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October 2006

Altmühltal Valley National Park und Eichstätt

The Hanover Academy of Geosciences recently released a list of the 77 most beautiful geotopes in Germany. Bavaria is the most well represented state with 14 selections. It’s no surprise that Altmühl Valley National Park—at 3,000 sq. km., Germany’s largest—was one of these choices. Munich residents who usually head south for their fresh air fix might wish to consider visiting this “wonder of Germany,” located just over one hour north of the city. “Altmühl” probably derives from the Celtic words “Alk mura,” meaning “holy calm.” There are many ways in which to enjoy the serenity described in the park’s name, but biking is definitely a leisurely and efficient method. The wide and flat bike path traversing the region is worth a stress-free day or several. An 18-km loop around the largest of the park’s five lakes—Grosser Brombachsee—is an exceptional choice for a day ride. Maps of the huge trail system are available at

Visitors will probably want to start out in the town of Eichstätt, home to the park’s information center and, incidentally, site of the country’s only Catholic university. (For maps and information about other points of entry, see Most of the town was destroyed during the Thirty Year’s War and rebuilt in the Baroque style by Italian artists. Its glittering facades and cobblestone streets provide a stark contrast to the expansive natural surroundings. Eichstätt also offers visitors a deeper look at that landscape: The Jura Museum in the Willibaldsburg castle focuses on the area’s geology. The limestone of the Altmühltal is filled with fossils dating back around 150 million years, and the museum is home to some of the more impressive finds. Viewing the pterosaurus, archaeopteryx or 6,000 year-old mammoth skeletons will give you a lot to think about during your hours on the bike trail. During fall and winter, the museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 am–4 pm. See for more detailed information.

Trains leave the Munich Hauptbahnhof for Eichstätt each hour. The trip takes around 90 minutes. To reach the town by car, take A9 toward Nürnberg and Exit 58 Altmühltal/Eichstätt. The secondary road leads to Ingolstadt-Nord. Take Exit 61, then B13 to Eichstätt.

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