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Baltic Germany, Fachwerke, Landesgartenschau

This is the followup to my questions asked here:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/germany/baltic-germany-stops

I plan three or four posts here, depending on length restrictions, unless anyone asks questions.

My big takeaway from this trip was that if you pick the right ones (for your own interests and standards), you only need to go to one Hanseatic/UNESCO WHS city and only one Fachwerkstraße town. (Opinion) I made the mistake of going to three or four of each.

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The Baltic Coast

Although I am sensitive to issues of overcrowding (sorry, I haven't been to Rothenberg), I strongly felt that Lübeck was, by far, the best Hanseatic/UNESCO WHS city. The variety of special features (like Gäng, Rathaus, rivers, restaurants, luxury hotels (!), marzipan (allegedly less sweet, by local tradition), rail and air hub opportunities, and daytrip options, give it an advantage. Yes, it's jammed all summer, and the auto/bus roads have miserable traffic delays. But its very size delivers a net advantage in quantity of older buildings.

Let me take a moment to consider ... "wiederaufbauen." Especially in port cities, but really all over Germany, you almost have to assume that what you are looking at is actually a faithful recreation of what was once there, not the real thing. I noticed in Austria, plaques with "19xx Wiederaufbauen" are pretty common, but not so in Germany.

Lübeck, Wismar, and Straslund all have streets where, if you are lucky, there are three or four consecutive red-brick or stone buildings, often with a stylish script appliqué (contemporary) of the date of original construction. But they are surrounded by the same old, four or five story, smooth stucco over concrete block, faux-stepped gable, bright pastel paint, often with a dark or white perimeter (or around the windows) line, postwar "period" house.

This is much less common, for example, in Belgium, where "old town" centers are much more homogeneously "old", if completely surrounded by hideous new, low-rise urbanism. This contrast in France could be between Vitré and Dinan.

Although Wismar and Straslund were peaceful, small, and attractive (if NOT, undiscovered), I wondered sometimes how they achieved UNESCO status. For example, the Netherlands Hanseatic town of Deventer has a gorgeous, homogeneous, if compact, old center that ends up being much more rewarding - even though we had to walk through a vest-pocket Red Light district to get there. BTW, the church bells ring all night in Wismar, and there is Markt street noise at night ... ... . Particularly in Wismar, there is a strong and still visible historic Swedish culture presence. The seafood is very good. The churches and markt squares are exceptional in all three, but I vote for Lübeck.

If you happen to go to Wismar or Straslund or Rügen Island anyway (we did not have time for Rügen after all), I do want to endorse the Deutsches Bernsteinmuseum in Ribnitz. In two and a half floors, it provides a comprehensive story of amber. There are plenty of English labels. Much more is produced in Poland than in Germany. But I never expected to see a handful of amber nuggets from New Jersey! From a connoisseurship point of view, I will say that the one gallery of formal amber Decorative Art (meaning composite amber clocks, jewelry boxes, lamps, and so on), is not of the highest quality, such as you'd find in the MAK Cologne or the Louvre decorative arts building. It's all in a lovely gut-renovated cloister district that we did not have time to explore. However, it does NOT warrant a special one-hour or more drive, each way, if you're not in the area.

However, south of Wismar is the very attractive city of Schwerin. The old town has some of the same drawbacks mentioned above, but it is a very prosperous small city, with a major summer performance festival (that we missed.) The main attraction is Schloss Schwerin, and a very nice old town. Schwerin is not as big as Lübeck, but it is worth a detour.

Edit: Picturesque, cheap dining option in an historic old mill in Lübeck, way too far for day-trippers to eat in, Alte Mühle, specializing in Flammküchen, http://www.altemuehle-luebeck.com/ . Look for Gänge, beside the river, nearby while walking back to the center.

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Fachwerkstraße

Arrival Day, Day 1: I was surprised to find (online) several car rental companies with automatic transmission Compacts at only a tiny price premium. I do have the experience to know that there is little chance of their coming up with one at rental time! Indeed, they offered me a minivan bigger than a Honda Odyssey, which I refused in favor of a small car with a manual transmission. This is relevant because we had chosen to to facilitate car excursions by staying at a luxury Schlosshotel in Kronborg, at the end of the Frankfurt S-Bahn 4 line. So I had laid out a loop from FRA to Kronborg with very short hops, to be pruned during the drive from the 8:00AM rental. We stopped in Höchst, Idstein, Bad Camberg, and the Saalburg (reconstructed) Roman fort. We had great luck with street parking (if seldom completely free of charge), even though it was August 29. We were lucky to encounter several market days, and towns that lots of people actually lived in. But it took a bit of walking to come up with, say, 10 or 15 really nice Fachwerke among the newer buildings in each town. The towns were all sweet, but not quite, impressive.

BTW, many rental companies were sold out. When you rent the car, ask if it comes with a dashboard Parking Clock, and buy one if it does not! Note that we have previously visited the middle Rhine, from Koblenz. I completely agree that Germany has superb train service, but it's really hard to do four towns in one day with trains. We chose our rental company in order to return the car in Eschborn, a few S-Bahn stops closer to Frankfurt, on the morning of the day we spent in Frankfurt. The luxury hotel drove us to the departure-day station for free. But a passed-out drunk delayed our S-bahn for over a half-hour, so I called the hotel to ask Reception to call a cab for us. Try that with AirBnB!

Day 2: Our best Fachwerke town came the next day, in Gross Umstadt. I almost missed the Alte Stadt sign, but made a U-turn and swerved into an overwide side street with huge head-in parking bulges to serve both the 250 meter-away Alte Stadt, and a modern cemetery with an opportunistic florist shop across the street. Parking yGPS is close to (49.8685249, 8.9344379). You need this bcause Garmin "Cities" will take you to modern G-U.

Gross Umstadt is large enough to absorb the daytrippers scorned on this newsboard, but small enough to be walkable and charming. It has frequent information placards about many locations, with some English text. It has double or more of the Fachwerke of the other places mentioned. We had a beer at a very local bar, Cafe Bar One, to get bathrooms, and the proprietor was really pleasant to us. This is one of the many towns we saw that has an ironic or reminiscent modern replacement for the (lost?) town well or water fountain. They're usually cast bronze sculpture, but they vary from illustrating home-work of the town's original craft, to totally non-representational.

The other towns were smaller, and sometimes had an exceptionally good Rathaus, but they did not deliver the goods like Gross Umstadt. I'm sure Russ and others know another place just as nice, but this is what I found.

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Day 2 Continued: Two other places that provided some variation were Lörsch and the Felsenmeer [Lautertall]. The first has a UNESCO hostorical cloister, but only three heavily restored buildings remain. The others are represented by sculpted turf depressions representing their original outlines. The payoff is the excellent associated museum. Although the cloister is unfenced and thus doesn't close, try to come when the museum is open. We were so close to closing time that they let us in for free! The museum traces Lörsch's tobacco history, and plenty about the cloister, but also has a full floor of ceramics and objects of everyday life from the early 20th Century. That was a little like the Grundertzeit Museum, but behind glass, instead of a house-museum.

The Felsenmeer is not a must-see, but a geological oddity. Unrelated to volcanoes or glaciers, it is a downhill river (not a meer ...) of trash-can to Volkswagen-sized BOULDERS. It might be about 1/2 mile long, but mature trees hid the top of the hill from us. Although the associated restaurant and bar closes promptly, the parking lot and attraction appear to be constantly open. Decent weather, daylight, bug spray, and good shoes are essential. This offers some light uphill hiking opportunity.

We also drove to spend a few hours in Aschaffenberg, which was very nice. I wish we'd had time to visit the birth home of the artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, 1880–1938. but that's a personal interest. The main attractions are the huge Schloss residential palace, and the associated Pompejanum, which you could describe as a 19th Century "Getty Villa." It has an excellent collection of Roman objects. We decided to concentrate on the Pompeianum and the gardens, so we did not pay to tour the Schloss, on our Rick Steves drive-by visit. We managed to park right in front of the Schloss, and fed the meter after two hours. Fachwerke buildings were minimal, but this is a bigger place than the Fachwerkestraße towns, with much more to do.

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Day 3: This was reserved for Gartenschau Kaiserslautern, a 2017-only event. There will be regional garden shows elsewhere in future years. This was a very long drive, but having visited the massive BUGA (Bundesgartenschau) in Koblenz one year, we wanted to experience a smaller, regional show. We won't bother, again.

Both types of Gartenschau are conscious government efforts to combine tourism promotion with revitalization of a neglected park or natural area. That's not a bad thing, but the smaller scale of a Landesgartenschau (that's what this is, a state or regional event, rather than a Federal (Bundes ... ) event), wasn't ambitious enough. It was a spectacular day out for a family with pre-teen children, or a local with a season pass and a stroller. But for two amateur exhibitors at the Philadelphia Flower Show, it was ... ... Knott's Berry Farm, without the rides.

I will say that the existing, huge former quarry property, and the (distant!) highland section above, were very interesting and pretty. But the (well-maintained) flowers were all the annuals you cam buy at Home Depot, and the fantasy figures were all built out of maintenance-free gourds and pumpkins, instead of something more complicated. In line with current child demands, there were vast numbers of good, life-sized (but not, animated) dinosaurs. There were elaborate toddler water-play gardens, built by the same provider (?) we saw at the International Garden Show in Berlin, and other places in Germany. There was a tiny greenhouse display, and up in the more spacious cliffside section, kitchen and meadow garden displays. As always, there were frequent options for Kaffe und Kuche, and sausages and beer. (Cash-only, and a deposit on the beer glasses.)

While we expected the biggest indoor display to be horticultural, it was instead, 4,000 sq. ft. of excellent Lego, featuring historic German landmarks in Lego. There was another 4,000 sq. ft. building that was being changed over (not yet open) to a forest-themed horticultural display, for the final month of the show. Naturally, there was a Lego store. There was a third building of similar size, clearly an exhibition hall, but on September 1, empty and closed. (I'm just reporting, not whining.)

Side note: While planning for this trip, I discovered a huge omission from our past two weeks in the former East Germany. While sleeping in Leipzig, Weimar, and Erfurt, I should have included the major Schloss in Gotha, and its one of only three existing un-rebuilt Baroque court theaters. We've already been to the other two, in Drottningholm, Sweden, and Chesky Krumlov, Czech Republic. This is way too far to go from Frankfurt, unless those three cities are next on your itinerary.

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its one of only three existing un-rebuilt Baroque court theaters.

So, the Castle Theater in Celle does not fall into the category "un-rebulid Baroque courth theater" for you?

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I just know that the United States Institute of Theater Technology, my professional association back when I was an Assistant Professor, has always listed those three. I thank you and will certainly look into it. Are you certain that it did not burn down and get replaced before your parents and mine were born?

Edit: I'm going to guess that the difference is the degree of renovation and conservation. The fact that Celle has a busy and resident theater company suggests that much of the theater machinery has been replaced. It would be unsafe to actually lift scenery over people's heads with wooden Baroque winches, even if you replaced the ropes! Photos suggest that the degree of sparkling "finish" in the public areas is much higher in Celle, as well.

I don't mean to quibble with you, but I'm talking about how some museum statues have their restored parts in grey, to show what's the real thing. I will certainly consider Celle when we do The Kassel-Hamburg-Bremen area.

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Are you certain that it did not burn down and get replaced before your parents and mine were born?

Yes, I'm pretty sure. And you might add to your list the Margravial Opera House (Markgräfliches Opernhaus) in Bayreuth, which will be reopened in April 2018 after five years or so of restauration.
WP says: The box theatre is completely preserved in its original condition, except for the curtain which was taken by Napoleon's troops on their march to the 1812 Russian campaign.

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Lübeck was the first city I visited and stay at in Germany when I arrived in the country in July 1971. When the British began their stategic bombing in 1942, Lübeck was one of the very first cities they hit, more than once in the course of the war, at first, not the rail yards, or communications centers, but the Zentrum, ie, Lübeck's Altstadt. Wismar was the last town on the Baltic to taken by the British in 1945 beating the Russians there just by one or two hours, since both were racing to seize Wismar.

In 2015 I saw Schwerin very briefly from the bus departing from the train station to Ludwigslust, ..very interesting as the bus went through the town; it reminded me of Germany in the early 1970s. Obviously, I have to come back for the famous Schloss and the non-tourist areas too. Strasund I have not been to , as yet, (it's on the bucket list), I was on the train in 2016 from Berlin that had Strasund as the terminus but was going to Neustrelitz instead.

All these cities/towns are worthy of a visit, maybe Wismar less so.

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Tim, thank you for exploring this normally unexplored region of Germany (at least by many Americans.) I am reading your reports with interest. Maybe I'll get up there one day. Both you and Fred enjoy tackling "off the beaten path" Germany. Also interesting about your "Swedish influence" comment.

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Celle was one of the towns that escaped the war unscathed, occupied too by the British in April 1945.

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Thanks, Fred. I notice that the Celle's tourism website promises 500 half-timbered houses, which is a very large number. However, it has four times the population of Gross Umstadt. I also notice that the theater was thoroughly renovated (I mean, at least it says so on the internet ... ) in 1953. And the website for the theater (in English translation) touts that "The theatre’s own remarkable company, its high-quality workshops and latest technology ensure high artistic standards, which attract artists from across the country."

I haven't been there, but it doesn't sound ... er ... untouched! And it doesn't sound like they are using the dusty baroque scenery, which is that case in Drottningholm and Cesky Krumlov. Note: I am a retired theater technician.

I want to mention that the Bechers, who are famous artists and photography teachers at the Kustakademie Dusseldorf, are best know for their photographs of decaying industrial structures. But they have also done photo suites of Fachwerke that is just slightly marred by a replacement door or window, or a patch of modern siding. I didn't see much of that in the flesh. I also saw some TV of contemporary developers building persuasive modern Fachwerke!

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Copenhagen

We made a short trip to Copenhagen to see the same dance company we had seen in Frankfurt. When I went to Copenhagen from Hamburg in 1987, I remember the passenger cars only, being pushed onto an open "float" (barge) and being kept in the coach during the water crossing. From Lübeck today, the entire four car train, with locomotive, drives onto the middle of the truck deck of a huge ferry. There are two rows of tractor-trailers, one on each side of the train. The deck above carries cars, and the top deck is food, shopping, and (windy) observation decks. All vehicles have to be vacated before casting off from the dock. FYI, the popular (if mediocre looking) all-you-can-eat-in-45-minutes buffet includes unlimited "box" (!) wine.

I'm not reporting on our conventional repeat visit to Copenhagen, where we saw the same American dance company. But I'll mention the beginning of gentrification of the old meatpacking area (just like NYC) as a dining and entertainment district. We ate at a "butcher shop" restaurant in a former ... butcher shop ... with an all-meat menu, naturally named "Fleisch." If you go to Tivoli Gardens, note that diverse dining options are a massive part of the product. Performance tickets for the biggest Tivoli theatre include park admission. There is a small fee for a wristband for same-day re-entry to the park. The Copenhagen Botanical Garden is not well-situated, but it's quite nice, with lavish greenhouses. After this stop, I returned to Germany by Air Berlin - which was fine, for an airline operating in bankruptcy! This was for an organized tour of Art Fairs.

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Düsseldorf , Münster

My first stop was Düsseldorf . I was lucky enough for what someone told me was the monthly "Fish Market". That's actually the wine and beer and sausage festival on the long Rhine-front promenade. There were at least 100 booth/tents set up by breweries, wineries, and "Mama's Quarkbollen" stands. It was crowded and amiable. Duesseldorf's reputation, alas, is that of having "The World's Longest Bar". I think they mean the Altstadt, which focuses on pub food and brewery outlets. But I did encounter a few 180 Euro Tastin Menus, which I decided to skip. The oldest restaurant in Duesseldorf, "Am Schiffchen", had great steamed mussels, but was less than half-full on a weeknight.

Nearer my hotel was the almost as famous "Brauerei im Füchschen". This was packed, noisy, and had great regional food. Since I was alone, a waiter took me to the seventh seat at the end of a booth for six. It was already occupied by two German industrial solvent manufacturers, and four Chinesea distributors who were at the headquarters for (in English) training. They were there for the purpose of getting slammed on Altbier and many shots of Killepitsch, the local herbal liqueur. I thought it was much better than Jägermeister, so I sipped the one shot I consented to drink. Although I paid for my own pork knuckle (giant, and superb, crowned by broiled pork skin that my steak knife could not penetrate; I had to turn it over and attack from below.) I paid for my own food, but my money was no good for drinks with them. Altbier is attractive, and served in 0.25 liter glasses. That may be a hint that it's "much better than Kölsch" to the locals. Kölsch is served in 0.20 liter glasses! Lonely Planet told me not to mention the word Kölsch in Düsseldorf . That would be like rooting for the Yankees at Fenway Park. A real "Rick Steves" moment!

I wanted to visit the Kunstakedemie Düsseldorf, where Gerhard Richter and the Bechers teach. I was lucky that the doorman did not challenge me, so I got to walk all through the 19th century building. Like all art schools, there were piles of student work in the corners, most of it unsuccessful. I also went to see the Kunstpalast, maybe the only museum of dead artists in town. It was very good, ranging from Renaissance wood carvings to Rubens to contemporary. However, the main contemporary gallery is closed for repairs. My group went to Kunst Im Tunnel, which was emerging young artists in an alternative space, between operating highway tunnels near the river. We then went to Skulptur Projekt Münster, an infrequent contemporary art festival in an historic town. The art wasn't all good, but I saw an important outdoor installation by the hot American artist Nicole Eisenman. I was sorry to miss the installation by Jeremy Deller, who was the hit of the 2013 Venice Biennale, with his video "English Magic." (Boston MFA, among other owners.) This festival required endless trudging around in drizzle, alas.

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Kassel

I went to Kassel for Documenta 14, a very important contemporary art exhibition. It's called an art fair, but it is not about retail gallery sales. It's a curated exhibition that's spread out all over the city. It has just closed for 2017, and will (finances permitting) take place again in five years. There are significant remnants of past Documentas, like Joseph Beuys' "7000 Oaks", which are paired basalt columns with different varieties of oak tree, and Walter De Maria's "The Vertical Kilometer". ("The Broken Kilometer" is in New York City.) When there's no Documenta, the main reason to go to Kassel is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe. This includes the famous copper version of the Farnese Hercules which is the "symbol" of Kassel. In fact, it's a vast, superb estate park, with lakes, follies, greenhouses, and more. I only had time for the Gemäldegalerie, a four-floor art museum in the mansion. It is a superb museum, with outstanding old master paintings. I've rarely seen so many Antwerp school paintings in one place outside Antwerp. The biggest collection is the norther Netherlands, including 10 or more fine Rembrandts. There are some Italian paintings, but I don't think I saw anything from Spain. There are six excellent Cranachs. The first floor is a small selection of Greek, Roman, and Egyptian antiquities.

The #1 Tram goes to the middle of the hill (ticket machine on board the Tram, less than 2 Euros), at a beautiful 19th Century tram station. The walk uphill is about 1/4 mile from the tram, no shuttle bus. There are several hotels and restaurants on the property, as well as picnic opportunities. If you like estate gardens, this is enough reason to visit Kassel in nine months of the year. The plantings were in excellent condition in mid-September, 2017, a good sign. For art fans, the Gemäldegalerie is worth the 20-minute tram ride all year long. The water cascades on the hill operate ONLY on Wednesday and Sunday afternoons, when they DO operate a shuttle bus, because it "starts" at the Hercules statue, much, much farther UP the hill. There is an admission (and a photo permit fee) for the Gemäldegalerie, but not for the grounds of the park. You can climb the pedestal of the Hercules statue, but the view from its base is just fine on a clear day.

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@ Tim....Thanks for the interesting observations and report. Of the the three places here, I liked Kassel the least, have there twice, in 1987 and 2007, saw part of the Dokumenta in 2007, the outside. Since I don't understand art, mostly, I didn't pay to see the rest of it. In Kassel the Schloß is well worth seeing historically. In that area approx, I would have gone to Göttingen, much more famous in the German culural context than Kassel Göttingen was more interesting to me to explore than Kassel, except for seeing its famous Schloss.

Münster/Westfalen is a nice, historical .a well known university town, was one of my favourites in Germany. I first got there in 1971, the Altstadt is the place to go, as well as seeing the cathedrals. The oldest town in Westphalia is Soest, also well worth visiting, at least, as a day trip if not a night or two. Westphalia has a number of interesting towns, Warendorf (where the Prussian history museum moved to, if you want to see that), Warburg, Höxten,

Yes, the Altbier is a specialty of Düsseldorf. The lower Rhine area is very interesting in itself. I focused on that area plus I always go back to Düsseldorf for its convenient location regarding the ICE trains, also as a spring board to the other historical museums/ places, some connected to WW2, should you want to track those down, such as Kleve, Ratingen, Wesel, Essen,

Lots of interesting cultural and historical places and sites in Westphalia and the lower Rhine area one can track down.

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"...to a seventh seat at the end of booth for six" Yes, you share tables with strangers, the German custom.

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Fred, is there anything to see in Kleve? My wife loves distant English history, so I thought of going. But the internet suggested that there's no hint of Anne left there, or anything old.

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It is great to see someone who has interest in the Fachwerkstrasse. I promote it heavily on this forum as an alternative to the over-populated Romantic Road. I never get tired of seeing it and am always happy when I find a new town with lots of it. Frankfurt has a few neighborhoods with lots of it, but does nothing to promote it. Most towns have something else to make them worth stopping in besides the fachwerk.

What did you think of Idstein? It is one of my favorite towns near Frankfurt as well as Limburg which has fabulous carvings on the houses and Marburg. Both have gorgeous, old churches and great winding streets. Höchst needs help to make it more of a tourist stop, but its' main attraction is the Justinus church since it is one of the oldest churches in Germany and its' market 3 days of the week. Did Seligenstadt, Michelstadt, Büdingen or Gelnhausen pop up on your radar?

Let's hope Nigel visits this thread as he loves fachwerk too and will appreciate your wonderful trip report for new ideas of towns to visit.

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@ Tim...Yes in English history she was called Anne of Cleves. Don't rely on the internet as the sole source, I certainly don't.

I went to Kleve in 1987 as a day trip from Düsseldorf because of the WW2 history there. The Reichswald battle took place near by. The British and German military cemeteries are located in the Reichswald, went to find them, saw both cemeteries, then went to the town Zentrum. In the lower Rhine area are numerous WW2 German cemeteries in the small towns and villages.

In the area of Münster/Westfalen there is Soest which has the half timbered houses, Fachwerkhäuser, plus you can see them in Minden an der Weser and Hameln

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I haven't been there [Celle], but it doesn't sound ... er ... untouched!

Well, if the definition of being "un-rebuilt" (that was your original wording) includes the preservation of the stage machinery then in fact Gotha is the only "un-rebuilt" baroque theater in Germany. Even in Bayreuth the original machinery was partly modified in the 19 century.

Nontheless, in any other respect the Bayreuth opera house meets the criterion "untouched" better than any other baroque theater in Germany (see the Icomos report linked on bottom of this page; chap. 3 sets it into the context of other European baroque theaters). That's the base of it's Unesco world heritage status.

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Jo, I agree that Idstein was very nice. I could have said a bit more about the other towns.

Höchst, while very small, is astonishingly close to the FRA airport. In that way, it might be suitable for those rushing to the Middle Rhine.It has the feel of a town with actual residents, as well as a selection of half-timbered houses. It has a lovely riverside walk, and a mostly ruined small Schloss. The market we encountered had too many stalls of imported inexpensive clothing, but was well-attended by the locals. Note that many towns have three market days a week, despite a recent NY Times article about how supermarkets are beginning to exterminate local specialty merchants (in Britain), as they did in the USA 90 years ago: https://nyti.ms/2hqTX9C .

You are very right to sing the praises of Idstein, with its Witches Tower, long twisting streets retaining a medieval feel (if not 100% of the houses, by any means), and a large number of half-timbered buildings. It is relatively large, with more to do than Höchst or Bad Camberg, and many more restaurants. It was a good place for our lunch. It was little harder to get into the old town and park, but it was worth the effort.

Bad Camberg is nice, and big enough to have dining options, but has less to do than Idstein. It has much more Fachwerke than Höchst.

I failed to mention that beyond the UNESCO Cloister, Lorsch does have a small and pretty old town. Their bronze fountain is unusually detailed, showing a family engaged in the home-work needlework trade that built the town. The young woman in the Lorsch TI had never been to the Felsenmeer or Gross Umstadt, so she couldn't advise me. She did give me two brochures about the "Odenwald Bergstraße Neckartal" and the Bergstrasse Holiday Route. The latter was in English, listing Darmstadt, Seeheim-Jugenheim, Bickenbach, Alsbach-Haehnlein, Zwingenberg, Bensheim, Lorsch, Heppenheim, Laudenbach, Hemsbach, Weinheim, Hirschberg, Schriedsheim, Ladenburg, Dossenheim, and Heidelberg. Just FYI, not a recommendation: http://www.diebergstrasse.de/?id=3&L=2

Limburg (note that the cheese comes from a different country) was on my possible list, but we cut it to spend time at the rebuilt Roman fort in Saalburg, near Bad Homburg. The fort was a superb school-tour destination, but a let-down because of its pristine reconstruction. I don't particularly recommend it, except that the Roman Limes are a (widely distributed, I think) UNESCO site. It's kind of like the people who really enjoy the Castle of the Counts in Gent, Belgium - it's pretty, but not thrilling for an ADULT. We didn't have time for the town of Saalburg.