This journey into automobile history takes you from Mannheim to Pforzheim, following the same route taken by Bertha Benz and her two sons. They completed the first long-distance car journey.
The route is populated with charming villages steeped in German history. This is the ultimate pilgrimage for the car-enthusiast, offering a glimpse into the Baden region of Germany, passing the Odenwald mountains and ending at the entrance to the fabled Black Forest. It’s truly a historical road trip.
Beginning in Mannheim, head south toward Feudenheim and then go to IIvesheim, where you should visit Ilvesheim Castle. Originally built in 1511, the beautiful, modern structure was rebuilt in 1700 and has been used as a school for the visually impaired ever since.
Dr. Carl Benz spent his final days and is buried in Ladenberg, a town dating back to Roman times. The town offers a wealth of sights, including the Dr. Carl Benz Museum, which showcases automobile history such as the first combustion engine and a modern-day Mercedes.
If the drive makes you hungry, Die Kartoffel, which translates to “The Potato,” is considered one of the best places in Germany to eat a steak. The meal is served on piping hot stone at your table in charming traditional German surroundings. It’s the perfect stop before embarking on the rest of the memorial route.
Leave Ladenberg on Schriesheimer straße and enjoy the countryside. Head south on the Bergstraße (Mountain Road) until you reach the picturesque city of Heidelberg. Situated in one of the warmest regions of Germany, this Altstadt, or Old Town, is bursting with history. The Gothic ruins of Heidelberg Castle remain, surviving both the Thirty Years’ War and the War of Palatine War Succession mostly intact.
Heidelberg’s beauty and history will overwhelm even the most reluctant visitors. However, if you are looking to entertain children, the ExploHeidelberg is a science and media centre where kids learn through interactive experiments.
From Heidelberg, continue down the Bergstraße and the Rohrbacherstraße through the towns of Leimen and Nußloch until you arrive at Wiesloch. The town probably is the most significant stop on Bertha Benz’s journey. She stopped at the local pharmacy in order to buy Ligroin, a form of petroleum, to power the small rear-mounted engine all the way to her mother’s house. The small pharmacy essentially became the first “filling station” and is commemorated today with a sign out front.
The town is largely pedestrianised so feel free to park and wander about the old ruins. There also are many small cafés and shops and, being a wine region, most residents have their own small vineyards.
Head out of Wiesloch on the L594 until you reach the B3, continue south through various towns, including Bruschal, Weingarten and Kleinsteinbach along the L570 and L621 until you reach “The Golden City,” Pforzheim. Famous for its jewellery and amazing views from the top of Wallberg Hill, this beautiful city is a romantic stop with an incredible selection of restaurants. Restaurant Pyramide is one of the standouts.
To continue the automobile theme, visit the Vehicle Museum for a wonderful experience. If you’re tired of cars, Pforzheim has an amazing Wildpark with animals from all over the world. The city offers many hotels if you want to linger for the night.
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