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Dylan, a chocolate Labrador retriever and the author's dog, climbs out of the Main River after fetching a tennis ball.

Dylan, a chocolate Labrador retriever and the author's dog, climbs out of the Main River after fetching a tennis ball. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)

Dylan, a chocolate Labrador retriever and the author's dog, climbs out of the Main River after fetching a tennis ball.

Dylan, a chocolate Labrador retriever and the author's dog, climbs out of the Main River after fetching a tennis ball. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)

A man tosses a stick toward the Main River in Hochheim am Main, Germany, but that doesn't tempt one dog, who's more interested in the stick remaining in the man's hand.

A man tosses a stick toward the Main River in Hochheim am Main, Germany, but that doesn't tempt one dog, who's more interested in the stick remaining in the man's hand. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)

A young couple walks hand-in-hand through the meadows alongside the Main River in Hochheim am Main, Germany.

A young couple walks hand-in-hand through the meadows alongside the Main River in Hochheim am Main, Germany. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)

All ages and types of dogs, as well as people, can be spotted at an area alongside the Main River in Hochheim am Main, Germany, frequented by pooch-loving residents.

All ages and types of dogs, as well as people, can be spotted at an area alongside the Main River in Hochheim am Main, Germany, frequented by pooch-loving residents. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)

An English Bulldog stops to take a breather on a hot day in Hochheim am Main, where pooches can run on or off leash through fields of flowers or take a cool dip in the Main River.

An English Bulldog stops to take a breather on a hot day in Hochheim am Main, where pooches can run on or off leash through fields of flowers or take a cool dip in the Main River. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)

A bicyclist rides through a field of flowers at Hochheim am Main, Germany, near Wiesbaden. Bikers, hikers and others converge on this area of the Main River to have picnics, stroll through the fields or play with their dogs.

A bicyclist rides through a field of flowers at Hochheim am Main, Germany, near Wiesbaden. Bikers, hikers and others converge on this area of the Main River to have picnics, stroll through the fields or play with their dogs. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)

Dogs frolick in the tall grass of meadows at an area of land in Hochheim am Main, Germany, beside the Main River. Hochheim is about a 15-minute drive from Wiesbaden.

Dogs frolick in the tall grass of meadows at an area of land in Hochheim am Main, Germany, beside the Main River. Hochheim is about a 15-minute drive from Wiesbaden. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)

Guests easily can spend all day wandering an area beside the Main River in Hochheim am Main, Germany, that makes an ideal spot for dogs and their owners, as well as for those who don't have dogs.

Guests easily can spend all day wandering an area beside the Main River in Hochheim am Main, Germany, that makes an ideal spot for dogs and their owners, as well as for those who don't have dogs. (Mark Patton/Stars and Stripes)

Basking in the warm sun with vineyards visible in the distance, having a picnic amid colorful flowers of a meadow, casting a line into the Main River, traversing a bike trail or hiking the local paths.

An area of land in Hochheim am Main, Germany, about a 15-minute drive from Wiesbaden, offers a chance to do all of the above with the added bonus of bringing along your four-legged companion to share the fun.

This pooch’s paradise isn’t an official park or a fenced-in area. It’s a stretch of land about a mile long and a half-mile wide along the Main River that’s maintained by the local farmers union, where dogs can run around on or off a leash.

I discovered the area a couple of years ago, when a friend told me about a place where my water-loving Labrador retriever, Dylan, could swim. Since my first visit, it’s become a place for both Dylan and I to relax, unwind and have the type of fun that doesn’t cost a dime.

In fact, it’s such a thrill for my dog that I have to be careful of saying “river” around the house, because Dylan’s otterlike tail will wag with excitement and it won’t stop until he’s retrieving tennis balls from the river.

Once there, you’ll find a path that winds close to the Main, but there are so many smaller paths and trails around that it always seems you’re discovering a new spot.

Whether it’s walking in the area cut out between the tall grass and colorful meadow flowers or strolling along the riverbanks, where rocks and sand make the perfect place for dogs to play while you sit and watch boats in the distance, there’s something for everybody and for every breed of man’s best friend.

Make sure to bring bags to pick up your dog’s waste. There are red trash cans around the area to dispose of the baggies. Picking up after your dog is stressed — the farmers union closed the area to off-leash dogs last year for a time after bacteria-laden dog feces was blamed for sickening some of the local farm animals. But a group of dog owners bargained with the farmers, and now organized cleanups of the meadow take place regularly.

You don’t have to be a dog lover to enjoy this area, but it’s probably not the best spot if you’re afraid of dogs or just don’t like them. For dog-less people, it’s still a great place to find a spot under the shade of a tree for a picnic or to bring a chair and sit by the riverbank to try your luck at fishing.

There’s an adjacent bike path to the area that runs from Frankfurt to Mainz-Kastel, so it also makes a good spot for bikers to rest and take in the scenery.

The trails aren’t rough, but comfortable (and waterproof) shoes are recommended.

pattonm@estripes.osd.mil

On the QTDirections: On GPS, select Mainweg for street and Hochheim for city.From Wiesbaden, take the 455 toward Mainz-Kastel and get off at the exit for 671 to Darmstadt/Mainz/Hochheim. Stay on the road for about 2½ miles and take the exit for Hochheim Süd. At the stoplight, go straight (you’ll see a sign for Südstadt Bahnhof). Continue on Neckarstrasse for about a mile before curving right onto Mainweg. The park is straight ahead. Parking is available.

Times: Open all the time, but daylight hours are advisable.

Costs: There is no admission to this pooch paradise on the Main.

Food: Several nearby villages offer plenty of options, or picnic by the river or in the meadows. — Mark Patton


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