The term Kraichgau – the name of an historic cultural landscape – had almost disappeared from the German language – perhaps because of the way in which the region had been successively broken down into smaller and smaller units, both politically and administratively. But for football fans at least, the name has again become familiar, ever since Hoffenheim started playing in the German premier league.
The region between the Black Forest and the Ode Forest mountain ranges, between the rivers Neckar and Rhine, has been settled since the earliest times. The soil, with its layer of loess sediment, is extremely fertile. The Romans lived here, and before them, the Celts, and back past the Neolithic Period all the way to homo Heidelbergensis.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Alemanni advanced into the Kraichgau region, before control later passed to the Franks.
The history of habitation in this landscape is long – it stretches from the appearance of the first human beings all the way to the present and has left plenty of traces. Much of this evidence comes from the far more recent time of the religious houses, of the counties and the knights of the Kraichgau region.
Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the landscape and the region suffered serious trauma – in the Thirty Years’ War, in sundry wars of succession, and during epidemics like the plague, not to mention famines. Many villages and towns were virtually depopulated.
But let’s not forget the times of peace and prosperity. To this day, the appearance of this landscape is shaped by elegant timber frame buildings, castles and palaces.
The Kraichgau region is thought to have more castles than any other part of Germany, and these days, they attract a lot of visitors from around the country and from abroad. That hasn’t always been the case.
For many years, the tourist industry took no notice of the region at all.
As far as coach operators and travel companies were concerned, the region wasn’t exactly a money-spinner, since there simply were no hotels that could accommodate a larger travel group.
That didn’t change until the turn of the millennium. A tourism partnership was set up to serve the Kraichgau region, and subsequently, the area has experienced some well-deserved growth in tourism. Its cultural attractions include Maulbronn Monastery, Knittlingen, the home town of the historic Faust immortalised by Goethe, the historic spa town of Bad Wimpfen with the imperial residences of the Staufer dynasty, and Steinsberg Castle. But there are also picturesque villages, a wide range of great restaurants, and the beautiful orchards that characterise the landscape. They ensure that the tourist industry now sees the Kraichgau as a very lively and diverse region, especially appealing for people who enjoy cycling and long walks.
All depictions: © Stadt- und Fachwerkmuseum Eppingen