I belong to an amazing Homeschool Group here in Germany. This last week, one of my dear friends planned a trip for the whole group to visit Oppenheim’s old town.
Oppenheim is a small town in the Rhine River valley. Our tour guide explained that Oppenheim doesn’t have any industry other than wine growing, so because there are only a few vintners, the town never grew large. It’s sleepy, and quiet, and friendly, and everything you could want out of an adorable little German village (and some things you really don’t want- like narrow, winding roads that claim they are two way, but really only fit one car!).
We started our day at the Kellerlabyrinth. The tour guide told us that the residents dug these tunnels to connect their cellars with their bare hands. They were lucky that the ground is soft and pliable, yet the tunnels do not cave in on themselves because of the moisture ratio in the clay (it doesn’t really make sense to me, but that is what she said!). There were no regulations as to how the residents dug their cellars and the connecting tunnels, so they weave over and under one another, connecting the cellars in a large confusing maze underneath the old city.
In the middle ages when these tunnels and cellars were built, they were used for both storage, and as a way to escape invaders. If people were to attack Oppenheim, the people would come down to the cellar labyrinth, where it is pitch black, and wait in little side dugouts near the entrances. The invaders, who did not know their way around the labyrinth would be carrying some form of light, and this is how the residents knew the person coming down was “one of the bad guys”. They would come out from around the corner, and attack the invaders. I wish I had pictures to show you, but photography is not allowed in the labyrinth!
After the Labyrinth tour, we visited Saint Catherine’s Church which is right in the middle of the old town center. This church is the “most important gothic cathedral” on the Rhine River. The cathedrals are always my favorite part of European towns because of the stunning stained glass. They even SMELL beautiful (an old, damp, earthy smell).
The ruins of Landskron Castle was the highlight of this adventure for the kids. Landskron Castle was built between 1210-1225 and was three stories tall. The people of the city destroyed it twice, both times because the disagreed with the privilege of the knights and occupants. After it was destroyed the second time in 1869 (the people of the city burned down the castle and blew the medieval keep sky high) the residents of Oppenhiem used materials from the castle as a rock quarry to build their own homes. What was left, you can still visit today, and the view from the ruins is stunning. I am planning on packing a picnic and heading there some day very soon!
I love when Field Trip Friday keeps us close to home. I still am amazed that all of this is right “in our backyard”. The Middle Ages is the *perfect* time period to be studying here in Germany, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of the summer exploring more beautiful places just like this!