Basel, Luzern, Heppenheim... Germany

We are renting a car and driving a few places over 5 days in Germany. Going to Heppenheim because my father was a POW there in 1945...anyone been there? Also, driving from Baden-Baden, through Basel, to the Luzern area in a day. Is that do-able? Thanks for your advice!

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

"Going to Heppenheim because my father was a POW there in 1945...anyone been there?" I live about 5 minutes away. Very nice town. Make sure you're there around a meal time, and dine at one of the restaurants on the Markt in the Altstadt. The castle that overlooks the town (Starkenburg) is used as a youth hostel, and isn't terribly interesting to visit. If you want to see a castle ruin, try Schloss Auerbach a few towns to the north. Also check out Lorsch and/or Weinheim if you're going to be in the area for any amount of time. I wasn't even aware of any prison camps in Heppenheim until I read your post. I'm guessing that it wasn't in the town proper (the Nazis tended to hide their camps in out of the way locations), but probably somewhere to the east, in the Odenwald mountains. I've hiked all over the area, and never seen anything that looked like the remains of a camp or even any historical markers, so I'm going to assume nothing of it remains. Do you have any specific information on the location? Baden-Baden to Luzern should be possible in one go, but expect a long day of driving. The A5 autobahn between Heidelberg and Basel can often go from one jam to the next all the way to Freiburg. Basel to Zurich is also a pretty busy stretch of road.

Posted by Andreas
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
2511 posts

And of course you visit Heppenheim to visit the birth town of Sebastian Vettel. :-) His parents still live there.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

PS- A work colleauge and I have searched through relevant English and German language websites to try to find exactly where the POW camp sat, but we can't find any definitive information. One English website said it was in "Zweibrucken", which is ridiculous, because Zweibrucken is over an hour away. Perhaps they meant "Zwingenburg", which is just to the north of Heppenheim. Another website mentioned something about a mental institution. Heppenheim has a mental hospital that looks like it was built during the Third Reich, and it is surrounded by a high stone wall, so perhaps that was the location? Betty, thanks for providing the link. I'm very familiar with many of the towns the author visited in Hessen and Baden-Württemberg. However, I wouldn't describe the restaurants on Heppenheim's Markt as "too touristy" at all, as he did. He gives nice descriptiosn of the Odenwald, which is like having a US national park practically in my backyard!

Posted by Andreas
Frankfurt am Main, Germany
2511 posts

I can only find two areas in Heppenheim that were used as POW camps: 1) It's known that the clay factory "Fritz Strauch" in Heppenheim 'employed' Soviet POWs starting April 1st, 1943. This can be found in DAF (then: German Labor Front) listings. The camp would then also have been within the Fritz Strauch Tonwerk compound. 2) Then there is what's now the "Vitos" hospital. There the Nazis held mentally ill people (well, you know what it meant) and once the Americans liberated Heppenheim in 1945 that's where they put the German POWs they made.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

"The camp would then also have been within the Fritz Strauch Tonwerk compound." There's a quarryworks below the satelite village of Juhöhe. I wonder if that was the locations of the Soviet camp?

Posted by martha
sacramento, cA, usa
9 posts

Thanks to everyone for their responses. Regarding Heppenheim, my father wrote that it was a 4-storied building on the edge of town with a stone wall around it...it had been a mental institution for the insane built by the French with money of reparation. He was a doctor and cared for American prisoners in this POW hospital. They were liberated in March 1945. We will definitely visit Heppenheim! Thanks for all the ideas for hotels in Baden-Baden....and i LOVE The Little Prince!!!

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

Ah, then it was the psychiatric hospital! It's still there, although they also do nursing training. Here's a link to the website, on a page that shows the outside of part of the buildings: http://www.gesundheitsakademie-bergstrasse.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=20&Itemid=62 If you're looking for it on a map, it sits just south of the intersection of B3 and L3398. Being an active psychiatric treatment facility, it's not open to the general public.

Posted by martha
sacramento, cA, usa
9 posts

Oh, thank you Tom! You have been most helpful! We look forward to our visit!

Posted by Betty
Missouri City
201 posts

Tom, that's good to know. I am very envious of you living in Germany. It is one of our favorite places to visit. We have visited Bad Wimpfen, Schwäbisch Hall, Hechingen and Tuebingen because of recommendations on Tom Galvin's site and truly enjoyed each one.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

PS- check out the current issue of German Life magazine. It features an article on the Bergstraße, including Heppenheim.

Posted by martha
sacramento, cA, usa
9 posts

Thank you Tom, I certainly will! Another question: we are putting together our itinerary and I feel it's too much. We have 5 days lay-over in Frankfurt and this is our plan: Frankfurt arrive 4pm to Bacharach Day 1. Bacharach to Berg Eltz, Heppenheim, Heildelberg, Baden Baden Day 2. Baden Baden to Luzern Day 3. Luzerne to Rothenburg Day 4 Rothenburg back to Frankfurt Day 5. I thought maybe skip Luzerne and spend 2 nights in Rothenburg. What do you think?
Thanks a mil!!!

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

Ouch. You need to rethink your overall plan. At worst, it isn't physically possible, at best it won't be enjoyable. Too large a distance, too little time and too many outliers. Let's start from the begining. Day 1- Is this your arrival day from California? If so, you will be extremely jetlagged, and you'll hit the roads in the middle of rush hour in one of the busiest traffic corridors in Germany. On the plus side, at least it isn't too far of a drive to Bacharach. Day 2- I don't think this is possible. If day 1 was your first day in Europe, you will likely find getting started in the morning very difficult. I would be surprised if you make it to Burg Eltz by noon. Allow 1.5-3 hours total at Burg Eltz. That puts us into mid-late afternoon already, and you haven't even made it to Heppenheim yet. Now you're hitting rush hour traffic again, and it might take you up to two hours to reach Heppenheim. Figure about an hour to walk around Heppenheim, and now it's dinner time already. Heppenheim to Heidelberg is only about 30 minutes, even in rush hour, but now it's after dinner, and you still have to drive 1.5-2 hours along one of the most Stau-prone stretches of Autobahn to reach Baden-Baden (cont.)

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9134 posts

Days 3-5: Long driving days with not a whole lot of time at the end of each day to see the destination. And what time do you need to fly out of Frankfurt? Let's start with the outliers here, and see if I can help you pair things down. Burg Eltz- Either drive to the bridge at Koblenz or take a ferry to cross the Rhine, and see Marksburg at Braubach instead. Even with this substitution, day 2 may still not be feasible. Baden-Baden- I you want to experience the thermal baths, you haven't given yourself enough time. And there's plenty of thermal resorts that are more convenient to your overall trip (Bad Kreuznach, Bad Dürkheim, Bad Homburg, Wiesbaden). If you just want to see it, it isn't worth the hastle. Luzern- Is there a specific reason you want to go here, other than seeing the Alps? This is a FAR, FAR outlier. And what if you drove all this way, and the sky is overcast for the half day you alloted? I usually recommend at least three night stays in the Alps for this reason. If you only wanted to see the Alps, the closest Alpine resort to Frankfurt is Oberstdorf in southwest Bavaria. Dropping Baden-Baden and Luzern and heading here after Heidelberg (via Stuttgart and Ulm) would save you a significant amount of time driving. The Füssen area would also be a reasonable alternative. Rothenburg- Worthwhile to see if your driving by, but not if you have to travel more than 2 hours out of your way to visit. Within the overall flow of your trip, stopping here makes sense, but after seeing the Bergstraße and Rhine, this is skippable if you're pressed for time.

Posted by martha
sacramento, cA, usa
9 posts

Thank you Tom! You've been incredibly helpful! We have decided to cancel Luzerne and add another night in Rothenburg...for starters :) I do want to experience the Baths and walk around the town in Baden Baden. On the way to Rothenburg we also want to stop in Crailsheim and Schillingsfurst as my husband's grandfather was born and lived there. We will be flying in from Athens after a month in Athens/Greece, so should have no jet lag...hopefully rested! Then, out of Frankfurt at 10am, but have a hotel in airport area. Your ideas about Berg Eltz are very helpful. We will keep planning. We will just have to come back!!! Thanks again!!!