Dahn: German town steeped in lore doubles as scenic recreation spot
Stars and Stripes
Like many tall tales in Germany, the local legend about the sandstone cliffs doesn’t exactly make a great bedtime story.
The way they tell it, a local girl was collecting berries in the woods when a “robber baron” snuck up and tried to “rob the virgin of her innocence.” No dummy, the girl tore off through the woods.
We are told her skirt was quite voluminous, but the scads of fabric apparently did not slow her escape through the underbrush. Surely it’s no coincidence that the legend hangs on this impractical fashion choice.
Because, wouldn’t you know, she popped out of the woods only to find herself on the edge of a 230-foot cliff. The story goes that she jumped without thinking, but one would have to guess she’d done it all before. For when her billowy skirt caught the breeze, she floated to the ground like Mary Poppins, landing on her feet as softly as a dandelion seed.
The legend doesn’t detail the fate of the would-be rapist, but it’s safe to say he’s no longer haunting the forests around Dahn, Germany. And that’s a good thing, because there’s a lot of great stuff here to explore. The Jungfernsprung, or “virgin jump” cliff, is just the beginning.
Cliffs, spines and buttes of the same red sandstone that makes up the Jungfernsprung poke through the forest all around Dahn, a sleepy valley town about an hour south of Kaiserslautern. The area is famous for its red rocks and forests, which manage to evoke America’s desert southwest and Appalachian woods at the same time. The locals call it the Felsenland — “rock country.”
The only real way to enjoy this splendor is to strike out into the woods, preferably on foot. While doing so this time of year might sound a bit nuts, the trees’ winter nudity provides clearer views of the rock formations hiding among the trees.
And fortunately, unlike snorkeling or golf, hiking is pretty much a year-round activity. A pair of good boots and layered clothing are about all that’s typically needed. Here, though, you’ll be sure to want to bring a good map or a GPS with a tracking feature.
While all the trails around Dahn are marked, they’re all marked in the same way. One of the easiest trails to access from town, a scenic 7.45-mile circuit,is difficult to follow with identicalorange markers pointing down both the main trail and various sub-trails and ancillary loops.
But don’t worry too much about getting lost. The trails never wander too far from town, and hilltop vistas along the way provide sweeping views of Dahn and the surrounding area. Think twice about sprinting through the woods, though. That skirt thing — probably not true.
Dahn is directly south of, and less than 40 miles from, Kaiserslautern and about six miles north of the French border. The Google Maps coordinates for parking at Dahn’s Sportpark are 49.141871,7.769742.
TIMES: Open year-round.
FOOD: A map available on the area’s website indicates places where food and drink are available along the paths. Parking is available at Sportpark Dahn, which has a large selection of food and drink and is a good place to end a hike.
INFORMATION: Download Dahn’s Felsenpfad — “rocky path” — brochure and map at: dahner-felsenland.net/fileadmin/uploads/Tourismus/Wandern/dahn-felsenpfad_01.pdf
Website: http://tiny.cc/s403ow, in English.