Pforzheim: The Golden City

This morning I woke up to a pink sky and a view of the Nagold River below the castle. Like in the last castle, I had the room and ensuite entirely to myself. I turned on the towel heater that I found in my ensuite and draped my clothes over it. There is something so impossibly luxurious about putting on warmed clothes. I enjoyed another hot buffet breakfast in a castle. In the morning light, I could see more of to old castle and it’s extensive ruins. The Burgruine Rabeneck is a former lowland castle built around 1240. It has been uninhabited since 1295 and has since gone to ruin. The hostel was built into the castle ruins in 1958-59. Some of the original 13th century walls have been restored, as has the moat wall.

After breakfast I explored the ruins before I made my way back down the forested hill to the city of Pforzheim, once a Roman settlement from AD 90. That settlement’s name, Portus, means “river crossing”, and is believed to be the origin of the city’s modern-day name. “River crossing” is a suitable name for Pforzheim, considering that three rivers converge here: the Enz, Nagold and Würm Rivers. Another one of Pforzheim’s nicknames in the “Golden City”. This is thanks to the prominent jewelry and watch making industry that started in the late 18th century and continues today.

My first visit was to the Pforzheim wildlife park, a nature reserve located in the middle of the forest that is home to 400 animals across 70 species. My hike there was wonderful. The pathway through the forest was covered in moss and I could hear the nearby cathedral ringing its bells for Sunday morning service. This includes many native species such as red fox, deer, wild boar, reindeer, owl and lynx. I absolutely adore nature reserves of all kinds and this was a great excuse to learn about the native wildlife in the Black Forest. Luckily, I saw none of them on my hikes yesterday!

I thought for sure that I had gotten lost when I suddenly saw something big and black looking at me over the hill. I was about to become a bit frantic (this thing had huge horns!) when I realized that I had actually stumbled onto the nature reserve without even knowing it. The animal I had seen was actually just an ibex and it was safe inside its enclosure. I suppose I was expecting a defined entrance, but the main entrance was on the other side. I was absolutely spoiled at the reserve when one of the caretakers offered me the chance to help the reindeer feeding. I couldn’t believe my luck! The stag came right up to me and stuck his nose out for the corn and grain he knew I was holding. Thankfully the reindeer were very sweet, which I am grateful for because those antlers are seriously pointy! The stag also really loved the head scratches and tried to follow me around afterwards!

There were lots of other deer, elk and moose. The fawns were very curious of me but one move and they were gone! The wild boars were the noisiest things I’ve ever heard. But the lynx were so quiet, you wouldn’t have known they were even there.

After lunch I was able to enjoy some free time in Pforzheim. Pforzheim was a famous goldsmith and watchmaker’s town for centuries, which I saw inside the Schmuckmuseum. With some 2000 exhibits covering 5000 years, this museum is devoted entirely to the history of jewelry, making it the only museum of its kind worldwide.

I had stumbled upon a medieval re-enactment market the night before on my way to the castle. It was on again today so I decided that it was worth snooping around. Blacksmiths and wood carvers tried to sell their wares next to the brewers and bakers. There were old fashioned carnival rides that the operators had to hand crank, like a small ferris wheel and a swing carousel. Fire breathers and fortune tellers mixed in with the crowds as medieval bands played the weirdest looking instruments upon the stage. The Snow King and Snow Queen walked passed, but the Snow Queen’s abundant skirt brushed up against me and I found myself covered with silver sparkles.

There was time before my train and so I visited the ancient ruins of Portus. They are located under the Aldstadt, or Old Town, of Pforzheim. The ruins looked very similar to the ones of Lutèce in Paris. There was a small museum on the origins of Portus and early life right next door. Nothing was in English but admission was free so I enjoyed a purely visual experience.

Always on the go, I had to bid goodbye to little Pforzheim and its reindeer, to catch an evening train to Heidelberg. These little German villages are treating me so well!


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