Idstein

Sometimes you don’t need to take a long road trip or a flight to visit someplace unique and full of history in Europe. Sometimes you just need to pop over to the town at the next autobahn exit. That is exactly what we did as we spent an afternoon in the neighboring town of Idstein.

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One of our friends lives in Idstein and helped give us the grand tour. We walked through town to admire the church and the half timbered houses. 

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My favorite has to be Schiefes Haus or Crooked House.

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The highlight of our tour though was the Hexenturm or Witches’ Tower.

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Before making the climb up the tower, we had to stop at the information office in town to get the key. Even this building was gorgeous. 

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After getting the aptly named skeleton key, we headed through the gatehouse to the tower.

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Once we reached the tower, we had to unlock the door, head inside and then lock ourselves inside. Not even kidding. You have to lock yourself inside the witches tower. Those are the rules. After taking it all in for a minute, we started the climb up.

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There are a variety of stair types that become steeper as you get to the top with the final ascent being basically a ladder. The climb isn’t strenuous but you do have to be careful.

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You can see all of Idstein from the top.

Watchman’s view.

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Idstein is a great day trip particularly from Wiesbaden or Frankfurt. It is history and beauty all wrapped up in a nice little compact package.

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For your trip

When you get the key to the tower from the information office, you have to give them something in exchange like your car keys or cellphone. They are limiting the visits to the tower due to COVID so it would be best if you go during the week.

If you don’t have a lovely friend to give you the tour around town, don’t worry! The city of Idstein has 2 self guided walking tours listed on their website. The map for the half timbered houses can be found here: House Map

The map for the historical buildings can be found here: Historical Building Map

After our walkabout, we had a delicious lunch on the patio of Idsteiner Brauhaus. It was a nice way to finish an outing. The brewery also offers growlers of their beer to go. You can find their information here: Brauhaus

Off to our next adventure!

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Burg Eltz

It has been a cold winter here in Germany. There hasn’t been much snow but it has been chilly. We have been struggling to find things to keep us busy while we have been trapped inside. I should mention that at O’s school they have continued to play outside everyday. I have heard this saying from multiple people we have met here “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” We haven’t fully adapted to the idea of being out in all weather but we are slowly getting there. We are starting to emerge from our winter hibernation and we even managed to sneak in a trip to a castle when the sun was shining.

Burg Eltz is a beautiful castle located about 1.5 hours from us, near Wierschem, Germany. We didn’t do much research but just jumped in the car and went for it since the weather was in our favor. When we arrived we found a large parking lot right next to the hiking trail. The trail is a nice packed dirt path that is rather wide. It runs along the edge of a hill with the Eltzbach river winding in the valley below it.

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The hike was not difficult and was beautiful. Since I did not do my research before coming to the castle, I kept looking around all the surrounding hills to see where the castle was located. I was expecting it to be perched up high somewhere. I could not see any sign of it. We rounded a corner and boom! There she was.

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The castle is sitting in a valley but perched on a natural rock outcropping. The morning fog was still clinging around the edges of the castle giving it a very mystical and medieval feeling.

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The castle is unique in that: 1) It has been owned by the same family since the time it was built until today and 2) the castle was never destroyed by war or other incidents. Most of the castle is in its original state. It is like a little slice of the past hidden in a stunning green valley in the middle of Germany.

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During the summer months, I have heard the castle is very busy with tourists. There are several restaurants, guided tours and a gift shop inside. Everything was closed for the winter when we were there and only a handful of people had made the hike over to see the castle. It made us feel like we had discovered some unknown gem in the middle of the woods.

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(Looking for dragons)

After pausing for a snack (because…kids), we decided to follow the road back to the parking lot instead of the trail. We thought this would be the shorter route and the road is only for the shuttle bus, which was not running at the time. However, if you are going to the castle I do not advise this route, particularly if you are going with kids or if the road is wet/icy. The road ended up being rather steep and it switched back on itself 3 different times. On the positive side, there is a nice overlook at the top of the hill that provides an excellent view.

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If we were to do it again I think the best option would be:

From the parking lot take the trail to the castle. The surprise of the castle coming around that bend in the trail is wonderful. I would also take the trail back to the parking lot. Once back to the starting point, I would then walk down the paved road to the overlook. Enjoy the view and head back to the car.

In my opinion, seeing the castle in the winter is the best time. There are fewer people there and it was free! There is a little hut set up at the entrance to the parking lot. It wasn’t open when we were there but I have a feeling they charge for parking in the summer. The down side to the winter is that you are not able to tour the inside of the castle. I have heard fantastic reviews about the castle tour but honestly that is probably something we would have skipped since we have 2 small children.

It was a perfect little day trip. We got to be outside, enjoy the sun and take in a beautiful castle. The sunshine gave us hope that spring is around the corner!

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