At 555 feet and 5 inches, the Washington monument was actually the tallest building in the world for a 5 year span in the 1880s. Though not open at the moment due to the 2012 earthquake damage, it still stands as the highest point in Washington DC and a symbol of our nation and its first president.
How is that relevant to a blog on Germany? Because running up that height is what it takes on average to run, hike, or walk out of our town of Obersulzbach. Our town is situated in a horseshoe. It is a small village of a few hundred residents surrounded by large hills on three sides, with a small stream running down the one open side to the east, towards Untersulzbach. “Ober” and “Unter” make up the town of Sulzbachtal.
Below is a topographical map of the area. Each line represents 10 meters, and our home is situated at about 250 meters.
Sure, one could choose the easier route of running to the east. It is very scenic and connects with the lauterweg bike route between Laurerecken and Kaiserslautern, with trail offshoots seemingly everywhere, but the real fun for me has been exploring the surrounding hills and their absolutely stunning views. There are routes up each side of the mountain as shown on the map. Some are also roads, and others are officially marked trails (such as the 02 trail). The trail markings are a thing of their own and are very clearly marked at each trail intersection, sometimes as signs, other times on the trail itself or on buildings you pass by. To the south, seemingly straight up, is the path to Eulenbis, a lovely town at 385m with views in each direction. The entire town is on the mountain top. There are a few restaurants and the Eulenkopf, a tower and also town landmark. Circling clockwise from Eulenbis takes you even higher on the ridge line, past hayfields and animal farms and towards the windmills in the distance. Due east of Obersulzbach is the highest point at 451 meters, which has a nearly 360 unbelievable view. Having climbed up over 650 feet at this point, it is a great time to take a break and soak all of it in! To the south is ramstein, the airfield, and kaiserslautern and even the Fritz-Walter soccer stadium which you can see in the distance. Beyond is the pfälzer wald (Palatinate forest) and Kalmit, the highest peak at 673m (2208′), which is about 30 miles as the crow files. To the north is the Selberg peak, at 546m, dozens of windmills, and rolling hills as far as you can see.
The views and landscape in this part of Germany trump anything I have seen in the Eastern United States. Having hiked 20 of the US state high points, hiked the Maryland section of the Appalachian trail 3 times, and visited lots of national parks, the views in the Eastern US are stunning, but they are too few and far between. Many highlights need a man made observatory to show the 360 degree view. Germany, because of its strict zoning laws, has kept pockets of forests mixed in with farms and villages, making for seemingly endless opportunities for a view when on its large, connected system of hiking and biking trails. Below is a picture at the top, looking to the south. Our town of Obersulzbach is nestled below and you cannot even see it in the picture.
What goes up must go down, which means the end of the run, hike, or ride is a quicker one back to obersulzbach. From the north this is slightly more gradual than the south, with an anlieger frei (residents only) narrow road winding down the mountain.
Running down the Washington monument is much easier.