On Germany's Weinstrasse, there's more to Bad Duerkheim than delicious wine
By MICHAEL ABRAMS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 5, 2017
Bad Duerkheim is famous for two things, and both have to do with wine — not surprising as the town is surrounded by vineyards on the German Wine Road (Weinstrasse).
The first thing is the Duerkheimer Riesenfass, a giant wine barrel; the second is the annual Wurstmarkt, said to be the biggest wine fest in Germany.
The Riesenfass could hold 1,700,000 liters — about 449,092 gallons — of wine if it was full, but sadly it has never been used to store wine. You can, however, drink wine at the restaurant that is inside it.
The Wurstmarkt is a giant festival that happens over two long weekends in September. Because of its size and the crowds it draws, it is sometimes called the Oktoberfest of wine.
But there is more to the town, and it doesn’t all have to do with wine.
The Bad in the town’s name means spa, and a spa town it is. It has thermal baths, a quiet spa park with streams, fountains and fresh air.
On the eastern end of the park is the Gradierbau, a brine graduation tower. It is one of the largest in Germany. Originally these constructs were used to produce salt, today they are used as inhalatoriums. You walk around it, inhaling the saline vapors. It supposedly clears your respiratory system.
Across the busy highway, you can climb a path through the vineyards to the Michaelskapelle, or Michael’s Chapel. The original isn’t around anymore, but the medieval pilgrimages here, with merchants selling food and drink to the travelers, was the beginnings of the Wurstmarkt.
On the western end of the spa park is the Kurhaus, the former sanatorium, with its gardens. Today it features a restaurant and a casino.
Now you are in the heart of Bad Duerkheim. Stroll through its narrow lanes to the Schlosskirche with its graceful spire.
The Weinstrasse is one of the warmest areas in Germany, and Roemerplatz, a downtown square, has a Mediterranean feel to it, with cafes, restaurants and wine taverns.
On nearby Stadtplatz stands a monument to the reconstruction of Bad Duerkheim 25 years after its destruction in a World War II bombing.
The ruins of the imposing Limburg Monastery sit on a hill high above the town. Built in the 11th century, it has been destroyed and rebuilt many times, but has sat in ruins for centuries. Today, concerts and theater are held here during the summer months and the adjoining restaurant is a good place to try solid German fare and local wine.
If you still have time and energy, the ruins of the Hardenburg, a daunting 13th-century castle, sits on another hill above the suburb of the same name. Once the home of the earls of Leiningen, this sprawling castle is a fun place to explore with its towers and walls.
But if you would rather get back to enjoying the pleasures of Bad Duerkheim, you can always come again on another quick trip.
Bad Duerkheim is about a 25-mile drive from Kaiserslautern on highway B37. From Wiesbaden, it is about a 60-mile drive taking Autobahns A 60, A 63, A 61, A 650 and highway B37. From Stuttgart, it is about 95 miles taking Autobahns A 81, A 6, A 650 and highway B37.
Best in good weather because there is plenty to do outdoors.
• The Gradierbau is open daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. April to September and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. October through March, but closed Dec. 20 to Jan. 31.
• Limburg monastery is open daily from 9 a.m. to at least sundown.
• The Wartenburg is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday and holidays from March 15 to Oct. 31; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays in November and from Feb. 1 to March 14.
• The 2017 Wurstmarkt will be held Sept. 8-12 and Sept. 15-18. It is held annually on the second and third weekend of September.
• Parking on the Wurstmarkt grounds is free except when the festival is on. • Admission to the Gradierbau is 1.50 euros (about $1.75); children 12 and under get in free.
• Admission to the Wartenburg is 4.50 euros for adults; 2.50 euros for children 6 to 18 years old; children 6 and under get in free.
There are plenty of places to eat in town in all price ranges. Try the Riesenfass just for the atmosphere. There is also a restaurant at the Limburg monastery.
The German-only website is www.bad-duerkheim.com.