Kaiserslautern area: Know the ropes
Hang, climb, balance, zipline at German ropes playground
By BEN BLOKER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 14, 2009
Did you ever dream of making the ultimate tree fort when you were a kid? Have you had the urge to climb the highest tree in your backyard? Do you love the feeling of freedom you get when swinging between trees on a rope?
Only 10 minutes outside of Kaiserslautern, Germany, on the way to Enkenbach-Alsenborn, is the K1 Waldseilpark Fröhnerhof, a playground that combines all three and is so grand that even adults may find themselves a bit giddy at the prospects of learning the ropes.
The park, which consists of wooden platforms, rope ladders, suspended foot bridges, climbing walls and zip lines, offers nine courses. Three are considered easy, three medium and three difficult.
Katja Schäfer, with her boys, Marc, 12, and Mike, 11, decided to take on the park as a family outing. With Marc out front, Katja watched as her boys tackled the obstacles. Then it was her turn. She was all smiles as she followed Marc through the course.
"They like the zip lines the best," Katja said of her boys. That seemed to be the sentiment of most climbers. It’s the end-of-the-course reward after hanging, climbing and balancing your way through crazy obstacles.
As with every adventure of this magnitude, there are safety concerns, and the park staff walks climbers through with standard German efficiency. The brief safety course demonstrates the proper use of the high-tech climbing gear, provided by the park, with a simple test that instructors refer to as their "one hand at all times" policy.
All the courses have a safety wire that runs throughout and between each obstacle, and climbers are required to move their two carabiner safety lines from one wire to another with one hand keeping one carabiner attached to a line at all times — hence the name.
The No. 9 black course with "floating" beams and a spider-web-like net requires extra instruction before those aged 16 and older can proceed.
At first sight, the string of obstacles decorating the treetops can seem pretty intimidating. But if dangling 40 feet above the Palatinate forest feels like a bit much, starting out on the easy courses will give new climbers a good feel for the safety equipment.
Children 5 and older can climb the first course, and those older than 8 and taller than 4 feet 9 inches can tackle all but the hardest black course.
The K1 Waldseilpark staff is very friendly, and the park has generous hours. American educator and author Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf, once said, "Life is either a great adventure or nothing." The K1 park offers quite an adventure.
On the QT
From Autobahn 6 take exit 16B, Kaiserslautern-Ost/US-Kasernen-Ost. Turn left toward Schweinsdell (signs for Mehlingen), and at the roundabout take the second exit toward Mehlingen/A63/Mainz/Sembach. Follow the road to the bottom of the hill and turn right on B40/
Eselsfürth. Take a slight right at L395 (signs for Enkenbach-Alsenborn/Eisenberg) and the park is on your left. Turn at the sign for the Sportpark Rote Teufel, training grounds for the Kaiserslautern
professional soccer team.
The "climbing season" is from the end of March to the beginning of November. The park is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays and 1-7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. During high wind, thunderstorms or heavy rain, the park can close on short notice.
Basic pricing for three hours of climbing is 18 euros for adults, 13 euros for children ages 8 to 13, and 5 euros for children 5-7, but there are a variety of other options for group tickets, family tickets and season tickets.
A beautiful deck overlooks the course, where you can enjoy warm or cold snacks, drinks and ice cream sold at the park’s kiosk.
K1 Waldseilpark’s Web site,
www.k1-waldseilpark.de, is very user-friendly and has an English-language brochure that can be downloaded giving details on prices, a map of the courses and safety information. If you are planning to take someone else’s children, see the Web site to print a permission slip for their parents to sign. The staff also keeps the slips on file for all climbers.