I am going to be hanging out in Ludwigshafen next week while my husband is working. I have never been and am looking for things that I must do before returning to US. I love the outdoors and enjoy birdwatching. What type of rail pass should I purchase? Any suggestions are appreciated.
I live in the area, so here's a few ideas.
You'll quickly see why Ludwigshafen isn't included in any guidebooks. It isn't very attractive (can I assume your husband works in the chemical industry?). Across the river, Mannheim is a little more interesting. In Luisenpark, it has one of the most beautiful urban parks in Europe. The park even has a small zoo and aviary. You already mentioned Heidelberg in your other thread. Also consider a trip up the Neckar river valley. Similar to the more famous Mittelrhein valley. Nearby Schwetzingen also has a large Schloss and gardens.
Other attractive towns in the area worth visiting are the spa resort of Bad Dürkheim, Speyer with it's huge cathedral, some other towns on the German Wine Road, including Neustadt and Landau. Across the river, check out some of the wine towns of the Bergstraße (road that runs from Heidelberg to Darmstadt), including Weinheim, Bennsheim, Auerbach and Heppenheim. Near Heppenheim, the town of Lorsch has an abbey that dates from the Carolingian period.
For nature, on my side of the river, the Odenwald is a hiker's paradise. This is a rural region of low mountains, filled with countless scenic villages (highlights are Lindenfels, Michelstadt, and Erbach) and castles. On Ludwigshafen's side of the river, you have the Pfalzerwald. Similar to the Odenwald, but larger. Look for local guidebooks when you arrive.
For birdwatching, you could try some of the hiking trails in the regions mentioned above, or just walk through the pastures outside of the towns... there's a huge network of public access trails that criss-cross the region through the fields and forests. For an ornithologist, the area is known in particular for it's population of storks and various other water fowl. There's even a flock of feral parrots that have thrived in the region for generations. I also often see eagles and other large birds of prey, usually in the pasturelands.
Wow! Thanks for the great information. This will really help me on my journey. What type of train passes do we purchase from the start?
Probably none, especially from a 3rd party re-seller. There may be some kind of regional pass sold by Deutsche Bahn or the regional transit authority that may be of use, but I don't know the details. You can often buy a pass for a specific Bundesland (like a US state), but because Ludwigshafen sits right at the junction of three different states (Rheinland-Pfaltz, Hessen, and Baden-Württemberg), I'm not sure how that would work. Others on this website know more about these details than I.