Bertha Benz Memorial Route
Bertha Benz Memorial RouteThis scenic route though the Baden region takes you back in time to the world’s first ever road trip, from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back. Bertha Benz was married to Carl Benz who invented the now iconic car, but at the time no-one wanted to buy it. So in August 1888, without telling her husband, she and their two sons took off on this landmark trip of around 100 kilometres to prove that the new 'horseless coach' was suitable for everyday use. It took them the whole day and most of the evening but was not in vain: the car subsequenlty became a huge success and is now driven by over a billion people today.
Today, you can follow the same route taken by Bertha Benz on a voyage through some of the highlights of Germany’s cultural heritage. Visit the famous asparagus and wine-growing regions of Baden and towns steeped in history such as Ladenburg and Bretten which boast some of Europe’s most notable noble residences.
Petrol heads and techies will be pleased to find out the route includes visits to the Mannheim Technoseum, the legendary Hockenheimring and the Dr Carl Benz Automuseum.
It goes without saying, but any wine stops detailed on this page are for the benefit of hire car passengers ... designated drivers must confine themselves to drinking in the scenery.
City life: MannheimMannheim’s claim of be the founding city of Baden-Württemberg is hard to dispute. It was the home of the first pedal-free bicycle (1819), car (1886), tractor (1921) and rocket-propelled plane (1929).
It’s not a coincidence that the Technoseum one of Germany’s three biggest technology museum, is located here. It’s a dynamic city straddling the Rhine and the Neckar and is full of contrasts and attractions. Take the baroque palace for example, one of the largest city palaces in Europe.
Auto legend: Automuseum Dr. Carl BenzThe museum is housed in the former factory of Carl Benz on the outskirts of Ladenburg. Fewer than 300 cars were built in the factory and only two have survived: on display in the museum are Carl Benz’ own car and the C. Benz & Sons company car.
The collection includes models from the very first cars up to today: from a Benz patent motor car dating from 1886 to an aerodynamic, streamlined Mercedes-Benz Formula One car, the Silver Arrow formerly driven by Michael Schumacher.
Romantic to the core: Heidelberg CastleOn a steep slope in the forest, towering above the Neckar valley Heidelberg Castle, the world’s most famous ruin holds court. The walls in this impressive complex of buildings have witnessed momentous events and turbulent times, going back as far as the 13th century.
After enjoying a castle tour and walk through the gardens to whet your appetite, it’s time to indulge in the gourmet delights of Scharffs Schlossweinstube, a high-end restaurant whose culinary skills have been recognised with the award of a Michelin star. After 6pm, guests have the exclusive right to free parking on the castle grounds.
Travel tip: Odenwald and GötzenburgIf you are planning a full holiday and you have seven days available we thoroughly recommend you make a detour to the Odenwald and Hornberg Castle, also known as “Götz’s Castle”.
Leaving Heidelberg on the B37, it’s a stellar road trip up the Neckar River the whole way with glimpses of fairy-tale castles and castle ruins that rise proudly above the leafy hillsides.
After about an hour’s drive you reach Neckarzimmern. Wind your way up through the vineyards on a steep, narrow road to Götz’s Castle. Burg Hornberg welcomes you with a café, magnificent terrace, a restaurant and hotel. The castle also makes quality wines with the classic German grape varieties of Riesling, Weissburgunder and Spätburgunder.
Where green means outdoor pleasures: the Klosterhof in Stift Neuburg and the Nußlocher ZiegenkäsehofNeuburg Abbey is run by monks and lies on the outskirts of Heidelberg. In recent years it has made a name for itself as a maker of excellent organic products with a local flavour and has subsequently become a popular place to visit. The retail outlet in the abbey offers their home-grown products and the Gasthaus zum Klosterhof tempts guests to linger on the summer veranda and savour the beer brewed on the premises.
The small town of Nußloch is only 11 kilometres or 20 minutes’ drive away. The local Ziegenkäsehof is one of Germany’s leading producers of goat’s cheese and counts the German football team among its loyal customers. The retail shop offers a lot more than just goat’s milk or cheese; bread, wine and other regional delicacies await you.
Travel tip: Wiesloch to PforzheimThis leg is about 60 kilometres of pure driving pleasure through the superb scenery of the Kraichgau. Wiesloch, home of the first petrol station is your starting point. When Bertha Benz ran out of petrol on her iconic 1888 road trip she went to the local chemist’s and bought about three litres of Ligroin (benzine) which got her car back on the road. Today, a Bertha Benz memorial on the square outside the chemist’s commemorates the event.
Your journey starts on the B3 through a traditional wine-growing region. After passing through Bad Schönborn, Bruchsal (a visit to the city palace is recommended), Weingarten and the idyllic Pfinztal, take the B10 towards Remchingen. From there, follow the signs to Königsbach-Stein. Although this wasn’t part of the original trip, it has now officially become part of the Bertha Benz Memorial Route because going this way via Eisingen and Pforzheim affords sumptuous views all the way to the Black Forest.
Pforzheim, the gold cityBertha Benz didn’t just choose Pforzheim randomly. She was born here in 1849, married Carl Benz here in 1872 and returned to visit in 1888. A monument to Bertha Benz now stands on the Waisenplatz commemorating the landmark journey by “horseless carriage”, which turned more than a few heads at the time.
Today Pforzheim is known as the “gold city” and recognised as the centre of the German watch and jewellery industry. Pforzheim boasts several institutions which underline its traditions in the field of jewellery manufacture; two of the most prominent are Jewellery World, a multi-level shopping and discovery centre and the Jewellery Museum in the Reuchlinhaus.
- Schloss Schwetzingen
- The Auto & Technik Museum in Sinsheim
- Karlsruhe Botanical Gardens
- The Hockenheimring
- UNESCO Heritage Site Kloster Maulbronn
Recommendations for hungry and weary travellers:
- Alchimia Restaurant, Mannheim
- Hagestolz Bar, Mannheim
- Strahlenberger Hof Hotel, Schriesheim
- Badische Weinstube Jägerlust (wine bar)
- Weingut Klumpp, Bruchsal (winery)
- Gasthof zum Bären, Bruchsal
- Gasthaus LoewenThor, Gondelsheim
- La Villa Ristorante, Pforzheim
Image credits in chronological order:
(1) Heidelberg Marketing GmbH; (2) Mannheim Stadtmarketing GmbH; (3) Automuseum Dr Carl Benz; (4) Heidelberg Marketing GmbH; (5) Stadtverwaltung Schriesheim; (6) Bertha Benz Challenge; (7) Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim, Valentin Wormbs