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A portion of the old medieval town wall still stands in Alzey, Germany. The town, just 30 minutes north of Kaiserslautern, is a worthy detour from the familiar path to Wiesbaden, Mainz and Frankfurt.

A portion of the old medieval town wall still stands in Alzey, Germany. The town, just 30 minutes north of Kaiserslautern, is a worthy detour from the familiar path to Wiesbaden, Mainz and Frankfurt. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)

A portion of the old medieval town wall still stands in Alzey, Germany. The town, just 30 minutes north of Kaiserslautern, is a worthy detour from the familiar path to Wiesbaden, Mainz and Frankfurt.

A portion of the old medieval town wall still stands in Alzey, Germany. The town, just 30 minutes north of Kaiserslautern, is a worthy detour from the familiar path to Wiesbaden, Mainz and Frankfurt. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)

A view of the Alzeyer Schloss, a castle prominently positioned in the old town of Alzey, Germany. The town, just 30 minutes north of Kaiserslautern, is a worthwhile detour off the A63.

A view of the Alzeyer Schloss, a castle prominently positioned in the old town of Alzey, Germany. The town, just 30 minutes north of Kaiserslautern, is a worthwhile detour off the A63. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)

A quiet moment on one of the many scenic streets of Alzey, Germany.

A quiet moment on one of the many scenic streets of Alzey, Germany. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)

The town of Alzey, Germany, has a number of unexpected pieces of artwork scattered about the old town.

The town of Alzey, Germany, has a number of unexpected pieces of artwork scattered about the old town. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)

A sculpture of a man leaning on a lightpole can be found just outside of the tourist information office and museum in Alzey, Germany.

A sculpture of a man leaning on a lightpole can be found just outside of the tourist information office and museum in Alzey, Germany. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)

The city museum of Alzey, Germany, offers free admission to three floors of exhibitions while also serving as the town's tourist information office.

The city museum of Alzey, Germany, offers free admission to three floors of exhibitions while also serving as the town's tourist information office. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)

A sculpture  in Alzey, Germany, is set against a backdrop of the town's half-timbered houses.

A sculpture in Alzey, Germany, is set against a backdrop of the town's half-timbered houses. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)

The Rossmarkt, or horse market, lies at the center of the old town of Alzey, Germany, about 30 minutes from Kaiserslautern.

The Rossmarkt, or horse market, lies at the center of the old town of Alzey, Germany, about 30 minutes from Kaiserslautern. (Gregory Broome/Stars and Stripes)

There’s an expanse of Autobahn 63 north of Kaiserslautern that I like to call drive-over country — a nondescript stretch of road one must negotiate to get to the pleasures found in Mainz, Wiesbaden and especially Frankfurt.

But it turns out, I’ve been underestimating the area. There are places just beyond view from the Autobahn that are well worth visiting. Recently, my family and I discovered one such destination, Alzey.

A compact town, Alzey is the kind of place one can spend a few pleasant hours wandering without getting irretrievably lost or overwhelmed. Just park at one of two ample lots near the city’s museum, which helpfully doubles as the town’s tourist information center, and begin your low-key exploration.

Museum der Stadt Alzey offers free admission to three floors of exhibitions. English-language information is sparse, but the museum’s chronological organization makes immediate sense. The top floor houses items related to geology and paleontology. The middle floor holds artifacts from the area’s early history, including its Celtic and Roman roots. The ground floor displays items from Alzey’s more recent past, particularly World War II and its aftermath.

We spent an interesting hour in the museum, then took the English pamphlet we’d received from the tourist information desk and followed its numbered map of nearby attractions. They included the Rossmarkt, the town’s central square; the Kleine Kirche, an attractive church that is as small as its name in German suggests; and the Alzeyer Schloss, a substantial castle distinguished by the disorienting half-timbered building jutting from its facade.

Interspersed among these places of interest are a well-maintained network of walking streets and squares full of shops, restaurants and surprising examples of fascinating artwork. Throughout, the people we encountered were warm and friendly, rounding out our experience of Alzey as a likable small town we’ll remember fondly and visit, on occasion, again.

Like neighbors Kirchheimbolanden and Gruenstadt, Alzey is one of those places you’ve likely seen indicated on an Autobahn exit sign en route to flashier locales. Next time you see it, you might want to consider following that arrow.

broome.gregory@stripes.com Twitter: @broomestripes

Alzey, Germany

DIRECTIONS

From Kaiserslautern, take Autobahn 63 toward Frankfurt and Mainz. Take exit 10 toward Freimersheim and Alzey-Sud; continue on highway L401 into Alzey. Follow signs for parking lots 1 or 2; both are in the immediate vicinity of the museum and tourist information center.

TIMES

The museum is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 5 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4:30 p.m.

COSTS

The museum is free, as is the city’s self-guided walking tour.

FOOD

Plentiful all around the old town.

INFORMATION

City museum: museum-alzey.de. City tourism site: alzeyer-land.de. Both are in German. Call (+40) (0) 6731-499-364 to reach the city’s tourism office, where you’ll likely find an English-speaking staffer.

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