***image1***Once upon a time, a legend says, two giants lived in the Odenwald forest, now just south of Darmstadt. One lived on the hilltop and one in the valley, and they argued over who owned the hillside. They began tossing boulders at each other, and eventually the valley giant was buried on the hillside beneath a sea of boulders.
The Felsenmeer, or Boulder Sea, only about five miles off the A5, is a natural world of fun and fantasy unmatched even by theme parks. The swath of granite boulders fills a hillside crevasse, about 100 yards wide and about 1.5 miles long. Ranging from about the size of a coffee table to that of a small truck, the boulders provide a great workout and tons of fun for all fitness levels and ages, amid a stunning natural forest setting.
I recently took my kids,
affectionately known as Thing 1 and Thing 2 – now 13 and 11, to climb the boulders. They had been before, on our second tour of Germany, but had no memory of our last trek there when they were 6 and 4.
***image2***At the bottom of the Felsenmeer lies a spring where a stream seeps forth from beneath the stones. A plaque and carving identify it as the Siegfrieds Quelle, where the hero Siegfried of German mythology is said to have been murdered as he stooped for a drink. This is just one of several spots throughout the Odenwald claiming such fame, but it lends to the mythical atmosphere of the place.
The two Things, and their two friends, took off up the hill like a shot, hopping from boulder to boulder in the morning sun.
Our little dog on her leash couldn’t quite make the leaps, so she and I followed the steep trails paralleling the boulders. Years ago, on our first visit, Thing 2 and I climbed the switch-back Trail 3 up the hill with a jogging stroller.
Close to the top is a small kiosk selling drinks and souvenirs – a welcome respite after the climbing.
***image3***Next to the kiosk is large column left behind by Roman workmen, about 2,000 years ago, working stone for buildings in the Trier area. More than 300 stones bear the marks of the Roman quarry, with marks still clearly visible.
The Things and their friends found the column a useful resting spot while sipping sodas from the kiosk and eating the snacks we packed along.
Climbers can find full meals in restaurants at the top and bottom of the hill. When we reached the top, we debated whether to have lunch there or return the bottom to eat.
Our dilemma was solved by the seemingly magical appearance of an ice cream truck, offering cool treats on a warm day, and just the holdover we needed before heading back down.
“Can we go back next weekend?” both Things asked after we got home – the sure sign of genuine fun.
Getting there from the KMC
• A6 direction Mannheim to A67
• A67 direction Darmstadt to exit 9, Bensheim
• B47 through Bensheim, direction Michelstadt (B47 really winds through Bensheim, watch signs carefully)
• B47 to Reichenbach, left at the sign to Felsenmeer, go about one half mile
• Left into parking lot at Felsenmeer sign
• A paid ticket is required to park, €2 for the day