If you are travelling to Germany, do visit a town of 100,000 residents, called Kaiserslautern. Town with the lisp-inducing name snuggles close to the Palatinate forests — making it an ideal base camp for trekking or biking trips in the forest.
It is curious why it’s not part of the top tourist destinations of Germany, because it offers something for everyone. There are museums, castles and gardens and water parks, and enough quirkiness for those looking for an offbeat adventure.
A night in the jail
The unconventional choices begin with where to stay. In the city centre, as you hunt for budget hotels, you will come across Hotel Alcatraz. It has enough thrills for adventure seekers. The hotel was once a German state prison, and it has retained the iron grilled gates, the small windows from which guards used to pass food to prisoners and even the beds that prisoners slept on. If you make a special request, the hotel staff can arrange an ‘authentic’ jail experience: they will talk you through the bars and even pass food through the window!
For a truly lofty experience in the Palatinate forests, browse through the eye-catching brochure of a company called K1, which offers an experience in tree-climbing.
Nuts about fish
The fish theme is something of a favourite in Kaiserslautern. I needed to understand why this marine creature was being glorified in a land-locked city. I learned that ‘kaiser’ means emperor in German. Centuries ago, there was a river in the area, called Lauter. So, Kaiserslautern means the Emperor’s River.
Legend has it that Kaiser Barbarossa loved seafood; his favourite was the pike. Apparently, a pike was once caught with a golden chain around its neck. This was the biggest fish ever caught in that region. It was presented to the emperor and he decided to incorporate it in the city’s emblem.
Then there were the soccer sculptures. The Germans’ love for soccer is legendary. But it has special significance for Kaiserslautern, which was the smallest town to host the FIFA World Cup in 2006. The Fritz Walter Stadium can accommodate more than 45,000 fans. Don’t be surprised if you come across many startlingly life-like soccer sculptures in the town.