Like most destinations, tourism in Germany is so much more than ticking off the major sights. Venture almost anywhere off the beaten track with a pair of hiking boots or a bicycle (preferably both!) and you are pretty much guaranteed a holiday or short break to remember.
You see, we had no particular reason for choosing the Ahrtal, in Rhineland Pfalz, as the destination for a short camping holiday. Sure, it was only a few hours away from our home in Luxembourg, we hadn’t been there before, and it seemed to have a few half-decent campsites, but this could also be said for perhaps a dozen other regions of Germany. However, I had read some good things about the local cycle path, so we rather spontaneously set up camp in the buzzing town of Altenahr, pumped up the bike tyres, and got ready to explore.
Once upon a time,a kind and beautiful princess lived in a handsome castle in Germany. Her mother died when she was still a girl, and her father remarried shortly afterwards. But the stepmother was a vain and manipulative woman, favouring her own children over her adopted stepdaughter. Inevitably, the relationship snapped; the princess fled away from her family, over great hills and through deep forests. Eventually she settled and lived in exile in a community of dwarfs working in the local mines.
The princess (well, Baroness, technically…) was Maria Sophia Margaretha Catherina von Erthal. Quite a mouthful, isn’t it? But you have almost certainly recognised her already as “Schneewittchen” from the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale: or, in English…
All over the world, children and adults alike instantly recognise Playmobil – chunky noseless characters inhabiting cartoon worlds of knights, farmyards, fairytales and other bastions of childhood imagination. This modern classic German toy has been hugely successful since its introduction in 1974; Playmobil figurines cannot hold hands (try it!) but if they could, the resulting chain of every figure ever constructed would circle the globe nearly three times!
But what we discovered only recently is that children of all ages can let their imaginations run riot at the Playmobil Fun Park near Nuremberg, Germany.
Travel isn’t about ticking off beautiful places; it’s about gaining new experiences, stepping outside your everyday world and seeing things from a different perspective. So for my village-reared country kids, Mannheim was a source of wonder and amazement.