiful photos, more postcards, knowledge about the history and highlights of a new (to me) town, and the itch to go out again tomorrow to see what else I can find and learn.

For a start, let's see what is...

Less than an hour away

The "chocolate side" of Horb

It makes sense to start in Horb, of course, since that's an eight-minute bus ride or one-hour walk from our house. Be ready to walk up and down hills on sloping roads and stone stairways if you want to see everything. From the Bahnhof, which is where I always park and near to where the bus ends its route, head toward the Neckar, where you will be treated with a breathtaking  view of the town with the Stiftskirche Heilig Kreuz and a row of colorful façades. The church is admittedly prettier from the outside than the inside, so don't fuss if the doors are locked. It's still worth the walk up and there's a nice little park behind the church near the Schurkenturm (Rascals' Tower). You can walk up or down the sloping Marktplatz on the way to or from the church. Have a look at the Rathaus and its colorful façade showing the city crest, prominent citizens of the town, and the mottos Liebe (love) and Fleiß (dilligence).

For a special treat and some good exercise, keep going up beyond the Stiftskirche and Burggarten and you'll find the Kreuzweg (Stations of the Cross pathway) leading up to St. Ottilia's Chapel where you will enjoy a nice view of Horb and the Swabian Alb in the distance. And if your eyesight isn't so great anymore, be comforted knowing your trek up here wasn't wasted - St. Ottilia is the patron saint of good eyesight, and things might improve for you after making the effort to climb up here!

There are several lovely little shops in Horb, but in general the town is not known for great shopping. That might change in the next several years if the planned shopping center is built near the Bahnhof - where I always park because it's an open, unmarked lot! I do not do Parkhäuser (parking ramps) yet. In the mean time, though, I save my shopping for day trips elsewhere.

I've written in more detail about Horb here:


The "chocolate side" of Tübingen

Instead of saving the best for last, I'm getting right to it. Tübingen has something for everyone from nature lovers and readers to historians and students. It is a university town with a population of about 85,000 (24,000 of whom are students). Like most towns in Germany, Tübingen is rich with history, there being evidence of hunters and gatherers living in the area back in the Middle Stone Age. The "modern" history of the town begins around 1050 A.D. with the building of the castle. Burg Hohentübingen stands proudly on a hill overlooking the town, and the building is now used by the university (founded in 1477) for archeology and Egyptology classes, among others. There is also a museum there.

There are several museums, many references to poet Friedrich Hölderlin, the town's most well-known former resident who lived out the end of his days here in the home of admirers after his family neglected him, several beautiful churches and fountains, a uniquely and elaborately painted Rathaus, and two botanical gardens. The geographical center of Baden-Württemberg is said to be in Tübingen. After a city tour or during a break, one can relax in one of the many cafés or at my favorite restaurant on the Marktplatz - Raditzky's - to sample one of their many varieties of Flammkuchen.
Raditzky's - the brownish half-timbered building
Tübingen is a very picturesque town in just about every season with the colorful houses along the Neckar, the many Fachwerkhäuser and its old world charm. To fully enjoy the town expect to do a fair bit of walking up and down hills, and I highly recommend a stop in the Stadtinfo to get a guide book. After crossing the Neckar from the Bahnhof you walk uphill to the Stiftskirche and the Marktplatz. The view from the castle is worth a walk up there, which is not long but somewhat steep. To tour the lower town you'll head down again from the Marktplatz which means you come back up the gentle slope to return to the town center and then back to the Bahnhof.


I only recently discovered Herrenberg after passing through it many times on the train on my way to other places. It was established in the 13th century, and for those who love Fachwerkhäuser it's a feast for the eyes. Herrenberg boasts "one of the most beautiful Marktplätze in Germany." One can take a guided tour or stop in the Stadtinfo for a map and brochure to take a self-guided walk. Posted signs give the history of many of the buildings and the town, though they are only in German.

Though it's a mildly strenuous climb for the less-than-fit, a walk up to the ruins of the Schloßberg provides a good view of the surrounding area and the Schwäbisch Alb and is well worth it. On the way up or down you should stop half way at - and hopefully be able to enter - the Stiftskirche, the town's main landmark which also houses the Glockenmuseum, or bell museum.
View from the Schloßberg

There seem to be good shopping opportunities in Herrenberg, which offers plenty of little shops, several bookstores, and unique gift shops.

Burg Hohenzollern
Photo credit: Foto Keidel, Hechingen (postcard)

Burg Hohenzollern was an important fortress of the royal family and princes of Hohenzollern. It sits atop Hohenzollern Mountain at a height of 2805 feet (855 m) above sea level. The carpark and welcome center are part way up the hill, and hearty visitors can walk up to the castle, which we did, though huffing and puffing a bit! There is also a shuttle that runs every 20 minutes or so. The guided tour of the castle takes about 45 minutes and every Saturday, Sunday, and holiday two English tours are offered at 11:30 and 14:00.

My kids went on the English tour while my husband and I went on the German one. Having compared notes afterwards, I would recommend the German tour if you understand the language well enough. The information we heard was more detailed and funny at times, and I suspect the English tour is more about just showing a bunch of tourists a pretty castle. It's still a fine tour, and I recommend this castle if you're in the area.


Freudenstadt is called "das Tor zum Schwarzwald" (the gate to the Black Forest) and boasts the largest Marktplatz in Germany. The Marktplatz is a huge square and the border of the square is a covered walkway of shops, stores, cafés, and restaurants. I've never actually explored Freudenstadt beyond the Marktplatz and a few connecting streets, but I know's there's more there to see.

From Horb we go to Freudenstadt with the bus instead of the train because the train station is not close to the town center. It's a good walk uphill from the Bahnhof to the Marktplatz, but the bus stops right at the Marktplatz. My daughter, a friend of hers, and I went to Freudenstadt for the Weihnachtsmarkt on a bitter cold day in 2012, and that is one of the Christmas markets I would recommend.

Freudenstadt Weihnachtsmarkt
Photo Credit: M. Moss


Die Einkaufsstadt (shopping city) Nagold is a pretty little town a mere 35 minutes from Horb by bus. You'll find lovely little shops here along with some larger clothing and home decorating stores. There is a Baumarkt (home improvement store) and a Media Markt (like Best Buy) if you like that sort of thing. The Landesgartenschau (state garden exhibition) was here just a few years ago and the city is still blooming with attractive flower pots and arrangements, footpaths for walking along the Nagold and Waldach rivers and through the Stadtpark, and places to sit, rest, and people-watch. You can also rent paddleboats to cruise around on the Nagold river, and when you are ready for a rest and a coffee you'll find plenty of lovely street cafés to choose from.

When you're ready for more shopping, you'll find shops for all your needs - shoes, fashion, flowers, gifts, sporting goods, wine, watches, and jewelry. And for a nice view from above, climb up to the castle ruins - Burgruine Hohennagold.

I should point out that when I say a town is good for shopping, I don't mean the touristy kind of shopping. Freudenstadt has several shops with trinkets that appeal to tourists (cuckoo clocks, "Biersteins" [not a German word, by the way], and shot glasses), but for the most part I'm talking about shopping for things that don't scream "I BOUGHT THIS IN GERMANY!" Don't look for those things in Nagold, Herrenberg, Horb, or even Esslingen.

In a future post I will write about great cities and towns to visit that are one to two hours away from Horb.

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